25 Free Things That Will Help You Communicate with Your Customers Right Now
By: Jeanette Mulvey
Keeping customers engaged with your business is a huge challenge during this time. If your business is closed or your customers just aren’t spending, it’s hard to find ways to maintain your relationship with them. But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it all you’ve got. As hard as it is to believe right now, things will return to normal someday and you want to do everything you can to be sure your customers are still loyal to you when business picks up again.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a customer communication plan and a lot of resources to help you execute it.
Know your customers’ mindset
Before you start (or continue) to communicate with your customers during this time, it’s good to get an idea of their mindset. Maybe you already know that because you talk to them regularly, but if not, there are a few things you can do to
get a good idea of what they are thinking.
First, check out this amazing (and regularly updated) research from Burns Group on what consumers want to hear from brands right now. It will give you a good idea of how consumers, in general, are feeling about things and if you check back each week you can see how it is evolving over time.
If you want to get intel very specific to your customer base, considering polling them to find out what’s going on. You can use social media, email or text messaging to survey them about their needs, concerns and interests right now. Survey Monkey, which can be adapted for a variety of polling uses, has recently released a number of coronavirus specific survey templates you can use. The company has also compiled interesting data from survey results that give some insights into what Americans are thinking about right now that might help shape your messaging.
We at CO— also recently interviewed consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow for insight on how consumer behavior and expectations are changing. You can read that article here.
Know your brand
Knowing your customer’s mindset is important, but so is knowing your brand. Right now, nothing could be more important than authentic communication. Anything that rings false or disingenuous will do more harm than good for your reputation. This article from SAP Customer Experience about communicating during coronavirus has some excellent advice, particularly that your brand is as much about your messaging as your actions.
If you’re not feeling overly confident about your own branding or messaging right now, it might be time to do a few quick exercises to make sure everything is aligned. While you probably don’t have time for anything too intense, this article from Lean Labs has a few quick exercises you can do to shore up your brand. If you’ve really not given much thought to branding before now, then the best place to start is with CO—’s beginner’s guide to branding your business.
If you’re not sure what kind of messaging will work with your customers, consider looking to bigger brands for inspiration and creative ideas.
Zappos, for example, has launched its “Customer Service for Anything” initiative in which its employees are on call to help with anything from finding a local food bank to just being a friendly voice in a lonely time.
This article in The Drum offers some great advice on how to focus your messaging, including some basics you may not have considered — like keeping your Google listings up to date. CO— has also put together a list of how many larger businesses are communicating with their customers during coronavirus.
While there is no shortage of examples, it’s important that you only adopt an approach that works for your business. This CNBC article about marketing during coronavirus sums it up with one phrase: Acts Not Ads. Whatever your messaging, be sure you’re offering value to your customers above all else.
Invest in tech
Retailers whose tech investments seemed like nice to have add-ons just a few months ago are now surviving because they are able to connect with customers online. This CO— article highlights how small businesses are suddenly finding that their tech investments are paying big dividends right now. If you already have a strong tech infrastructure in place at your business, then it’s time to put it into high gear; but if you don’t, it’s not too late.
Here is a list of tech tools you will need to communicate with your customers during this time. If you’re considering CRM, Salesforce has launched a special coronavirus package of tools — that go far beyond CRM and are free for 90 days.
Constant Contact also has a new set of email marketing tools for small businesses to leverage during the pandemic. Even if you’re new to email marketing, they can get you started. You can also check out our beginners guide to email marketing here.
If you’re in the market for email marketing software or CRM software and not sure which one is right for you, check out these reviews at Business.com.
Focus on retention
If you’re lucky enough to be in a business, like these seven niche businesses, that is experiencing a surge in demand as a result of coronavirus, then you’re not having any trouble acquiring new customers. For everyone else, now may be the time to focus on customer retention rather than new customer acquisition.
One way to do that is to ensure that you’re offering great customer service during this time. We go into more detail about how to do that here but the key takeaways are to be proactive and focus on the customers you already have.
To that end, fostering your community is more important than ever. This Harvard Business Review article has some great ideas on how to do that. It’s also a good reminder to focus on the basics of good communication and customer service right now. They matter more than ever.
Ask for help
I’ve said this almost every week and I’ll say it again. One very bright silver lining of this situation is that experts everywhere are offering advice and assistance — often for free. Management consulting firm Umbrex, for example, is offering its consultants’ services for free and has developed a very thorough pandemic playbook for businesses as well. SCORE and SBDCs are also offering free coaching. The business designers in global agency, Method, are offering free 45 minute ‘business doctors’ consultancy sessions. You can read more here.