With gyms, bars, restaurants and other non-essential services closing, we’re all adapting to our new way of life at home, work and school. But how do brands do the same?
Professor of Social Studies at MIT, Sherry Turkle, says that the advent of Covid-19 will help us rethink how we connect and consume. Brands should ask themselves, “What can I authentically offer?” and “What do people need?”. These two simple questions are the key to pivoting, adapting and surviving throughout the uncertain months that follow.
Here’s five ways to apply them…
We’ve already seen brands pivot their marketing efforts from offline to online. Even those that heavily rely on brick and mortar sales, like fast-food chains, have adapted to our new normal.
Ikea, who’s in store experience makes visiting the international retail chain more of a luxury than a chore, has produced an ad encouraging its customers to stay home and purchase online. Aside from driving online sales, the Swedish chain is taking the lead to spread the vital message to stay inside.
KFC, a chain who has been heavily impacted by new restrictions on the hospitality industry, has taken to promoting its app, drive thru and delivery service. While smaller cafes and restaurants are sharing their message on social media, these big players have dedicated their previous ad spend to diversifying their sales in uncertain times.
We’re lucky to be in an age of marketing where online consumption is the norm and digital advertising provides a great return on investment.
While these B2C businesses are showing us how to adapt, B2B businesses can do the same. If you dedicated a huge spend of your marketing budget to a trade show stall this year, pivot to an equally strong digital marketing strategy across Facebook, LinkedIn and Email. There are new ways to invest your spend, adapt your messaging and connect with more people.
As a consumer, there’s nothing more off-putting than having to search via social, web and messenger to find our whether your retail store is still open, or your café is offering takeaway only.
Make your information available at every touchpoint and provide real-time updates. Email, social media and your website are the right place to start.
This time is more about retaining your existing customers, rather than acquiring new ones. Considering the state of the economy and our drastically changed lifestyles, it’s unlikely your ideal client will be searching for a new pair of heels or commissioning a new vehicle. What they will be looking for is whether you’re moving online, what support your offering and what these uncertain times mean for their existing business with you. Particularly in B2B sectors, client retention through frequent email correspondence and online communication options is vital.
Use automated email marketing to provide timely updates about your changing business practices. Cover all the key points such as billing, services, delivery times. If you’re a gym, will you be suspending memberships and moving online? If you’re a freelance designer, will you continue to deliver on your briefs and move meetings onto a virtual conferencing platform? Take the same bite-size updates to social media and your website to ensure you’re reaching every audience segment.
Engaging with your customers also means offering support. Apply extra resources to answering direct messages and comments on social, responding to queries on email and contact form completions on your website. Now is the time your audience needs you most.
What is your purpose as a brand during this global crisis? To understand this, you’ll have to reassess your 2020 business goals, mission and values. Identify your purpose and understand how this new ‘normal’ applies to you.
Director of brand purpose agency Verity London, Debra Sobel says, “There are winners and losers, and the intelligent brands are the ones that activate their purpose now. They will need to communicate effectively and be authentic. In the long term they will gain”.
What can you authentically offer your customers now? If you’re a financial firm and a large percentage of your income is derived from face to face consultations and you’re experiencing a hefty drop off, take to virtual meetings and workshops. If you’re a gym franchise, take what you already practise in your classes and develop a series of Youtube videos, workshops or an online course or members hub that takes the methods you use and makes them accessible for your audience to ‘DIY’.
Tie these actions back to your purpose. Using the gym example, if your mission is to help people of all shapes and sizes feel good inside and out, your offering will focus on positive affirmations and easy to follow exercises. If your business values as a financial provider are offering 24/7 support, and down-to-earth advice there’s a huge opportunity to take your offering global through platforms like Zoom conferencing and membership communities.
Update thoroughly and update often. If you’ve not heard of the ‘mere exposure effect’, it’s the phenomenon that causes consumers to develop a preference for your offering, simply because they’re familiar with you.
Use this to your advantage. While sales may be decreasing now, it’s not a time to give up and neglect your marketing strategy. Instead, it’s time to pivot. People are at home, consuming more media than ever, so you’ve got a far larger audience ready to hear your brand’s message. Plus, if you’re posting regular Covid-19 business updates, providing discounts and stand-out customer support, your customers will remember you when they’ve got cash in their wallets and are ready to spend again.
Get in front of your customers by sticking to your posting schedule and continually optimising. Whether you’re running an organic social media and email strategy, or a comprehensive Google campaign, check your performance more regularly than ever. Adapt your tone, language and creative to align with the current feel of your target audience. Remember that restrictions will vary from audience to audience, so keep up to date with developments in that region and ensure what you’re offering is viable.
Check in with your audience by using the polling or questions feature on Instagram stories, or send an eDM with a link to helpful resources and invite your audience to share their personal stories. While we can’t control a lot of what is happening right now, we can control how and when we interact with our valued clients.
Take those findings and channel it into what your audience wants to see. If your audience is feeling stressed, or nervous, or they want to see uplifting stories, be empathetic and adapt.
The employees of Melbourne social media agency, The Digital Picnic, have been working from home and using the hashtag #storiesfromthebunker to share their everyday life. It’s a great way to showcase the humans behind the business and assure their clients that while things aren’t routine, they’re available.
Their stories range from the funky slippers they wear, to the workload they share and their weekly Work-in-Progress meetings, proving not every post needs to be coronavirus related, but it does need to be sensitive.
Applying a ‘business as usual’ approach won’t work here, but it is about getting the balance right between empathy and positivity, because while your customers may not be in the position to commission a new vehicle, or remember the name of your latest collection right now, they will remember how you made them feel.
If you’re not in a position to share your own stories, share positive customer experiences and useful advice from other brands as social proof to boost engagement and connections – something very important in times like these. Revisit the customer experience on your website by making small changes that funnel customers to key information or sales points.
Alarmist, negative, ‘doomsday’ words can trigger unpleasant emotions in your audience, and they only add to the stressful noise of the media. In all of your communications, use uplifting, strong, empowering language to unite, not divide. And with misinformation spreading rapidly, it’s also important to get your facts right. If you’re not in the health or financial sector, steer clear of offering your own take on events and stick to government issued information.
As we drastically adapt our work and personal lives, brands will need to do the same to remain relevant in our changing world. While we may not be able to physically connect, the affordances of our digital world mean we can pivot, adapt and survive in times like these. It’s important now more than ever to move your services online as much as possible, to engage, adapt, be consistent and show empathy. Use email, social media and a responsive web design to prove to your audience that you’re there for them through the tough times, and they’ll be there to support you in the long run.
To book a free consultation to discuss your brand’s next steps, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 3254 1911. At Evolve we offer end to end online solutions, from Zoom conferencing to Microsoft teams and regular email and phone calls to ensure your brief is delivered to the highest standard.