Traditional sales and marketing strategies won’t see you through this crisis

No one has a playbook for this — but we can experiment

I recently got an email from a company that once sold me a pair of jeans. They wanted to talk about COVID-19. I’ve gotten a lot of these emails over the last few weeks, as more and more companies are blasting their contacts, expressing concern, making commitments and vowing that we will get through this together.

I used to run communications teams, so I get it; no one knows what to do these days, and all of us are looking for ways to help. But as comforting as it is to know my insurance company, food delivery service and apparel retailers are looking out for me, I find myself hoping that there’s more to the plan — that they are helping the people who actually need it (not me).

As an investor and advisor to founders, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks as part strategist, part therapist. This crisis is unlike anything that has come before in our lifetimes, but there are things we can learn from other crises and from each other to navigate the uncertainty ahead. This is not a post about layoffs or expense planning, although there are important things to say about both. Instead, this is a collection of ideas that have come out of brainstorming sessions I’ve had with startup founders over the last few weeks focused on how to think about sales and marketing in the time of COVID-19.

No one has a playbook for this. But we can experiment. We can stop a bunch of activity that was normal just weeks ago. We can learn from each other. We can plan for both short-term disruptions and long-term realities. And we can give each other some actionable steps to take at a time when everyone is trying to figure out the best way forward.

To that end, here are a few things I’ve brainstormed with founders, divided into three categories:

1) Things to reconsider or stop doing;

2) Strategies you may want to start using;

3) Places where you can double down.