The quarantine paradox for the small business owner: You now have all the time in the world and can’t afford to waste a single minute sitting around. As entrepreneurial voyagers, deep down we’re wired to understand nothing is certain – even though from time to time we fool ourselves into believing otherwise. Then a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic hits, and the realities of our risk-taking shake us hard.
An instantaneous, complete stop. All around you, competitors begin closing down. Fast moving economic opportunities freeze. A panicked workforce looks to leadership for answers, and the top doesn’t necessarily have a solution. Customers halt demand, retreating to conserve and protect themselves.
So now what? Simply put, this is the point where you decide. The moment when you weigh the sweat equity of yesterday against the odds of existing tomorrow. Forget how you’ll do it, the shift in strategy, or the stress you’ll endure. First, you must choose – succumb or survive?
If you opted to call it a day, no need to keep reading. Honestly, that’s not always the worse-case scenario. However, if you’re in this to push your brand through the crunch, let’s get to work on a communication’s foundation and make it stronger as a result.
In a life or death situation, the main objective is to find ways to continue forward. The same goes for keeping a brand together during tough times. To do this, you need to run a baseline check of your brand position. You need to reassess its health. How does your customer loyalty look heading into this challenge? How strong is your identity right now? Are your offerings a luxury or a necessity? Do you have a close connection to those who support you?
The answers to these questions can be based on existing feedback or mere intuition. Regardless, you need a starting point to forecast possible outcomes and how to navigate each of them during this new set of circumstances. Do a quick wellness check. Ask yourself:
- Which client segments likely:
- What drives their actions? Lack of,
- What does our financial health look like under this new market breakdown?
- Are there any products / services or reinvented uses for products / services we can offer customers to personally help them through this challenge? What are their new needs and how can we meet them to provide additional value?
- What distribution channels do we have in place to immediately start addressing the situation? Website, engaged social media feeds, apps, etc. Check out our Brand Checklist to guide you on all the places your brand exists.
Address the Market Quickly
It’s time to work with what you’ve got. You’ve put together a quick brand reassessment, adjusting it through the lens of the new normal. It will now steer you on how to address the situation. First, you need to get out in front of it. Acknowledge that things have changed.
- Think about those three types of clients – those that likely will Stay, Pause or Go. What do their worlds look like right now? What’s important to them? What are their wants, concerns and needs? How do you fit into that picture – do you, can you?
- Authentically spell out your understanding of the situation and its impact on each of these three segments. Tell them what you plan to do to help them via your products / services. In some cases, you just won’t be able to. However, customers don’t just buy “stuff” from great brands. They buy thoughtfulness. Now’s the time to think for your market – how can you make their experience with you more valuable than ever?
- Pump out these targeted messages through your distribution channels. Put them on your website, social media channels, send emails, etc. If you’re a service provider with a manageable client base, personally call them. The point is to get an empathetic, truthful voice in front of them, fast.
- Regardless of their decision to Stay, Pause or Go, show them sincere interest in continuing the relationship past the product or service. Brands are judged and remembered by how they treat people, particularly in times of crisis. Great brands stand for more than sales. Now’s the time to show it.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
By dividing up your customers into Stay / Pause / Go, we’ve taken a very simplistic view of your supporters’ anticipated behaviors. This by no means is a wise long-term plan. It glosses over too many important customer considerations and is unbalanced. But for now, it’s meant to put energy where it’s most needed during this challenge. Consider it a brand triage to prioritize the necessities of those who stick with you, while also staying fairly engaged with those that drop off. A simple communications outline for this approach looks like:
- Stays: They come first with attention and actions. Work on adjusted solutions specifically for their new circumstances. Communicate with them through personal, exclusive channels. Facebook groups, texting, calls, social media messages, etc.
- Pauses: Check-in routinely. If you can, offer some free help with basic, easily implementable needs. For brands that provide product, this isn’t a bad time to start a giveback program for customer loyalty and community. Show them you’re thinking ahead for when they return. You sincerely miss them, and this needs to be shared. Not every day, but in appropriate doses. Educate them on what this looks like through your distribution channels.
- Gos: This one is trickier. Fact is, you need to figure out why they felt your brand wasn’t essential enough to keep around. You need to show them that you’re thinking of ways to improve your delivery for them and become valuable again, in their eyes. Ask them for feedback and show them you’re using that advice to grow stronger.
Regardless of the customer type, these communications can be done through a series of personal outreach and broader efforts. During this challenge, you need to keep your brand voice active and be responsive to those who want to engage. Blogs, social media, emails, website updates, etc.
The goal of all of this is to position your brand on the forefront during the slowdown and make it top of mind when the market returns, which it will. Remember, brands that hold together through a crisis start with thoughtful, relevant communications as the glue. Keep it sincere, focused, and keep pushing forward!