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What I’ve learned about marketing during a global health crisis.

Marketing blogs were all a-fuss last week about striking the right “tone” in the time of COVID-19. 

This situation is fresh in our mind:

There was outrage around outreach. Marketing and sales leaders were not shy about lighting-up LinkedIn with the copy of email and voice scripts they deemed tone-deaf or insensitive. Whether they were too heavy-handed in their reference to the pandemic or they ignored it all together – either way: swing and a miss. 

One thing is certain: Marketers are in uncharted waters. Deep, choppy, and highly emotional waters. 

Yet despite these missteps, it would be foolish to ignore that there are markets that have opened up for solution providers as a result of COVID-19. 

It’s the marketing leader’s responsibility to recognize opportunity when it knocks. Many businesses are suffering as a result of the pandemic – if yours doesn’t have to, then martyrdom is bad for you, your colleagues and the economy. 

So let’s discuss what I’ve learned from myself and my colleagues about marketing during a global health crisis. 

Focus on new audiences and the need that’s been created

You’ve been addressing this need for years. Suddenly, your audience has gotten larger. Shift toward relating your value proposition to new audiences and away from what the catalyst is or was. People are doom and gloomed out.  

NO:  “COVID-19 has forced everyone out of their office and into their homes. Now more than ever, they are relying on our service to stay productive during self-isolation. ”

YES: “Productivity at home can happen! Our service keeps you connected to your personal and professional network under even the most unprecedented of circumstances.”

Retool Messaging to lead with empathy, relatability and usefulness

“It was icky. It felt extremely out-of-place.”

This is how a friend and fellow marketing leader described organizations showing their early-March industry trade show booths on LinkedIn, and barrelling forward with their planned content, while all around us, travel was getting restricted and shows were getting cancelled. 

Additionally, other organizations mentioned that their high performing outbound scripts were suddenly garnering criticism from prospects. Unchanged, they seemed insensitive to the current time. 

To be relatable means you acknowledge the humanity of a person. You don’t force an individual to surrender their emotions or suppress fear and uncertainty to experience your brand. Now is the time for serious brands to embrace, not ignore, the unprecedented human elements that unite us.

Brands need to ask, “what is the most useful I can be?” Reach into your bag of tricks and pull out content, tools, freemiums, or other offers that will help your community. Replace the “we’re here for you” sentiment with a, “we’re all in this together,” and supplement with an extended trial, a premium tool, or a piece of free research. 

Re-Tier Accounts

It would be naive to think that accounts represent the same level of opportunity in the midst of this pandemic as they did before it occurred. Sadly, budgets are getting cut and business is slowing down for many companies.

It would be wise to review account tiers and recognize whether or not certain clusters are more likely to invest in your solution now vs. later. 

Shift your marketing mix accordingly. 

Ramp up the digital reputation and awareness tactics for those accounts that will not be investing, and shift high-touch, experiential mail and multichannel tactics to those who are in-market.

We have a responsibility to identify needs and surround accounts that might be in-market – COVID-19 doesn’t change that.


When times are tough, the marketing budget is one of the first to get cut. This behavior is ironic at best and catastrophic at worst. 

No matter how bleak the forecast looks, we cannot stop marketing. There will be a rebound from this. It’s our responsibility as marketing leaders to keep the flame burning with awareness, reputation, and market position. 

Publish content and nurture.
Ignore excuses.
Get creative.
Be a guerilla marketing force.

Innovate like your life depends on it. Your competition is.