The current worldwide crisis has created a series of challenges in terms of how companies and brands interact with their customers. This situation calls for the right type of communication. But what is the right type of communication in such an atypical situation?
The great majority of the current workforce has never faced anything like this. However, there are lessons we have learned from other crises that still stand in this context.
In this article, we'll discuss a few rules that apply in the current context, based on other situations, and other types of communication tips that we have learned from brand interactions that have either aced it or ruined companies' reputations in this latest crisis. 😷
1. Care About Your Customers
This should go without saying, that if you don't show your customers you care about their needs, all your communication will seem out of place. In times of uncertainty, people seek an empathetic response.
So, rather than thinking about how you can increase sales, think about how you can be useful for your customers. Is there any service you can offer for free that will help people face common issues for the time being? 🙂
Sometimes, something as simple as free delivery can help you now and in the long run, improving your relationship with customers and the general public. If your company offers SaaS, you could offer a longer free trial, or give out two or three months of your service for free to current users. Empathy goes a long way during these difficult times. 🙏
2. Show Proactivity in Your Messages
It is also important to predict your customers' needs before they have to explain themselves to you. This is not guesswork: once again, you need to put yourself in your customers' shoes and understand what they are going to need from you.
Ask yourself: in this situation, how would you react to the message you're sending? Are you attuned to your customers' needs and desires? Are your messages useful? 🤔
Sometimes, it's best to stay silent as well. If you haven't got anything meaningful to add to the conversation, rather than sending another message that is going to add to the clutter in your customers' inboxes, you might as well not say anything.
As many of us have noticed, plenty of companies are sending communications that are tone-deaf and meaningless. This will only lead to people unsubscribing from your mailing list. Actually, if you use Twitter, you have probably seen tweets from people saying they are unsubscribing from all the companies that send them salesy emails. So, should these companies have refrained from emailing their customers? Absolutely.
Being proactive means understanding the context in which your messages are being received and acting accordingly. If there are any changes to your service, such as schedule changes or switching to online purchases only, those should be communicated as soon as possible. Don't brag about what you are doing for your employees during the crisis; act silently for that matter. You should never brag that you are doing what is right: what you should communicate are the changes that affect your customers.
In other words, act like a true philanthropist: don't brag, let words get out by themselves when it comes to your good deeds.
3. Offer a Shoulder to Lean On
Part of what makes your company or brand trustworthy in times of distress is to be dependable. This means that your customers can rely on you even when everything seems to be falling apart. Some companies, like Walgreens, are waiving delivery fees for prescription medicines; local businesses are offering free delivery on groceries for the elderly, which is the group most affected by the pandemic.
Take measures to protect those who need it the most. Companies like Uber Eats are offering grocery delivery as well as meals and giving users the option to collect their items without having to interact with anyone. This is helpful for those in isolation and removes another possible source of infection.
As you can see, it's not difficult to help. You just need to know what is within your power to make sure your customers stay safe, and then implement it.
4. Inspire Your Community
To make sure your brand has a positive impact in your community, you can take measures that go beyond your usual scope. As an example, you can help your local hospital by offering to deliver goods to the many doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to help the ailing.
You can also share important resources in your emails, such as dedicated emergency contacts, local blood banks that are in need of donations, and any other links that could be of use to your customers.
It is important as well to donate to the institutions in need during these uncertain times. If you can help, whether by offering a share of your profits, providing free services, or anything else that can be of use to your community, do so. Remember you should think about the future; the way you behave in the present is going to affect the way your community thinks about your brand when all is said and done.
5. Check Queued Content
If your company has predicted to send any sort of campaign now, you should make sure that it is still relevant in the current context. If you don't check automated messages, you might end up sounding tone-deaf (more on that later).
If you had automated messages scheduled to be sent now, you should re-evaluate that communication. Should you send it anyway? Or is it going to seem too salesy?
Remember, in uncertain times, your usual sales pitch will not work. Your customers have other concerns right now other than to purchase this or that, and you should adapt to that new reality.
Arrange your services to be useful right now, so you can enjoy a better reputation in the future. 🤭
6. Know Your Brand
As a marketer, you know your brand better than anyone else. So, your reaction to a specific context should communicate the values that your brand has always defended. 💪
However, if your brand lacks a specific identity for some reason, now is the time to build it by taking affirmative action. Follow the tips in this article and make sure that your actions are consistent all the way through.
Consistency is key when it comes to communicating in times of crisis. If you are promising free delivery or any other benefit for customers to purchase from you, follow through with your promise. If you make empty promises, customers will remember. Now is the time to build the foundations for the future of your brand. You might not sell now, but remember you're creating opportunities for future interactions with your brand.
It's better to delay a sale than to burn bridges with your customers because of coming across as too salesy.
7. Use The Right Tone of Voice 🗣️
The right tone of voice depends heavily on your company and the type of relationship you maintain with your customers. If your customers are used to a light-hearted tone, you should strive to maintain the same tone. There's no problem in getting a little serious: however, when used right, humor is a way of releasing tension.
If your customers are used to a serious tone from you, then stick to it. As we mentioned previously, it's important to be consistent in your approach.
This also means that you cannot afford to be tone-deaf in your messages: pay attention to what your competitors are saying and avoid making the same mistakes. Plenty of customers are accusing brands of acting on their own behalf with health warnings and other types of messages, which customers are already aware of. The previous advice still stands: if your message does not make any difference in your customers' lives, it's better to remain silent.
8. Anticipate Change
This applies mostly to tourism and travel companies, but it should also be noted for any other business.
In uncertain times, customer behavior is going to change. You should be ready for those changes and accept them. Right now, all airlines are reimbursing their customers for flights in the near future. Of course, that is creating a huge issue for all those companies, but they have no other choice – how could they charge customers for flights they are no longer allowed to take? With all countries closing their borders, it is necessary for airlines to pay attention to their customers' needs and act accordingly.
This also applies to many other businesses. Respect your customers and their ever-changing needs and they will pay you back with the same respect you are offering them.
It's not easy to please everyone, but there are certain rules you should follow if you want to stay in tune with your customers. It's essential to pay attention to expectations about your brand to be successful in these challenging times.
On the other hand, you should be wary of trying to push sales right now. It's better to wait for the right time and, meanwhile, to do what you can to serve your community. Right now, that's the best you can do for your business: to plant the seeds for your company's future.
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