Take Charge, Be a Voice of Reason and Keep Publishing

Should you continue publishing content during the COVID-19 crisis?

The short answer is yes—you absolutely should.

Marketing during a time like this can either be greedy and opportunistic, or genuine and empathetic. It’s a fine line, but it’s usually obvious when a company’s intent is malicious. The truth is that:

  • Marketing just got really, really important, and
  • Your customers and industry need to hear from you.

You don’t have all the answers. No one does. But now is a time to be proactive, to communicate clearly, and to work closely with your customers and partners to weather this storm. The written word is powerful. It can spread fear, or it can deliver peace of mind.

Your Customers Need to Hear From You

“Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”—William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Every business is closely examining revenue, sales, churn, expenses, and their entire supply chain. To keep their business running, they need to know they can rely on their vendors, suppliers, and software stack. By instilling confidence, you make the entire supply chain stronger. It may feel small, but that confidence can have a ripple effect—your business continuity enables other businesses to continue operating, too.

As founder and investor Feliks Eyser says in this crisis checklist, over-communication is necessary right now. Don’t leave customers wondering what your contingency plans are.

As much as you rely on your suppliers, your customers depend on you. So take the time and communicate thoroughly how you will handle your service and if customers should expect any restrictions. Remember to over-communicate.

As you write these posts or emails, craft them for individuals. Don’t bother optimizing for keywords or dreaming up clever headlines. Be clear and concise. Your “audience” may only be a handful of people, but those people rely on you.

SaaS companies should also consider more robust product marketing right now. How can your customers use your tool to save money or earn revenue? Provide templates, workflows, and inspiration to help them get more from your software/services. Share what your best customers are doing and consider hosting webinars or even 1:1 consulting to help the rest do more with a product they already have.

This is obvious for tools like Zoom and Slack, which are currently experiencing massive demand and tons of new users. It’s less evident for a CRM, an email marketing tool, project management software, etc. I don’t know your product, but you do. Observe your most engaged customers and spread the word.

Rethink Marketing, Don't Abandon It

“The irony is that long-term thinking is most powerful when everything is falling apart. The majority of long-term results are determined by decisions made during a minority of times, and right now is one of those times. It’s a tragic moment to become short-sighted.” —Morgan Housel, Collaborative Fund

Crisis affects every business in a unique way. Some businesses have been crippled (hotels, travel, restaurants, etc.) while others are seeing unprecedented demand (cleaning products, streaming services, some e-commerce, etc.). The impact on B2B companies is far less obvious. Will companies invest or scale back their sales and marketing? How does remote work affect the tools that companies rely on to operate? Will companies play defense or offense?

Marketing teams should consider their 2020 plans from scratch, but marketing must go on. A full stoppage is likely to slow sales dramatically and will affect your business even after this crisis clears up. You should assess your channels and maybe even scale back, but choose a sustainable path forward so that new revenue doesn’t dry up.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you were planning to host or sponsor events in 2020, don’t automatically assume that virtual events are the best alternative. People are going to get sick of Zoom meetings pretty quickly.
  • Community matters more than ever. We’re seeing an uptick in members and activity in the Content Marketing Career Group. “Many to many” is stronger than “one to many” and it costs almost nothing to run a community.
  • Meta content—i.e. when companies document their own experience in a transparent way—is going to see increased interest. Consider creating content about how your marketing team is adjusting. It may not directly drive sales, but it can really help the people in your industry and build goodwill for your brand.

Whatever you do, think long-term. There will be some urgent changes needed, but don’t set your marketing back unless you absolutely must.

Now Is the Time to Lead

“Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well.”— Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

Now is the time to do your best work. Tomorrow’s leaders are being forged right now. It doesn’t matter whether you sit in a leadership role or your career is just beginning—we can all lead by example.

For those in content marketing, you probably feel like you aren’t sure exactly what to do. None of us are. On a good day, publishing makes even the most experienced content marketers feel vulnerable—10 years into this, and I still feel uneasy every single time I write something. That feeling is likely to intensify in the coming weeks. Instead of asking, “Is this post optimized for a keyword?” ask, “Can this post help someone?” Your genuine desire to help will breed confidence and lead to better work.

Keyword volume will probably drop, your traffic may already be trending down, and your CAC will almost certainly increase. I expect volatility in every metric that marketers rely on. Forget that stuff right now. Your job is to help others. Content happens to be an amazing way to reach a lot of people for minimal cost. Take charge, be a voice of reason, and put your best work out there.