Navigating a Crisis Without a Marketing Playbook

“IPA data shows brands that sustained exposure throughout crisis can increase share 3x during downturns, but also rebound faster and stronger in recovery … sustain spend and earned exposure to keep salient in anticipation of a rebound”

- Ogilvy Consulting

There’s no playbook. So how do marketing teams navigate their way in these uncharted waters?

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Some brands have opted to go dark (Coca Cola, KFC, and Hershey’s for instance). With good reason—their planned communications created months in advance jarred with current hyperrealities. In some cases, they’ve replaced it with communication that speaks to unfolding challenges. The most compelling communication comes from brands that simply report the ways they’ve stepped to the plate to assist ongoing efforts e.g. LVMH has repurposed their perfume factories to produce hand sanitizers which are being distributed for free to healthcare workers. Others have gone overboard, pegging hashtags, piling into the conversation without purpose. In light of that, it’s no surprise that some brands have thought it better to go off air altogether. Yet reviews of similar crises in the past show that brands that have maintained consistent and thoughtful communication during a crisis, spring back stronger and faster when normalcy returns. 

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So how can you proceed to build momentum when your prospects and customers are navigating budget cuts and team shortages?


Communicate with compassion and relevance. Don’t sell hard; people will hold it against you. Avoid mails that tout your availability during ‘this crisis’. This puts people off. If you have a special offer that may help people during this time, say so upfront.

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Disney did just that in light of the confinement that households must endure; they brought forward their release of the hotly-anticipated Frozen 2 on their streaming channel; yet they wisely avoided mention of why they did so in their social media posts.

A classic demonstration of how show works better than tell, and solve works better than sell. There’s been an uptick in mails from Netflix too. These brands are simply playing to their strengths while addressing a need, without stating the obvious motivation.


Be Proactive 

Respondents in an Edelman special report believed that brands should make a difference throughout this phase. Brands need to take the initiative. Think of HP’s donation of 3-D printers to hospitals to produce masks or Microsoft’s Healthcare bot that helps screen patients for possible infections, reducing the burden on the healthcare system. Zoom has decided to offer its videoconferencing tools to K-12 schools for free. But all brands can help in their own way. Consider:

  • Can you give good discounts for companies paying upfront for a year?
  • Can you give 2 months’ free and make it a 14-month agreement instead of 12? 


Create Original Content

People look to brands for information. The Edelman report reveals that people want to know that the brand is helping (89 percent) and how they can best access its product and services (88 percent) on the best terms in the circumstances. It’s alright to lighten the mood if you have a Brains Trust that can guide you on appropriate communications. Explore escapism in these times of cabin fever. Going by the success of the Netflix series Tiger King, there needn’t always be a tie-in to prevailing news. 

By far, the most reliable way though, is to stick to the facts and remain true to your brand. Remember that your customers and prospects are looking for solutions today, if not more than yesterday—so start creating content that helps them succeed.


Revisit Archives, Re-evaluate Content 

You likely have a lot of content sitting idle in your archives. Dig in a little and you may discover a few articles/posts/videos that are relevant in this time and worth a re-post after a little dusting. 

Make it easier for your prospects to discover this content by building it into your current nurtures or recommending them on your website during their next visit.

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Find the right content that helps, but also be open to re-evaluating your brand positioning. Look out for a natural avenue for purposeful brand engagement. The Edelman report reveals that during this time, people are looking at brands to use their visibility to educate. 


Leverage Technology to Connect With Buyers

Trade shows and live events are going to take a backseat for a while to come. So in the meantime, marketers will have to find alternative ways to foster human-to-human interactions. You may have noticed that technologies such as Zoom and Skype have enabled teams to remain connected in a remote world, but how about technology that keeps you connected with your prospects?

While digital marketing has become even more important today, think of ways you can be more available while your prospects are online. It would be useful to leverage platforms that are human-first so you can focus on building relationships and remain in touch with your buyers at every stage of the journey.

Imagine jumping in and talking to a prospect who’s been watching a video for 5 minutes on your website. How powerful could that connection be?

This may be a good time to double down on digital, but it’s just as important to double down on connectivity and conversations that build that trust. 


Sync With Sales More Often

It's more critical now than ever to build a relationship with your sales team. They're on the frontline speaking with customers and prospects so they bring a goldmine of knowledge when it comes to understanding the pain points you can solve for your buyers.

Here are a few ways you can connect more often with them:

  • Attend their sales meetings at the beginning of the week to know what's coming
  • Gather feedback from individual sales reps on campaigns you're running
  • Learn where most of their deals are stuck and how you can help them move faster 
  • Find out which of your personas are responding more to their outreach, and if not, what are their barriers
  • Attend sales review meetings and be a fly on the wall


Trim Your Marketing, Cut Down Expenses 

With everything always going at fifth gear, we never get to consider the low hanging fruit. Think about it, there are always the top five easily doable things on our emailing marketing, on our website, on our analytics, on our other campaigns, that we can do but never get done since the machine is always in motion. 

Coming from a SaaS provider, this may seem ironic, but take a hard look at all the SaaS tools in your kit. Some help to increase your revenue directly and some don’t. The utility of others remains unclear. This is the perfect time for some spring-cleaning, cut down on the clutter. I’m sure you can cut down on several and clear your decks for more efficiency with a few good tools. 


Decrease Dependency On Outbound Prospecting 

  • Cold emails would be less effective unless you provide direct value
  • Content marketing or content-based ads would be the way to go

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As the graphic shows, a brand’s website is only second to national media in having people’s trust.

Being a MarTech solutions provider, Insent offers a free website experience evaluation for you. The results will be shared with you in a 15-20-page confidential report that will cite 3-5 areas on your current website that is creating friction for your buyer and how to fix them.

If you're interested, please email to get your report.

Insent Blog is a human first B2B Conversational Marketing platform that enables marketers to deliver red carpet experience to high-value prospects.

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