Dear marketer, be patient with yourself. We’re all figuring this out too.

Early in my journey of running an agency, an MBA type asked me, “What is the goal of a corporation?” Since he wore a suit every day I thought he was looking for an answer like “maximize shareholder value” or “establish a lasting competitive advantage.”

Wrong. According to him, the goal of a corporation is survival. That was 18 years ago, and today it is more true than ever.

We are all some mix of tired, frustrated, and anxious. If you’re not any of those things, I’m happy for you. But the rest of us are drawing the map as we go. This is not an article with “10 steps to grow your business during a pandemic.” Because here is the unsettling truth: nobody has the f***ing answers. Until early March in the United States, the last people to survive a pandemic of this magnitude are at least 102 years old and I don’t see anyone that age giving out marketing advice.

But I do have some observations.

The fundamentals still apply.

“Ten steps to do this or that” is clickbait, not advice to follow. Whatever basic marketing communication advice is behind the headline it’s only there to get their ads in front of your eyeballs. Skip the promise of a magic answer and stick to the fundamentals:

Know your audience and empathize with them. Marketing 101, right? It is harder now since so many businesses and supply chains are disrupted. How do you know what your customers are experiencing? Glad you asked.

Ask your customers how the pandemic is affecting them. Have a conversation. We can’t fix every problem. We can’t get the factory to restart or get back-ordered parts to the production line. But rather than tune out what your customer is dealing with as stuff that you can’t monetize, take a beat and just listen. Even though you can’t fix the problem, you can help facilitate communication. And that is helpful.

Be patient. You may have a great offer or promotion that is perfect for your customer. But if they feel like their house is burning down, they need a fire extinguisher. Metaphorically speaking, if what you’re selling doesn’t put out their fire, then save it for later. I understand that many opportunities have an expiration date, but pushing your needs makes you irrelevant.

During times of crisis, people retreat to things they’re comfortable with. Things they trust and understand. If your brand has established itself in your customer’s mind that is the most valuable currency. Brands that have made that investment in the pre-pandemic times are a case study in how that long-term thinking pays dividends. My guess is that those will be the brands that survive. But like I said, all any of us can do is guess.