Confined to my home office for the past few months (just like the rest of the world), I’m already beginning to look nostalgically at what this confounding time has given my family:
- Cooking and spending every meal together, without the need to rush through dinner.
- Game nights several days each week (from Yahtzee™ to Mario Kart™).
- Binge watching all nine seasons of The Office, ending each night on a positive and light note.
These simple personal bright spots of togetherness in dark times bring to mind something the most famous and fictitious “World’s Best Boss” once said:
“I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.” —Michael Scott
Now that states across the country begin to reopen and the economy resets to a new “normal,” whatever that may be, a post “stay-at-home” business climate is likely be very different from just a few months back. Nothing is the same. The rules have been completely rewritten.
Do you know exactly what to do? How can you avoid a hopeless, lost feeling if you don’t?
Every business will have to adjust. Let’s hope you’ve already taken some steps to do that. At broad strokes, all of us are going to need to master one basic fundamental skill: Communicating effectively with target customers in a post-pandemic world.
That’s a large order for one blog post. To keep it simple, let’s focus on five important ways you can help your customers in the new now:
1. Understand your audience’s adjusted thinking
Do a quick search on “post-COVID-19 consumer mindset” and you’ll find pages and pages of studies and articles addressing the current consumer mindset.
One global survey by McKinsey & Company tracking consumer sentiments during COVID-19 indicates as economies begin to open, the world feels the squeeze of COVID-19:
- Optimism is higher among economic powerhouses, led by India (56%-plus), China (52%-plus), and the U.S. (33%-plus). Europe (10%-25%) is significantly down in consumer optimism.
- Consumers in most countries expect both personal routines and financial impacts of COVID-19 to be long lasting (4+ months).
- Online activities will continue to be strong, but only a few markets (grocery, entertainment and personal care) appear to be thriving.
Closer to home, a recent study by IBM Services indicates COVID-19 will shift U.S. consumer behavior and plans post crisis.
“The study provides further evidence that COVID-19 is permanently altering U.S. consumer behavior,” says Jesus Mantas, Senior Managing Partner, IBM Services.
“There are long-term implications of the new consumer behaviors for industries like retail, transportation, and travel among others. These organizations need to quickly adapt their business models to serve the new consumer behaviors in order to survive and thrive.”
What this all shows is the consumer mindset has radically shifted in just a few months, and will likely linger or change again as things continue to unfold in the unpredictable future. Here are a few tips to help understand your customer’s current mindset in this uncertain time:
- Know your audience. Be aware of what your target audiences and customers are saying and, more importantly, what they are doing.
- Stay close to your industry or business sector. Now is the time to soak it all in and dig deep. Talk to those in your immediate network. Understand what factors are and will be driving your customer’s thinking and decisions going forward.
- Dig into the data that you already have on your customers’ recent behaviors. Look at purchases, canceled orders, paused or halted accounts, customer service data, social media interactions and call records. Look at the big picture and patterns before digging into the specifics.
- Reach out to customers directly. Find out what they need now, and ask how you can help them in the future as the economy begins to pick up steam.
2. Tear up the playbook
We saw first-hand how the devastating effects of a global pandemic affected our partners and their business operations. It forced us to ask:
- How can we help?
- What can we do to be a valuable partner right now?
- How can we ensure our partners are set up for success, without feeling like we’re upselling at a time of chaos and disruption?
We came up with a plan to work with every partner, starting with paused accounts, re-engaging with them at no cost. We’re going back to the beginning, looking again at content strategies, providing recommendations and making necessary adjustments. The focus is on what our clients need most from us in the post-pandemic world. And, to be a true partner on this, we promised to make necessary pivots with no impact on current budgets.
How can you help your customers now?
- Understand nothing is the same. Their needs are different, their financial outlook is different, and their expectations of you as a partner are different. Address these things personally and head on, before your customers ask.
- Get clarity from your customers. Take the time to set up video or phone calls to ask what their customers need right now, and come up with solutions to help.
- Avoid imposing additional costs. Understand your customers’ current needs and find useful ways to shift the budget to make sure you’re doing everything possible to help them weather the storm.
3. Stay connected, now and in the future
The closer you can be to solving your customers’ current challenges, the more they’ll trust and rely on you in the future. Stay connected and avoid the urge to pull back in the face of adversity. Social distancing is for humans. Being visible, available and helpful to your customers is more critical now than before.
However, show constraint when it comes to being overly opportunistic at this time. Avoid “selling” in your calls, especially if it’s your first contact since the beginning of this unprecedented economic crisis. Instead, ask questions and show empathy as you arm yourself with the knowledge needed to be an effective problem-solver.
Here’s an example of how listening and reacting can open up new opportunities:
Brandpoint is consistently hearing from clients and prospects that the number one challenge is getting strong leads in a time when trade shows, conventions, expos and other human-touch events have been canceled.
By listening and then reacting, we packaged a new Sales-Ready Lead Program that addresses this B2B pain point by combining:
- Professionally created business-to-business content
- Nurturing prospects with email campaigns
- Qualifying targeted leads based on actions taken
The result: We now deliver qualified, scored and ranked prospects to our partners every week, presenting a solution that addresses their greatest need.
4. Don’t be tone-deaf
Often brands focus so much on what they want to say, in social media or through the inbox, that they forget to think about how or when they say it. If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen plenty of posts already blow up and called out for not being on message in a COVID-19 world.
Understanding how to avoid being tone-deaf right now is an important skill. Take time to reflect before hitting that post or send button. Sometimes, it comes down to asking a few common-sense questions:
- Is this information timely?
- Is it more crucial to my customers than it is to my business?
- Is there a specific reason for the content besides “We have to say something”?
- Does the message (idea, post, etc.) come off as opportunistic?
- Is the message sensitive to those who are deeply affected by coronavirus?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, think twice before posting or sending. Of course, this isn’t an all-inclusive list of the dos and don’ts of marketing during COVID-19.
If you’re struggling with what to say in this challenging time, check out our post on creating brand content that fits into a media landscape dominated by COVID-19.
It should help you think of fresh ways to present brand content that makes sense among the huge wave of coronavirus information.
5. Operate as if metrics-retentive
Now is the time to exercise diligence and build a deeper understanding of what your site analytics are telling you. There are many ways to do this, but one simple tactic is to establish baseline metrics prior to coronavirus awareness, then compare to what is happening today. To do this:
- Select a week prior to late January for a baseline comparison.
- Or compare year-over-year results in Google Analytics
Select the method that makes most sense for comparison. If major site changes were implemented in the last year, it’s best to select a week in January as a baseline.
If your business is online only, such as ecommerce or digital software, make sure you understand what day-to-day site trends are emerging and changing. If you’ve reviewed site analytics monthly in the past, review weekly, picking a day of the week that precedes your busiest traffic days. That way you can see how this crisis is impacting your content and site performance, giving you an opportunity to make adjustments quickly based on what you see.
Brandpoint wants to help you hit the ground running. Contact us to start the conversation on how we can help your business emerge successful in a post-pandemic world.