By Edward Coram James
At this point in time, it needn’t be said that the COVID-19 crisis has completely upended the way companies around the world, and in all sectors, are able to do business. Whether you’re a retail outlet having to up your online game, or a company based in an office who needs to introduce remote working measures to continue their operations, everyone has had to adapt to the new landscape in one way or another.
However, one thing that hasn’t changed for businesses is the need to maintain a strong relationship with their customers — the current global situation simply means that client links will need to be strengthened. According to the most recent stats from McKinsey, the only thing consumers around the world are expecting to spend more on across the board is grocery shopping, though home entertainment and household supplies run it a close second and third.
With this change in priorities, both B2B and B2C companies outside of these sectors will have to work extra hard to maintain their connection to customers, particularly with restrictions on services liable to change at any moment, in line with the latest government directives. With that in mind, we’ve outlined a list of some ways your business can communicate with clients most effectively, at a time when you need to be clearer than ever about your operations.
Phrases like “the new normal” and “unprecedented” have been thrown around a lot since the pandemic began, and while it can be annoying to hear these buzzwords so often, they’re everywhere for a reason. But they also hammer home the critical point that any plans you had made at the start of the year — or even at the start of the tax year — have effectively been rendered null and void by current events. Even long-standing slogans have been changed up in the wake of coronavirus, with KFC benching their iconic “finger lickin’ good” slogan at a time when personal hygiene has never been more important.
More so than ever, a new day means new challenges, but it’s unlikely that you will be able to change your plans and policies so quickly, especially if you have to run them up several executive levels. However, your higher-ups should be willing to pivot quickly to meet the changing demands of your customers — after all, digging in your heels on products or services that are irrelevant in the current climate is hardly a sound business decision. Be willing and prepared to change things up as things progress in the wider world. Customers will be grateful that you’re willing to adapt to their needs, and even if they reduce the amount they spend with you, will surely be more willing to return to you when they have the means to do so.
Everyone has been spending more time on social media during the pandemic, whether to stay informed or to distract themselves from the current reality for a little while. Livestreaming on Instagram and Facebook has doubled, while Facebook and Instagram usage has risen by 40%. Again, this means that even though people might not be using your brand’s services at this moment in time, your followers will be more likely to see any posts you do make during the lockdown period. This also means that everything you post will have to be pitch-perfect, and ripe for engagement, especially with traditional advertising spend in sharp decline.
Your brand’s social media content should be able to provide your customers and followers with something to interact with, giving you responses which you can in turn use to keep the conversation going. AdWeek describes this as “community content” — a revised strategy which takes in curation of others’ posts, as well as empathetic and responsive. After all, your customers know that your staff will have more time on their hands to address any enquiries being sent your way, so leading the conversation is only going to boost engagement and help your brand evolve into the new and uncertain future.
Be a Resource
One other benefit that arises from changing the way your business prioritizes its time is the ability to create new content that your customers can benefit from. Although you should be regularly updating your website and social media with new and insightful posts about your company and the sector in which you operate, it’s more critical than ever to make it a priority. However, you will need to take great care with exactly what you choose to write about. Your content will need to be relevant to what you do, but also appeal and apply to those consumers who use — or are thinking of using — your products or services.
So, for example, if you work in hair and beauty — an industry whose ability to operate has been very significantly impacted by COVID-19 — consider offering instruction guides for DIY treatments or haircuts. These could be done in the form of an onsite blog or, more usefully, as a step-by-step YouTube tutorial. While you may think that this could drive people away from your business long-term, it is unlikely that even the most talented home hairdresser will be able to emulate the high levels of skill and precision boasted by a professional. This sort of content not only demonstrates an awareness of the limitations of the current situation, but also shows that you trust your customers, and will encourage them to trust you back.