Headlines are plagued with the cause and effects of SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19. And your brand might just be in the firing line.
Reported cases are reaching more than 124,000, including 4500 deaths (as at the time of writing this).
As a business — be it small or large — it’s your job to navigate these difficult waters and understand that your target audiences are not going to act as you want them to.
This is a time of pure fear, hysteria and media-fuelled panic (sorry to say). How you act and provide support to your biggest prospects will be what truly makes or breaks you from hereafter.
Do not fuel the unease
All businesses have a reason to be scared; this is one of the biggest events of global commercial stability in recent times.
Back home in Australia, my clients are preparing to shut shop and self-isolate “just in case”.
In other cases, they’re already off work from government protocols and strict industry regulations. And a majority of these businesses are smaller players — they’re not used to having to adapt to circumstances that are literally affecting every industry of every single sector.
No one is safe.
There’s no single industry exempt from these circumstances, and as brands, we need to be careful of how we react. We’re all slightly panicky, sure, but now’s the time to be the proverbial lifeline when your target customer needs it most.
Customer experience (CX)is the key factor here. How you choose to respond to expectations and needs in this dramatic period is crucial. It’ll ultimately come down to how agile your CX is, and the ways in which you mould it to reflect the fears of your prospects.
If you were previously certain of your target audience’s motives, financial situation or behaviours, now’s the time to throw that all out the window (for now). It’s a time of change, so you’ll need to embrace that.
Understand how coronavirus is affecting your industry
All sectors are going through some form of impact because of this plague, but all brand niches are feeling different effects.
Some may argue that all brands are on the same path or going through similar ebbs and flows right now. News changes from one day to the next, and this is just another headline — right?
While this is true, businesses currently differ from each other because of the words and actions they’re taking to combat consumer reactions. It’s the little details in their messaging, CX and support that’s really giving them a competitive edge; or the ability to even stay afloat right now.
So here’s exactly how to position your business up for a brighter path while things aren’t looking that peachy-keen.
- Adapt to your customer’s needs, motives and journeys to suit the situation
The customer experience and sales funnel is shifting right now. It might be temporary, but avoiding adapting your process to suit this will see you losing out on revenue you’ll most likely really need.
Assume that the situation won’t get better anytime soon. Prepare for the worst and create an approach that prepares you in advance. And that means preparing your target audiences too.
Understand that business isn’t as usual right now. If your audiences are likely to be directly influenced by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, create content around what they need to know.
If it doesn’t correlate 100% with your brand’s products and services, it does not matter. You’re here to be the respectful, supportive voice in a time that’s somewhat dark. Be the voice of reason when everyone else is going batshit crazy.
2. Provide your customers with essential resources
Yeah, I just said it and I’m going to say it again — just so it really sinks in.
Put a helpful blog post together or distribute an email that will help your prospects gain insights and knowledge they may need in this time. Think tips and hygiene information, or something more relevant and specific to your industry.
Remember that people want to feel like they can trust a brand and if your business can be the shoulder to lean on right now, then you’ve put yourself in a good position.
3. Centre your communications around these questions
Your brand needs to change its voice for the meantime. This stage means you’ll need to evaluate where there’s an opportunity or responsibility for your business to take action.
Think of it this way: if you could keep your prospects safe, how would you do it?
Now use this pillar question to drive tangible answers for the below:
- How can people (including you and your family) use your product or service and still be safe? E.g. if you’re a clinic in the health field or a travel agent, you might be feeling the effects right now. How can you persuade your audience into still engaging with your offering, without feeling compromised?
- Does your target audience need to change their behaviour or actions to minimise risk? Do you?
- What are your customers saying? What questions are they asking and how can you answer them?
- Have you prepared your brand to act accordingly? Have you got a crisis plan or scenario in place? E.g. if your staff need to work remotely at home, how can you ensure they’re fully equipped to do so productively?
- If you need to arrange cancellations of your services for your customers, what is the plan of attack?
- What if your target audience find themselves quarantined — can you still help? If not, how will you support your loyal customers while they’re going through this tough time?
Use all of the dot points above to be a voice of reason as everything hits the fan. Remember that you can keep your cool even when others aren’t.
You don’t have to feel the panic, and you definitely don’t have to dial up the radio silence while your customers may not seem so inclined to invest in your offering.
Stick to a plan, refine it and move with the times. If the situation gets worse, reflect on whether your answers to the above still make enough sense.
Once the calmer tides roll in, you can loosen the reigns and reintroduce your usual messaging. But for now, be the support system your loyal following is craving.
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