COVID-19 has changed life as we know it and things will never go back to being the same as they were before.
As individuals, this is something we need to get used to and adapt to. As businesses, we need to develop a comprehensive communications strategy and execution plan designed to enhance customer confidence and encourage them to give you the opportunity to provide them with the relevant products, services and solutions.
A key point to note for businesses is that the traditional strategies and tactics employed by businesses as recent as 2019 will need some adjustments. And although things may seem to look a bit pessimistic at the moment, one thing you should know is that from a business perspective, COVID-19 has levelled the playing field but instead of starting from scratch, you are starting from experience.
Having said that, here are five communications tips to help you potentially structure your communications strategy as we venture towards the ‘New Normal’.
Research and Plan
As the saying goes: If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
Now more than ever, businesses need to put in the time to do their due diligence and develop plans, strategies and tactics based on real data.
The great thing about where we are today is that you have plenty of tools that give you an unprecedented level of data and insights for you to make well-informed decisions that can have a positive impact in your business.
At Golin, we have our own tool known as the Relevance Radar. This is a comprehensive data analysis tool that uses Artificial Intelligence to collect and generate insights from millions of conversations that happen online whether it is on websites, forums or social media platforms. It tells us what customers think of a brand, its products and solutions in real-time enabling us to advise clients on how best to allocate their resources to capitalize on opportunities or mitigate potential challenges.
Once you have all the data and insights, you need to sit down with your team and consultants and have an internal discussion to identify what communications strategy you would like to employ for all stakeholders. This could be for customers, partners, suppliers, etc. to inform and educate them about what your plans and offerings are as we move through and beyond COVID-19 towards the new normal.
Communicate with your customers
Although this sounds quite trivial, typically speaking many businesses are too hesitant to communicate with their customers during times of uncertainty. One thing I can assure you is that this is not a typical situation and everyone – relatively speaking – is going through the same challenges and issues you are facing.
In this case, customers are more likely to empathize with you and your current predicament. In fact, they are cheering for you and are rooting you on. In this case it is important to be honest and communicate with your customers in an honest and selfless manner. You need to answer the traditional questions of: What? Where? When? Why? And How? You also need to include what are the new measures you are taking in terms of COVID-19 such as safety precautions, new timings, policies, procedures, etc.
Once done, disseminate this information across all platforms. This includes owned websites and forums, social media accounts, press releases, partner portals, etc. Customers will appreciate the effort and transparency in your outreach which will help to create a more positive and favorable perception for your company in the weeks and months to come.
Enhance Customer Experience both on Digital and Social Media
The new normal will have business employ more ‘Digital First’ initiatives as this is where customers will be spending majority of their time. Having said that, it is imperative that companies integrate digital capabilities to service their clients. This could be with FaceTime or Zoom for client servicing, easy payment gateways for purchases, a hybrid system of chat bots and humans to guide people during the initial stages of their customer journey.
In addition, since COVID-19 began, your customers are relying on social media and their mobile devices to collate and consume information as well as stay in touch with friends and family. In fact, checking newsfeeds has become a habit for many people which is why businesses need to take advantage by posting more frequently.
However, do not flood them with promotional material. After a certain number of exposures, your content will suffer from diminishing returns.
The content you should provide to your customers should be content-of-value that is relevant to your customers and something that they would find insightful and are motivated to share.
Although your customers are more likely to be understanding and empathic towards your current business predicament, make no mistake, we are living in the era of the ‘Everything Customers’. These individuals know what they want, when they want it and how they want it. They have zero tolerance and are not loyal to any brand any more. They primarily care about fulfilling their own needs and wants and are focused on the experience.
Customers who endure a bad experience with a brand will find it hard to engage with them again even if their prices are low. In fact, if the experience is good they are more likely to pay a premium for the added convince and superior experience.
Managing expectations is the key to keep and grow current customers and potentially have then becomes advocates for your company to help attain new customers.
Digital communications is more relevant today than ever before. However, brands and organizations need to create content and contextualize to fit the personality of each platform. The new normal has levelled the playing field for all. Those who understand how to leverage the platforms to their advantage are the ones that will not only survive, but thrive.
Remember, in the new normal, you are not starting from scratch, you are starting from experience and the opportunity to succeed lies in your hands.