How many times have you heard it? The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives, businesses, and markets—which is typically followed by a line about life never returning to the way it was before.

Those are two concepts that many of us are only just now beginning to wrap our minds around on a personal level.

But on a professional level it's something we need to address immediately as our brands reopen for business and we test-drive marketing techniques designed to drive sales and profitability in "the new normal."

For marketers accustomed to employing the iconic sales funnel model, developing new strategies is going to take some adjustment. The tried-and-true approaches we relied on in the past won't necessarily cut it out here on the new frontier.

That's not to say we're going to need to rebuild everything from scratch. Fortunately, there are some ground rules that address marketing to a post-COVID marketplace.

Let's look at six of them and see what steps we can be taking now.

1. Have a plan

Get together with your team to develop a reopening communications strategy that addresses the concerns of all of the company's stakeholders: from your returning employees to vendors and even the local jurisdictions that may be monitoring the reopening process in your locale.

Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing—and, in some cases, work with them so that the greater good of your industry as a whole is served.

2. Communicate with your customers

It's seems basic: You need to communicate with your customers. But we've seen businesses slow down their communication efforts during the pandemic. Some have abandoned their social media streams altogether.

Whatever your particular circumstance, now is the time to ramp up your customer communications. Be transparent and timely with the specific details behind your reopening. Let them know the Who, What, Why, When, and How of your reopening, including any new safety rules you're mandating for in-person transactions. Let them know their safety is your priority and you welcome them back.

Then, communicate this message across all your channels: email lists, social media accounts, your website, press releases, anywhere else you can think of. Customer will appreciate your candid and transparent outreach.

3. Bolster your social media efforts

Since the pandemic began, your customers have increasingly relied on social media and their electronic devices for everything from news and information to staying in touch with friends and family. They're now in the habit of checking their feeds more often, so take advantage of that and increase the frequency of your posting.

But an important tip: don't flood them with promotional material and make it all about sales. Consider posting helpful content that refers to the pandemic—and steps you are taking as a company to make their experience as customers a smoother, safer one.

4. Enhance your digital customer experience

Serving your customers is not the exclusive realm of a 1-800 call center; customers have come to expect assistance through the various channel through which they can reach you. Which is why you need to initiate or expand the capabilities of social media chat services.

In some circumstances, it may mean introducing face-time capabilities through a Facetime, Zoom, or similar tool or feature. Customers have gotten quite comfortable using such platforms—whether talking to colleagues at work or a relative residing in an assisted-living home, or through telehealth services provided by local healthcare providers.

The pandemic has pushed a lot of holdouts to finally adopt technical solutions. Make sure you are there to pick up on that level of consumer literacy.

5. Manage expectations

Your customers understand that life is different now. They are generally empathetic to disruptions that are beyond the control of the business. But what they won't tolerate is a lack of transparency or open communications.

Be forthcoming about any disruptions to service or your supply chain that might affect their orders with you. Let them know how new health regulations have disrupted the ways they're used to working with you, but then offer them alternative ways to keep your relationship going.

6. Monitor for campaign effectiveness

With such a high-level emphasis on digital promotions, there's going to be a learning curve here, and some trial and error. Pay special attention to what marketing campaigns are working well for your business and which ones seem to be missing the mark. Also do so, as best you can, with the campaigns your competitors are launching.

Let's sum this up

Digital marketing is now more relevant than ever. Start creating your new marketing strategies with that notion firmly in mind.

Have a plan that addresses concerns of employees, vendors and partners, and customers.

Don't off as too promotional during a sensitive time, when customer are looking for helpful information and reassurance.

Ramp up your digital marketing efforts, and ensure you can communicate with customers on the devices and channels they live on; be ready to address service issues on those channels as well.

Invest in building up digital experiences for them: That is the future, and your marketing needs to keep pace.

And, finally, monitor your campaign efforts and pay special attention to what is working (for you and for others).

* * *

Reopening during and after the pandemic is fraught with challenges and laden with opportunities. For marketers, it's an ideal time to take advantage of new marketing and communications approaches to differentiate your brand for the "new normal" in your industry.

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image of Brian Byer

Brian Byer is vice-president & general manager at full-service digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media, a Pactera company.

LinkedIn: Brian Byer