How to create an effective marketing strategy in a crisis

23 March 2020

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and the continuing development into a global pandemic, it is natural to have concerns about the future of your business. However, as the saying goes: “we are all in this together”, and with the right care, attention and management, many businesses have the potential to come out the other side stronger than ever before.


When it comes to marketing, now is a great opportunity to be ready and adaptable for change, whether that be within the company itself, your business’ industry or in the wider world. It is therefore vitally important to be prepared and implement an effective crisis marketing strategy to minimise any negative impact on your business.

Be prepared to adapt

Rather than cease marketing activity, it is more important than ever that you continue to market your business, and there are a number of brands who have proven this, reaping the benefits of maintaining advertising budgets during an economic downturn.

Pizza Hut and Taco Bell

In the 1990-1991 recession, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell capitalised on McDonald’s reduction in advertising and promotion. This led to Pizza Hut increasing sales by 61%, Taco Bell by 40% with McDonald’s declining by an enormous 28%. (Forbes)

And it doesn’t end there…


During the Great Recession in 2009, Amazon branched into new avenues, promoting Kindle products in order to increase market share and offer a viable alternative. This in turn led to a huge 28% increase in sales during 2009. (Forbes)

Marketers need to think long-term

This is why it is vitally important to maintain marketing activity, but by shifting attention to online marketing opportunities as part of a long-term plan to build brand awareness and ultimately – increase revenue.

The coronavirus crisis will test us all, but marketers need to think long-term and keep building their brands, protecting their staff and honouring their values.

Mark Ritson, Marketing Week

Concentrate on the channels that are most appropriate in your new situation to ensure that parts of your business continue to thrive, updating customers and clients in the correct way. For example, physical networking won’t be possible for the foreseeable future due to cancellation of events and social distancing. However, a great digital alternative would be to connect with like-minded individuals on LinkedIn or host a Facebook Live webinar.

Create opportunity

Getting creative and being flexible in difficult times will enable your business to not only survive, but thrive.

Amidst panic, Google searches will be heightened. If you offer a product or service that could bring any sort of relief or assistance to anyone during this time, focus on that. Increase your SEO efforts to ensure you reach the right customers to help in their time of need. With an open mind, you will naturally begin to find new business opportunities. Likewise, there is the potential for a boom in the economy once the situation resolves – your business needs to be ready to capitalise on this in 2020 and beyond.

Alter your services (if possible)

You may have seen many businesses already altering their service offering to suit the current changes in everyday life. For some, this includes contactless home delivery on goods or food, virtual conferences or live workouts on social media. If possible, adjusting your practices and offering something of value during this time will really help you to maintain business, and in turn help with cash flow. How creative can you be here? You may just surprise yourself and introduce a service that sticks.

Man wearing PPE unpacking car

Increase your online visibility

Previous recessions have shown that when there is an economic downturn, maintaining a level of marketing helps businesses as the economy recovers; so now is the time to develop your digital marketing and  make sure you have an SEO-friendly website.

If you are adapting your service offering during this time, you will need to give customers the opportunity to find you online by searching for products and services as well as by brand name. Users will be searching heavily over the coming months, and with more time on their hands they may be in need of your offering now more than ever. Build your brand and increase its online visibility – you will be protecting your business and its reputation during this time.

If your company is a B2C or e-commerce brand, your online presence is more important than ever, as users will not be out and about reading adverts or picking up leaflets and brochures. Did you know that by adding schema (a type of structured data) to your website, you could harness somewhere in the region of a 30% increase in click-through-rate? Once that traffic has landed, the average e-commerce industry conversion rate is then 2.04%? (Growcode). So, what if you could actually increase that conversion rate as well? There are a number of different ways to do this and start generating an increase in sales, revenue and ultimately, profit. Scroll down to find out more.

Concentrate your efforts

There are some aspects of your business that will be hit harder during this time than others. It is important to identify new opportunities that will be most beneficial to you in this time and concentrate your efforts in developing and improving them.

You will need to maintain focus and develop a new way to market your business that will help it survive and improve recovery following these challenging times. For example, did you know that…

  • Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86% (Wordstream)
  • Mobile websites loading in 5 seconds or less will end in a viewing session longer than their slower counterparts (Google. cited by HubSpot).
  • Using social selling tools can increase win rates and deal size by 5% and 35%, respectively (HubSpot)

Don’t try to do it all at once – focus in on the areas of your digital marketing activity that really matter so that you can achieve quick wins and generate increased revenue through focused and well-defined tactics.

Look after your staff

Remember that this will be a tough time for your staff in terms of childcare, money worries and the health of family members.

For your crisis marketing strategy to work effectively, your staff need to be present (even digitally) and healthy. Many businesses have already adapted quite quickly and have enabled their staff to work from home. There are great ways to stay in touch via technology and still have regular meetings and conference calls through platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.  Marketing is about creating customer value, and your staff are at the heart of that. Keep your staff positive and engaged through this period – they will be some of your strongest brand ambassadors during this period.

Stay positive

Although times are uncertain, this situation will eventually improve. Your business may even benefit from forthcoming changes and shifts in spending habit, and you could come out the other side stronger than before. Whether this be down to increased brand awareness or clarity of purpose and priorities, businesses have the ability to benefit in one way or another – stay positive, and look ahead to what the future holds for you and your business.

‘How to’ guide

Inspired by this article and ready to take your marketing to the next level over the coming weeks? Here are some of our top tips for what should be included within your crisis marketing strategy:

  • Focus on what your business can do in the current climate, not what it can’t
  • Build trust amongst your audience and let them know just how valued they still are by you and your brand.
  • Communicate frequently and openly with your customer base. If you are closing your premises for a period of time, remember: this is only temporary; your brand building activity is still vital during this time.
  • Update your online channels so that they showcase the correct information. For example, updating your Google My Business information or adding new opening times to your social media channels.
  • Adapt your messaging accordingly – if you have a lot of scheduled content due to go out across social media, you may want to check this. There’s nothing worse than an ill-timed tweet promoting a group exercise class or restaurant offer if government guidelines have changed and these services are no longer possible.
  • Communicate with other business owners and marketers. Remember, you are not alone in this. Work with other businesses and organisations in order to achieve the best you can during these times. Share ideas, improvise, and see if there are innovative ways in which you can help with one another’s marketing.

Here at Wagada, we encourage you and your business to stay safe. For those looking to increase their digital marketing efforts, get in touch and we will discuss how the team can best help you.

Free business support to local businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic

Inspired by the creative and innovative ways that companies have adapted under difficult circumstances, the team at Wagada are offering free guidance and support to local businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic, to help businesses get through the coming weeks and months. The aim is to give you actionable tactics to implement, enabling your business to not only survive, but thrive.

If you are a St Albans-based business and would like some support during these difficult times, fill in our online contact form below to get access to our free community marketing support and one of our team will be in touch.