One of the many priorities facing CEOs faced with the COVID-19 outbreak is adjusting their marketing plans for 2020 and 2021. This shutdown has been more immediate and widespread than the Great Depression, the 2008-2009 recession and the dot com bust before that. Many management teams are struggling with both the short and the long-term impacts of this new reality and how to adjust their brand marketing budgets, advertising expenses and hiring forecasts.

Here is Leapup’s best advice for optimizing your marketing plan under the unique circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic:

Tip #1: Focus on Both the Short Term and The Long Term

Shorter term, all businesses should be laser focused on one thing: cashflow. Conserving cash immediately will allow for longevity and tenacity for brands and companies who have invested in their products, human capital, client audiences and future growth. Cut all advertising immediately which is not directly supporting COVID-19 changes in product offerings for your existing customers.

Do not however stop communicating. In fact, most brands should be increasing communications with their existing customer bases in order to reconnect, reinforce their longstanding relationships and reassure them that “we are in this together”. They can also provide valuable resources for their customers to back this up. Providing value-added tips, information, education, research and useful strategies for better managing through this painful, uncertain and anxiety-provoking time will build on your relationship further and will be remembered long after COVID-19 lies in our past.

Tip #2: Use This Time Strategically to Invest in Your Brand’s Future

As important as the need to keep communicating in the short term is continuing to keep your eye on the long term. One of the few silver linings associated with interruption of the flow of normal business operations and servicing client needs is the flexibility it gives you to invest in your brand’s future. This is such a gift. I am not kidding.

Here are some practical ways you can use your staff, time and resources to leverage this period of time:

  • Conduct client surveys to build out your market research knowledge about future product opportunities, promotional incentives, and ways you can better service client needs. Finetune your customer journey mapping. Finetune your customer personas. Update your product, editorial and promotional calendars. Conduct competitor research.
  • Tune up your toolbox and generate new content. Refresh your website (video, imagery, content/messaging). Develop lead generation e-marketing campaigns ready to launch when business is revitalized. Shoot more b-roll (video) and develop voiceover scripts. Solicit client testimonials. Curate content and imagery which you can leverage later over social media.
  • Host strategic brainstorming “offsites” for key leadership teams focused around new business opportunities. Develop action plans and milestones for 2021.

Tip #3: Prepare for Business Resumption (Whenever That Ends Up Occurring)

We don’t know how long this will last. We just don’t. This disaster is a complex one and will impact entire economies across sectors, their labor forces and global supply chains. Every country and state are reacting differently and have different resources to bear to launch against the economic hardships associated with COVID-19. Therefore, all forecasts are subject to error simply because of the complexity of this situation.

But regardless of when we recover, you must prepare your company and your brand for that moment. It is likely this recovery will be bumpy, uneven, somewhat unpredictable and longer lasting. Recovery era marketing plans and budgets will need to be built to be more flexible, with scenario forecasts for upside and downside projections. New KPI’s should be built into relaunch campaigns which measure ROI on a nearer-term horizon and customer receptivity needs to be monitored more carefully. What worked in the past, may not work anymore from a sales and promotion standpoint. Pay attention. We will be living in a different world in a year or two.

Tip #4: Be Optimistic and Lead by Example

That may sound “Polly Anna”. But its not. Having been the CMO at a brand acquired by another company (which was subsequently retired), I know that being the right type of leader is everything under just these circumstances. Remind your team of your value, accomplishments, strengths and history of resiliency. Coach them to look at this time as opportunistically as they can. Be creative. Be positive. Be encouraging. Find new excuses to connect them both personally and professionally. Reward them for contributions especially toward new ideas for your brand’s future success.

We will get through this. One step at a time. Together.