Online Marketing During A Crisis


During a global crisis online marketing has to change. You cannot forget that there are big changes in the world and continue business as usual. You can either be the helper or the gouger.

How you market during this time will tell people who you are as a business owner and what you actually stand for. So there are changes you are going to have to make.

Online Marketing Do Not’s During A Crisis

Using hashtags like #coronachristmas (yes I’ve actually received emails with this hashtag) in order to try to market free training for your students is insensitive.

As of writing this over 80,000 people have died in the US alone and that number keeps going up. 33 million people are without a job and at risk of being homeless. There is massive divide in this country on opening up or staying closed.

People are terrified, hurting, angry, and suffering during this crisis. The best thing you can do during this is show some compassion, understanding, and share things that are helping you and your own family get through.

Kudos for offering additional free training. However, bad marketing hashtag that takes away from your idea, just makes you look disgusting and the buck stops with you as the owner of your company.

Stressed businesswoman with laptop at desk in office

Releasing a course you’ve thrown together in an attempt to be helpful but charging a few hundred dollars for it is also pretty slimy. People dying and suffering is not an opportunity for you to make money.

Closing your affiliate program temporarily or slashing your commissions because you want to hold on to more money and take advantage of the additional online sales is also slimy.

You just end up hurting creators and their families during the crisis and possibly lose recommendations because people don’t want to work with companies that aren’t helpers.

I’ve also recently received emails from several online marketers talking about “haters.” They and others have been receiving hateful comments on their posts, emails, and social media shares in which they are selling expensive courses and products.

Of course the emails share an important message, “don’t let the haters get you down.” Yes there are true haters out there just trolling for fun.

But, let’s for a second consider some of these comments to be legitimate and where these comments are coming from.

Right now 1 in 10 people are newly unemployed and that number is just going to go up. I even read this morning that the unemployment rate is above 14%. Another article said it could rise to above 20%.

That’s right, over 33 million Americans lost their jobs in the US.

That’s 33 million Americans who suddenly find themselves in survival mode. Could they be angry at the situation and feel you are trying to take advantage of it by selling your $400 course?

What Is Survival Mode?

In my private life I often refer to financial distress as survival mode. This is when people who suffer a financial trauma (like unemployment, medical emergency, etc.) are doing anything they can to survive.

They are angry at the situation, terrified of what’s going to come, and living day to day on wondering how to feed their family or keep a roof over their head.

Survival mode is a traumatizing and terrifying situation to be in. The emotions that come with it range from sadness to anger and desperation.

If you’ve never been in survival mode you may not ever truly understand just how terrifying it really can be. If you have, shame on you for not recognizing it.

People In Survival Mode Are Not Haters

For their own mental health I can understand why certain online marketers would immediately go to a place of “ignore the haters” when they get mean or angry comments from people.

But this really isn’t the best place to go.

The truth is these people are terrified and your online marketing has reminded them that they cannot afford your expensive course.

It’s also told them that you live in this bubble where you believe you can continue business as usual when their own lives and the lives of 33 million people have been so drastically harmed by the crisis that’s going on right now.

They are in danger of losing everything they have worked so hard to get while you flash an email with another expensive course that’s the price of their car payment or food for the month.

You are a reminder to them that they are in survival mode and they are now expressing that anger on you.

To make matters worse, you don’t recognize their pain in lashing out. You simply say, “ignore the haters.”

Come on, you are so much better than that. You know human psychology more than that and you are not noise deaf to the crisis that is happening in this world. You can do better.

What We Are Seeing From The Biggest Companies

As I’m stuck at home I’ve been watching more Hulu (with ads because I’m cheap like that) and I keep seeing these commercials from companies.

Some companies are doing really well with the way they’ve changed their marketing during this time.

Kia has a commercial about how they are donating more money to help homeless kids stay safe during this crisis.

They aren’t selling you on the features of their Sportage. They aren’t showing a Kia driving down a winding closed road. There is no funny middle class family car buying with a big bow.

Just helping homeless kids.

What does this commercial do? It builds brand recognition. It builds good will with consumers.

This is how you market during a crisis.

When the going gets tough for the world around you, you dedicate your marketing to sharing how you are helping. If you are donating a portion of purchase, if you are offering 90 days before the first payment, if you are just making the decision to help with no purchase necessary. You market that.

