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Maintaining And Building Brand Awareness During a Global Crisis

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Please find it here.

Drastic times call for drastic reflection, support and conscientious action. As brand stewards, counselors and strategic advisors on messaging, outreach and overall brand elevation, we are often called upon to advise in crisis situations.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a crisis, it is also an entirely different animal than a typical business-specific crisis. It has created a wholly different and unfamiliar set of brand management issues that must be addressed with a global conscience and tact. There are no hard and fast rules and no playbook or prescription for guaranteed brand success during this time, but with careful consideration and the right tools, there are ways to continue your brand advancement and lead nurturing in a measured and appropriate way. You’ll need to dig deep and find your brand purpose — and find compassion — in a meaningful way, so you can quickly connect with your buyers’ current and ever-changing needs.

Here are some tips for maintaining and building brand awareness and outreach during a global crisis.

Know Your Audience

Find out who your buyers are — their personas and demographics or, if you’re a B2B company, their firmographics. And while it’s critically important to have a data-driven strategy, a global pandemic can take the math right out of the equation. In this situation, it’s equally — if not more — important to have a better understanding of what your audience values now and plan any outreach accordingly.

In particular, consider the immediate and developing impact the crisis is having on your target audience. How might a specific sales message or call to action make you feel given the backdrop of a global pandemic? How might this message evolve in a few weeks?

Strike The Appropriate Tone

A global health crisis adds a new and much more sensitive layer to marketing and outreach: the human layer. Keywords and other persona data have less impact and may feel tone-deaf, or worse, opportunistic. It is thus far more critical to simplify the message and position it in a way that is less keyword or persona-driven — less mind reading and more heart reading.

When your message or call to action reaches your target on a personal level, they’re more likely to feel heard and understood, and you’re more likely to get more leads. Those leads then may become customers, and those customers may recommend you to others — and all because they felt understood.

Pick The Appropriate Channel

Not all outreach mediums are created equal, and mass message blasts about customer acquisitions, product rollouts or award wins will, at best, fall on deaf ears, or worse, be viewed as inappropriate or completely tone-deaf (read: offensive). For example, a press announcement or mailing about a product award win likely isn’t going to be particularly well-received during a crisis — unless that product has a clear benefit tied to making our lives better (that human layer). A message that can be positioned appropriately without being overtly sales-y and that provides immediate and relevant support or comfort is not only acceptable but in high demand. Your audience will sniff out a shoehorned message immediately. It’s best to keep those for a more appropriate time or use them more passively as blog fodder — something to be found, not forced.

Go Ahead And Make It Personal

Much of the above can be synthesized efficiently and meaningfully as the building blocks for an effective account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. We define ABM as all about personalization. It involves taking everything you know about the individual target (be it a person or people, business, etc.) and crafting a unique and focused outreach strategy aimed at that specific target. The key here is to use all known data and existing insights and relationships to craft the most actionable message and call to action possible — putting the “person” back in the personal.

ABM isn’t meant to take the place of your overall brand and outreach strategy; it supplements and extends that strategy. While ABM is highly effective under normal circumstances, under the crisis management umbrella it is arguably the best way to target individuals with specific messages with tonal clarity and focus. It is your personal relationship strategy, and it can work. ABM solves many of the issues presented by global and company crisis management and outreach without even trying.

A meaningful ABM strategy starts from within your organization. Evaluate your existing sales processes and lead generation strategies — from campaign development to closed deals. Is your existing lead generation and nurture process streamlined and formalized? Is there strong communication between sales and marketing teams? Do you have an existing list of leads from which to segment and develop targeted ABM messaging campaigns? Remember, ABM isn’t about lead generation; it’s about focused lead nurturing and sales.

Remember Your Story And Your Purpose

Your company and brand origin story is personal and unique, but it wasn’t born in isolation. It was born of people. It is uniquely human. It began with a purpose — a product or service produced to help or support a person, a community or an industry. That’s a purpose and message that you can tap into in times of crisis. And it’s your guide to protecting and exercising your brand strength.

Know your audience, strike the appropriate tone and use the right channels. While these are solid best practices, regardless of existing conditions, maintaining and building brand leadership and targeted lead nurturing during a global crisis begins and ends with a conscientious and personalized message. And ABM can provide a strategic foundation to do just that.

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