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How to Pivot Your Marketing Strategy When Priorities Shift

In times of crisis, effective communications are more important than ever.

No matter what type of business you have, it’s always a good idea to plan out your marketing strategies in advance. But what happens when circumstances change and you’re forced to make adjustments? Marketing tactics that have worked in the past might no longer be viable, and you’ll need to pivot your messaging to better align with the times. In this article, we’ll highlight 6 steps you can take to help you revisit—and make updates to—your marketing strategy during times of crisis.

Review your marketing goals and objectives

When faced with unexpected challenges like the COVID-19 crisis, it’s often necessary for businesses to reevaluate their marketing objectives and business goals, particularly in the short-term. While no company should lose sight of its vision or abandon its mission, brands will be better off reacting in real-time to each new challenge as it presents itself instead of sticking to a plan that no longer feels relevant.

Update your marketing tactics

If you update your goals and objectives, there’s a good chance you’ll need to adjust your marketing tactics, too. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind along the way.

Consider the tone of your messaging

Communicating with your audience during tough times is crucial, but you also need to make sure the message you’re sharing fits the situation. For example, we’re all practicing social distancing right now, so it’s probably not the best time for marketing content that’s full of language about spending time with friends or images of folks close to one another. Similarly, if you’d been considering an in-person event, be sure to update your plans (and your invitations) and run the event virtually instead.

Think about how the customer journey has changed

Often, your marketing tactics are planned for specific points in the customer journey. If the customer journey has changed, even temporarily, these tactics need to change, too. You may even need to encourage the customer to alter their own journey to account for changes to your company’s current operations.

If, for example, you’re an online shopping company that’s having some trouble keeping up with demand, you might want to consider changing the timing of your re-engagement campaigns—or pausing them completely. After all, encouraging folks to re-enter the sales funnel if you’re unable to process their orders in a timely manner could result in a bad customer experience.

Review your automations

As with your other marketing campaigns, your automations will also need to be updated during crisis situations. Need some inspiration? Consider exploring the ways Fitbit has changed their automations to suit these strange times. Not only have they built goodwill by extending their free trial period, they’ve also overhauled their automated emails to focus on how to stay fit while respecting social distancing, while still maintaining their brand voice.

Develop an agile marketing strategy

Agility—and the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances—have always been key marketing skills. Today, an agile and flexible strategy with plenty of room to maneuver is vital to success. Adjusting your strategy for short-term goals and objectives is the first step, but here are a few more things to focus on as you work to make your strategy more agile:

  • Keep a close eye on all metrics—particularly your engagement.
  • Step up monitoring of any social media channels, and be prepared to react quickly to questions or comments.
  • Observe competitors and other industry members; make note of what they’re doing well and what is not so well-received by their audience.

Maintain visibility

As people spend more time online, it presents you with an opportunity to captivate your existing audience and reach new folks. Here’s how to do it.

Ramp up your public relations

Good content is always valuable, but in difficult times, it could be the key to maintaining visibility in the marketplace. Think about how your content might be beneficial to a wider audience, then consider leveraging any media contacts you might have to help you spread your message and reach new people.

Think about your wording

Right now, people are being bombarded with marketing messages that contain terms like ‘COVID-19’ and ‘Coronavirus’ in their inboxes and social media. By following suit, other marketers risk their message getting lost in the crowd, especially if it doesn’t feel relevant to the current situation or helpful to their audience.

It’s common for marketers to want to capitalize on events and other shared experiences, but that’s not always the best approach. During a crisis, it’s important that your contributions are relevant and useful to your audience; don’t simply try to take advantage of a serious situation. If and when you do need to talk about a crisis in your marketing messaging, carefully consider the keywords you’re using in your subject lines and social posts. Focus on accuracy, legitimacy, and maintaining relevance to your core brand offering.

Be honest and authentic

When crises arise, audiences often pay close attention to the way brands choose to handle and respond to things publicly. During the COVID-19 outbreak, brands that minimized, downplayed, or ignored the crisis received some pretty harsh criticism. Meanwhile, brands that have acknowledged the situation in a sensitive, authentic manner have been praised for their honesty, integrity, and sense of responsibility.

Speaking of responsibility, the majority of consumers believe that brands have a role to play in managing the current crisis. This doesn’t just mean making and/or donating supplies (although that kind of thing could be a relevant step for your brand if appropriate). Instead, it means taking a compassionate and responsible stance, and marketers are key in getting it across to the public.

You can do this by:

  • Encouraging your audience to adhere to any recommended guidelines
  • Making customers aware of any special measures you’re taking
  • Ensuring your brand is always following the most ethical route
  • Opening up new ways for concerned customers to communicate with you

Create valuable communications

There’s a lot of COVID-19 content right now, and there are a few questions marketers should ask themselves before composing a post on the topic.

Is it in line with your brand’s voice and tone?

It’s important to find a tone that’s sensitive to the crisis at hand, but don’t make sudden changes to your brand’s voice. If something is a far cry from the content you typically offer, there’s a chance customers may find it more confusing (or disingenuous) than valuable.

Is it something people would expect from your brand?

It might be tempting to editorialize on the subject of COVID-19, but if you’re not an outlet that normally provides news, you may be stepping out of line by posting pandemic-related information. Focus on providing information that’s relevant to your customers and your own areas of expertise.

Does it sound human?

Sounding human requires more than just a friendly tone. Creating ‘human’ content means putting yourself into your customers’ shoes. It means proofreading your own content as though you’re a new customer getting their first introduction to your brand. Your content should be focused on customers, not the company; anything too salesy may feel forced or come across as lacking in compassion.


It’s impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all roadmap for navigating a crisis. Every brand and customer is different, and nobody knows what’s coming next. But as a marketer, you can:

  • Remain sensitive to the needs and concerns of the customer
  • Review, adjust, or pause marketing strategies that don’t fit with the current needs of your customers
  • Focus on visibility
  • Maintain a strong sense of brand responsibility
  • Avoid any communications which are not valuable or relevant to your audience
  • Stay attentive to the current situation and be prepared to pivot in real-time if necessary

Written by Jenna Tiffany from Let’sTalk Strategy, an official Mailchimp partner. Learn more about Let'sTalk Strategy + Mailchimp in our Experts Directory.

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