Marketing Strategies During and Beyond COVID-19


You’ve seen the news. You know the numbers. You’re self-isolating. Your hair is a mess (“quarantine hair” as we’re calling it)… Are you also trying to figure out how to appropriately adjust your marketing strategy?

Give yourself a break if you’re struggling. This is an unprecedented shared experience that we’re all living – together. Our day-to-day has been flipped upside down and launched into another dimension. Business as usual is a relic of the past, but business must go on.

Here are three marketing strategies you can immediately implement to help navigate the pandemic and all that goes along with it.

  1. Humanize your outreach with empathy and compassion

  2. Prioritize retention to sustain revenue

  3. Pull back on lower-funnel and push your brand

Humanize your outreach with empathy and compassion

The best thing you can do right now is practice compassion and empathy in your outreach and actions. Empathy is almost always in short supply in the world at large and especially in the marketing world. The same goes for compassion. Take the time now to be authentic, honest, and vulnerable in your outreach. 

Data shows that you may be better off carrying this sentiment through into your brand voice once we’re past all this. An article from the American Marketing Association cites a 303% increase in sales from work done by Brian Carroll, founder and CEO of Markempa, a consulting and training company for empathy-based marketing. We wouldn’t expect those results, but it does go to show that empathy is way more than “showing feelings”; it’s a very real communication tactic you can employ to generate optimal business outcomes while also deepening client relationships.

Spend extra care with your creative and direct outreach during this crazy time. Be sincere in how you describe what’s going on and operate from an understanding that there are things much more important in the world right now than your email.

You don’t need to sit on a Zoom call and have a cry with all your clients to practice empathy, nor would I recommend that. However, you can openly communicate with them in many ways that garner the same sentiment. Here’s a collection of empathetic marketing materials that Hubspot put together. You’ll see that what’s unique about our time is that these are all around different ideas and solutions for different problems, whereas right now we’re collectively all facing a very similar set of personal and professional stressors. Identify with people. They are craving it right now.

Prioritize retention to sustain revenue

You worked hard to earn your clients’ business. You must now work harder than ever to keep it. Churn is inevitable and perhaps seemingly insurmountable during this pandemic, but customer retention is critical as we move through these times. 

The numbers in the news can be alarming, but the numbers on customer retention benefits are very favorable. 


Research shows that just a 5% boost in retention rates increases profits from 25% to 95%. Now is the time to throw everything you have at retention. Imagine your thoughts as you look back on this time. Will you be better off suffering a huge drop in site traffic but retaining more existing business or growing site traffic but losing a few likely retainable clients in the process? Improved retention and sustained site traffic don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but retention should be an easy choice over site traffic.

Here are two tactics to help immediately optimize your retention strategies:

  1. Prioritize your client outreach based on existing and future value. While we’ve defined empathy and compassion as the North star for navigating these times, you must still be generating revenue to stay in business. Allocate the time and resources you spend on one-to-one outreach in descending order based on a client’s current value as well as future value to grow with your business. *This should be a standard best practices for account management, but now’s a great time to implement it.

  2. Get all hands on deck to conduct outreach. Each of your clients may have their own account manager depending on the nature of your business. This outreach is different than the day-to-day back and forth between clients and account owners. Bring your executives to the table, get them briefed on their client list, and have them check-in with at least your top clients – using empathy and compassion.

Pull back on lower-funnel and push your brand

Truly embodying empathy and compassion will require adjusting communications and campaigns across the board. Everything needs to be on the table for review. This means social, email, PPC, syndicated content, and other marketing and advertising channels. If you haven’t already, pivoting your messaging in each of these channels is vital to success at a time like this.


Would you try to hard sell someone on your product over a video chat while you can hear their kids in the background and see the exhaustion in their face? If you’re employing cookie-based, retargeting, or other personalized ads, this is not the time to be pushing “10% off if you commit now” or “we’re better than xyz competitor” messages. 

It’s time to pull campaigns targeting prospects and leads at the bottom of your conversion funnel. Tina Moffett, senior analyst at Forrester, recommends: 

“Review creative now, and consider reassuring marketing messaging so you sound less opportunistic and more empathetic.”

The “reassuring messaging” Moffett describes needs to come from your brand. You should really dedicate some time to contemplate and define what this more humanized brand messaging will be. Think of this as a forced, quasi-rebranding exercise. 

Your bottom-of-funnel messaging and valuable conversions will come back after a while, but there’s definitely long-term value in creating an empathetic, human-centric message outside of these immediate needs.

Take immediate action now, then plan for what may come

These three marketing tactics can, and should be, immediately implemented. You’re not too late to make adjustments. It definitely feels like we’ve already been at this for a decade, but we’ve got plenty more to go. And the emotional toll will remain for some time, regardless of if and how things improve or worsen. That’s what these strategies respond to – the emotional well being of your clients.

As you prepare your augmented, empathy-driven marketing adjustments, consider going a step further to get ahead of other potential ramifications yet to come. 

Consider how you can sustain marketing performance if we end up in an extended lock-down through the summer or beyond. Now is the time to ideate around those needs. You may also want to consider a plan and messaging that speaks to the reality of an economic downturn. 

Again, start with employing empathy throughout your marketing efforts and then look to prepare for what may or may not come. And don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Practice what you preach on yourself. You’re only human. Show yourself some compassion and empathy. You and your marketing metrics will be glad you did!


Jen Renshaw
Founder & Chief Digital Strategist, Brand Mark Digital

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