Let's start by saying that the Coronavrius is definitely a crisis. The kind that arises from the Greek word ‘krisis’ being any event leading to an unstable or dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, business, community, or whole of society.
Let’s try to be positive and look at our current experience with the 'corona crisis' as a chance to reinvigorate the ‘customer experience’. However, doing so in this environment means we need to avoid marketing messages that are just signalling our brands virtues. It will just waste our customers' time and do little to positively impact their relationship with us. They genuinely need our support right now.
Here’s 10 suggestions on how you can keep communication going during this difficult time. If you like any if the ideas below, why not commit to implementing just a few.
1. Acknowledge the elephant in the room
There is no ignoring the fact that as I write this blog post the world is suffering. We are experiencing a ‘once in a lifetime’ pandemic event.
Let’s ‘call it out’ right now and understand that when dealing with a crisis we must first admit there is one. Reflection on the impact to your customers helps you get inside their heads and see the world as they see it.
With this understanding, a communication to your customers that is compassionate and caring, shows who you really are and gives you a chance to reinforce your core values. Only do this though if you back what you say and are willing deliver with honest actions. Don't be fake.
You will want to think about the best way to get your message across – should it be a personal email from your CEO describing how you can keep supporting your customers during this unplanned event?
Consider including a summary on how you are looking after your staff, tasked with keeping the business flowing. Be specific and describe in a reassuring, calm and measured way the new hygiene, wellness protocols and work practices being implemented.
Know your target audience and consider what tone and type of content this might be – does this require a video posted on a social media platform for people to find for themselves or a direct email to everyone in your loyalty program with an embedded link to the video on a landing page?
Create or review buyer personas to help you visualise and understand your audience and their pain points in the current landscape. Defining your personas will help fine tune your value proposition and help you create relevant content for each of your communication channels.
If you need some support and someone to talk with about the challenges you are facing and what you need to change in your marketing content to keep moving forward, the fileroom team is offering some free 'soundboard' sessions to help out.
Customers need care and this means turning the heat up with your communications and engagement, even during times of crisis. The need for creative, cost-efficient and sensitive ways to communicate during this difficult time has never been greater.
2. Tell your customers what you’d like from them
Be bold and explain how you need them to keep supporting you even through difficult times. Make it easy for them to help you. This may require a level of frankness you are not used to, but it is necessary to lay out the facts clearly and provide them with the knowledge to assist you.
This might be as simple as asking for patience as you get your business resilience plan up and running or making new arrangements with supply chain and delivery folks.
Consider the key messages before you create any content.
- We are the same reliable business we have always been ready to support you.
- The external environment has changed and so must we.
- We continue to put our customers first.
What we need from you:
- Keep supporting us; understand we need you.
- Be patient we are doing our best with your interests at the core of our focus.
- Be kind to each other and to our staff as well.
- Tell us what we are doing right.
- Tell us where we can improve.
3. Create a new offer
Adapt and Launch something new.
For example, if you own a small business with a shop front and your customers can’t come to you during the crisis. Innovate and build an agile online business to take orders. For example, Mondo Meats are now taking online orders and doing customer drive by deliveries, where staff run the orders from the shop the back seat or boot of the car.
Or, develop a simple app so that your customers can place online orders. Then install a safe pop-up collection space for order collections.
Don’t forget to use your regular channels to share this news with your customers!
4. Stay relevant
Keep on providing your customers with the latest information on how the crisis may impact them. This isn’t about crystal ball gazing. More like keeping up to date with the news.
Facts can help minimise fear; and fear can help eliminate some of the anxiety and the societal issues that arise during a crisis. Relevance is also about resilience and commitment to maintaining a positive customer experience even when the going gets tough.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, you are running a small gym and need to close your doors for a time. Use the time to create you’re an online personal training video or yoga class. This will keep your customers close and ensure when you get back up and running, they return to you.
5. Support community
During a crisis the vulnerable in our community can often be overlooked.
Volunteer to have your delivery team drop off essential items to vulnerable people in your neighbourhood. Invite your customers to help you identify community members needing additional support.
Imagine the difference we could all make if we factored this into our crisis marketing communications planning under the heading of ‘social impact.’
6. Show you care
Demonstrate your compassion by creating a social media campaign for your customers, staff or community to help improve mental health during the crisis. It is a distressing and confusing time, seeing our friends and family, business and colleagues suffering.
Consider an online virtual fundraiser for a group in need of support. Your business could also reach out to a community FB group with offers of support. There’s never been a more important time to be a good neighbour. You can lead the way.
7. Navigate the language of the crisis
You can create useful information guides or infographics to communicate current facts and information on the coronavirus situation. However, be sure to use credible sources such as the World Health Organisation and make your communication professional.
Remember to be kind and thoughtful in your language. Don’t refer to people with the disease as ‘COVID-19 cases’, ‘victims’ ‘COVID-19 families’ or diseased. Instead be certain to use the terms, ‘people who have COVID-19’,’people who are being treated for COVID-19’and ‘people who are recovering from COVID-19’.
8. Survey your customers
The crisis may enable a pause to create an online survey to take the pulse of your customers on a variety of topics. You can then use the ‘data’ to create infographics and blog content.
The survey information can be used as a future resource for business development initiatives, validated by knowledge from the customer base that might include product site pages, thought leadership and newsletter topics.
9. Engagement contest
Competitions are engagement tools that during a crisis shouldn’t be discounted. Everyone loves the opportunity to win a prize. Just make sure the prize resonates with your target audience.
One of your premium products or services would make an ideal prize. A competition can boost your appeal and improve your SEO ranking, allowing you to reach a broader audience.
10. Industry awards
Identify customers who are outstanding in their business community and nominate them for industry awards.
A provider of coffee beans to the local baristas could research an appropriate award like the annual International Coffee Awards and propose and develop a co-entry in an appropriate category.
Positive communication with all your stakeholders during this time is paramount. Keep playing until you get our mix right. Remember this crisis will end and there will be uptick on the other side.
Meanwhile, provide strong leadership, support your staff and care for your customers.