As is life, we are and will continue to navigate through sustained uncertainty, and never has uncertainty been more rife than in 2020 - one week we're fighting fires, the next we're trying to stay afloat, and now? Coronavirus - a worldwide pandemic that promises to touch everything we love, from our friends to our families to the brands we cannot do without. With huge events being cancelled, holidays being postponed and the Stockmarket seeing its worst day in over a decade, it's easy to want to scurry to your bed and declare it your safe-zone until everything blows over - because at the end of the day, a range of outcomes are possible ... but decision makers should not assume the worst.
While it might seem like a pretty hard time to get all 'kumbaya', luckily for us, we have the unstoppable force that is human creativity. While signature brand moments are being disrupted by the force that is COVID-19, businesses now have both the opportunity and imperative to avoid complacency and rethink their strategy. Let's just remind ourselves as well, that businesses on the top of their game in 2020 are re-inventing themselves every six months to adapt to the increasing pace of disruption. These corporate chameleons aren't locked into a single business strategy, they dive head-first into change.
So learning from them, let's focus on meeting the world where it is, not where it's previously been, and think of these periods of uncertainty as periods of opportunity. Rather than making crazy money-moves, look to instead refine your digital strategy, so that once the smoke clears, you'll be equipped with a polished strategy that'll start getting sales in the door. And hey! If you're as busy as we are, we'd say you usually wouldn't have too much time to focus on things like this, so working with an agency to shine and buff your marketing is your best bet to stay connected and responsive and position yourself as a lighthouse rising above the fog. Here's a list of three ways you can start better understanding what your brand really means for your customers:
1. Hone in on your professional value!
- Start by looking at your strengths and weaknesses as a company - Analysing the level to which your business provides value will work to improve how your prospects and customers view you, as well as how effectively you're attracting new ones. Helpful and relevant content is what draws people to your business so it's important to ensure you are providing exactly the kind of information your customers want to know. During this limbo period, take advantage of the extra time to focus on your weaker skills, and even do those HubSpot certifications you've been meaning to get around to, by way of enabling your ability to cover a new range of topics and increase the amount of value you're providing.
- Look at the values which attract customers at this time - Support and reassurance are the key aspects consumer's are dying to hear and see from companies. As a marketer, rather than asking 'How can I sell more ?', you should be asking, 'What can we do to support customers?'. Focusing on profits during this tough time will not put your company in the best light. The support your business provides doesn't have to be extreme, but your efforts will provide you with good PR (and of course, provide those oh so sweet warm'n'fuzzies for you and your team).
2. Ensure your business is equipped for changing consumer behaviours
- Create content aligned for digital media - The impending fear of getting infected has meant people are more inclined to isolate themselves at home, causing digital socialising to increase. So, businesses should prioritise their budgets and time towards their social channels and ensure their content is more readily available (made for mobile, vertical, short-form video, etc). A great example of a brand adapting to become more digitally orientated during this time is 'Midea'. The appliance company has begun holding a series of live streams with key opinion leaders and doctors to cover topics like healthy cooking at home with views from doctors on how to prevent infection. This alternative way of thinking, while instigated by the changing customer behaviours, will prove helpful moving forward, long after the effects of the virus end.
From an internal standpoint, working remotely also means that communication with your colleagues is imperative to delivering the best customer experience possible. We've found that Slack is an absolute ripper app that's essentially a chat room for your whole company, designed to replace email and organise communications by channel for group discussions and allows for private messages to share information, files, and more all in one place. Comms made easy!
- Initiate moving toward video meetings and webinars - With the inability to attend events and hold in-person meetings, we cannot stress enough the importance of video. Found to be pandemic-proof, the absence of face-to-face interactions means that it's important we replace them with something close, if not equal, to the same experience, to not only enable and ease communication during difficult times, but also to work to humanise your brand and offer reassurance to customers. Here at Neighbourhood, we use Zoom, as it provides HD video conferencing, online business meetings, webinars, and mobile capabilities into one collaborative solution. The best part as well, is that only one person has to download Zoom. Everyone else can simply click on the meeting link (re-occuring or unique) and jump right in from their phone, tablet, or desktop, nifty right!
The same goes for webinars, which are an ongoing alternative for a lack of real life interaction. While we are certainly moving in that direction without the influence of the virus, the implications of more consumers isolating themselves means it is important to proactively get familiar with video-making programs like TwentyThree; easy enough to be used by anyone!