Woman staring out of window with laptop in foreground

Online Marketing During A Crisis

The normal online marketing rules do not apply when there is a crisis. You have to realize what your readers and potential customers are going through at this time.

Do I believe that you should get paid for the hard work you put into your courses, books, and classes? Yes.

I just don’t think now is the time to market those expensive courses that cost a car payment, an electric bill, food for a month, or in some cases rent payments.

33 Million Americans are in survival mode and you have the opportunity to help them survive. If you help them survive now you become someone extremely important in their life who they will gladly purchase from and recommend when things get better.

Offer What You Can For Free

A free and super detailed course that gives people real monetary results can be all the difference people need in trusting you during this time.

Offer organization tips, starter tips, traffic tips, and make them super detailed. Help them start making money from their side hustle or new online business before hitting them with the expensive courses.

The truth is you are going to have an easier time selling your car payment priced course if you first help your potential student make the money they need for that course.

Right now, their budgets are so tight they have zero room to breathe. Someone who would give them helpful information and tasks they can complete for free gets them on the right track to saving their family, this is someone that person will follow forever.

Segment Your Email Lists Now

Add a segment for people who are feeling the financial impact of the crisis. You will not engage this list with any sales for the next couple of months. This segment is meant strictly for you to help them for free.

These people are going to go through hand holding with you. You are going to help them start and grow their own business to where they can see an income (any type of income) from it.

Segmenting your list at this point can help you to better help people who may be feeling the impact of the crisis. Staying away from selling with these people is being respectful of what they are feeling and going through at this moment in time.

That respect for their dire situation is huge in building trust. It also means you aren’t wasting your marketing efforts on people who truly cannot purchase your big product.

Dedicate a Portion Of Profits

If you aren’t in the business of selling courses and instead you sell downloadable or physical goods, you could start donating a portion of the proceeds to organizations that can help during the crisis.

You aren’t a big company, it’s not like you can donate millions like Kia. But something is still better than just marketing your products at this time.

Build some good will, be the helper, and you will help to restore faith in humanity. That’s a good thing right now.

Don’t Sell At All

Listen, the crisis isn’t going to last forever, things will eventually turn around. Maybe now just isn’t the right time to be selling anything.

Is it going to hit your bottom line? Possibly. But the upside to this is people will remember those who choose not to take advantage of this situation for short term gain.

There are so many companies out there getting amazing press for doing good things. You should do the same.

Show Compassion

Recognize the mindset of most people at this time and consider for a minute how you can help them.

Send wellness check emails, do a giveaway, if you can afford it do a business grant. There are loads of ways you can be a helper in this time and you absolutely should be.

If someone lashes out at you, recognize that they must be in pain and see if you can help.

How To Sell During A Crisis

First consider what you can sell. Focus on the super affordable and extremely helpful courses you have first.

An email with a $20 eBook sale is going to be so much easier for people to take in than a $400 course.

If you don’t have any of your own products at super affordable prices consider creating one.

Or you could do like I did.

I thought about how I could actually help my readers at this point in time.

Since the crisis started we’ve been eating take out way too much due to stress and a bit of depression. I know my readers were probably doing the same. I sent out an email about a cook at home challenge.

In this email I shared my personal favorite tips to sticking to a cook at home challenge. I even shared an affiliate link to my favorite meal planning app.

In an effort to actually help my reader I ended up making a bit of affiliate commissions on a link to an inexpensive meal planning app.

The difference here is I didn’t plan on marketing a product to sell to my audience. I instead asked how I could best help my audience with this problem of eating take out and delivery too much.

The rest fell into place.

Businesswoman using laptop at desk in creative office

The Final Questions

When it comes to online marketing during a crisis you have to ask yourself a few questions.

Do you want to be the mask makers or the hand sanitizer hoarders?

If the product you are offering takes advantage of a bad situation, don’t be that marketer.

Can business as usual continue in a moment of crisis? No it cannot and you as a business owner should be sensitive to the pain your audience could be feeling.


Because in the end do you want to be remembered for trying to take advantage of a bad situation, playing on peoples emotions, or being insensitive to the hell around you?

Or do you want to be remembered for being helpful, compassionate, and an organization people are proud to support?

Are the short term gains worth the long term impression you’ll be leaving?

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