How your brand can practice what it preaches
During these uncertain times, you might be asking yourself how you can maintain your marketing messaging in an appropriate, relevant way.
One thing is for sure; for most of us, we can’t just take a break and get out the deckchairs. We need to be thinking for the long-term even if current orders have dried up.
For me, the key is to provide some semblance of calm and order – people need reassurance and constancy as a refuge from all the chaos around. Your brand should be like a harbour – protection from the storm and a chance to connect with terra firma.
Here’s my take on how brands should approach marketing during the Corona-crisis:
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important attributes of the human make-up (in my humble opinion!). It’s always confused me why these ‘soft’ skills aren’t taught in schools, but there we go.
Taking the time to think about how others are feeling, what emotions they’re processing and how it feels to be in their shoes is a win-win. Not only are you better placed to help others, but it also feels great too!
Showing that you care gives your customers something to trust in; you’re demonstrating that you deeply understand their business and their challenges, and that you are well-placed to offer genuinely useful advice/products/solutions.
Your brand should reflect this by allowing your people to express empathy and be flexible in their approach to communications. You can also ensure that all your marketing messaging is responding to what people want to hear rather than just what you want to tell them.
(see more in the later section on contextual messaging)
- Think about what people want to hear, rather than what you want to say
But care and empathy alone aren’t enough. Think about how many emails you’ve received in the past few weeks from brands you barely know, all asking how you’re doing, then telling you how they are, then throwing in the sales pitch?
You’ve got to make sure your message is a real response to their needs, otherwise it’ll just be superficial
Just simply be human, rather than a corporation. This is generally easier for smaller companies, but it can be too easy to hide behind the corporate smokescreen when things go wrong and pass the blame to someone else.
Think about times when you’ve phoned your bank or utility company (not stereotyping here!). Very often when things go wrong, nobody takes ownership of the situation. You find yourself passed from department to department until either you get fed up or the issue is resolved.
Acknowledge that you’re not promising a utopia where everything is instantly better but that you will do whatever you can to help. Being honest is so powerful – even if things aren’t easy, most people will appreciate being told the true situation (even if it’s embarrassing or painful).
If you and your brand pretend that it never makes mistakes, nobody is going to believe you!
But it’s not just when things go wrong that you need to be real. You need to show in your messages that you understand the real issues, and this goes back to my first point. To quote Stephen Covey ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’
- Your brand should feel human rather than corporate, with all staff taking ownership of every single customer
Don’t forget the importance of creating ‘Wow’ moments to your customers. If anything, now is the best time to delight your customers because they’re more alert and receptive to emotive triggers.
Delighting people means that you’ll have to think outside the box and disrupt convention. In one sense, people’s lives are already considerably disrupted so now is the time to introduce the ‘wow’ factor.
Get your team to brainstorm ideas (include as many as possible from all departments) and be creative. It could be the delivery driver or the receptionist who come up with some cracking schemes – remember that these people are talking to customers every day, so they’re nicely tuned in!
Wow moments don’t need to be huge and costly; in fact, it’s usually best to try a mix of different ideas ranging from the little extra touches to more flamboyant gestures.
- Continue to create relevant ‘wow’ moments to generate interest and get your brand noticed.
Leading on from the ‘wow’ moments, you must find a way to create an all-round experience that is memorable.
Believe it or not, there will be an end to this crisis and business will resume a degree of normality. What you’ll find is that customers will not forget the experiences – both positive and negative.
Obviously, the customer service experience needs to be second to none at all times but especially now. Now is the time to go above and beyond (within your power) and in my opinion, it is the marketing team who need to make sure this is enforced across the board.
But this also applies to the brand experience. Even for those who haven’t yet become customers, it’s important that the entire brand experience leaves them feeling something that they’ve never felt before.
The other remarkable thing about exceptional experiences is that people will tell other people about them. What you generally find is that for most customer interactions, the experience is a bit average or only slightly better than normal. In these instances, they’re unlikely to become advocates.
However, if your brand experience is really poor or really good, that will be something worth shouting about.
So you need to figure a way to make your brand experience so special that even in a year’s time, someone will say ‘ah yes, you’re the person who sent me X’. We’ve found that with our sample packs – we’ve just made everything a little bit special, from the appearance when the pack arrives, the experience of opening and unwrapping the pack, to the samples themselves.
That’s how you create a compelling and lasting experience that will stick in their minds. If your customer remembers why they decided to buy from you in the first place, they’re far more likely to stay (and this will involve a constant flow of good experiences).
- Turn your customer journey into an unforgettable experience to cement your brand in their minds.
There’s nothing worse than having a wonderful brand experience up to a certain point, and then that’s the last you hear of the brand. Efficient and forensic follow-up is one of the best-kept secrets to increased ROI.
Every single lead you receive should be graded for quality – IE the likelihood of the project proceeding, the Lifetime Value of the prospect etc. Based on this, you should engineer a robust and forensic follow-up plan for each category.
If you do this, you will immediately notice the benefits. Not only will your marketing efforts feel considerably more rewarding, but you’ll find that the rest of the company starts to sit up and take notice too.
You’ll also find that customers feel valued and will appreciate your care. If you follow up carefully and bearing in mind all the previous points, you’ll always be ahead of the game.
- Work with the sales teams to create a strong and efficient follow-up plan to make sure all your hard work in creating leads doesn’t go to waste. I can promise you won’t be disappointed!
All these points aren’t necessarily just for the coronavirus crisis; you should use the time you have now to implement these strategies throughout your company.
You should aim for all of these features to form part of the brand DNA, so that everyone who works for the company is on board.
This is important, because consistency is one of the biggest contributors to a trusting relationship. If you do that, your brand will be sitting pretty when the time comes for coronavirus to lose its grip on our lives and the economy.