3. Focus on existing customers and keeping them happy
- Provide timely responses and be proactive - Rather than focusing on attracting new customers, you can utilise this time to manage the loyal ones you already have. There are many methods and actions you can undertake to ensure you're keeping a grip on your people. A solid and obvious action is to provide timely responses to inquires and questions asked by customers. In doing so you can make sure all requirements are fulfilled and everyone is absolutely 100% satisfied with the work you're doing. Also, being proactive with following up on jobs and keeping on top of customer service and management will make sure customers have no excuses to not continue being loyal to your business. To achieve this you may start implementing live chat and/or a chatbot on website pages that have the highest purchase intent/traffic pages. To help you implement a chatbot strategy, click here to see how Neighbourhood can sort you out! You can also look at a company by the name of Mobile Money where they can offer automation based chat bots on website and Facebook.
Gain insight into what your customers are currently looking for - With all this spare time due to deceleration in customer acquirement, you can take this opportunity to find out exactly what your customers feel are missing from their experience with your business. Producing survey's and questionnaires would be the most efficient way to find this information, while you could alternatively utilise one-on-one methods; call, email, direct message to catch up with customers and secure your connections. Moreover, you could also edit current processes to open up opportunity for this dialogue. This goes hand-in-hand with revising your buyer personas - it's time to double-check your business is moving effectively, so utilise this opportunity to break down your current personas and update them with this new-found information!
Neighbourhoods' Best Practices for Navigating Messaging Mindfulness
With marketing now all being done against the backdrop of the pandemic, it's going to take a bit of homework and fine-tuning for you to ensure that your messaging comes across as compassionate... not cringey.
Over the past few days, my inbox, and likely yours too, has been blowing up with corona-virus missives and even promotions tied to the pandemic. Business's reactions have varied, with some steering clear of any association, and some going all out to profit from the situation. Lush, universally known as ‘that soap shop’, has taken an innovative approach the current germophobic attitude of the population. The soap company decided to start inviting the public to wash their hands in-store for free. Moreover, they’ve placed posters promoting the initiative throughout their stores rather than promoting the virus. This campaign is a great example of a company ethically promoting their brand, as it offers a contextual prompt to a public scrambling for cleanliness.
While cool companies like this exist on one end of the spectrum, some companies on the other end are acting overly strategic with price gouging, misleading advertising and dodgy health claims. Let's be real, for better or for worse, marketers often feel compelled to weigh in on public tragedies, natural disasters and other major social events, some with sincerity and others opportunistically. Therefore, it is more important than ever to think carefully about your brand before kicking off conversations during a disaster - while it's natural that many businesses would see this as a time to share their expertise and knowledge, there is a right and wrong way of doing it, and if you slip up, you could come across as callous, insensitive or even manipulative. So here are some things you should keep in mind!
1. Do you have a legit reason to comment?
While all types of businesses are impacted during a pandemic, it doesn't always mean that there's an urgency for their expertise or products. There's a major and clear need for your voice if you can offer immediate assistance or can alleviate current issues or concerns. After that, it's all about offering insights into the bigger picture - how coronavirus will affect the world of digital marketing, for example.
2. Be extra empathetic
With emotions running higher than ever, flippant comments or lack of care in what you're saying can ruin entire reputations. Focus on your intention, whatever you wish to communicate, start and end with concerns for those who are most impacted. While it might be 'the funniest thing ever', now is not the time for memes or being super edgy with your turn of phrase.
3. Don't make it about you
Let me make it clear - now is not the time to get all 'oh woe is me ... buy our products'. The consumers or businesses that you are trying to reach with your marketing are dealing with potentially life-changing events, so the last thing they want to hear is about you and your company - avoid statements that lead with 'I', 'Me' and 'My'.
The only exception to this is if your company is directly involved in the pandemic or recovery. If you're running a coronavirus recovery webinar, or explaining to your valued customers what practices your putting in place to slow the virus down, go ahead - but even then, focus as much as possible on impacted consumers and what you're doing to help them.
4. Build communities, not followers
Social media channels play a bigger role than ever before in talking about and recovering from pandemics. It's a great way for personalities and big brands to use the community they've built to provide support, however, some brands are tying their support with audience building. While this may offer a quick boost for social numbers it's an effort that runs the risk of backfiring majorly. Consumers sometimes see this as a little too self-serving, and hey sidenote! Your brand may just gain a load of temporary followers who don't actually care about engaging with you.
So recognise that there is a role for you to play in responding to pandemics, but often it isn't one that speaks immediately to your bottom line. By focusing on the need of impacted residents first, and your own needs second, you can be sure you're seen to be supporting and not exploiting recovery. If you need help keeping your social media mindful, check out how we can fix you up by clicking here!
5. Offer support, not products
While it can be tempting to promote a product that would be great for recovery, and just what consumers need for future prevention in the wake of a disaster, be warned - consumers are smarter than ever, and are primed to view such promotions negatively, or even as scams. You're far more likely to have a positive role in the conversation if you use those products to offer help!
A brand-led change in mindset will be the ultimate way you can thrive through this uncertainty. Ensure that your brand isn't just a moment in time, but a brand happening over time, no matter what change may come.