Brand Marketing Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Originally posted on Harvard Business Review

In times of crisis, it may be hard for marketers to know where to begin. In just a few short weeks, people have shifted into protection mode, focused on themselves, their families, their employees, their customers, and their communities. Social media reflects this, with pleas for fellow citizens to follow government safety guidelines. People have crossed partisan lines to build bridges within their neighborhoods and communities and unify against an invisible force.

With social distancing keeping many people at home, we’re also seeing major shifts in behavioral trends. Consumers have returned to broadcast and cable television and other premium media sources for credible information. They are also seeking more in the way of escapism and entertainment — downloading gaming apps, spending even more time on social media, and streaming more movies and scripted programming. And between remote working arrangements and live-streamed workout classes, college lectures, and social engagements, we are testing the bandwidth of our homes in a largely pre-5G world.

Meanwhile, the need for physical goods is placing pressure on new channels, with demand for e-commerce rising to new levels. For those who do venture out, grocery and convenience stores are the source for essentials, but supply is inconsistent. Health and safety concerns are driving more customers toward frictionless payment systems, such as using mobile phones to pay at check-out without touching a surface or stylus.

Some of these behavior changes may be temporary, but many may be more permanent. As people move beyond the current mode of survival, the momentum behind digital-experience adoption is unlikely to reverse as people are forced by circumstances to try new things. With so much changing so fast during this difficult time, what actions can brands take to serve and grow their customer base, mitigate risk, and take care of their people ?

1. Present with empathy and transparency

People feel vulnerable right now. Empathy is critical. Many banks, for example, have moved to waive overdraft fees, recognizing the hardship on their customers. SAP has made its Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse platform free to companies who might be rapidly transitioning to new ways of working. Such instances show humility in the face of a force larger than all of us.

The nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever. Brands that use this time to be commercially exploitative will not fare well. Better to do as Guinness did in the period surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, when the company shifted its focus away from celebrations and pub gatherings and instead leaned into a message of longevity and wellbeing. In these moments, we don’t have all the answers, and we need to acknowledge that. If you make pledges, even during uncertain times, you have to be able to deliver on what you say.

2. Use media in more agile ways

To quickly pivot creative messages as circumstances change, marketers will want to build more rapid-response operating models internally and with agencies. Access to remote production and creative capacity will become particularly important as the crisis evolves. Nike, for example, immediately moved to adopt a new message: “Play inside, play for the world.” And in order to promote social distancing and show a commitment to public safety, Chiquita Brands removed Miss Chiquita from their logo. “I’m already home. Please do the same and protect yourself,” its Instagram caption read.

Beyond creative, as the mix of actual media platforms used by consumers changes quickly, marketers should consider modifying their media mix. For example, with digital entertainment spiking, marketers may want to amplify their use of ad-supported premium video streaming and mobile gaming. Similarly, as news consumption peaks while consumers jostle to stay informed, brands should not fear that adjacency, given the level of engagement and relevance. News may simply be an environment that requires more careful monitoring of how frequently ads appear to avoid creative being over-exposed, which can damage brand equity.

3. Associate your brand with good

People will remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis, particularly if done with true heart and generosity. This could take the form of donating to food banks, providing free products for medical personnel, or continuing to pay employees while the company’s doors are closed. Adobe, for example, immediately made Creative Cloud available to K-12 institutions, knowing this was a moment to give rather than be purely commercial. Consumers will likely remember how Ford, GE, and 3M partnered to repurpose manufacturing capacity and put people back to work to make respirators and ventilators to fight coronavirus. And people appreciate that many adult beverage companies, from Diageo to AB InBev, repurposed their alcohol-manufacturing capabilities to make hand sanitizer, alleviating short supplies with their “It’s in our hands to make a difference” message.

Feel-good content that alleviates anxiety and promotes positive messaging will go a long way to enhancing the brand. However, companies need to show that their contributions are material and not solely for commercial benefit. Consumers recognize authenticity and true purpose.

4. Track trends and build scenarios

Frequent tracking of human behavioral trends will help marketers gain better insights in real time. Marketers will want to measure sentiment and consumption trends on a regular basis to better adapt messaging, closely observing the conversation across social-media platforms, community sites, and e-commerce product pages to look for opportunities and identify looming crises more quickly. Companies should consider quickly building dashboards with this kind of data to fuel the right decisions.

Marketers will also want to consider building deeper connections with their C-suite colleagues to provide insights to executives who, increasingly, will be involved with marketing choices. The marketing team should work closely with finance and operations to forecast different scenarios and potential outcomes, depending on how long the crisis lasts.

