Coaching clients through Covid-19

I recently attended an online seminar lead by Jenny Plant: Managing clients during difficult times. Jenny took us through some great insight into business response during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how we as Account Managers and agencies can tailor our responses to each client to serve them the best we can.

I’ve used some insights from Jenny’s presentation to draw both my own conclusions, and highlight some outtakes from the original presentation which you may find useful.


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday's logic.’’

A great quote from Peter Drucker (the granddaddy of business corps), and one we should all contemplate, particular in the marketing industry. But what’s the right logic? For that, we need to understand the changing economic landscape we’re all facing, and more importantly, how that translates to your client’s business.

Understanding the landscape

What I’m not going to do is give you an overview of the economy right now. That would be silly for two reasons; I’m not an economist and forecasts are changing quicker than my lockdown mood. However, it’s important to stay as up to date as possible on predictions and how it’s currently behaving – this will mirror how our clients behave.

As a marketing agency, we’re a lagging indicator. Staying abreast of forecasts is essential to our business.

Earnst and Young are a good place to start and publish regular content on how our economy is shaping up so far, with the general consensus being a ‘v’ shaped bounce-back, or a ‘w’ shaped double-dip.

With that in mind, here’s the predicted stages of brand response according to Mark Ritson:


Consistency is key

Whichever predicted stage or industry we’re in, we need to be visible to our market.

There are naturally 3 types of business responses during this time, dependent upon industry: Thriving, adapting, flatlining. Our response should differ depending which business type our clients fall under, although there should be one common strategy thread – consistency.

While it’s a natural initial reaction to want to turn off all marketing, it’s a knee-jerk one. While your client has disappeared off the face of the marketing sphere, more savvy brands are snatching up that marketing share. The CEO of Proctor and Gamble offers his view on doubling down on brand visibility here.



What do clients want from us?

Although there’s not just a single answer to this question; we know this can vary from ‘triple my ROI with no budget’, to general relationship advice, there is a common thread:

‘Business outcomes and something we didn’t ask for.’

Ok, ‘business outcomes’ are expected. But ‘something we didn’t ask for’ – how long is a piece of string? Put simply, they want insight. We forget they see us and rightly expect us to be at the forefront of creativity and ideas. That’s ultimately where we add our value. Let’s talk about how we do that…

Most of us will be nailing levels 1 through to 3, but level 4: Future value is the focus. The pinnacle of the pyramid. This is where agencies are invaluable right now. But it’s how we demonstrate that which is crucial. Here’s an example:

Beauty industry trend pre Covid-19: Purity. Shoppers want all-natural ingredients.

Beauty industry trend post Covid-19: Bacterial safety. Shoppers priorities are keeping disease free.

Solution: Update your messaging to become/stay relevant

Agency value: Market reviews based upon insight to create a strategic proposal

Consumer (and client) confidence is low. Look at which business response you’re working with and tailor your response accordingly.

Flatlining e.g. British Airways. Workforce management and reforecasting collaborations based upon the needs change are key for this type.

Adapting e.g. Restaurants. Technology advice and messaging campaigns are useful here.

Thriving e.g. ASDA. Long-term brand strategy built around trust is important for this industry.

In short, there’s the right logical response for every client.

Adding value

Not all clients will be willing to give up precious marketing budget at the moment. Let’s be realistic about their primary needs; employees’ salaries and welfare, commercial rent etc. but it’s within that human understanding that we start to build those bridges to adding value – whether it’s now or in the future.

Assign, Audit, Assess, Action, Activate.

Yes, alliteration is fun but aside from that, it’s your guide to coaching clients through Covid-19 (and beyond!). So, what does it mean?

Assign – Put your clients into categories; prospect, lapsed, maintain and growth.

Audit – Ask great questions to determine their position; biggest challenges and priorities?

Assess – Look at their current and future challenges to create your solution

Action – Multi-touchpoint client nurture; listen, suggest, date in the diary for next steps

Activate – Provide solution/strategy proposal for short and long term and follow up!

There’re other ways to keep front of mind with our clients too – continue to do what we do best and innovate and create! Passing this enthusiasm on to clients is a form of adding value.


Great examples of small win value adds for clients:

  • Webinars
  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Non-business education (think clients realities) e.g. kids marketing clubs
  • Employee initiatives (radio channel to recreate the office environment)
  • Recommend e-learning

Emma-Jo Woollin

Emma-Jo Woollin

Account Manager