Marketing During a National Crisis Like Hurricane Irma: The Good and the Bad
I live in Florida. We left for Boston three days before Hurricane Irma was supposed to make landfall there. As I write this article (the first in a long time, sorry fans — been really busy), Irma has not hit yet.
The situation in Florida? People as you know are scared (to say the least). Many have left behind their homes, belongings and all that they love to go elsewhere. Some are hunkered down, barricaded in their homes waiting for the hurricane to pass and praying it makes a last minute turn (as did Hurricane Matthew last year). Businesses are either closed or closing soon.
I don’t know when I will get home, and I don’t know when I will be able to get back to my business.
Why the Heck Are People Still Marketing to Me?
Today I got telemarketed to three times. Two of the three times I told the person on the phone to tell their managers to reset their auto dialers to NOT market to Florida.
I'm getting emails as if it's business as usual — even from businesses located in Florida (really?).
So here are some pro tips for all you marketers:
- If want to annoy your customers (or potential customers), or at the very least come off as insensitive, continue your marketing efforts in areas that are affected by Hurricane Irma.
- If you have marketing automation programs running, it's time to shut those off for a while please. I'm a big fan of marketing automation, but if you “set it and forget it” (forgot it, actually), go in and segment out Florida for now.
- Irma could wind up going to Georgia and the Carolinas, so you might want to exclude customers in those states too (not to mention areas in Texas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey).
- If you use direct mail (which, by the way, you should be doing), don’t mail your catalogs, postcards, etc., to affected areas.
- Of course, if you continue to market to areas affected by hurricanes, you'll have to factor down your response rates, and expect your CPA/CPC to increase.
And Now for the Good
We live in a world where the internet rewards good deeds by going viral; lending a helping hand doesn't go unnoticed.
Over the last two days, some very smart companies have gotten a lot of viral viewing on social media, and even the mainstream news. And it all centers around the “give to get."
- Comcast/Xfinity opened its 139,000-hotspot network in Florida to all noncustomers and customers alike for FREE. (Free! The most important word a marketer can use to drive action.)
- Rosen Hotels & Resorts is offering a $59 per night “distressed hurricane” rate. This went viral on Facebook (as it also did during Hurricane Matthew last year).
- JetBlue generated goodwill and went viral by dropping prices on flights to $99 for people looking to get out of Florida.
- And finally, what the internet giveth, the internet taketh away. Walkie Talkie app Zello got a huge viral push in the last two days. People were downloading the app in droves and posting their Zello user name on Facebook. Supposedly the app was used during Hurricane Harvey as an essential communication tool because it didn’t need the internet or cellular service to work. Unfortunately this turned out to be not true, but not before tons of downloads. A mixed bag of good and bad press in my opinion.
As a marketer and business owner, you can also read my annual guide to business disaster planning.
Be safe folks! We’re in for a long hurricane season! To all the people in the path of Hurricane Irma, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.