4 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Crisis Communications with Customers
Effective communication is essential right now.
Regardless of what you do or what situation you’re in, this is a difficult time.
For those lucky enough to be able to seclude themselves into their homes with provisions and technology, it’s a shift in what we’re comfortable with. For those who don’t have the luxury of being able to self-isolate, this is an overwhelming period of uncertainties and fears that many of us are fortunate enough to not have to think about.
And for those who are lucky enough to be reading this article, you’re (hopefully) working or staying at home, looking for ways to ensure that your small business stays afloat during this pandemic.
The thing we can control during this time, is how we communicate.
It’s critical that at a time when ‘normal’ has been redefined, privileges have been exposed and people are worried, that your small business doesn’t come off as exploitative, triggering, or unsympathetic to your customers. That is a sure-fire way of turning off your audience and damaging your brand reputation.
So, if you’re looking for a way to effectively communicate with your customers in a way that doesn’t contribute to fear or collective anxiety, then keep on reading.
1. Address the Situation Head-On
For many businesses and organisations, the initial question is whether there is a need to change your marketing strategy or digital marketing approach.
The answer to this, is yes…and no.
The service industry has found itself in a situation where not mentioning the situation is impossible, due to the nature of how lockdown has impacted their business.
You might find yourself asking your marketers to pause emails that have been drafted, postpone paid search campaigns, or you may have even had to rethink your entire marketing strategy and take more drastic measures to stop marketing completely.
But, regardless of the changes to your marketing strategy, you must address this ‘new normal’ that many of us are accustomed to, and this must be done carefully and sympathetically.
And if you haven’t already, your customer base will need some clarification on where you and your clients stand.
Creating a public address wherein your business communicates directly to your customer is key, not only so that your consumer base feels as though they are being personally addressed, but also to invite a small sense of normal into their lives – hearing from brands we love to engage with can be reassuring even if the message itself is an anomaly amidst ‘usual service’.
If you’ve already clarified where your business stands with regards to how you’ll carry out your services, if you can, then the next step is including content which focuses on crisis communication.
Using social platforms to implement crisis communication in your marketing strategy, as a small business, ensures that you don’t lose the trust of your customer base. It also humanises your brand, introducing a sense of ‘collective grief’ wherein consumers and businesses alike are experiencing a loss of ‘normal’ and are battling this together.
Not every post has to directly address COVID-19, but introducing content which is created with this current climate in mind is key.
2. Ask Your Customers What They Want
Keep in mind that at the moment, your customer base is experiencing an entire shift in their daily lives. So are small businesses of course, but it’s up to us as small businesses to encourage a sense of support and reassurance during this time, to embrace the ‘keep calm and carry on’ ethos that the UK is known for.
By simply asking your customers what they want to see from you, you can ensure that your business narrative isn’t pushing messages that don’t resonate with your audience.
This not only is the most authentic form of marketing, it presents your business as transparent and sympathetic.
3. Create Valuable Content
Whether you’ve got a digital marketing strategy that involves a marketing agency or not, creating content that provides value to your customers is so important.
If you have information or resources that are relevant or useful to users of social media during this time, share them.
As long as you’re putting out content that is genuinely helpful and soothes some of your users pain points – even if they’re catering to a need for retail therapy for those of lucky enough to be able to distract ourselves in such a way.
Creating points of discussion, lists of useful resources, social posts that highlight some of the ways that people can cope on a daily basis all generate positive messaging that not only promotes your brand in a good light, but also ensures your customers are left feeling reassured and validated.
The key is to not be overly pushy with your products or services. Change your messaging so that you are only providing content which has real-life value.
Address your customers pain points without contributing to the fear or anxiety that many of us have, and you’ll likely see a customer base that will thank you for it.
4. Be Transparent
Formulate a way in which your business can update your customers regularly, and do so in a way which ensures that your business is seen as authentic and transparent.
Social media is often the first platform that people go to whenever an event or situation occurs, drastic or not. Therefore, reaching out to your customers on social media with honest updates about your products, services or changes in your business is how you can engage transparently with your audience.
If your physical store is closed, keep your consumers up to date with how long this might be. If you’re changing your services in any way, such as moving face-to-face workshops to virtual meetings, or providing online learning content instead of physical lessons, let your customers know.
If you have a marketing strategy that involves paid search or paid social campaigns, accentuate these updates in your ad copy, or get a highly-skilled digital marketing agency like The Good Marketer to do it for you.
And most importantly, make sure you thank your customers!
Making sure you show your gratitude for their ongoing support is not only critical in terms of incentivising customers to return, but the fact that people are supporting your business during a time when so many jobs are being lost is a testament to your business that you cannot afford to ignore.
Creating a public post on social media or on your website that thanks your customers in a permanent way builds trust, and promotes your business in a way that is authentic and transparent.
While marketing strategies can seem low down on the list of priorities at the moment, considering the global scale and overwhelming tragedy of the coronavirus, remaining positive and ensuring that your business remains authentic and transparent can help to provide some sense of ‘normalcy’.