A few days ago I, the author of this blog post, celebrated my 32nd birthday with Cherry Garcia ice cream and video games with my family. I’d like to think, my age puts me in a unique position in life. Because I grew up in a timeline of significant events. I remember in my childhood during 1999 there was a pantry filled with stockpiled canned foods in anticipation of Y2K. I was in my early teens when Sept 11th happened. Also, I graduated highschool in the same year as the housing crisis. And I graduated community college a little after the spring tornadoes in 2011. So, I have had a solid grasp on how people cope through disasters. There are a few events and people that stood out in my mind, and habitual patterns that occur in times of mass panic. But I also learned a little about local and marketing throughout my life. So, I will share some business and marketing advice based on the lessons I learned.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive in your Marketing Strategy
Marketing is not just advertising. It is not going on a street corner and shoving a product in a person’s face in hopes of people buying your product. Marketing is day-to-day interactions between a customer and a business. It is your attitude when meeting someone who is walking in your shop. It is that response to a complaint on a google review. Marketing is more personal, and it happens around you more than you think.
The day after the 2011 tornadoes in North Alabama was filled with hysteria. The tornadoes cut through a major power grid. That meant there was no electricity throughout the city unless people had backup generators. And everyone, having lived through tornadoes every spring and autumn for the past few years did not expect those tornadoes to hit much harder than the others. That meant many people going to the store at the same time afterward and panic buying. There were two major grocery stores near where we lived. Publix, and a Walmart Supercenter.
The Walmart Supercenter responded by closing their business doors. They either didn’t have a backup generator, or there might have been some other circumstances involved. But no one could shop. Not until the electricity was back.
Publix was one of the few stores that were open. Not only did it have a backup generator that kept things cool and the credit card machines running, they also had phone chargers attached to the wall, so people could charge their phones and call their loved ones. The lines were very long, and the crowds were scary. But the employees, and the management there soldiered on. They were managing the crowds. Moving to calculators and pencils on paper during the transaction if the satellites didn’t pick up the transaction.
It was a gesture like this that makes me think of Publix far more highly than I ever could of Wal-mart. They went above and beyond in a time of disaster. Whether or not they realized that at the time, they were marketing to the whole city.
People Remember the Good Gestures
If a business is doing what they can during a disaster, they are focusing on relationship building through long-term marketing tactics. If your first thought while managing this situation is “What will this emergency do to my immediate profits?” then your business is focusing on the wrong thing. While it is perfectly understandable to mourn your losses these losses will only last forever if you think they will last forever. Everyone is suffering in this situation together, and we will all recover at the same time once this blows over. The question you want to ask yourself is “What do I want to be remembered for during this time?”
This is a history making moment, and you can choose how to react to this situation. On one hand, your business could try to hoard everything it has, and try to prevent even more losses. However, people don’t take to kindly about these sorts of people. Already we are seeing the public fallout from that sort of greedy behavior. It not only rings of selfishness but it also puts your interest in the clients and the relationship between the companies and the employees into question. In short, it hurts your image from a marketing perspective.
Alternatively, if you are finding small ways to help others, whether it is a small business sending pictures of kittens to your client base to brighten up their day or reassuring that your employees will still get paid while sick from work, you are marketing your company as humane, compassionate, and part of the community. Now more than ever we need to band together. Because everyone will remember after this pandemic blows over. And that memory will most likely pick your business off the ground in the long term.