5. Adapt to new ways of working to keep delivering

It’s encouraging how quickly many companies were able to transition to remote working arrangements. Deploying collaboration technologies can seamlessly provide chat, file sharing, meeting and call capabilities, enabling teams to stay connected and remain productive. Already, virtual happy hours are emerging as the new normal to build team morale. Partners are “pitching” remotely, recognizing that an in-face sales call is unlikely to transpire for weeks to come. Leaders have to do their best to transition each element of the operating model—from marketing, to sales, to service—to this new normal. New sources of innovation and even margin improvement will emerge out of our current discomfort.

How we can plan for the next and the beyond

We are in the acknowledge-and-adapt phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. But we also have to plan for life beyond the crisis. As we navigate what we know, marketing leaders must work externally to keep their brands and customer journeys as whole as possible, while working internally to do three things:

  1. Understand the impact of business interruption and continue to triage the unexpected.
  2. Lean into digital ways of working and connecting with customers, knowing that this will likely have lasting effects.
  3. Mitigate risks to the customer experience by thinking realistically from the outside-in.

Unquestionably, there is a forced acceleration of the digital transformation agenda as we recognize how quickly customers and employees have embraced digitally enabled journeys and experiences.

Brands are all having to think, operate, and lead in new ways during these uncertain and unprecedented circumstances, and we will all have to learn together with both confidence and humility.


SaaS Marketing: the 7 Strategies That Will Give you Results

This article was originally posted on

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model has been snowballing since 2010. By 2023 -experts predict- the SaaS market will grow by more than $60 billion (yes, billion!). And, of course, SaaS Marketing will boost too.

If you have a SaaS company, this is excellent news, but it also means that you can expect more competition.

In this ever-growing market, you’ll need marketing strategies that make your company stand out.

We’re here to help! We’ve put together a list of seven B2B and SaaS marketing strategies (with examples) that will help you attract your core audienceincrease engagement, and show potential customers why they should work with you.

Here are the SaaS Marketing tactics that we are going to analyze in this article:

  1. Offer a Free Trial
  2. Share Data-Driven Content
  3. Show Off Good Reviews
  4. Be “Very Responsive”
  5. Share Behind-the-Scenes Content
  6. Host Q&As on Social Media
  7. Share How You Give Back

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

1. Offer a Free Trial

There’s a reason free trials are a long-standing SaaS marketing tactic: because they work. When companies test-drive your software, the product value speaks for itself. Even if they decide not to purchase it when the free trial ends, you have a solid lead for future ad and email targeting.

One of the best ways to promote your free trial is through Facebook advertising. The social platform allows you to optimize these ads for clicks and set your call-to-action as “Start My Free Trial,” so you maximize the number of sign-ups. A Facebook ad can also increase your free trial’s visibility since users can share the ad with friends and family who might be interested.

Here at AdEspresso, we know this strategy works because we’ve tried it! We recently ran a Facebook ad campaign featuring our free trial.

AdEspresso Free Trial Ad

With this free trial ad, we’re seeing clicks from people who are actively interested in using our product and move on to sign up.

New to Facebook ads? Check out this resource to get started.

2. Share Data-Driven Content

As a SaaS company, you have access to a lot of first-hand industry data that your customers and potential customers are interested in. If you have valuable internal data, share it through content marketing to attract new customers and build an appreciation for your brand. You might share a recent study your brand conducted or report on trends in your users’ behavior. For example, Mailchimp, an email marketing company, shared email campaign statistics broken down by industry.

Once your data-driven content is published, post about them on social media and include them in your advertising campaigns. Show users that you have the information they’re looking for.

Tableau, a business analytics platform, put its 2020 Business Intelligence Trends report in its Facebook ad campaign.

Tableau ad

Tableau’s post clearly lets customers know what value they can expect from the report—the latest AI trends—so they’re likely to click and read about their data.

3. Show Off Good Reviews

Reviews and testimonials are effective forms of social proof. If people and businesses who work with you are saying good things about your product, it will make other companies more likely to consider working with your company.

Spread the good word about your business by sharing customers’ positive reviews on your social media and Google pages. You can either share reviews customers post without prompting (after asking permission, of course!), or you can request reviews directly from customers. For example, if a user sends you an email saying how happy they are with your product, ask them to post a positive review and give them a link to your main review page.

Software development platform Clubhouse responds to and shares positive customer stories on its Twitter page.Clubhouse@clubhouse

This retweet shows potential customers how happy current Clubhouse users are. It even describes the product and why it’s perfect.

