Do I pivot or stay the course? Checklist for Marketing in Uncertain Times

Today I spoke to one of our colleague’s groups about marketing during uncertain times. This definitely is a time that qualifies, when everything is disrupted and you may or may not be able to work. Here are some guidelines to help:

When times are uncertain we need to take another look at two areas of marketing:

  1. The buying psychology of our customers and changes in their needs and priorities.

  2. Dealing with how we want to show up in the world.

Marketing Strategy Checklist: Part One – a Changing Market

Take stock of where you are:

  • Who do you serve? (Describe your customer):
  • What product or service do you sell to your customers?
  • What problem/need does your product or service solve for your customer? (Think transformation)

Where do your customers stand? Are they still buying, slowing down or at a dead stop? Buying during economic downturns often comes back to the basics. Examples:

  • If you are selling groceries – still buying. People still have to eat.
  • If you are cleaning peoples’ houses – dead stop. In this situation you cannot go into peoples’ homes safely (for you or them).
  • What if you sell jewellery or clothing:? (Do your customers still have disposable income?)

What is the right thing to do?

  • Is it even appropriate to sell something? How do you feel about that? 
  • Do you need to deeply discount your product or service?
    • My take?
    • People still need services – so selling isn’t a bad thing (especially if people continue to need your product. For example – food is a necessary product.
    • But it is important to give back to those who cannot afford to buy.
    • Allow for different methods of payment rather than deep discounts. Discounting may change the perceived value of your services – which may not have changed
    • Can you offer a helpful mini-program at lower cost or free in the interim?

Does this situation mean that you have to change something?

You have 3 choices to make in this situation. If demand is reduced…

1. I am not going to do anything different – I’ll wait it out

    • What are the things to consider?  (Like available cash, reducing expenses, maintaining lines of communications)
    • Bottom line: If you cannot work in your business, work on your business.
      • Business development strategy
      • Marketing, products, customer communications
      • get ready

2. I need different customers (my existing customers don’t need/want my products)

Who could different customers be? 


  • For example: Downtown Barrie restaurants are delivering meals and drinks to customers who have cash flow and appreciate good food/wine
  • Another example in Ottawa: Restaurants are cooking for local food bank clients. So many need support and the local food bank doesn’t have enough capacity.

3.  Change my product/service

    • for my existing customers: whose needs have changed
    • to expand to new customers (people who are still employed or have cash flow)

What could that product be?


  • For example: A handy person cannot go into peoples’ houses. However they could start a delivery service for seniors who are at risk (and go back to renovations later)
  • For example: Factories are retooling to produce medical equipment/keep their workers
  • Is there a product or service you could provide to the medical community, first-responders, essential workers (or others who are still employed?)

Marketing Strategy Checklist: Part Two – Your Brand/Image

  • What is your image or positioning in the market? That is what people like/think about you, your products, vision, voice on social, and package design? Why people buy from you…


  • How do you want to show up for your people when times are uncertain? Be the kind of business you want supporting you…
  • Empathetic
  • Positive
  • Helpful… tips
  • Hopeful
  • Practical
  • Business as usual
  • Humour
  • Reporting (informing)
  •  Warning (reinforcing info)
  • Other? __________
  • Communicate with your customers: Social, email , blogs, by phone, video….Check in on how they are doing and keep the lines open.
Patricia Dent
Latest posts by Patricia Dent (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.