When human insight meets technology we call it humanology.

 Jan Kelley

Making your marketing more resilient

Mike Llewellin

Associate Creative Director

Best practices for what we as marketers should be doing in response to COVID-19.


It’s all we’ve heard, thought and talked about for weeks. And while what’s happening around the world is out of our control, what we as marketing leaders choose to do in these “uncertain times” is still very much up to us.

So, what do you do? We can help with that.

Focus on Corporate Communications

You’ve likely sent your initial employee and customer communications by now. But don’t stop there. Reaching out with regular updates provides clarity, direction and, most importantly, support. Transparency is the number-one job for leaders in a crisis. So be clear about what you know, what you don’t and what you’re doing to learn more. If you don’t have all the answers, that’s okay. But showing you care goes a long way.

Connect with your employees

When it comes to your employees, send personal emails and make video calls frequently. Connect with them one to one if you can. Collaborate with your HR department to explain things like how your company supports mental health or even remind your staff of the outside resources that are available. And make a point to review sick and bereavement leave. Not to create more concern, but to provide clarity.

Connect with your clients

When it comes to your clients, you can always email or call them directly to get a sense of how they’re doing and what you can do to help. Post regularly to your website or on social about how you’re helping flatten the infection curve. Try to be a good example and influence other businesses that might be reluctant to communicate publicly while trying to “ride out the storm.”

Reconsider your operations

Now is the time to focus on helping. So, think about what your organization could be doing for your customers, your community and your industry. Global companies like Canada Goose and Bauer Hockey have reconfigured their operations to help front-line healthcare workers. And local companies like Dillon’s Distillery are doing the same. Could you assist in this effort somehow? Also, be honest about any delays or operational adjustments your company needs to make due to supply chain issues. Reinforce your customer service and support skills about how you’re pivoting to ensure you’re addressing all your customers’ needs.

Revisit Your Content Strategy

Content-wise, the first thing we’d recommend is giving your content strategy another read. (Don’t have one? Here’s how to make an interim content strategy.) Are your goals still the same? Do your tactics need to shift? Is the language you’re using respectful of everything that’s going on?

For some, a couple of tweaks is all you need to keep your content programs the same. For others, you’ll need an interim content strategy. How do you know where you land? Ask yourself how much the crisis affects your business and how much it affects your customers (and how they relate with your brand). If you’re in events, for example, writing about virtual events is more appropriate than perfecting a spring wedding. If you make paint for DIY projects, you’re still okay to post tips and tricks.

Your instinct might be to hold off on your content programs until this all blows over, but try to resist it. Sure, press pause to re-evaluate and prioritize, but do your best not to lose steam. Why? Because content is the mechanism for building relationships with your audience, and those relationships are still important. Even if (especially if?) your business is non-essential.

Now is the time to be valuable, helpful, inspiring and even entertaining. Especially if your business has to pause as a non-essential service. Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Most people are home and online – they’re looking for great content.
  2. It’s easier to keep momentum than to build it up.
  3. Your brand will come out on top when business picks up again.

If you are in the process of reassessing, you might decide that brand awareness is less important right now than brand loyalty. Retention is always a smart place to put your content money; we all know it’s more expensive to earn new customers than keep current ones.

Pivot Your Paid Media

If you’ve invested a good chunk of your marketing budget in digital or social spaces, a lot of that is probably okay, provided that you’ve considered the content tweaks listed above. But if you have marketing dollars in other more “traditional” areas, here are a few things you can do to pivot your spending:

Take outdoor advertising online

Commuters aren’t commuting right now. So, what do you do with that high-traffic billboard buy? Work with your media partners to discover some new solutions – they really want to help. Digital OOH can be shifted easily to places where non-commute traffic still exists, like adjacent to grocery stores or near healthcare offices. You could do anything from re-negotiating your OOH contracts so you receive bonuses in the future to looking at ways to take your ad buys online. Many OOH suppliers now offer added digital solutions like location-based marketing and mobile retargeting that can help you find and connect with your target audience.

Make your content more… eventful

While events and trade shows aren’t happening, you can still make use of all that strong content. Speak to the organizers of your cancelled event and see if you can leverage their database of attendees. See if they have pre-existing marketing opportunities you can be part of, like printed publications or online newsletters. Or take the content you were supposed to share at your trade-show booth and turn it into a webinar or an interactive SlideShare presentation that can be shared using LinkedIn’s powerful targeting tools.

Enable sales through social selling

Obviously, your sales team was looking to make some personal connections at many live events this year. But they can still put their talents to good use through social selling. Social selling is a way of connecting with prospects through social media and nurturing them online. It’s everything from simply making a new contact to sharing useful content on your own profile/newsfeed or joining larger industry-specific conversations that are already happening. It’s not as direct as a handshake, but it can be just as powerful.

Shift your sports marketing

Sports marketing doesn’t apply to every brand, but there are many who rely on it. Obviously, games aren’t being played right now. The good news, though, is that while playoff hockey isn’t here, the desire for sports hasn’t gone away. Sports fanatics are moving from following the latest stats and scores to revisiting the biggest moments in sports history online or learning about the complexities of sport analytics through podcasts. If you’re a brand that leverages sport marketing, look at aligning yourself with some strong podcast content. Whether that’s advertising during a segment or sponsoring the entire show. Another potential marketing pivot is into esports and online gaming, which may include similar fan demographics to live sports leagues.

Transform Your Digital Marketing Tech

To say things aren’t business-as-usual might be the understatement of the year. But COVID-19 isn’t just impacting how we shop and where we work; it’s impacting how we all spend our time. Over the last number of years, many aspects of our lives were digitized. And in just a few short weeks, that’s grown even more. Now, more than ever, we are finding ourselves at home and online pretty much all of the time.

When this is over, will we all shift to having our groceries delivered? Will beer and wine be added to SkipTheDishes menus permanently? Will we all prefer to do even more of our shopping online than we already do? With COVID-19 having the potential to permanently impact consumer behaviours moving forward, there are things you can do on your end in the short term to make sure you’re ready.

Martech stack

Companies often underutilize the tech they already have. Things like marketing automation or CRM tools. Is your tech integrated the right way? Is everything syncing properly? Have you set up all the functions around alerts and notifications? You don’t have to have all the answers right now. But these are things to consider. If you aren’t utilizing all of your tech, there could be some opportunity gaps you can fill. Is your sales pipeline going to dry up in a few months? Your tech can warn you of that, which is pretty incredible. Contact your reps for these platforms to make sure you’re using your tech to the fullest.

Dashboards & reports

The best thing you can do right now is to trust the data you see, as long as you’re measuring the things you can actually count on. How are you calculating those metrics? If you have a metric on engagement rates, what is it telling you? How can you react to it? Go back, evaluate your dashboards and reports and make sure there is complete clarity, both at the executive and team levels, so you can all plan your actions accordingly.

Digital touchpoints

These changes in customer behaviours are making everyone even more comfortable with digital. Companies with strong eCommerce platforms in place are thriving. And those paying attention to social and video-based communications are doing the same. So, what can you do to keep up? Ask yourself the right questions. Do you have a live chat feature? Does it make sense to have one? Are there labour adjustments you can make and resources you can leverage to improve your tool? How can you deploy ecommerce? And how quickly? Things like FAQ pages and voice search can help you be there to answer the questions your customers are asking.

We hope this provided some clarity about what you as a marketing leader could or should be doing for your organization during these unprecedented times. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re not just all in this together. We’re here to help.

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