How to Plan Your Content Marketing Strategy In the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled businesses to shift to virtual selling and prioritize content marketing. Adapting to the new normal requires identifying business priorities, adjusting content strategies, and providing valuable and sensitive messaging. Building emotional ROI and focusing on customer experience is key. Successful examples include brands that communicate openly, offer assistance,- and maintain a positive outlook. Investing in digital assets and content marketing remains crucial even after the pandemic ends.


If anyone told you that one day, you would have to market and sell your products virtually, you would have probably asked them to check if their crystal ball was broken, right? Yet, here we are; social distancing is the norm and like it or not, you have to conduct complicated product demos on zoom. The challenge is even worse for you if your client base is made up of people with a “seeing is believing” mentality and need to touch before they buy. Even for the avid online shopper, a little skepticism does tend to creep in when buying, so trade shows and live events go a long way to convert such clients.
In the absence of the usual physical contact with clients, sales and revenue have dwindled. Your customers have had to adjust to the fact that we now live in a different world; that we need to do almost everything online now.
Impact of Covid on sales
Figure 1: Impact of Covid 19 on sales (source: Statista)
But that doesn’t mean they are okay with it.
So, what do you need to do about it?
As a business leader, it is up to you to take care of your customers.
How? With content.

Taking Care of Your Customers

As a sales and marketing leader, taking care of your customers is key to survival now more than ever. But as you manage lead generation and selling in the new reality, your methods have to be cognizant of the change in customer habits. A survey conducted by Mckinsey found that
  • 90% of sales are now happening via telephone, video conferencing and web
  • B2b companies see digital interactions as more important than traditional selling
Mckinsey and Company report
Figure 2: Digital-enabled selling is now more important than traditional selling (source: Mckinsey)
As CONTENT MARKETING is at the center of all digital marketing, how to play your content marketing strategy in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic, is what you need to figure out.
Why? This is because We have a new normal and we don’t know how long it will last.

Steps For Adapting to the New Normal Using Content.

A few months ago, you probably thought, “let’s close down shop for a while and then reopen when things change”. A lot of brands probably did that as well. But it has become evidently clear that waiting a few days so that we go back to “business as usual”, is not the right mode to be thinking in anymore.
Due to the unpredictable nature of covid 19, the new normal might actually be around for a long time.   If you hunker down to wait out covid 19, you lose all the leverage you had with your customers.
Content marketing is a great way to remain top of mind among old customers and new prospects. Your content marketing, however, should reflect the times we are living in.
What you need to do now, is craft a short to mid-term plan for your content marketing. You can follow these steps to do that:
  • Identify your current business priorities and goals
  • How can you use content marketing to support those goals?
  • Consider how your audience personas may have changed. For instance, are their priorities still the same? What kind of routines do they maintain now? What kind of content are they asking for or consuming?
  • Evaluate whether your organization’s resources are directly placed to help. If not, are there ways you can contribute? For instance, can you feed the less fortunate, or donate masks?
  • Come up with your content creation process. This includes defining a team, a budget, tools and posting frequency.
  • Decide whether you have enough expertise on board to come up with your content strategy. If not, hire a lead generation agency.
  • Set up action items and realistic, measurable goals.
  • Write your content
Step 8 is very important as we will discuss below. First, let’s loo at the right type of content to create during covid 19.

The Content You Offer Matters; Business As Usual Will Not Cut It During Covid 19 Times.

There are so many factors to consider when deciding on content appropriateness.
  • Does the content you create really have to be about your brand?
  • What kind of content should you be creating at this point?
  • Should you be pushing marketing messages during covid 19 times?
If you can somehow weave in covid 19 messaging into your content, that is well and good, as long as you do it naturally. If you find that trying to tie your service to covid 19 feels like a stretch, find a different way to market while still remaining sensitive to people’s challenges.
Marriot Hotels for instance, have this non-intrusive banner at the top of their webpage that shows latest covid 19 updates.
Groove Life is yet another great example of this. Bryant Garvin of Groove Life emphasizes “walking the fine line” when marketing, so as not to push marketing messages that seem opportunistic. “Everything we do . . . we try and walk that fine line,” (Bryant Garvin, during an interview with Search Engine Land). As part of their response to covid 19, Groove Life created medical-hero-themed rings, and will donate 25% of sales from the rings to fast responders.
So, here’s an idea for you: whatever content you offer, show your human side. We recommend these types of content to build relationships now that will generate positive ROI in the future:
Go the CSV Route.
Whatever community you live in, contribute there. Give masks, educate people about social distancing, give food hampers to the needy.
Launch Into User Generated Content
There is a huge wave of user generated content going on right now. Find out what your target audience is interested in talking about and help engage them along those lines. Listen to their challenges and help them resolve.
Your customers have a lot of time on their hands at the moment. They might not know what to do with most of that time, so if you fill it with interesting content, they will remember you in future.
Covid 19 Educational Content
Create a covid 19 information hub on your webpage. Post your updates there and also send notifications via email and social media.
Offer Freebies
Generate loyalty with freebies that add value to the customer. When people aren’t entertaining, they want to acquire a new skill. Can you for instance offer them free training right now?
Your marketing doesn’t need to be framed by your business offering. BAU will not cut it during covid 19 times.

