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Marketing During Coronavirus: Revamping Budgets for Success

The coronavirus outbreak has put most media production on pause, from sports to concerts to television programming of all kinds. While protocols for restarting production are underway in some areas, marketers around the world have been faced with the question: what do you do when your plan to reach broadcast and cable viewers has been upended by a global pandemic?

Marketing during coronavirus

Engaging audiences has already become an uphill battle in recent years, thanks to consumers’ ever-growing ability to skip or tune out traditional advertising. Now that more people are going online or choosing streaming platforms in favor of live or time-shifted programming, it can be harder than ever to connect with your target demographic using conventional ad buys.

My recommendation? It’s time to get creative — with the kind of approach today’s audiences actually respond to: influencer marketing.

You now have an opportunity to use your upended marketing budget in fresh ways, to step away from outdated approaches and find a more impactful path to your audience by partnering with savvy digital creators. Before you do, however, take a moment to reassess your strategy: don’t make the mistake of relying on TV-era tactics by seeking the highest ratings and potential reach your money can buy. Prioritize authenticity and trust over follower counts, because that’s where you’ll see your efforts really pay off.

The biggest misconception about influencer marketing is that it’s too hard to prove value. In return, I challenge any advertiser to show the ROI on their last large broadcast or network television buy. Nothing is more "spray and pray" than television advertising, which bets on viewership that can’t be proven, especially with today’s audiences focused on their phones and tablets while the commercial (or even the program) plays.

In comparison, social media engagement numbers — and influencer metrics in particular — allow for deep-dive analysis into how audiences interact with a given piece of content. Views, comments, shares, likes: every response can be measured in order to determine success and inform future strategies. Influencer marketing provides all the power of word of mouth recommendations, with the added benefit of being trackable. Not only can you actually see how an audience is interacting with your message, you also gain insight into other brands they like, creators they follow, and the type of content they engage with.

With so many people at home affected by social gathering rules, refocusing on digital marketing is the smart move for every business. There are more people relying on social media for news, entertainment, and much needed human connection, as well as more consumers than ever who are searching for essential products online. Combine these factors with a lack of televised sporting events, shortage of new network prime programming, and no need for radio "drive-time" advertising, and it’s no wonder many brands are pivoting to digital media for their outreach.

Be careful; it’s not enough to simply target the stuck-at-home audience. As marketers strive to use their upended budgets in new ways, it’s important to be extra cautious in your messaging. No one wants to come off as tone-deaf right now; to press on with business as usual will not be well-received, or at minimum will be ignored by consumers who are dealing with a new reality that doesn’t reflect yesterday’s sales pitches.

Aim for relatable content that feels like a recommendation from a trusted friend. Influencers have the ability to tell your brand story in a way that truly resonates, as long as there is authenticity behind their words and images.

With the right planning and execution, influencers are the ideal partners for the kind of tactful, empathetic and mindful marketing programs that can help businesses and consumers alike during this cultural moment. Now more than ever, it’s critical to show audiences that you are in tune with their needs.

[This article was originally published on MarTechSeries and has since been updated.]

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