Amid widespread concerns surrounding public health, unemployment, and bottom lines, it’s a daunting time to be running a business. There are no rulebooks or simple answers, yet one thing has remained just as important in both our personal and professional lives: staying connected.
From mid-sized businesses throughout our own communities to those we partner with at StorageMart, everyone is feeling the weight of the coronavirus pandemic—and that includes your customers. Unfortunately, the aftermath of an international crisis can also be a defining moment for your brand reputation (just one you didn’t sign up for). That’s why choosing a strategic but sensitive approach to connecting or reconnecting with your customers is crucial to your success after the initial impact of a major crisis. StorageMart is here to offer a fresh perspective on how you can strike the proper balance in your communications or marketing efforts.
Modify Your Communication Channels and Frequency
Although it depends on your industry, a majority of marketing and communication for mid-sized businesses is focused online. Particularly during a modern-day crisis like COVID-19, that’s where your customers are going to be. Don’t wait for them to come to you; speak to them by shifting any offline communication to the appropriate online channels. Social media, email, and your website are going to be go-to sources of information.
That said, consider your existing relationship with your customers along with the purpose of communication. If you have an established email marketing campaign or newsletter, don’t let that drop off—but make sure to adjust your messaging to account for how you can provide assurance, assistance, connection, and support to the actual people who constitute your target audience. Other regularly scheduled communications could come off as tone-deaf to what your customers are experiencing. (So think twice about sending out that email blast promoting a luxury resort getaway despite a widespread sense of travel anxiety.)
Also, certainly don’t allow your social media presence to dwindle to nothing, and consider crafting a new social strategy if you don’t have one already. Think of additional, relevant ways to engage with your followers aside from promoting products or sharing updates. Simply allowing your audience to see a more “human” side of your brand can do wonders for building trust and awareness during unprecedented times.
In general, when it comes to frequency, relay only business announcements and changes that directly affect your customers. Be as clear and concise as possible the first time to minimize confusion, and don’t overdo it. Half the battle of effective communication is knowing what kind and how much of it consumers want. With increasingly cluttered inboxes and news feeds during a worldwide crisis, people are looking to access the information and products they need quickly.
As a mid-sized business, your reach is wide, and one blunder could turn customers away. Take a step back for an honest look at your overall social, email, and ad strategy, as well as the user experience of your website. Is it clear, helpful, and informative? Do all the same calls to action still apply given the current circumstances?
Lead with Empathy—and Conclude with Practical Service
Simply put, your customers are real people who might be enduring the serious doubts and anxieties that accompany a crisis. They include people who have lost connections, jobs, hobbies, and even loved ones. Of course, you should opt for positivity over pessimism, but don’t forget there’s a chance you’re speaking to an audience that isn’t feeling so hopeful. Thus, it’s important to address customers’ legitimate fears and concerns without sugarcoating anything with out-of-touch optimism.
You can still show you care by stating how your company is setting out to improve practices and adapt to health and safety concerns. Again, there is no rulebook for crisis communications, so consider how your audience would be most receptive to this type of messaging, such as a social media post, written statement via email, or live video from the CEO.
Whatever you choose, consumers want to know you are taking the necessary steps to protect their wellbeing. If you’re implementing contact-free services or other safety measures, communicate all the changes you’re making and any action required on their end. Additionally, offering financial assistance or payment flexibility—if at all possible—can demonstrate empathy toward your customers’ unique situations, whether that’s through waived fees or extended deals. Adapt your products and services to their new needs and stressors, as people will be seeking convenience in different ways.
In short: Don’t be afraid to connect with the very human wants and needs of your clients and customers after a crisis, but be cautious of how you do so. It’s important to balance being intentional and on-brand with being empathetic and authentic. Ultimately, your actions will speak louder than the words “we’re here for you.” You have the power to establish long-lasting connections with your customers who will remember how your business handled itself in a stressful time for them (and for you).
What to Avoid Saying to Customers
Even if your business is truly in need of financial help, your customers are the ones looking to you for assistance. Position yourself as such. More than ever, you don’t want to seem overly salesy or biased to your own self-interests. For instance, running certain ad campaigns that are just “business as usual” may be perceived as pushy or frivolous. Avoid communicating repetitive messages or details that aren’t of practical use during a time of crisis. The last thing people want more of is excessive pandemic-related news and posts.
When considering how you don’t want to come off to customers in a crisis, it’s best to avoid:
● Sharing arbitrary, non-critical announcements regarding your business
● Sharing conspiracies, unreliable sources of information, and personal or political beliefs
● Employing fear-based marketing tactics to promote a need for your products
● Mentioning the crisis too much or in contexts irrelevant to your business
● Promising anything uncertain, such as refunds, new business hours, or an opening date
Do, however, anticipate new customers you may gain due to the circumstances—without trying to capitalize on their hardships. Think critically about how you can innovate and tailor your products to their new needs. Pivot so you’re (sensitively) promoting relevant offerings such as extended support hours or virtual, no-contact services. Customers sincerely appreciate transparency in the form of timely updates regarding your processes and product availability.
StorageMart is Here to Help Your Business Adapt
As a business with roots in the communities we serve, StorageMart works to be more than just a commercial storage solution for you; we want to be a true partner to the demands of your mid-sized company. Throughout times of crisis and uncertainty, we know you might be left dealing with major changes in sales, staffing, supplies, or office space.
Whether you’re downsizing your business or have more excess inventory than ever before, our self storage units and friendly staff are available for your business storage needs and beyond. Reach out to StorageMart today with questions about how we can support your medium-sized business, or find your nearest storage facility to get started.