Louise Findlay-Wilson, Founder and Managing Director of Energy PR explains why keeping your audience engaged during times of uncertainty is so important, and offers her advice on communicating with consumers in a sensitive and intelligent way.
At a time when customers can’t buy your product or service, there can be a temptation to turn off the things that drive demand, especially if these things are costing you money. One victim of this strategy is often PR. However, turning comms off at a time when consumers are already unable to engage with your brand in normal ways is a major mistake.
Currently, people are not bumping into your brand whilst going about their daily lives as they might usually. They are not seeing you in the shops, whilst traveling, or in workplaces. Your brand is simply not in front of people. So, if you also cut your external communications, you have as good as vanished from their lives.
This is a massive mistake and one that will prove difficult to recover from in the mid-term. At times like this, it is crucial to keep your customers and prospects onside. You simply cannot afford for there to be radio silence. If there is, this only opens up room for a competitor to fill the void and keep your marketplace informed, reassured, entertained, and engaged, demonstrating their relevance at this time and building confidence and trust.
New research by Censuswide demonstrates this point. It revealed that almost 3 in 5 consumers believe that the way a brand behaves during Covid19 will have a direct impact on their purchasing behavior in the future, with nearly half saying that they would trust a brand less if they didn’t communicate at all during the crisis.
What’s more, when normality returns, which it inevitably will at some stage, people and businesses will be keen to make up for the lost time. Consumers will be keen to enjoy the experiences they have been deprived of, whilst businesses will be anxious to reinvigorate their delayed strategies, presenting brands with an ideal sales opportunity whether they sell B2B or to consumers.
So, how can brands continue to keep their customers engaged during this uncertain and unprecedented time?
Choose Your Channels
The way that people are consuming information and buying has changed during Covid19. There has been a sharp increase in the number of people online shopping, social media usage is at an all-time high, and searches for Zoom and Skype are up by an incredible 95 percent.
So, work out where your audience is at this moment in time and refocus your efforts in these areas. If you are not sure where they are, look at your website analytics, conduct research into the behaviors of your customers, or talk to members of your target market directly to help you understand them better.
Review Your Online Presence
With opportunities to engage with your customers and prospects limited almost exclusively to online, now is also the time to take a fresh look at your digital and social channels – are they saying the right things about you? If they are off message or insensitive to the current situation this could be incredibly damaging.
Re-Evaluate Your Messaging
The things that prompt people to buy or interact with you at this time might be different. If this is the case, your message needs to change.
For example, business to business sales should always rely on a company’s pains, and how your product or service alleviates them. However, the pain points of businesses now, and therefore what prompts them to buy, may be very different from three months ago. If you are unsure how to identify the current pain points, start with the features and benefits of your product or services. Then ask yourself, in this current climate, what problem does this feature/benefit alleviate?
It is important to note that if people are unable or unlikely to buy from you at this time, then your communications should not be a sales message at all as it would look crass to continue to try to ‘sell’. However, there is still value in considering the pain points that your brand alleviates when considering what else you could be talking about. Do you make their house cleaner, their workspace more efficient, or their tech run more smoothly? If so, communicate with them about the things in that space. Provide advice and share useful insights that enable you to continue to fulfill your purpose in their life without selling.
Continue to Engage
Now more than ever people are looking for their tribes – the group they belong to. So, it is the perfect time to engage. Even if you can continue to sell during the current circumstances, there is still huge value in sharing useful content that taps into the moment. For example, if you are a fitness brand, sharing top tips for home workouts using household items would be effective. For a food brand, sharing daily updates across your channels with recipes using your product and cupboard staples would work well. Inject some fun into these ideas by getting your audience involved – ask them to share their own tips and suggestions. These could even be compiled into a useful download or online guide later down the line.
Every brand will have the opportunity to connect – even if your business is B2B – and it is those brands that work hard to provide their audience with topical, valuable and relevant content that will be rewarded with a loyal and engaged customer-base when we emerge from the current situation.