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How to Market Compassionately During the Pandemic

Michelle Hunter by Michelle Hunter

Responding to challenges with a helpful message.

Compassionate Marketing

Over the past week or so, the reality of COVID-19 has hit home for most of us. Many states (including my own) have issued orders closing non-essential businesses and mandating that we stay in our homes with just a few limited exceptions. Many workers are laid off temporarily – even indefinitely – and others are risking their health to continue providing essential services to the rest of us. 

Life is certainly different. Business has changed… and it’s challenging to know how to properly respond to these changes. 

Can I be candid with you? At this moment, you might be tempted to simply take a break from business. Out of compassion, you might be tempted to give your products for free or offer significant discounts to your services. 

I understand these impulses – and I’m tempted by them too – but I feel a different position is more valuable to our society and our economy in this crisis. As entrepreneurs and leaders, I feel we have certain responsibilities… 

  • To treat our employees fairly and provide opportunities to earn fair compensation for their efforts.
  • To provide value through using our unique skills and abilities to serve the marketplace.
  • To respond to challenges with creativity and resilience, inspiring others with a reasonable and measured approach. 

My family relies on the income my business generates. Three other families do, as well, through the efforts of my team. My customers and clients look to me to assist and guide them as a trusted partner and vendor. These obligations don’t end in a crisis… in fact, they amplify. 

Now hear me clearly… I’m not suggesting we take advantage of the current crisis for our own profit and advantage. That would be unethical and immoral. I am, however, standing firmly on this idea – -> It is my responsibility to keep my business afloat. I owe this to my family, my team, and my clients. 

That means charging a fair price (given the circumstances) for my products and services, and thinking creatively to find ways to better serve my market in this situation. I need to market compassionately… and become part of the solution, rather than getting mired down in fear. 

You need to do the same. So, how do we do it? Keep reading. 

You need to shift your marketing conversation.

Marketing is ultimately a conversation between you and your customers. That conversation starts at the point of need your customer feels and acknowledges in this moment. This is the basis for a strong marketing message → and the beginning point of the customer journey through your business. 

COVID-19 changed the conversation for all of us. The starting point is different… meaning you need to make some changes to how you talk about your work. You need to shift the ways you relate to customers and adapt to the current reality. 

Before this pandemic, your customer’s primary concern might have been their dated website, recurring business problem, or the challenges they faced while parenting. Those issues are likely still relevant, but they have shifted a bit. 

  • The dated website design might not matter as much as the lack of an online store. 
  • The recurring business problem might be overtaken by concerns over a shut down. 
  • Parenting challenges are likely different now that most of us are homeschooling. 

The way you talk about your work and connect with potential clients needs to reflect these shifts. Stepping out of the conversation is not the answer… your people need you now. They just need you to be relevant. 

What do your customers need NOW?

Relevance means staying in touch with what your customers need at this moment, in this season, in this crisis. Ask yourself what your current customers need now… as they deal with COVID-19. Then make some assumptions about your prospective customers as well.

My business provides custom marketing strategy and copywriting services for both online and brick & mortar businesses. I work with corporate clients as well as entrepreneurs and creatives. Typically, my work is a part of a larger project that can take months to implement… something which isn’t relevant in this climate.

During this time, my current clients and potential customers need…

  • Revised messaging to communicate clearly during this crisis,
  • Help to shift their marketing conversations to stay relevant, 
  • Copywriting services to help them talk about special initiatives, 
  • Reassurance and empowerment to get them through this time. 

The work I do has value during normal times. Rather than folding my hands and sitting back to wait for things to change, I need to think about these changing needs and how I can be part of the solution. 

So, what do YOUR customers and clients need now?  Start brainstorming. 

How can you provide what they need? 

Over the past few weeks, we’ve all been asked to innovate. We are figuring out how to work from home with limited resources. We have virtual meetings, connect with clients via cell phones with wonky connections, and set up desks and workstations in random corners of our homes.  

Our pets are our new co-workers. Homeschooling children is our new side-hustle. Hand washing is the new obsession… and we get to explore the challenges of cooking from our pantry. Thank goodness for the Instant Pot. Those dried beans are soooo much easier to cook! 

So, time to take this new spirit of innovation and apply it to business. How can YOU provide what your customers need in new, fresh ways? It’s time to think creatively.  Here are some ideas… 

  • Your big coaching package might not work right now. Can you offer single sessions focused on a common problem in your market? 
  • Maybe it’s not the time for a full website redesign. Can you offer to create landing pages so people can take their products online successfully? 
  • Maybe some of your current jobs are on hold or even canceled. Can you provide services at a reduced rate to use up that extra capacity? 

Look for creative ways to solve problems and share your knowledge that will genuinely help your customers and potential customers. Be willing to serve and be generous, but also be smart about it. 

For example, normally my time is at a premium. Things are a little less busy for me now, although I’m filling my time just fine supporting my current clients and generating content like this post. But, I have the ability to offer extra strategy sessions to my current clients and lower cost sessions to new clients. I have excess capacity. 

Balancing generosity and profit. 

Generosity is one of my core values. I built my company on giving more than we receive and on responding generously when we have the opportunity. This is an unprecedented opportunity for generosity. But it is also a time to maintain the profitability of my business. 

I suggest looking for ways to reach out generously (and sustainably) to the world. This article is one way I can be generous… sharing insight that will help you move forward if you’re feeling stuck. I’m looking right now for ways I can help – answering questions, connecting with people, and providing resources. 

What can you do to balance generosity with profit? 

  • Offer extended payment terms so people can move forward.
  • Share expertise openly through resources, conversations, and content. 
  • Create small offers at accessible price points to serve your market. 
  • Provide escalated timelines or a higher level of service by adding extras.
  • Give reasonable discounts where appropriate without going below your cost.

In other words, make sure your family and your team have the financial resources they need to survive. Make sure your vendors are paid and your cash flow is manageable. Don’t discount deeply or offer free products or services at the expense of business sustainability. 

Your business is worth fighting for…

It’s easy to get panicked right now and either freeze or react quickly, rather than intentionally… but that’s exactly the wrong thing to do right now. Your business is worth fighting for, and it’s up to you as a leader to take a measured approach to the current situation. Stay calm. Stay focused on what matters most. Then use your creativity to become part of the solution for us all. 
Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of your next steps? Let’s talk. Just email me (michelle@michellehuntercreative.com) to start the conversation.  

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