Communicating with customers during a global pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced companies the world over to turn their business plans, strategies and day to day operations on their head. And all in such a short space of time.

For many, this pace of change and adaptation is something never experienced before.

It’s a challenging time, and with so much uncertainty about when things might get back to normal, many businesses have understandably scaled back their spend and furloughed a number of employees.

This change is impacting all business functions, marketing included. But don’t be tempted to batten down the hatches.

Brand building and consistency are more important than ever.

Yes, how you communicate with customers and prospects during this time will be different. But the critical thing is that you continue to communicate, re-shaping your plans to ensure you’re sympathetic and tactful about the current situation.

Everyone’s daily lives have changed, as has the need for many products and services. But the more proactive you are now in keeping the lines of communication open and your company visible, the easier it will be for you to recover and get back to business when the time comes.

In the words of Mark Ritson for Marketing Week: “Keep the brand light burning, because the cost of snuffing it out for the rest of 2020 and then trying to reignite it next year is gigantic.”

So what can you be doing now to stand your business in good stead for the future?

Be consistent with new website content

Don’t let your website become stale. Continue to build your audience and your website ranking by keeping it fresh with new content.

It might be that the content plan you had prepared is no longer appropriate. If so, rethink your approach and tune into the real-time needs of your customers and prospects. Show consideration and be conscious of the content you publish.

How can you help them overcome some of the new challenges they now face? What knowledge can you share that people will find genuinely helpful as they adapt to new circumstances?

It’s not about pushing your products or services in the short-term. It’s about demonstrating that you’re still there ready and waiting when your customers need you in the long-term.

Send regular email newsletters

Your customers are still expecting to hear from you. A study by Kantar found that only 8% of people think brands should stop advertising in response to the pandemic.

As many adjust to working from home, internet usage has risen and email remains an effective way to stay in touch with your audience. Make the shift from selling to support with regular email newsletters that focus on sharing knowledge, positivity and reassurance to keep your business front of mind for the right reasons.

Be transparent and talk openly about how your business is adapting to serve its customers, safeguard staff and help the community. Use this time to humanise your brand and forge stronger relationships.

Remain active on social media

According to Rival IQ, social media engagement rates bounced back in April to some of the highest levels seen since the beginning of the year.

Maintaining some level of activity on social media will be important to the visibility of your brand over the next few months. Keeping things ticking over will also provide a springboard for increased ‘back to business’ activity when lockdown measures are relaxed.

What you share will undoubtedly be different in terms of tone of voice, content and frequency. But don’t shy away from it and leave your social channels lying dormant. Equally, don’t spam your followers with insensitive offers and promotions that could cast a bad light on your business.

Delve into each social channel to scope out the conversation and trending topics relevant to your audience to give you an idea of what they might want to see from your business.

Share the newly adapted content you’ve been working on to drive a little website traffic.

Engage with your employees and encourage them to talk about your brand via their own social channels. How have their daily working lives changed? How are you empowering them to work differently and stay motivated?

This will give your customers an authentic view of your business through the eyes of your employees.

Build your network and encourage online engagement

If your business relies on face-to-face meetings, events and networking opportunities, all is not lost, it’s just different.

There is an opportunity here to step outside your comfort zone and build your network online.

Video calls and webinars are replacing face-to-face meetings and networking events.

If events were an essential part of your marketing calendar, try your hand at hosting your own webinar and inviting your customers and/or prospects to join you.

It’s a great way to bring together people in your industry to share advice and experiences. And above all, it’s a great way to stay in touch in a face-to-face fashion.

Think long-term and stay positive

These difficult times will pass, and there will be light at the end of the tunnel, whether that be in two months or 12 months. Use this time to focus on long-term brand building and the positive impact this will have on the future recovery and growth of your business.

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