Marketing During a Pandemic – A Time for Prudent Investments, not Panic

7 Ways Your Organization Can “Zag” and Position Itself for a Faster Recovery

Estimated read time: 7 mins

Due to an unknown future, the coronavirus has challenged our clients to re-evaluate their business models as our economy spirals into a recession. It has forced organizations to assess the sustainability of their products or services, as well as how they price, deliver, and promote them.

As with past recessions or depressions, among the very first things to get eliminated is the marketing budget. This reaction is common since marketing is often viewed as a business cost and not an investment. But we urge you to “zag” when your competitors will most certainly “zig”.


Companies that survived (and even thrived) after global recessions used a specific combination of defensive and offensive moves, according to the most comprehensive study of this topic published in the Harvard Business Review. “These companies reduce costs selectively by focusing more on operational efficiency than their rivals do, even as they invest relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets,” noted the study’s authors.

Your organization will position itself for a faster recovery by sustaining some reasonable marketing investment and utilizing a combination of prudent promotional activities. By doing this, your organization will more likely:

  • Remain “top of mind” with prospective clients/customers/students who think of you first when they resume spending
  • Gain market share from competitors who had cut their marketing investments
  • Strengthen its reputation with current and prospective clients/customers/students because you remained visible and constant during a time of uncertainty

Note: Whether you refer to those you serve as customers, clients or students, we will call them “customers” from here on out.


So what do we mean by prudent promotional activities? We mean tried and true (and cost-efficient) activities that help your organization:

  1. Capitalize on its existing customer base (and existing prospect pipeline)
  2. Achieve maximum visibility (reach and frequency) and attract new customers

No matter which communication tactics you ultimately use, your strategy should strive to address the current and future needs (real or perceived) of your existing and prospective customers. All communications should highlight how your organization is evolving to keep their wants/needs/concerns at the forefront during this unusual crisis, and to highlight how you are uniquely positioned to do so.

That said, below is a list of prudent marketing activities your organization can deploy for each strategic goal …

#1: Ways to capitalize on your existing customer base (and existing prospect pipeline)

Is your organization willing to offer anything special during this extraordinary time? An extended free trial, a fee waiver, free delivery, an expedited application, bonus services (e.g. a sales premium) or some other incentive(s)?

This is an ideal time to stand out by strengthening your relationship with existing customers or pulling prospective customers closer — and a promotion is a great way to do it. This fundamental tactic cannot be overlooked.

Now is the time to double down on email marketing, which is free and can be very effective, if done correctly. Effective email marketing requires an engaging content strategy; accurate email lists with contacts segmented by key characteristics; and proper measurement to track success.

  • Do you have a compelling content strategy?
  • Are you consistently maintaining your client or prospect lists?
  • Are you measuring success?
  • Are you finding ways to attract new email subscribers through your website or other channels?
  • Address these questions with your staff, and develop a plan to improve future email execution.

Email marketing cannot do all the work by itself, but social media can help. During this pandemic, social media has become a crucial vehicle to overcome social distancing and keep people informed about what’s happening in the world. It’s an ideal time to implement social media advertising, whether on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or another platform.

Social media ads can be purchased on a pay-per-click basis ($1-$3), so organizations only pay when people engage with their message, whether it’s a regular post or even a video ad.

Free social media posts don’t go very far (typically a few hundred people at most). Brands need to use “boosted posts” or “sponsored ads” to achieve maximum reach and frequency with their existing followers and customers.

Another prudent type of advertising is called display or “banner” advertising, which is the most common form of advertising seen on websites ranging from (news) to (entertainment) to Words with Friends (gaming apps).

But instead of paying for impressions, brands can pay on a pay-per-click basis ($1-$3) to reach their existing clients or customers across thousands of websites or mobile apps.

2. Ways to achieve maximum visibility and attract new customers

Marketers often focus so much attention on attracting website traffic, that they overlook having website content that tells a compelling story, highlights their brand’s competitive advantage, and generates leads. Ironically, your website should be the #1 priority before you go-to-market.

That’s why we recommend our clients optimize their website content for lead generation. It can mean the difference between a 0.50% conversion rate (1 out of every 200 visitors) and a 7% conversion rate (7 out of every 100 visitors) without spending a dime on advertising. This is exactly what happened to this webpage, which promotes cookie dough products, after optimizations took place.

Search advertising (especially Google ads) is another form of prudent marketing because:

  1. Advertisers only pay when searchers click, and
  2. Searchers are generally a step closer to inquiring (e.g. requesting a quote, applying, etc.)

This tactic can be very effective IF organizations choose their keywords and bidding strategies wisely, and optimize their website content for lead generation.

Before we talked about social media being a good tool to remain top-of-mind and engage with existing customers. It’s also a great way to attract new customers. Facebook, and its sister company, Instagram, together reach approx. 70% of Americans. These platforms are a natural place to start because of their tremendous reach AND frequency, as most Americans use these platforms several times each day.

Social media ads offer an unmatched combination of robust targeting (by location, demographics, interests, behavior and more); strong cost efficiency; and numerous ad formats that are easy/cheap to produce. Advertisers can pay for impressions for greater reach or pay-per-click ($1-$3) for greater value. On top of all that, all leads can be tracked for ROI measurement.

And finally, we should not ignore the value of digital TV and digital radio advertising. Since the pandemic started, Americans have increased their media consumption (especially TV usage) by nearly 60%. While many organizations cannot afford broadcast television or radio, digital TV and radio advertising offer tremendously targeted and budget-friendly opportunities.

“Digital TV” (think shows you stream on your TV, laptop, tablet or phone) and “digital radio” (think Spotify, Pandora, and other radio apps) offer a combination of:

  • Strong targeting — by zip code, gender, age range, household income, and more
  • Measurement — view tracking, click tracking and conversion tracking
  • Cost-efficiency — brands can pay only a few thousand ($) to buy packages of TV or radio ads starting at only 3-cents per ad
  • Flexibility — agreements can be cancelled without penalty

How We Can Help

As a digital marketing agency, we’re uniquely positioned to help our clients weather this unprecedented economic situation. We can help you develop a custom marketing strategy and execute on every single suggestion shared above. We offer immediate and cost-effective expertise that can supplement or complement your marketing staff during this very difficult time.

While we don’t have all the answers, we have a range of strategic ideas and tactics to help your organization recover faster during this difficult time. Feel free to reach out. We’re listening.