Marketing in the time of, well, you know

With every crisis comes opportunity. 

That may sound a bit trite, but hear me out.

We’re in an unprecedented social and economic situation: businesses are shuttered, people are working from home, or not at all, others are still plugging away as if little has changed. And nobody knows how long it will last. Weeks? Months? Reading tea leaves seems as reliable an information source as any these days.

The economy has taken a huge hit, stock markets are in shambles, entire industries have been sidelined, and continued uncertainty seems to be the only thing anyone can agree on.

And, what do companies tend to do in uncertain times? Close ranks, stop spending, go to ground. And therein lies the opportunity.

As many of us who lived through the Great Recession a dozen years ago can remember, firms that were able to continue marketing, even at a reduced level, were typically among the firms that survived. 

But these are extraordinary times, you say. Caution is warranted. Well, sure, we all need to be appropriately careful. We’re also being presented with extraordinary opportunities. We’re creatives; we should be in our collective element. It’s a great time to experiment. People will forget failures rapidly, and they will remember successes fondly because everyone’s looking for a glimmer of hope in this sea of bad news.

Standard-issue campaigns won’t work in today’s situation. For example, I’d considered doing a physical mailing; at least for my business, mass emails are a bit sterile and of dubious benefit, and, besides, who doesn’t like to get a handwritten note in the mail, especially something that’s not a bill? 

But, nobody is working from their offices, and it’s unusual to have a home address for one’s clients. So a mailing, however appropriately crafted, would just sit in a pile in an office mailroom missing the opportunity.

Personalized emails are the next step, and one that I plan to pursue. Not canned, copy-and-paste messages, but individually crafted based on your relationship with the recipient. Sure, it’ll take some time. Think of it as an investment in your firm and an opportunity to brush up on your letter-writing skills. 

Phone calls? Remember those? Some folks say they’re allergic to the phone, but it’s an effective method of personal communication and connection in a period during which everyone is supposed to be socially isolated for safety’s sake. Most corporate phone system allow employees to forward their office lines to cell phones, so getting in touch this way is pretty straightforward.

What to talk about on a dreaded phone call? Be human. Don’t front. Let your guard down a bit. Make a connection. You’ll reap rewards, both personal and professionally.

Other opportunities for creative marketing communications exist. As an architectural and construction photographer, I’ve had nearly all of my current and future bookings postponed indefinitely. I see genuine opportunities for getting those back on the calendar. Sure, you say, the guy just wants to get paid. Well, of course. I’d be lying if I thought that being self-employed didn’t feel especially perilous right about now. 

Many spaces that I photograph are staged without people, sometimes for liability or contractual issues, or because of challenges in getting model releases from people in uncontrolled spaces such as public buildings or college campuses.

With so many businesses and schools being closed, we have a fantastic opportunity to document spaces without interfering with occupants’ activities, or by using a few staffers as models to show scale, use, and flow. All while easily adhering to the recommended social-distancing guidelines. You could take your time to get shots that you may otherwise have the luxury to do, or breeze through a shot list because there are no interruptions. All it takes is a bit of creativity. 

For construction/process photos, similar opportunities exist. Most building projects in the region are still proceeding, and maintaining recommended social distancing is relatively easy, even on a busy site. Now is a great time for some fresh photos that show progress, demonstrate adherence to safety rules, persistence in the face of adversity, etc.

In the end, marketing folks would have fresh photos to use for proposals and for outreach, at a time when other firms may have totally shuttered their marketing efforts. The effort would stand out even more for that. 

Be flexible. Be creative. Be kind, and be considerate. If ever there was a time and opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking and for communities to pull together, this is it.

Please share your ideas in the comments - this is also a great time for the community to come together and support one another, even while standing six feet (or farther) apart.

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