As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot about our lives changed almost overnight. Often, we didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen next. Thankfully, our community, our country and the economy can now slowly start to repair.
Whilst it is great to be able to return to some familiar activities and functions, it is pretty safe to say that things are not exactly “back to normal” and perhaps they never will be.
Just as we’ve had to re-think and reset how we go about many parts of our daily lives, and business lives too, the way that we approach marketing our businesses should undergo the same revision. Undoubtedly, the way that your business operates, and likely how your customers interact with you too, has seen a big shift in the last few months. And so, if you haven’t already, it is crucial to review your marketing strategies in this COVID-19 recovery period.
Do something, say something
It might seem obvious, but it is particularly important to keep the lines of communications open with your loyal and potential customers at this time. When you might feel like you have much more important things to worry about right, consider how important it is to have that crucial support base there, eagerly ready and waiting, when you are in a position to do business with them again.
If you go quiet, not only do you risk fading into the background and having consumers essentially forget that you exist, but you also risk losing them to competitors who did keep the conversation going.
Those truly loyal followers might ask after you for a bit, but if it stays quiet for too long, they’ll soon move on.
Be sensitive to what is happening
That not to say that you should blindly forge ahead with your previously planned marketing campaigns and messaging with no regard for what it happening in the world around us.
These unprecedented times are unquestionably immense and life-shifting, and we are all experiencing this roller coaster together, so be sensitive to that when you are talking to your audience.
It might be appropriate, and necessary, to advertise or promote your latest product or service, but sometimes it is ok to share something topical, and relatable, and compassionate too. Wherever possible, it is great if it is somehow related or linked to your area of business but that need not always be the primary concern at this time. Your customers will no doubt appreciate your sentiment at such a difficult time.
Be flexible and dynamic
A key concept that is important to quickly understand at this point is that what “was” effective and appropriate in terms of your strategies, messaging and execution only a few months ago, is more than likely not what “is now” or what “will be” effective and appropriate in both the short and long term.
Everything is changing. How businesses operate is changing. Consumers needs and how they interact with businesses has changed too. And so in order to have the best chance of surviving, aside from government and operational restrictions and the like, your marketing needs to be flexible, dynamic and responsive.
Focus on your customers
It’s no secret that customers are an integral part of the survival and success of any business. Customer behaviour has changed dramatically over the last few months and so a key driver to guide you when it comes to where to go and what to do next with your business marketing is to really listen to your customers.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming what you think your customers need or want, or that everything will just “pick back up where it left off”. The only way to get accurate information in this area is by paying attention to what they are actually doing now and really hearing what they have say. Then it is your job to evolve and update your practices to best meet what your customers are telling you they want from you as we all adjust to the “new normal”.
One thing you can be sure of is that as things shifts and change, customers will still have questions. If anything, they will have more questions as what they once knew as standard when doing business with you is likely not the case any more. They’ll want to know if your open yet? Are your hours still the same? Can they come by at any time? Do you have xyz in stock? And so you should be proactive and pre-emptive in having adequate resources available to field all manner of new, different and increased level of enquiry. Remember too, that this is a good thing, not a burden! It means that people want to do business with you again and so be sure to be positive and grateful in all customer dealings, no matter how repetitive or tedious they may seem.
Manage promises and expectations
Another important element of the customer service interaction is be honest and clear when it comes to managing customer expectations and what you can reasonably deliver. It is understandable that service times or product levels may be impacted at this time and in most cases consumers are more than reasonable when it comes to adjusting their expectations accordingly. But you need to do your part by being honest and transparent. True customers will value that more than making shiny promises that you then fail to deliver on.
On the other side of the coin, think about what you can do to help your customers, and potentially your brand image at the same time. No doubt the primary concern for many business owners at this point is to get dollars coming in the door. But think about the long term value for both business and customer if you were to temporarily offer extended payment terms or vary other standard policies to show how much you value long term relationships over short term gains.
Budget – re-consider and re-allocate
Understandably, right near the top of the list when it comes to making any business decision is budget and spend. At a time when the economy is slow, managing budget becomes especially critical. Despite what you might think, managing a budget when things are tight doesn’t necessarily have to mean making dramatic and large cuts. When it comes to marketing, you might be quick to think that it’s an easy place to quickly save some funds. But before you get out the knife and start cutting, consider instead how re-assessing priorities and re-allocating funds could be a more effective approach.
As we have seen from the information above, getting the marketing focus right in the coming months and beyond can be critical to the survival and success of your business. Not only is it about managing current consumer behaviour and expectations but also about innovating and adapting for the future. So perhaps you could save some funds by not making a radio ad or a costly print advertisement right now, but marketing is as crucial, if not more so than ever.
If you aren’t talking to your customers, someone else is!