How to Authentically Market Your Business in Times of Uncertainty
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
The world has shifted on its axis, and the reality we knew in February is not the reality we're living in today. Between COVID-19 and the spotlight being shown on the state of race relations in our country, 2020 is hardly a normal year. So I think most of would agree it would be completely tone deaf to market ourselves as though things were 'business as usual'. BUT then comes the challenging question.......
How exactly do I market my business in times of crisis?
1) START BY LISTENING
The first person you should listen to is yourself. Be sure you're taking time to reflect on how you are feeling about everything going on, and be honest with yourself. It's just you so this is the place to let it all out.
Sometimes I journal.
Sometimes I just enjoy just pondering thoughts and reflecting on my own.
Sometimes I even talk to myself (ok I acknowledge this one may not be for everyone but it really has been quite helpful to me).
Sometimes I go for a walk in nature and bring my camera to capture some photos.
Whatever the case let it be a stream of consciousness.
There are no wrong questions, answers, or feelings here.
Be sure you're being kind to yourself and don't make yourself come up with answers to the questions on the spot. The point of this 'listening session' is just to feel the feels so you can begin to process everything.
Eventually answers will come to you, and in the meantime seek out knowledge from reputable sources. That might be discussions with friends you trust, or reading articles or books, listening to podcasts or watching videos where the goal is to educate, and not scare you. This will bring your clarity on how you feel about everything.
Next listen to your customers. How are they feeling? How are they coping? What questions and struggles are they wrestling with? Some of my clients' best content has come from a conversation they had with a customer. If one person is struggling with a problem or posing a question, there are likely many others thinking similar thoughts. Write down the things you're hearing and look for themes.
For instance, maybe you've been hearing a lot of anxiety about people feeling unmoored, and not like themselves. These are examples of how various specialties could take that concern and find a natural tie in with their business:
An acupuncturist could talk about the power of the meridians in helping with anxiety
A holistic health practitioner could talk about the immuno boosting treatments they have and the power of our bodies to protect and heal themselves
A life coach or therapist could speak to specific strategies you can embrace to help deal with the uncertainty
A personal trainer could talk about the magical powers of exercise to help get those endorphins flowing.
A marketer could give advice in how to market your business in times of uncertainty :-)
2)EMBRACE EMPATHY AND USE YOUR MARKETING TO BE OF SERVICE TO OTHERS
How can you help them during these times given your special gifts? Some people can tie an actual business offering into the current crisis organically and non opportunistically. In some cases it's really a stretch. Take the example of all of the emails you got 2 weeks into quarantine when every business who had your email address felt the need to message you to tell you what they were doing. While this was relevant information coming from my gym or from Target, I didn't necessarily need to understand what Build-a-Bear was doing.
As a business owner always think through if this content is what your audience wants to or needs to hear, or if it is information you want to share for your own benefit. If it's the latter you need to rethink and reposition things. Think critically about the medium you're sharing that information through. Maybe an email is the wrong tactic, but a social media post and/or including a section on your website devoted to your COVID response would be more appropriate.
For instance Build-a-Bear sharing what they were doing to address COVID on their website would have been entirely reasonable, or sending out an email talking about their ability to create a bear virtually, that you could turn into a special surprise for your kids (who have been driving you crazy cooped up at home) would have been awesome. I'm kind of picking on Build-a-Bear and to be fair I can't remember the exact content of their emails I just know I have been getting a lot of emails from them lately, and they are usually about a special they have going on. The frequency and content of their emails prompted me personally to unsubscribe.
Another great tactic to authentically show up on social media is to ask a question.
My client Lisa Bobyak of Living Fully Balanced is a life and leadership coach, so she posed the question, "What does good leadership look like to you?" When you ask a question people get curious and engage their higher brain. So much of the conflict and anger is rooted in lower brain responses and by getting people to step into curiosity, you can have a much more constructive conversation. She also wrote a blog post: Leading Through Crisis: A Masterclass In Crisis Leadership where she shares her thoughts on what she thinks makes a good leader, and encourages people to become the leaders they wish they were seeing. We will take this one blog post and create various pull out quotes all pointing back to the blog post (and hopefully boosting her website traffic), and I'm going to take the responses she got to this question and create an IG stories series. She was able to take her area of expertise as a leadership coach and publish something that embraced empathy and hopefully is causing people to think.
My client Betsy was hearing a lot of tension and anxiety as she spoke with people, and knew she has the training (and calling) to help people with this. She decided to offer 1 hour coaching sessions at a steep discount to help people devise a plan so they could feel centered, clear, and calm, and she wanted donate 10% of the proceeds to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.
Betsy also works with educational leaders to help them provide meaningful continuing education and to prevent burnout in their staff, and so she wrote a series of blog posts and emails directing educational leaders to these posts addressing topics she felt compelled to talk about with this audience. If you're interested in learning more check out her post, "What is most needed from LEADERSHIP at a time like this? One word...." and "I am an example of why racial issues perpetuate in US schools"
In both of these cases these women took some time to figure out how they could authentically use their skills to help in the current environment and then worked with me to understand how to communicate that message. It's about teamwork, and as a solopreneur it's really nice to have someone to discuss ideas with.
3) IMITATE THOSE YOU ADMIRE
I love finding inspiration in people around me and then taking the essence of their idea and making it my own. You can search (and follow) various hashtags in instagram so you're seeing examples of what other people in you industry are doing. Look for what you think people are doing well and what they are doing less well.
One person I've been loving is @jenfieldman on IG. She has fun engaging graphics (which I appreciate as a designer) and very practical and inspiring tips. Also we have a lot of commonalities in our approach to marketing which is to first and foremost giving people permission to do what feels right to them.
So many people feel they need to start from scratch when it comes to marketing and that's really adding unnecessary work. For me to just write this blog post I searched for ideas related to my topic, compiled the things people were saying that I agreed with and then put my own spin on each of them. This is absolutely acceptable to do provided that you are making it your own!
4) LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS
Don't do what everyone is telling you you have to do or should do. Take that reflection time I talked about in point #1 and follow your intuition. If going dark right now is what feels right to you because you don't know what to say, then do that. If diving right into the heat of things by sharing your perspective on the protests, and the riots, and race relations, then do that. If you fall somewhere in the middle, then embrace that. Try to quiet all of the voices around you and really think through what your values are, and why you believe those things. Being true to yourself is almost never a bad decision.
Also you don't have to make one decision and stick to it. Maybe you go dark for a week while you reflect on what you want to say, and then when you're ready you say it. And maybe it doesn't go over as you intended, so you slightly tweak how you want to talk about it the next time. Marketing is more of an art than a science and that means employing a 'test and learn' strategy.
I would love to hear what your approach has been or any questions you have about marketing your business in times of crisis below. Also please know that I'm here for you. If you are struggling in this area email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let's have a conversation. I offer a free 30 minute consultation, and what better way to use that time than for us to work together to help you know what to say in a crisis.