With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak creating an international crisis that’s affecting markets and the world economy, it’s important to support your customers and look for opportunities to avoid business losses during this uncertain time.

With that in mind, we crafted this helpful guide to provide an overview of the current coronavirus situation, as well as five tips to help marketers navigate this economic crisis.Face Mask

How has Coronavirus impacted China?

According to the BBC, there are now almost 90,000 cases worldwide in about 70 countries, although the vast majority—just under 90 percent—remain in China. Of the nearly 8,800 cases outside China, 81 percent are in four countries—Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan. The coronavirus outbreak has led to mass forced quarantines of over 46 million people in China alone, shutdowns of major manufacturing centers, closed warehouses and brick-and-mortar stores, in essence disrupting all touchpoints of their operational processes.

This massively impacts any and all brands that manufacture in China, putting them at significant risk for delayed delivery. As a result, China saw significant bumps in online sales during the initial weeks of the coronavirus outbreak because of the forced time off and work-from-home mandates.

How does coronavirus impact marketing and advertising in the United States?

The coronavirus has severely impacted the world economy, forcing many businesses to change their operations and cancel large industry events. For example, Twitter recently asked those employees who could do so to work from home, while the tech industry has responded by canceling a number of events and conferences over the spring months. Some major events, such as the South by Southwest (SXSW) tech, media and music conference in Austin, Texas, March 13-22, are still scheduled to go on, despite major pressure from Austin-area business and political leaders to postpone it. Twitter and Facebook have already committed to pulling their presence from the show.

Besides the real-world implications, coronavirus uncertainty has also affected the digital space. Facebook has announced it will be looking to ban ads that claim to promote fake “cures” for the coronavirus, while Amazon has removed over 1 million items for price gouging or false cure claims about the coronavirus. There will be more fear-based messaging and deceptive advertising around the coronavirus as the situation unfolds, so it’s important to keep your customers well informed about how the coronavirus situation is affecting your operations and products. To help, we’ve crafted the following coronavirus crisis tips to help you navigate what’s ahead.

Coronavirus Crisis Tip #1: Comfort Your Customers

Customers in the U.S. are terrified of exposure to the coronavirus, and the combination of 24/7 news coverage and online anxiety, and the proliferation of “fake news” is only adding to the hysteria. Brands can address these heightened emotions by connecting with their customers directly through social media engagement, responding to comments with directness and urgency, and making sure to publish posts that are shareable to reach the widest possible audience and mitigate those customer fears.

Coronavirus Crisis Tip #2: Lend a Helping Hand

Depending on your company culture and available resources, you may want to donate time, money or potential products to help those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Here is a selection of reputable organizations to help you get started:

Coronavirus Crisis Tip #3: Ride the Keyword Wave

For specific industries, such as healthcare, medical or wellness, the coronavirus outbreak presents an opportunity to expand your relationship with your customers. In order to assuage their fears and provide them with all the relevant information they need, make sure you’re providing content that’s relevant to their safety, health and well-being, and promote it through your various channels. For example, you might want to create an infographic that shows where travel and shipping have been affected, or write a helpful blog post that explains how the coronavirus spreads and the best ways to combat it.

Coronavirus Crisis Tip #4: Leverage All Your Channels

As the coronavirus situation develops and changes, it’s important to be as timely and transparent as you can with your customers if something occurs that directly impacts or delays your ability to deliver products or services. Make sure you’re leveraging all your appropriate channels to ensure you reach your customers when and how they want. This customized communications approach will help build upon your current customer relationships and create a sense of additional trust and goodwill that directly impacts your customer service satisfaction.

Coronavirus Crisis Tip #5: Shift Your Focus

If manufacturing or shipping delays are making new customer acquisition difficult, shift your focus and launch a reactivation campaign to re-engage with your lapsed customer base. This campaign can integrate email and digital media to drive additional revenue from your existing customer base—that revenue could go a long way toward helping you through the coronavirus crisis until the situation normalizes.

As a final tip before we sign off, here are the basic protective measures you should take to avoid contracting the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that kill viruses.
  2. Maintain social distance of at least three (3) feet from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  4. Practice respiratory hygiene: Cover your nose or mouth with a bent elbow or tissue; throw away your tissues immediately.
  5. If you have a fever, cough or breathing difficulty, seek medical attention and call in advance—but do NOT visit the emergency room. Contact your doctor or local medical authorities.

Remember, this too shall pass.