The Marketing Plan beyond COVID, to help your business survive and succeed

In the middle of the COVID pandemic, marketing has become a strong tool that can be the difference between your business sinking or swimming. As we move into the new normal, marketing can seem like a daunting task, but with the right steps, it can help your business survive while setting itself up for future success. Here we have some expert advice on what your business should be doing to help you navigate this shifting climate.

Why is Marketing Important During COVID?

At the end of March, 52% of businesses went silent and stopped spending money on advertising, 16% spent more, and 28% spent the same (Source: Borrell’s Business Panel, mid-March 2020, and mid-April 2020). Advertising right now is not an added spend, it is an investment and a way to communicate with your customer. You must adjust your message so it’s unique to your business and can stand out in the crowd.


What your business should focus on while marketing during & after the covid pandemic

Reach non-customers via MASS MEDIA

As things proceed from a national crisis to the new state of normal, consumers turn to local media for news of what is happening in their own backyard. In the first month of the pandemic, digital news consumption increased by 40 percent (Source: Comscore). You can reach non-customers right now by using local media to get your message out while people are engaged in local news. New habits are being formed, so don’t miss out on the emerging opportunities to reach new customers.

graph of changes in news/info categoryCanadian Digital Media Consumption

Reach out to 100% of your customers

This is your chance to connect with your customers on a personal level. Your message needs to be relevant, timely, and personal. The more you can personalize the message, the greater the response rates you will generate. If there are two companies with similar services and one is sending regular generalized updates and another is sending out personalized communication, who do you think the customer will prefer? Show your customers that you know them.

Communicate your business STATUS

Communication during this time needs to be simple, clear, and timely. Changing hours or anything else needs to be communicated. People want to know what you’re doing to keep employees and customers safe. Preferred content in advertising is “we’re open” (44%), “we’re compliant” (24%), and “we’ve got a deal” (8%). (Source: Morning Consult, “Brand Management in the COVID-19 Era,” March 28-29, 2020; N=2,200 U.S. adults)

Ask an external marketing EXPERT

External marketing experts can help with advice, promotion, and ideas. Experts can provide advice on how to deliver messaging confidently and appropriately for the current situation. Bad messaging can be particularly detrimental in a time like this. Proper messaging is an investment, not an added cost.

Be CAREFUL with creative and messaging

­A recent Nielsen study showed that creativity is the number one factor in converting online advertising to sales, at 47%. Advertising layout, storytelling, and images used all matter. Weak creativity will likely mean weak sales.

sales % by advertising

Ensuring proper context is essential. Appropriate images matter during times like these. For example, if you are selling a barbecue and using an image with too many people gathering in the backyard, it may not speak to the current climate. You want to make sure your imagery is sensitive to today’s reality so it can have an impact.

Before starting on your creative you need to identify your customer profile. Knowing who you are targeting will allow you to focus your messaging. If you are a real estate company, for instance, you have 3 different customers; the buyer, the seller, and the investor. Each one of these customers needs a different context. During these times buyers want to know about purchasing real estate during uncertainty. Sellers worry about whether people are buying homes, investors are wondering if this is a chance to move cash and take advantage of any fast sales out there. Knowing who you are targeting and their concerns allow you to soft sell.



Promotional campaigns will help you make sales now and later. Promotions can encourage sales, as well as collect information. Think of 2 or 3 promotions that you can use within the next few weeks that will help you stand out from the “we are open and we are compliant” messaging.

Exhilarated by the reality of finally reopening, as an example, Calgary’s hospitality industry is creating innovative ways to help customers rediscover the city. Dozens of Calgary hotels have opened in the past few weeks. With air travel and international tourism still slow, leaders in the industry are reinventing themselves, aiming their business at a regional customer base even as they enter the prime summer months.

Knowing most southern Albertans will plan “staycations,” many hospitality businesses are advertising unique opportunities and promotions to enjoy local entertainment, culture, and recreation in their own backyard.

Hotel Arts in Calgary opened its doors two weeks ago in a completely reinvented environment with physical distancing stickers in lobby areas, extra disinfection of rooms and fun reminders in restrooms to wash hands for at least 20 seconds while singing to the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. Hotel Arts Guest Services has geared to offer local experiences to rediscover the city. Cruiser bikes, for instance, will be available for guests, complete with picnic lunches in bike baskets and information on tours to explore local pathways or mural art along the Beltline. (

Think of unique ways to promote your business as we reopen. You can consider limited time offers as well. With these offers, you can collect information in exchange for something, such as a coupon code, or gift. Doing this allows you to prospect for the future to fill your sales funnel. Promotions will drive current and future sales. Customers still want a deal; they may even purchase something they will use at a later date if the price is right.

As the country gets back to business, 32% of people want to make greater effort to support local businesses. As well, many people postponed a major purchase and said after restrictions have eased 14% they will wait 30 days to buy a large ticket item (Source: Nielsen, April 30-May 2; N=1,000 adults). When they’re ready to buy, you need to be there for them.

Consumer spending has not stopped but shifted. Using engaging promotions is an effective way to break through the same messaging you see everywhere.

Other promotional ideas include:

  • A chance to win
  • Subscription or membership
  • Special “member’s” discount
  • Refer a friend
  • Loyalty programs
  • Try it for free
  • Treasure hunting/scratch-off tickets for discounts
  • Sweepstakes
  • BOGO
  • Clearance sale


As things shifted and brick-and-mortar stores closed down, a lot of consumers who weren’t big Internet shoppers before are now buying online. In light of the coronavirus, 29% of Canadian consumers say they are making online purchases when they would have shopped in-store, and nearly 1 in 10 Canadian consumers (9%) who made an online purchase in March said it was their first time. (

How consumers are interacting with businesses is changing. Having an e-commerce website that allows customers to shop for your products and services in the comfort of their home will increase your reach, and allow you to be there for your customers when they need you. While 32%of consumers’ current purchases of products and services have been online, that figure is expecting to rise to 37%. (

Consumers are online more than ever before. They want to hear from businesses, as they have new needs and new habits. Consumers’ behavior is changing, and online shopping is becoming essential, so you need to find new solutions.

Look for help

Throughout the crisis, the Government of Canada offered businesses many subsidy programs to help ease the pain of lost revenue. As Canada reopens, there are also opportunities for business to leverage marketing grants through certain local media. Postmedia, a Canadian media company with more than 125 brands, is offering a Local Marketing Grant Program as a way to strengthen communities and help boost economic growth.

The program has two components:

  • A full marketing grant program to select businesses in the hardest-hit sectors of our economy, including, but not limited to, the Restaurant, Tourism and Hospitality sectors
  • A match program whereby local businesses can apply for matching media investments from $500 to $15,000 to complement their new programs

As businesses look to make their marketing dollars go further, working with experts combined with new opportunities can help businesses soar in these unprecedented times.