6 min read

Marketing Strategies during Crises

Swiss venture capitalist Verve Capital has approached me to give a presentation to the founders of their investment portfolio startups, on how to adapt your marketing strategy in these challenging times.
Marketing Strategies during Crises

Swiss venture capitalist investiere.ch has approached me to give a presentation to the founders of their investment portfolio startups, on how to adapt your marketing strategy in these challenging times.

Let's get one thing out of the way: Every business is unique, everyone's situation is unique and so your response to the current crisis and lockdown should be unique as well.

However, in collaboration with Urs Briner (Head of Portfolio, investiere) and Ivana Yoshima (New Business Manager, Google), we developed a framework on how to think through your current situation and available options to move forward. And since the feedback was really positive, I thought it might help you as well. Whether you are a founder, marketer or involved in a business in any other fashion, we all have to adapt in one way or another.

Jack London said it well:

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”

The Framework explained

The basis of our framework involves the segmentation of the businesses by the relevancy of their value proposition based on the current situation.

We have identified four general situations you can find yourself in right now based on how relevant your value proposition has become (obviously this is more of a scale than a black-and-white decision):

  1. Your company's value proposition is more relevant now
  2. Your company's value proposition became less relevant and needs a shift
  3. Value Proposition is not relevant anymore, but will be again after the crisis
  4. You are still in product development

Based on which situation seems most applicable, you can start thinking about how you can respond. So let's have a look at each scenario and discuss some opportunities, challenges, and things to focus on.

1. Value Proposition is more relevant now

A relevancy-over-time graph for this kind of scenario would look something like this:

Example companies:

Opportunities

  • Unprecedented user growth
  • Exposure to new customer segments
  • Positive PR and strengthening brand

Challenges

  • System stress test on IT infrastructure, operations and customer success
  • Retention of new users
  • Alienation of loyal customers

How you can respond

1. Value Prop & Customer Segmentation

  • Focus on quantitative and qualitative customer research to create or adjust relevant value propositions for new customer segments.
  • Closely monitor feedback from the customer support team to detect early signs of frustration in the onboarding process of new customers.

2. Marketing Strategy Adjustments

  • Adjust monetization aspects for some, or all of your customer segments to lower barriers of entry. E.g. Offer a free tier of your product, re-package current product features or off heavily discounted yearly subscriptions.
  • Re-Prioritize your marketing experimentation pipeline and product roadmap to reduce the churn of new customer segments and to keep retention of loyal customers high.

3. How and what to communicate

  • Explain how your product is helping people through this crisis.
  • Highlight customer success stories, especially of new segments.
  • Communicate how you give back and share your success with employees, partners, customers and/or people in need.

2. Value Proposition needs shift

A relevancy-over-time graph for this kind of scenario would look something like this:

Example Companies

Opportunities

  • New product or service offerings
  • Acquiring new customer segments
  • Demonstrating industry-leadership and increasing trust in your brand/company

Challenges

  • Staying relevant to current customer segments
  • Staying financially liquid until shift is picking up

How you can respond

1. Value Prop & Customer Segmentation

Analyze how, when and by how much different segments are impacted:

  • How is their behavior changing right now?
  • What problems are they encountering?
  • What do they care about?
  • Value props that might not have been as important previously might be more important now.
  • How can you help solve those changing customer problems / motivations?

2. Marketing Strategy Adjustments

  • Change your product positioning and product messaging across all channels.
  • Shift your content strategy and double down on the new value proposition. Offer webinars, customer roundtables, online office hours, guides, checklists, and solid FAQs to help your customers navigate the new environment.

3. How and what to communicate

  • Keep your current customers up to date and proactively communicate any changes and how they are affected by them.
  • Showcase customers who have made the shift and highlight its positive impact.
  • Address any fears your customers might have about your new and/or existing solution

3. Value Proposition is less relevant now, but will be relevant post-COVID-19

A relevancy-over-time graph for this kind of scenario would look something like this:

Example Companies

Challenges

  • Cash Flow / Funding
  • Cost cutting / adjusted burn rate
  • Uncertainty of demand level post-crisis

Opportunities

  • Getting ahead with Product Development and Strategic projects
  • Upskill workforce

How you can respond

1. Value Prop & Customer Segmentation

  • Bridge by focusing on building an even better product to come out stronger post-COVID-19.
  • Invest resources in customer analytics, drive further insights and ask yourself if you need to be adjusting your segmentation

2. Marketing Strategy Adjustments

  • Nurture the relationship with current customers for future conversion and focus on brand credibility initiatives to remain top of mind
  • Plan ahead your relaunch strategy with flexible re-activation date, be ready to pick-up when interest recovers
  • Keep lights on your brand Search campaigns and use it to communicate essential information to customers

3. How and what to communicate

  • Provide thought leadership on other areas where you can be relevant to stakeholders on social, owned media etc.
  • Retain media presence, adjust levels & mix accordingly.

4. Still in product development

A relevancy-over-time graph for this kind of scenario would look something like this:

Example Companies

Challenges

  • Impact of follow-on recession on demand / product launch
  • Potential change in customer needs

Opportunities

  • Talent availability
  • Advance product launch if it can be relevant during COVID-19

How you can respond

1. Value Prop & Customer Segmentation

  • Pivot product development to a COVID-19 relevant solution if that is viable.
  • Consider if you need to adjust your product vision or business model in case of long-term changes in customer needs triggered by COVID-19 and follow-on recession.

2. Marketing Strategy Adjustments

  • Think through different launch scenarios and communication approaches, have a back-up plan if you launch while COVID-19 measures still in place. Be ready to support with inbound & outbound Marketing initiatives once you are ready to launch.

3. How and what to communicate

  • Continue to engage your target audience around your product vision, provide updates, thought leadership on owned channels & social media.

Some further thoughts and principles

If you haven’t started these things yet, it’s a good time to consider now.

Experiment

The current situation is unpredictable and is changing on an almost daily basis. Don't try to make long-term plans, they are likely to become irrelevant as this whole thing unfolds over the next weeks and months. Go into experimentation mode. Act quick, try things out, and iterate.

Think like an early-startup founder, uncertain times require opportunism, agility and adaptability.

Daily Communication

If things are changing fast, make sure you communicate. Often. Organize daily virtual stand-ups, war rooms, etc. where applicable to keep employees, investors, and partners in the loop. In times like these, it's better to overcommunicate than to risk chaos, even more so because we're all working remotely now.

Job Rotations

If certain departments like operations or customer success have less work, now is the time to offer them job rotations. Onboard team members to where they are most needed within the organization. E.g. Farmy has appointed most of its marketing employees to customer success managers or logistics support.

Customer Research

Right now is the time to do customer research. People are at home, have more time and are more likely to be reachable. Keep a tab on how their situation changed. Do customer interviews, surveys or just a good ol' check-in. No matter which of the above category you count yourself in, customer research is key to unlocking the opportunities and overcoming the challenges presented by this crisis.

Please reach out if you have additional thoughts or want to exchange ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Let's do this 💪🏼

Check out the full presentation