The COVID-19 pandemic impacts every aspect of our lives, including the way we market our companies. Even essential businesses must be cautious about the way they promote. It’s crucial to remain sensitive to the anxiety and fear most people are experiencing surrounding the outbreak and resulting changes. 

The number of organizations impacted by the wicked and silent attack of COVID-19 is too high to count. Even essential companies must adapt on the fly and figure out how to keep customers safe while still providing the products and services people most need right now. Around the world, about four out of every five workers sees some effect from the virus. Even stores that remain open may have ill employees, shortened hours and more stringent guidelines on who can work. 

What each state defines as essential may vary slightly, including establishments such as gas stations, grocery stores, health care facilities and liquor stores. Many provide necessities such as toilet paper. If your business falls into one of these categories, keep these things in mind as you promote your brand during this highly sensitive time:

1. Work With influencers

Your traditional means of reaching new customers may not be well received right now. One idea you can try is to team up with influencers who see the value you bring to the community and let them do your talking for you. People are much more likely to respond well to someone else saying your business has particular essentials — or displaying one of your employees and their battle to stay healthy while providing for customers.

2. Follow Social Distancing Recommendations

If you hang around social media for a bit, you’ll notice people complaining about others not understanding the six-feet rule. Customers appreciate businesses that understand the importance of space between patrons, and these companies fare better than those who put zero measures in place. A few things you can do include adding some floor decals to show people where to stand, implementing stickers to create one-way aisles and limiting the number of people in the store at one time. 

Once you have protections in place, send a note to your customers on your mailing list and let them know of the changes. Explain you’re taking measures to keep customers and employees safe from COVID-19. Adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) business guidelines and inform your patrons that you are following these regulations.

3. Remain Sensitive

It might be business as usual for you, but consider what your clients deal with during a pandemic. People are worried about their family members’ health, the status of their next paycheck and the situation’s long-term economic impact. You may have already created some advertisements for previous campaigns that promote gathering with family and friends or having a date night. 

Pull any marketing that doesn’t fit in with the current world trends. Now isn’t the time to promote a big birthday party to mark a milestone. You may need to scramble a bit to come up with a new campaign, but you won’t blunder into a misstep by promoting something you shouldn’t or coming off as uncaring about the seriousness of the health crisis. 

4. Avoid Being Greedy

Essential businesses may find they are raking in money right now. People rushed to stores to stock up on paper goods and non-perishable food. Now isn’t the time to try to take advantage of people’s fears or raise the prices to turn more of a profit. 

It is illegal in some states to price gouge — therefore, you could get into legal trouble. More importantly, people watch how companies handle the crisis and may mark you off their list forever if they see you trying to take advantage of the situation to make more money.

Some examples of greed might include raising the price on toilet paper when your supplier is still charging the same amount or charging a fee for curbside pickup. Unless you’re struggling financially, don’t cut benefits or pay for employees either. They are on the frontlines trying to get people what they need and putting themselves in harm’s way. If you can afford it, treat them kindly by giving bonuses and perks. 

5. Evaluate Your Images

Most businesses plan out their promotional calendar months in advance. You should change the wording and tone of any inappropriate ads and also pay careful attention to the images used. Right now, people might be sensitive to photos of friends hugging or people in a movie theater. Think about what visuals work well at the moment and which ones you should pull and put on the back burner for later. 

6. Provide Relevant Content

Online marketing is one of your best friends during the quarantine. If you don’t already have a website and some social media pages, go ahead and set them up. Use social media to update people about store hours, products you have in stock and sales you’re offering to help shoppers replace empty pantries. 

Think about your industry and the types of content most beneficial to your target audience. If you own a liquor store, people may not realize you sell toilet paper. Share this info with them. If you are offering a drive-through service at your restaurant, make sure people know they can purchase uncooked items from you if they can’t find them at their local grocers. Look for creative ways to reach people while remaining conscious of their emotions. 

  • Look To The Future

The stay home recommendations won’t last forever. At some point, the country will reopen. Think about what might be different when it does. Operations may look vastly unconventional compared to how they did before the coronavirus outbreak. 

What will marketing look like in the future? How can you continue reaching your target audience without angering them or causing additional emotional angst? The sensitive and caring business owners are the ones most likely to thrive during and after the pandemic. 

Lexie is a freelance web designer and UX strategist. She loves all things design and spending time with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.