What Should Be The Tone of Your Messaging In The Current Climate?

Right now,
  • The economic climate is uncertain
  • Purchasing power has dwindled as income per household has gone down. This is also the case in b2b, as businesses cut costs
  • The world is focused on longer term goals.
  • Everyone is still figuring out how to live differently
People therefore need content that educates them on how to live differently.
  • Acknowledge that your customer’s lives have changed. The question you should be asking yourself therefore should be, “how can we provide more assistance to our customers?”
  • Even as you acknowledge the problem, remain positive and optimistic about the future.
  • Your messaging should capture the right tone while adding value during uncertain time. If you are having real conversations with your customers, colleagues or employees, then finding the right “tone” will not be a struggle.
Try The Truth
Whatever you communicate to your customers must be the truth. Covid 19 is a new experience for everyone. Government and world bodies are struggling dealing with it and the fact is, besides just having figured out how to manage it for now, no one knows for sure how things will be tomorrow. Any communication, therefore, that ignores this reality or tries to downplay the threat we now face, will not do justice to your brand.
I think the key thing here is communication. It’s truly saying, ‘Look, we don’t know yet.’  Gary Simmons, Director, Intradeco Apparel, speaking during the American Apparel & Footwear Association’s annual Executive Summit conference
The ROI of content Marketing during COVID 19 times
One of the things that comes to mind when you talk about content marketing ROI during covid 19, is how exactly to quantify or define ROI. Now might be a better time to build relationships instead of chasing sales. Given that there has been a tremendous drop in sales in most industries, you might want to gauge ROI from a future outlook.
Here are some factors to consider for defining ROI:
  • Is your goal to make sales? Can you do that without appearing insensitive?
  • If your clientele is more interested in infotainment or covid 19 education, how are you going to keep them engaged and how do you see those efforts paying off?
  • Are you providing a good customer experience? For instance, 33% of buyers surveyed by Mckinsey indicated live chat as the mark of a good supplier, especially during the research stage.
Industry leaders and influencers believe that building emotional ROI should be the way to go now if you want to reap huge benefits in the future.

Some Brilliant Content Marketing Examples

Some brands have really nailed the art of marketing during covid19, and we could learn a lot from them.
Example From B2B:
To commemorate the “take your child to work day”, SAP organized a 3-hour virtual event, conducted on a platform where parents and their children could view content showing influencers from the fashion, sports and technology sectors in their homes. The aim of the content was to spark discussions about work.
Why was this a brilliant marketing idea?
By launching this platform, SAP took all the hustle of thinking and planning away from parents, who are already busy with work deadlines, while still handling kids’ education, entertainment, health and emotional needs.
For 3 hours (although this time is split in 10 minute- segments), kids could just soak in important information about work life without putting a strain on their parents. This is real value. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the memes and videos circulating on social media, showing the difficulties of parenting during covid 19.
Example From B2C:
As highlighted above, language matters when communicating with people during a crisis. Being open, honest, and highlighting successes while sharing challenges and concerns, is definitely the way to go. Below are two emails that The Potter’s house team sent their customers in March during the lockdown, and in May, when they reopened.
Two emails that The Potter’s house team sent their customers
Figure 3: Image source : pottershousedc
Notice the consistent tone in both emails; they acknowledge the challenge, but still remain positive and offer help. They also give detailed information of plans, actions taken and impact.
The great thing about such emails is that by being in constant communication with customers,
  • You build a connection (emotional ROI)
  • You take them with you on your journey as you plan
  • They get to trust you when you deliver on your promise
  • They remember you in future

Bottom line

As you take steps to ramp up your content marketing, you have to accept that you will make mistakes. The Covid 19 crisis is unlike anything the world has seen in the last millennium, so no one knows how to deal with it. Accept that you might get it wrong, and correct when you do.
Lastly, keep your eye on the future. It is likely that if we have to put up with covid 19 for much longer, b2b and b2c selling will change fundamentally in the future. From a risk management perspective, a working digital selling strategy has proven to be an asset for businesses of all kinds. We are therefore likely to see more and more businesses being keener on investing in web assets and preparing for future crisis scenarios and so on. The point is, whatever you do now digitally will not go to waste. Even after curfews are lifted, travel resumes and a vaccine is in place, content marketing is something you will need to invest in as a matter of course.
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Gaurav Roy

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