Over the past few weeks, I've been watching my inbox and social media feeds filling up with COVID-19 communications. From CEOs updating me about their strategies to combat the coronavirus on a company level to retailers sending seemingly oblivious emails and messages, likely created and scheduled before the whole world shifted to respond to a global pandemic. I am sure many of you can relate. So what is a business to do in these tenuous times when it comes to communicating with customers and implementing marketing initiatives to keep sales afloat (as much as is possible) given the current situation?
I am advocating to my clients that a less frequent, but more meaningful approach to marketing and communications is what is needed—at least for the foreseeable future. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that businesses should stop communicating with customers and prospects, quite the opposite. It’s vital to keep connected to your customers and prospects during this time. However, it’s equally important to communicate with the intention of serving your market rather than solely serving your business needs. By keeping this top of mind, you will have a better chance of cutting through the crush of coronavirus information with a message your customers and prospects will actively engage with.
Here are some tactical tips to help you craft your marketing strategy over the next several weeks:
Let people know how you can help. In these uncertain times, consumers are looking for sources of trusted information, comfort and connection. Let your customers and prospects know that you can relate to what they are going through by specifically explaining how what you offer can help them solve their immediate problems or build a better future.
Be honest about your own situation. If your company is not going to be able to provide its standard services or products, or you need to change the way things are usually done at your business, let your customers know as soon as possible and what your contingency plans are to make sure they can get what they need or find alternatives.
Focus on being relevant. To say that consumers have other things on their minds than what your company is doing right now is an obvious understatement . This is why any marketing you do should, especially in this unique period, should be focused on connecting with customers and prospects where they are in their lives. You can (and should) clearly differentiate your business and move your audience to take a specific action, but don’t reach out to your clients just to tell them things they already know about your company.
Be sensitive to the frequency of your communications. Now is not the time to email bomb your customers and prospects because your sales pipeline has slowed down. If you do, you run the risk of shrinking your email list due to a spike in unsubscribed contacts. On the other hand, if you always send out an email newsletter on Fridays, keeping your communications schedule consistent, but retooling your messages to be relevant, can provide a sense of stability and maintain your connection with your client base.
A good rule of thumb: aim to touch base at least once a month with prospects and up to once a week with your customers via email. Text messages and social media are better options if you want to provide more frequent updates, but again, monitor engagement to see if the return on your investment is really worth the time spent developing content for these channels.
Monitor what’s working and what isn’t. Now more than ever it is essential to keep track of which marketing activities are effective using tracking tools such as Google Analytics, social media metrics, customer feedback, reviews, surveys and of course, incoming leads and sales data. Don’t be afraid to drop what isn’t making an impact for your business and experiment with something new like videos, podcasts or collaborating with complementary service providers.
The coronavirus is impacting every aspect of society and creating challenging conditions for business owners and marketers who need and want to reach out to prospects and customers. Cutting through the crush of COVID-19 communications requires focusing on conveying the unique value you provide while using each customer and prospective client touch point as an opportunity to strengthen relationships within the context of our new pandemic-produced cultural paradigm.
Brandwatch recently released the results of a global COVID-19 consumer insights study which measured the impact of the coronavirus on consumer behavior and sentiment in general and on social media in Asia, North America, and Europe. The study was conducted during March using consumer surveys and online monitoring of social media, blogs, review sites and other platforms.
Here are the key takeaways for businesses that want to understand how the coronavirus is influencing the mindset of consumers and current market trends:
Brands extending empathy win brownie points
Consumers adapt behavior to cope with COVID-19
COVID-19 takes a toll on consumers’ emotional and psychological health
Physical health and entertainment ideas were popular social media conversation topics
Gender-specific insights: men are gaming, women are reading
Employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic elicited concern from consumers
Key takeaways for businesses
The results of this study clearly show brands that communicate in an empathetic way, deliver relevant resources and focus on building relationships with consumers will be able to drive greater affinity and engagement online. Marketers should focus on developing product messages and content to show customers how they can help fulfill their immediate need for comfort, self-care and the practical information they need to protect their physical, emotional and financial health.