There was a period over the past year where companies weren’t sure if they should market and sell to customers at all. Is it insensitive? Will we lose customers? Is it manipulative?
The reality is that businesses need to be selling their products to stay alive. As the country slowly turns things around, is there a “right way” to communicate with your customers? How do you balance your messaging between the honest “Nothing will ever be the same,” and the forcefully optimistic “Business as usual, folks”?
As vaccine rates increase and individual states start kicking out coronavirus, businesses want to be top of mind for customers for all the right reasons. Handling this communication will be a fine balance, but with care and consideration, you can still create messaging which resonates with customers and gets your products off shelves.
Make transparency and simplicity your foundation
If any single word could encapsulate the last 15 months, it might be uncertainty. The yo-yoing lockdowns, the farcical vaccine supplies, businesses opening and closing, economic peaks and troughs—the stress of uncertainty has been brutal and unyielding.
Your business isn’t expected to have all the answers. What customers need from you is concise, clear communication on the essentials:
- Are you open?
- How do I buy from you?
- Are all your products available?
- What restrictions are there?
- How do I get in touch?
It’s good to demonstrate empathy and show your company’s human side, but the best thing you can do is be there as a business. Unless you have a dedicated online community, you don’t need to share your personal trials and tribulations. Make sure to get your whole team on the same page in terms of the type and nature of communication you’re planning with customers.
Offer as much flexibility as you can
The amount of flexibility companies can offer varies massively, but demonstrating flexibility even in small ways will build huge support from customers. Some general avenues might include:
- Variation on payments
- Changes to reserving items
- Delivery and pickup options
- Freezing memberships
- Extending invoices
Not all customers will want or need this flexibility, but even knowing a brand is willing to ‘go the extra mile’ like this does wonders for retention and brand loyalty. It’s the perfect way of saying, “We’re all in this together,” without actually saying it.
(Because by this point, customers are sick of hearing it. Communication through action is just as powerful as communication through text!)
Reach out and ask what they need
There needs to be huge emphasis on assessing and delivering what your customers truly need and want—but don’t just guess. Use one of your channels to ask them directly how you can best help them.
This accomplishes two things:
- It helps you get razor-sharp priorities. You now know where to focus your efforts for maximum return and engagement with customers during this turbulent time.
- It puts you top of mind in the best way. In the customer’s head, you’re not just another company; you’re that company who cared enough to ask how to help.
In the same vein, it might be wise to park your longer-term plans (in terms of content or marketing strategy) and spend a few weeks or months just being “in the now.” A report from EY put it beautifully:
“There’s what we must do “now” to manage business continuity, what we must do “next” to prepare for the new normal and the need to accelerate digital transformation, and what we must do “beyond” COVID-19 to be in a position to create value for the longer term.”
Letting customers know that you’re also adapting, learning, and overcoming in real-time, just like them, may help you build strong connections without appearing flaky or off the ball!
Use the “end of the tunnel” to build excitement
Your customer base is probably sick and fed up. Of being stuck at home, of that uncertainty, of the already-tired “new normal” messaging…
A survey by YouGov in the UK found that only 37% of people would feel comfortable going back to a restaurant—a surprisingly low number. What this shows is that simply opening your doors and having stock might not be enough. You probably won’t experience a huge rush of desperate-to-buy customers unless you put the work in first.
It’s on your marketing, sales, and customer experience teams to create as much buzz, hype, and excitement around reopening as possible. Whatever you sell, there will be engaging angles you can use to herald the new post-COVID era. Push this as hard as you can so that when you do open (if you’re not open already) you get as many people safely through the door as possible.
This is a great way of pushing for sales and money in the bank without coming across as greedy or uncaring.
Assess your communications channels
We can’t talk about hitting the right balance with messaging for your audience without talking about how you’ll be messaging. There is no silver bullet or “best” approach here. Whether you’re an over-the-phone-only local services company or an omni-channel corporation, you need a consistent tone adapted to fit each channel.
If you’re doing what your customers need, and you’re consistent about it and communicate clearly, you’re on the right path.