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3 Do’s and Don’ts of Solution Provider Marketing in a Crisis

The world is a strange place right now. Solution providers and their customers are being forced to change their behavior. The coronavirus is altering the way we engage with customers, putting a stop to traditional forms of marketing like tradeshows and customer visits. Buyers were already trending toward digital media as their preferred route of communication when making a purchase, but now they have no alternative. Even for us in the IT channel, who live in the digital domain, this is a great challenge.

As the normalcy of working from home settles in day by day, solution providers must attempt to strike the right chord with their customers if they choose to venture into digital marketing in a quarantined world. I am sure everyone has received their fair share of cringeworthy, tone-deaf emails throughout the last few months. I have also seen creative, unique promotions that genuinely entertained me or helped me solve a problem that otherwise would have been ignored. The channel can be a difficult medium to navigate digitally as a marketer in general, but now it is more complicated than ever. Here are some tips on what to do (and not do) when marketing during the coronavirus outbreak:

1. Do: Be helpful and supportive

The best thing a solution provider can do right now is provide something of substance to help their customers who are in need. This could come in many forms: identifying which of your vendors offer extended no-cost licensing during this crisis, providing critical solutions that are essential to healthcare institutions or improve one’s ability to work from home, or just being educational and informative when messaging to customers. Make sure you first identify what your company innately can do to help, then allow that answer to influence your tone and overall digital presence.

2. Do Not:  SELL! SELL! SELL!

Now is not the time for aggressive selling. Offers that ignore the present circumstances entirely and go straight to all-caps promotional offers come across as completely tone-deaf and inhumane. Customers are more likely to respond to a message that acknowledges the world we are all currently living in, as opposed to one that ignores it entirely to push a product.

3. Do: Build a sense of community

There is one thing that all of us have in common right now – our everyday lives are much different than they were two months ago. Solution providers have an opportunity to relate to customers by embracing our collective change. We can learn from consumer brands like NIKE and IKEA, they have been successful in creating a feeling of togetherness by acknowledging the circumstances and incorporating personality into the content they produce during quarantine. This is one area that the IT channel is uniquely positioned for. For many solution providers, there is no shortage of “partners” out there to work with – hardware and software vendors, distributors, and customers across a vast variety of industries. Lean on this network of channel partners for collaboration in videos or highlight specific individuals to give your promotions a more personal feel.

4. Do Not:  Schedule ahead and forget

The easiest mistake to make when content planning is now more critical to avoid than ever before. With how rapidly things are changing, it is important for solution providers to be flexible and adapt to the environment around them. Content plans that were made pre-2020 must be altered and traditional activities must be replaced. Do not hesitate to make proactive changes – you may have allocated MDF and Co-Op from your top vendors to support tradeshows, tabletops or lunch & learns that have now been cancelled. Instead of losing those funds entirely, prepare creative ideas for reallocation – video podcasts, online happy-hours with giveaways, or product donations for front-line workers.

5. Do: Be different and (try to) entertain

Unique circumstances call for unique ideas. Standing out is rarely a bad thing when it comes to digital marketing. Knowing that the majority of customers are spending hours of every day at home on their phones, scrolling social media or checking email, it’s not a bad thing to try to give them something to smile at and pass the time. Finding the right mix between normal and fun could be the key to unlocking a new audience that could become customers in the long-term.

6. Do not:  Be cliché

I have received countless versions of the “Our Response to the Coronavirus” email, and after the first two or three I just started deleting them one by one. They typically all have the same common characteristics: too corporate-sounding, too bleak or negative, too many buzzwords and not enough substance. Solution providers should not feel pressured into producing digital content unless they are confident and comfortable in the message they send. Be personable, thoughtful and avoid generic messaging – we’re all bored enough already.

Solution providers now have a unique opportunity to strengthen customer relationships through creativity. As time passes, digital marketing will play an important role in restoring normalcy to our everyday lives. There is not just one perfect way to do it, but by spending some extra time honing in on what you can do to help, entertain, or bring people together, you can still have an impactful presence in the lives of your quarantined customers.