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Susan DeMatei
March 13, 2020 | Susan DeMatei

How Your Marketing Can Respond to COVID-19

1. Don't continue as business as usual, but do tailor your response. 
Over the past 24 hours, I've received dozens of "what we're doing about COVID-19" emails from everyone from Walmart to Petco. While it's nice to know they are cleaning the local Petco, it really didn't occur to me that they didn't before this week. What's more, I'm not in the habit of checking with Petco for health tips, so many of the emails come off as ridiculous. Worse, some come off as manipulating the situation for sales. With 5,000 deaths and rising, a sale on all sportswear can come off as insensitive. 

Resist the peer pressure to send out an announcement that you're tasting room is clean and your employees aren't sick. These things should be a given. Instead, turn inward and think about what your audience will want to know in regards to your brand.

Do you normally have a tasting room that is elbow to elbow? With the new "distance" parameters it might be a good time to change to reservations temporarily and promise your clients a safe and intimate choice for the weekend when all their social events are canceled. If you have a strong tie to Asia or Italy, or Washington for that matter, perhaps you can donate a percentage of your sales to the red cross. A "stay home and enjoy wine" shipping offer can also be appropriate if done tactfully. The point is - do what you always should do - be thoughtful and targeted to your audience's needs.

2. Be the antidote to the unexpected. 
There’s a lot of uncertainty and distrust welling in us over the global economy, our leaders, and the health of the person standing next to us. Our customers are stressed and depressed. This is not the time to wither and drop from view. I argue it is wise to be even more visible. I would go so far as to say it is our duty to be more visible. We are wineries, and we make people happy. So happy, people spend their savings to travel to see us and read magazines and books about us. But, now they're stuck in their homes and scared. Be the alternative to heat maps and death counters and pictures of people in masks. Get on social media. Talk about the earth, and making things with your hands, and nature and good things. Don't ignore the current market but don't dwell in it, either. Give them something to see that soothes rather than scares.

3. Invest in growth. 
Your tasting room traffic is going to decrease in the coming weeks. This is a certain prediction. While you can't change that, you do have control of how you react to it. Do you panic and desperately try to salvage that channel, or do you focus on other channels? While you're on Facebook and Instagram spreading love and joy, it is a great time to run some "top of the funnel" online programs to get new people on your mailing list. Increase your ad spend to grow your list at this rare time when you have a captive audience of people stuck at home. This is also not a bad time for an outbound calling campaign, or outreach to update club credit cards. It is also an excellent time to finally get to those website updates, new photoshoots, or data hygiene. Keep your staff active and focused and by summer tourist season you'll be in great shape.

4. Focus on existing customers.
While your flow of new customers may be dampened, this is all the more reason to invest in some thoughtful planning of sales programs via email, social media, and the website. If you have an under-developed website channel or have relied too long on that steady river of customers through the tasting room door, you're going to feel it the worst, but now is the time to make adjustments. Look at special offerings, shipping offers, and setting up automatic emails for abandoned carts to boost website sales this spring.

For those of you canceling club events, be aware this could cause some loyalty issues to members who signed up for, and looked forward to, your events. There is also a portion of our society that does not have unlimited sick days and will find themselves unemployed due to COVID-19, which will put a strain on discretionary spending. So be thinking of any additional love or benefits you can give your club at this time.

Above all, don’t lose sight of your long-term agenda. As economist Paul Romer once said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Downturns can shine a spotlight on the long-term health of a business, revealing vulnerabilities that might not have been as visible in good times. Leaders use the downturn as an opportunity to create a sense of urgency within their organizations, helping drive the large-scale change that will be necessary to succeed in the future.


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