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The Pandemic Marketing Playbook

Originally posted on medium.

The 5 Growth Marketing Principles To Survive Mayhem

Want To Learn About Survival? Join a Startup.

In the last 6 years, I’ve been working with a significant number of startups from L.A to Dubai, from Oslo to Nairobi.

Some failed. Some became multi-million dollar businesses and I was lucky enough to join a startup that became a $3 Billion Dollars Unicorn. (Here : Uber $3 Billion Buyout: Lessons Learned From Careem Hypergrowth).

Being in the startup phase of a company has more to do with survival than anything else. You lack resources, you lack people, you lack cash, you lack tools, you lack knowledge… no matter which way you turn it, the blanket is always too short.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s how to help companies build battle-tested growth engines optimized for environmental scarcity.

If you want to learn the art of survival join a startup. That’s where I was exposed — overtime — to the 5 Survival Growth Marketing Principles:

Principle #1: Make Sure Your Brand Is Browsable

Companies who will win BIG out of this crisis are those focusing all their efforts on building a “browsable” BRAND. During a crisis, people tend to stick to basic needs like food and health, so it’s not the right time to “Sell”.. but the perfect moment to “Tell”.


People are in “browsing mode”, not “buying mode”.

What I really want you to do now is to have a clear content marketing strategy. Don’t be obsessed about monetizing. Keep reading. The game-plan will be clear in a moment.

Principle #2: Get Your Users Into Building Habits

There is a common principle stating that it takes between 21 and 66 days to develop a habit.

After 21, 35, or 66 days, users will start getting into the habit of being exposed to your brand IF you are CONSISTENTLY providing a TON OF VALUE.

Habits are a marketer’s dream:

If you are a marketer or founder I want you to ask you this crucial question:

How can I induce my target audience to get into a habit centered around my brand or product?

An example could be a live stream a day where you are reviewing all sort of products within your category including your fiercest competitors.

Principle #3: Build Targeted Audiences

Modern marketers are well aware of the importance of building Targeted Audiences. In some cases, it becomes strategically relevant to focus on optimizing and scale organic audiences vs monetizing them(ex: Facebook).

FIRST, you build an audience, THEN you start selling.

CPMs (Cost per Thousand Impressions on Social Media Platforms or Display Networks) have decreased by 29%.

Building an audience today, during this whole COVID-19 pandemic when people are bored at home, is EASIER and CHEAPER because of lower CPMs.

Provide FREE VALUE to your target audience, get them to subscribe to your email list…THEN in 3–6 months, you go for the ASK. Ideally, the more you delay the ask, the better it is (if you can afford it).

This has a tangible outcome: build an excel sheet with potential customers

The more you grow that list now, the bigger the potential buying audience will be in the future. We call this list an “asset”.

Then you can start “segmenting” different lists based on the behaviors of subgroups (behavioral clustering).

Principle #4: Be Obsessed With Churn.

Okay by now some might ask: “I’ve got 3 months runway. If I don’t get cash in, my business will shut its doors down. Why are we even talking about audiences and content??”

I agree.

Retention is the new acquisition and high churn will bleed you out. But think about it just one second..

“What does Managing Churn really mean?”

Managing churn means getting super close to your customers. It means CALLING THEM.

So, make a list of VIP customers and call 10–50 customers a day and ask them a simple question : How is this crisis impacting you and your family?

This is the what being customer-centric really comes down to..

If you’re the founder or head of growth your mission now is to gather significant insights to UNDERSTAND if/how their pains have shifted and how you can keep being relevant while addressing those pains.

. You’ll get super valuable insights from these calls. They will help you:

I want you to spend hours, even days on the phone with customers. You need to become your customers’ best friend. Ask them for insights.

I’ve been repeating this for years now… there is no “Growth Hacking”.

Your customers hold the key to your survival.

Call them. Gather data. Thank them, send them cookies, bear jellies, love letters if needed. Follow up with automated messages…

THEN start drafting new offers.

It’s time to be considerate, empathetic and inquisitive like Will Smith in the “Pursue of Happiness”


Entrepreneurs tend to be insular — and let’s be honest, we all make this same mistake. So it’s time to break the silo! Get out there. This crisis is unprecedented so reach out to other founders. It’s time to partner up and find common solutions.

The “Churn Calls” should have given you a clarity on your customers pains.

If you are unable to alleviate or address those pains, other companies can. Find a partner that can solve your customers’ pain.

If you had a dream partner that was inaccessible in the past, now it might not be a forbidden dream anymore.

You might not have another chance to get a key partnership for so cheap in the future…the time is now!


In Mandarin, the word for crisis is a synonym for opportunity. This COVID-19 mayhem is presenting a lot of marketing opportunities if you follow The 5 Growth Marketing Survival Principles:

You can either surf or get wiped out…either way, the wave is coming.Game on! Time to ride this Tsunami.

Source: medium

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