- Andy Whiting
Whether your business is frontline and deemed as essential, you're working from home, or taking a business pause during this Coronavirus pandemic, it is a pretty difficult time to navigate your marketing and customer communications. There is no rule book for marketing in this kind of extraordinary environment, other than doing all we can to follow the advice of the authorities, maintain a social distance, and for those that can, stay at home to protect our health services and each other.
But a number of my clients have come to me to ask what they should do with their social media platforms, website and other customer focused communication channels. Some companies have chosen to fall silent at this time and pause everything, this is particularly important if you have ‘furloughed’ the staff responsible for your marketing and communications, as under the UK Gov scheme you could be breaking the rules of the scheme if you/they continue to carry out any activity. Make sure you check for advice on this before undertaking any business activity during this time at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
For those that are not choosing to pause for operational reasons or use external consultants like myself, I would recommend keeping your communication channels active. This situation will eventually pass, therefore maintaining a conversation with your customer base is important and will help you to hit the ground running when we start to emerge from lockdown. But the pandemic has changed everything, including the kind of communications you should have with your customers, so here are my basic suggestions for these uncertain times:
Advice for small/medium sized businesses on customer communications during Coronavirus/Covid-19
Keep the conversation going
Be empathic with your customers, reflect on the current situation, but with a positive tone. An example here from a landscape gardening client I work with is to suggest ways to redesign the layout of your garden whilst you are on lockdown and have free time, then book the project in when the time comes.
Follow the advice
Promote the government directives around social distancing, particularly if you still have physical interaction with customers.
Reassure your customers
What are the steps you are taking to protect them and your team from the virus at this time?
How can you use your skills and comms platform to support your local community? Working closely with a dental client we have come up with a range of home treatment tips to share on social media to get patients through any dental issues, until they can return to the practice for treatment.
An option could be asking customers/clients to share their lockdown stories, tips and ideas with your page, for example a hairdresser could share some of their clients home haircuts with a message saying ‘don’t worry we’ll be back soon’, a pub or restaurant could ask for shareable photos of visits during non-lockdown days (but be sure to make it clear these are pre-lockdown pics!)
Avoid the hard sell
It is fine to talk about your products and the benefits, but now is not an ideal time to be overtly driving a hard sell message.
Use this time well
We are in a rare state of enforced home stays and many of us with additional time on our hands, so why not tackle some of the business projects we continually put off, do your accounts, tidy your home office, overhaul your website or take an online training course. But also make the most of some free time too.
What is your communications plan going to be when you are able reopen and welcome back your customers? Now is a great time to prepare assets, images and posts about your return.
As I say there are no hard and fast rules and as government advice changes, so we need to adapt our response. If you have seen any interesting, fun or inspirational ways in which small businesses are connecting with their customers, do drop me a line and I can share or add some ideas to this list. If you need help with navigating your marketing, web content and social media at this time, please get in touch.
Most importantly ... stay safe folks!