Instead of another “How We Are Responding” Post – Try This
Over the past week, life as we know it has changed dramatically: schools closed; restaurants closed or partially operating; fitness centers, tutoring, dentists, all closed. Every day brings new restrictions and more businesses having to alter their operations.
Messaging through the rapidly changing landscape has been a whirlwind.
At first, the focus for many clients was communicating normal operations with extra prevention. But within a day or two, the messaging changed to “we’re not fully open, but still here for you,” and by the end of the weekend, “we’ve closed temporarily, but don’t forget us, and maybe we can continue to serve you online/virtually.”
Now that individuals are for the most part social distancing at home, our clients are moving into a new phase (our new normal) of marketing and communications. At the same time that many are already anticipating significant losses, they recognize the need to keep their audiences engaged. We’ve reached a saturation point in talking about coronavirus. So now what? Is it business as usual in a marketing sense, or is there a shift?
While this is a challenging time for small businesses, we see an opportunity to connect with your clients and customers.
Messaging and Core Values
We’ve advised our clients that messaging needs to focus on serving their audiences where they are. And where are they? Home! While marketing messaging should always be relevant and serve your desired audience, people are online even more now, and people would love a distraction from coronavirus.
We recommend reviewing your social media messaging and content strategy for your business. If you have social media pre-planned, you need to quickly take a look and reschedule anything that feels out of place for the situation that we are in currently.
As an agency, we had to step back and review content that we had written for our clients weeks in advance. What messaging is still relevant? What content could come across as insensitive or tone deaf? How do we revise this post to make sense and connect with their audience in this current climate?
For our clients, we’ve updated content to be less focused on normal operations and instead positioning their business as a resource to educate, entertain, and/or inspire. The message is: “we are here for you, but we’ll interact virtually or a meter apart.”
Your messaging voice matters. Joking about the virus, making light or minimizing the situation could make your brand seem out of touch. Instead, show empathy to those who have been affected. You can show your lightness, whimsy and humor for sure, as long as the messaging is not correlated to the pandemic itself.
If your brand has developed core values – now’s a great time to remind people what you stand for – and tie those core values into your actions and messaging.
Know your Audience
Who is your audience – are they parents struggling to home-school their kids and work from home? Are they singles working remotely? Are they older individuals who are at greater risk from COVID-19? What kind of information could you share that provides them with inspiration, comedic relief, or entertainment? Can you provide resources that are relevant to an audience primarily stuck at home? As you plan marketing in this new environment, keep your key market at the forefront of your mind. Speak to them.
Our private school clients are creating and sharing resources to keep kids and families engaged in learning. There are a multitude of wonderful third party resources online, but our clients can create a voice of authority by sharing “pre-screened” or quality resources – saving their audience time and effort.
If your business isn’t open, think about how to keep your past and future customers caring about you. This will be imperative in bringing your customers back post-pandemic.
Our home builder client created a video on their phone at home offering to do consultations over the phone to help people plan and budget for renovations in the future. With more people staying in their homes, there may be opportunities for renovation inspiration. While the Arlington Homeshow has been postponed, this client can “meet” homeowners through creative video clips.
Philanthropy and Community Action is Smart Marketing.
We are always encouraging our clients to engage in meaningful ways with the community. If you already support a nonprofit, you can step up your own promotion of that cause. If you don’t have a charity-of-choice, particularly now, there are so many working to serve vulnerable populations who will suffer the most financially during this pandemic. It isn’t just about making your own donation, it is using your voice to call others to join you in supporting that cause.
With schools closing, the home builder client was concerned about children who depend on school for their meals, so we leveraged messaging encouraging others to join him supporting local efforts to feed vulnerable families. This small action not only aligns with the client’s core value of helping people, but it helps to bring along more people to help.
While most of us can’t be like Uber, the meal delivery service, which is delivering free meals to healthcare workers to take care of those who are taking care of us, or Facebook, which is offering $100 million dollars in cash grants and ad credits to small businesses that are experiencing disruptions during this time, but we can make a difference.
Post Covid-19 Plan – Living a New Normal
The coronavirus is shaking up business and consumer behavior. While the exact consequences are still unclear, life will eventually return to normal but with a renewed cautiousness in regards to health and wellness. Are you instituting new ways of doing business that will stick even when people go back to work and school? Have you found new ways to communicate with your audience that can help you stay engaged, even if people aren’t in their pajamas socially isolating?
Additional Tips and Recommendations
- Stay informed and keep your staff and customers in the loop, but as information changes quickly, consider fewer emails with fewer specifics (create a blog post on your site and keep that updated)
- Encourage customers to shop online or take appointments and meetings via video or phone call. If you don’t have a Zoom account, set it up now. Experiment with alternative ways of conducting business.
- Be flexible – offer to reschedule bookings and offer delivery or curb-side service.
- Encourage future sales – create coupons or discount codes for gift cards or purchases now to be redeemed later.
- Love your core customers. Offer them special incentives and offerings. They love your business – let them support you through this difficult time.
- Continuously monitor the situation to keep informed and be flexible in your marketing plan to adapt to the changing conditions. Consider joining the Chamber of Commerce, and subscribe to your local economic development office for updates specific to your local business community.
Marketing and communications is extremely difficult these days. It’s hard to know what to say and by the time you figure it out, it is often obsolete. If your business needs assistance messaging to customers during these challenging times, drop us a note. We are happy to help – virtually.