There’s no doubt that we’re currently operating in uncertain times. As if the challenges of the 2020 bushfires and the associated downturn of tourism was not enough for Australian businesses, now we’re faced with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Major events are being cancelled like flies swarming to a barbeque, visitation is down to most regions, restaurants clubs and hotels are struggling and we’re being urged to exercise caution with ‘social distancing’ to minimise contact.
Our own Mastermind Consulting team is working from home this week, a practice we’re well equipped to operate under given the flexible work arrangements that we’ve always had in place. It’s busy times as we’re working hard to support our clients to get through the challenging weeks that lie ahead of us. It may feel like the time to go to ground, but we know from previous experience that marketing, or at least thinking about how you communicate through troubled times is critical.
We recognise that it’s not business as usual, but there are ways to help maintain a presence for your brand in light of the adversity faced. This is potentially an opportunity to build brand equity, retain relationships and humanise your brand through being strategic in your operations.
Here’s some top tips to market your brand in troubled times.
1) MAINTAIN COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Keeping a dialogue with your customers is important. It may not the time for launching a new sales campaign, but keeping your audience informed about what is happening in a relevant and timely way helps to address questions that they might have and help you to stay in control of some of the messaging.
For some brands it is appropriate to continue to focus on product sales and new releases, but be very sensitive to the tone of your communications. Remember that if you’re going to be quoting anything about COVID-19 please make sure that you’re linking to credible and reliable sources like the government information sites.
Step back and think about your customer – what do they need to know at the moment, what questions might you help them resolve? What assurances do customers need to feel safe to continue to come and visit you in light of the current environment with practices that you have put in place? Don’t take things for granted and assume that your customer will know the answer. Solving their questions or problems may just help you generate some ideas about what to talk about in your blog or how to fill up your content calendars when you’re unsure of what to say.
If you tuned into our webinar last week with the key insights from Social Media Marketing World 2020, you’ll know that we mentioned that storytelling is not dead. It’s a chance to tell your stories, be authentic and show up consistently. Now is just the time to do so.
There’s plenty of great tools available to leverage that might be relevant to add into your communications mix:
- Email Marketing
Email marketing is more important than ever! Think about how you can use your email communications to keep your database of customers informed. Is your business still operating as normal or have you changed your operating hours? Do you have a good option for delivery that will get your product to your customer to help solve a need?
Many consumers are keen to maintain support of their favourite brands so keep the communications relevant and timely. Segmentation is also important so think about your audience and how you can make your communications feel more personal rather than a mass market approach. Know details about your best customer’s favourite product or purchasing behaviour? Use the communications at your disposal to send them something really appropriate which might just keep them feel special and continue to support your business.
For some brands it might be the chance to do a relevant offer – customers can’t come to you so why not get your product to them if the delivery systems remain in place to do so? Alternatively, we’ve seen some of our favourite restaurant groups having offers on vouchers so that you can buy and use at a later date. It keeps the cashflow coming and sometimes it’s the little things that count and help to keep business afloat.
- Social Media
It’s a great time to take to social media to continue your brand communications – the chance to be personal, relevant and keep your customers informed. For many brands this presents an opportunity to use tools like live video across facebook and instagram, or just video in general to tell your story and put a human face to what you are doing day-to-day.
Facebook and Instagram stories are growing, a chance to keep your audience informed daily of what is happening in your business.
We know that many wineries across Australia are currently doing vintage for 2020 harvest and picking grapes, or there’s lots of activity happening in the winery. It may be a chance for you to break some of the news cycle and keep people involved in the process behind the scenes by regularly sharing your daily rituals? Brainstorm with your team and use the insights at your disposal to evaluate what is resonating, then do more of that type of content!
If you are temporarily cutting your paid digital advertising (which we would not always advise), make sure that you’ve got your pixels set up properly in your Business Manager Accounts to allow future re-targeting to customers who might have engaged with you on social or visited your website. Now might not be the time to be pushing a sales offer, but building an audience of engaged fans in a timely way is a great option to re-market to in the future. The tools to segment and personalise advertising are becoming more sophisticated to address privacy concerns and it’s part of your toolkit that you need to consider.
Perhaps it’s time to get to know messenger and commit to sending more personal DM’s via Instagram or messenger to build a better dialogue with people who you’ve always wanted to engage with the most.
Finally, remember if you’ve pre-scheduled content it’s time to go back and check in on what you were planning to communicate to ensure it’s still relevant. Some of the messages may no longer be appropriate and it may mean that you need to re-visit and tweak. It’s not the time to set and forget.
- Virtual tools
As a team we use Zoom to conduct our regular meetings – it’s interactive, means that you can maintain face contact through video and has some great features. This could be a great tool to connect with suppliers or business colleagues who you can’t meet with face to face. There’s others like GotoMeeting that have similar features that are worth exploring if you’re not currently using a system like this.
2) QUESTION HOW YOU CAN YOU DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY TO MAINTAIN A BRAND PRESENCE?
Whilst large gatherings with over 500 people may currently be discouraged, some people are still travelling and it might be a chance to change some of your business processes to operate differently in this environment. For Cellar Doors this might mean doing smaller tastings in a more private setting or thinking about hygiene practices differently to still welcome guests onto your premises.
If visiting in person is not an option, there may well be an opportunity to look at how you can get people involved virtually with your brands through initiatives like virtual tastings or interacting with key personnel in an educational context. We’ve done this style of interactive session with many brands – when new releases come out, with virtual days like Cabernet Day or Open That Bottle Night. It’s a great way to get the audience involved.
Conducting these types of virtual sessions is fairly simple and very cost effective. Send out communications in advance with all the relevant details and potentially it’s a chance to pre-sell some products for people to join in with you and participate from home.
Equally if you’ve never reached your customers in a digital format, now might be the time to add some paid advertising into the mix to ensure that they are reached and your messages keep in front of them. There’s plenty of strategic options from google re-marketing, to display ads to simply being found better on search that you can start to work towards to ensure that your business has a stronger digital presence. Don’t dismiss the power of paid social advertising – we’re still seeing some phenomenal results!
It also might be an opportunity to look to collaborate – are there other businesses that you can work with the be able to do things differently? Sit back and think about the problems you’re facing and some out of the box solutions might be called for which lead to new opportunities.
3) PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
It’s time to plan for the future and how to respond to put contingency plans in place. This may be the time to think about some online staff training, to plan for the remainder of the year or embark on a new project that you know will make a big difference when things return to normal.
4) STICK TOGETHER AND BE KIND
It’s going to be a challenging few weeks for consumers and businesses alike. For many of us this is an unprecedented event that will take a while to recover from. Shop local where you can, help out friends in need and check in on those less fortunate regularly.
It’s time to stick together, collaborate where possible and show a little kindness. Look out for those around us and remember what the legendary Marketing Guru Philip Kottler had to say:
“There’s a hunger in our world for real intimacy and experience. Brands need to be more human and authentic. They should stop trying to be perfect.
Human-centric brands should treat customers as friends, becoming an integral part of their lifestyle. Brands should be more like humans.
Approachable. Likable. Even vulnerable.”
Stay strong. Remember the Mastermind team are here to assist in any way we can so if there’s anyway in which we can help, please be sure to reach out – we’re all in this together.