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Crisis Marketing: When Volatility Is Extreme

There is volatility, and then there is VOLATILITY. The kind where the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘historic’ come out to play. It is scary and yet we all know we will get through it somehow. What might be a bit different about the current environment is the simultaneous human risk to our own families and friends, neighbors and colleagues. Resources are scarce for medical professionals attempting to deal with this crisis at lightning speed. Resources are scarce everywhere, and yet most of us can do little to help, other than to stay out of the way, quite literally. Families are reprioritizing everything, sheltering in place. These are not simply volatile markets. These are volatile times.

What is the appropriate marketing response to this crisis? Should we be communicating with our clients? Our prospects? Our peers? As we move beyond the ‘transition’ from life as we knew it, to life as we now know it—primarily housebound and home schooled—here are some thoughts for external communications:

  1. You’re Protecting Your Team—We Get It

In the early days of the crisis, some firms were ahead of the curve in announcing externally their plans for work from home, store closures, etc.  At this point, now a solid week into the most severe government warnings and requests for social distancing, your audience knows the standard protocol because they have complied themselves. There is no need to reiterate the obvious in any depth, other than to affirm you are ‘accessible’ via modern technology at any time. In fact, announcing now that you are stopping travel and sending workers home seems quite ‘late’ to the game. There is no percentage in replicating the same message sent by hundreds of other firms.

  1. The Market Is Wild—We Get That Too

We regularly remind managers who are fundamental, bottom up stock pickers that the market does not need them to opine on macro trends for which there are dedicated economists and macro managers providing this commentary. We are all quite aware of what the market is serving up. With little to do but catch up on the news, and a compelling need to track the hour to hour progress of our world’s response and the progression of COVID-19, we all know what is happening overall. In fact, the single biggest discussion among our extended family members is when will we refinance? This is telling as it speaks to market awareness, even among non-investment professionals. Keep this in mind when you provide your next update, whatever form it might take. There is no need to spend lots of time on the general market, we are watching it real time along with you. A few poignant sentences is all that is needed.

  1. Your Asset Class Response? We Need You for That

Here is where managers can ADD something to the conversation, and this is where managers should lead. If you feel compelled to cover items 1 and 2 above in any depth, relegate them to the end, not the beginning of your communications. Lead with what differentiates you now, and always. This is what you do. This is where you can shine. This is how you can help. Tell us what short term impacts your asset class is experiencing. Then, tell us what opportunities this market may create for your asset class longer term. We all want to have something to look forward to, and we want to understand something new. Give us your best thinking and some nuanced examples that help to reinforce not only your ideas, but your expertise in implementing your strategy. Now is the time to educate, to inform and to engage.

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