Any time you turn on the TV nowadays, consumers are overwhelmed with advertisements on how different brands are addressing and handling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cottenelle launched its #ShareASquare campaign in partnership with the United Way, pledging $1 million and one million rolls of toilet paper to United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. AT&T had a fun little ditty using the “School Days” track by Chuck Berry, highlighting its newly created $10 million fund to support distance-learning tools, curriculum and resources for educators and families. 

However, my favorite would have to be Ford Motor Co. Maybe I’m a little biased being born and bred in the Motor City (plus my husband works for the company) — but the brand pivoted from regularly scheduled advertising messages to depict itself as a resourceful, resilient company that cares about its employees, dealers and customers in the wake of the pandemic. It also underscores how Ford’s workforce quickly shifted gears to develop urgently needed medical supplies during the pandemic. If you’re curious, you can watch it here:

So what do all these companies have in common? They didn’t stop marketing their brand; instead, they shifted their messages to consumers. Plumbing and mechanical contractors should take a page from their playbook.

Josh Smith, vice president of marketing for the Home Services division at Scorpion, recently said as much in a column he wrote for PM. 

“Don’t cut your marketing budget if you don’t have to,” he says. “Many businesses are panicking right now and looking for anywhere they can cut expenses. Going leaner with your business makes sense during a time like this, but it’s important to be lean in the right places — otherwise, you’ll end up eliminating important sources of revenue that could help keep your business afloat during this economic slowdown.”

Smith notes how Mary Jean Anderson, president of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air in San Diego, agreed with this advice, quoting her from a recent Scorpion webinar where she served as a panelist.

“For those smaller companies that want to grow, this is really the time to look at your marketing spend,” she says. “For me, one of the standard operating procedures in [times like this] is to get in front of the people. We gained tremendous market share during the Great Recession, and that’s when we went from a $6.2- to a $15-million (company) seemingly overnight because we never backed down on the marketing at all — we kept that going.”

Instead of slashing the marketing budget, Smith advises simply rethinking your marketing strategy, such as focusing paid search advertising dollars on the services with the highest needs.

“Having a presence in online search is still important, especially considering that plumbing and HVAC services are considered ‘essential’ and people need clogged drains and broken HVAC systems repaired, even when they’re sheltered-in-place,” he says. “The key is to be aware of how search trends are shifting so you can prioritize your budget on the keywords that are most likely to bring you new jobs at this time. While there has been less activity for more general plumbing and HVAC search terms, there’s growing interest for terms such as ‘water filtration,’ ‘drain services,’ ‘air purification systems’ and ‘HVAC emergency service.’ Do some research to see what’s trending for your area and update your campaigns as needed.”

Read more of Smith’s tips here:

Unprecedented times call for some out-of-the-box thinking. And you don’t have to break the bank to come up with appropriate marketing campaigns for your company. You can film a quick video on your smartphone and post it to your website and social media channels. This is the perfect time to share plumbing tips with your customers — and add in at the end how your company is available to help, and is taking the proper precautions to ensure the safety of both your employees and your customers.