4. Earn the “Very Responsive” Badge on Facebook

Being responsive to online messages is a vital part of SaaS marketing, both for attracting new customers and preventing churn. All customer communication happens digitally, so customers rely on your brand to send prompt online replies when they have an issue. In fact, 42% of users expect a response time under 60 minutes.

Show customers that you communicate quickly by earning Facebook’s badge for responsive businesses.

Hootsuite Facebook page

[Source] This badge is prominently displayed and shows customers that their concerns will be addressed promptly.

Earning the badge is simple: You need to respond to 90% or more of private messages sent to your page via Facebook Messenger, and you need an average response time of less than 15 minutes. If you have a Messenger chatbot set up, the bot’s responses count towards your response rate and time.

Make sure you have Facebook Messenger set up for your business page, and respond right away when someone sends you a message. If the answer requires time to address, respond by saying you are looking into the issue and will get back to them ASAP.

The e-commerce platform Shopify has a green badge indicating they are very responsive.

Shopify Facebook page

[Source]Customers (and potential customers) visiting Shopify’s page know right away that if they have questions or concerns, the brand will respond quickly.

5. Share Behind-the-Scenes Content

SaaS clients are often fun, young, tech startups. These businesses make an effort to build flexible, supportive work environments, so they’re going to like SaaS tools that also have a mindful culture.

Give these businesses a look into your work culture by sharing behind-the-scenes content. For example, you could share posts of employees enjoying themselves at a company team-building event. This SaaS marketing strategy shows potential customers that you’re open and transparent about the company behind your product. It humanizes your company and shows you’re upbeat and approachable.

The video marketing platform Wistia has an Instagram full of their employees having fun at work. It’s very positive and inviting and gives the company an open, friendly air.

Wistia Instagram page

The behind-the-scenes strategy pays off in engagement and exposure. Wistia’s 2019 recap video, for example, received over 960 views.

6. Host Q&As on Social Media

Directly connect with current and potential customers by hosting Q&As: meetings where your users can voice their concerns. SaaS tools are inherently technical, so people will inevitably have questions. Facing tough questions might not sound fun, but educating customers and addressing their concerns will help you build their trust in your brand.

Facebook Live and Instagram stories questions are two excellent platforms for answering questions live. You can either have users submit questions beforehand or answer questions as they come in during the Q&A.

Advertise your Q&A session well in advance to maximize attendance—post about it on all of your social media platforms, as well as your website. If you’re collecting questions in advance, give users an email address they can send questions to, or ask them to send them to your business page via messenger. No matter how you collect questions, always record the Q&A session so you can post it afterward.

HubSpot, a customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing platform, hosts Instagram Story Q&As and adds them to their Story Highlights.

HubSpot Instagram story

In their “Ask the Pros” story, HubSpot’s social media editor received questions live from users watching. Users were able to get their questions answered immediately, and HubSpot was able to see engagement and interest on their Stories platform. After hosting a Q&A on Stories, use Instagram Stories analytics to see the reach of your session.

7. Share How You Give Back

Studies show that 63% of people buy from companies that share their beliefs. This extends to SaaS marketing as well—businesses want to work with and purchase software from companies that hold their values. Businesses have limited budgets, and they’re more inclined to pay for software that not only gets the job done, but is also made by a company who gives back.

Spread the word about the causes your company supports on social media. Are your employees running a 5K to support cancer research? Post it on your social media platforms and share live updates during the event. Just remember that this SaaS marketing strategy is all about authenticity. Share the true values of your company—not just what you think your customers want to see.

Online inventory listing tool Sellbrite uses Instagram to show support for causes the company believes in. They celebrated National Day of Visibility for the LGBTQ community by wearing purple and spreading awareness about issues faced by LGBTQ youth.

The post received positive comments from other companies like GoDaddy and List Perfectly, both of which have more than 4,000 followers. By sharing their values, Sellbrite built stronger connections with the community of customers who care about this cause.

Stand Out with YOUR Unique & Creative SaaS Marketing

As a SaaS company, you may think fun, creative online marketing tactics are just for B2C companies.

Not true! Your audience is itching for creative campaigns, too.

Making innovative campaigns will set you apart from SaaS companies sticking to more traditional advertising tactics.

Use the SaaS marketing strategies discussed in this post, and monitor your social media accounts to see what resonates most with your followers.

Every company is different, so be prepared to tailor each of these strategies to best suit your audience.