“There is no loyalty without emotion. There is no loyalty without connection.” – Scott McCain
As society begins to adapt to a new normal, companies of all sizes have begun to pivot their strategies and adopt new ways of doing business. This includes adjusting marketing and communication efforts to address the concerns and challenges organizations and customers are now facing.
Every day, we see businesses coming up with innovative ways to reach and serve customers. Mom and pop shops are providing contactless curbside pickup. Sit-down restaurants have takeout and delivery options. And many retailers are shifting their core products and services to support COVID-19 relief initiatives.
As more and more businesses shift to the online marketplace, consumers are turning to the internet for trusted sources of information and meaningful experiences. Organizations that learn to adapt to the needs of their customers by providing helpful and authentic interactions will end up earning the long-term trust and loyalty from their audiences.
Brand Authenticity: “The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers.” – Digital Wellbeing
How to be Brand Authentic During a Crisis
Acknowledge the Situation
For the past two months, concerns regarding the virus and its implications have been at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It’s critical for businesses to acknowledge the situation and respond to customer needs accordingly. Now, more than ever, you have to clearly communicate the value you bring to the table and why people need your product or service.
Focus on Connection
Right now is the perfect time to get back to the basics. Share your mission, what you stand for and why you do what you do. The best way to build a relationship is through empathy and connection, which is why it’s important you take the time to listen and truly understand what your customers are experiencing.
Create Value First, Sell Second
In times of uncertainty, it can feel insensitive to promote your business, particularly if the products or services you sell aren’t deemed “essential.” However, all people are looking for value right now, and value comes in many forms. Focus on building relationships first and foremost. If you can create value that meets your customers’ current needs, sales will follow.
Build value beyond what you sell by providing answers to questions your customers are asking, offering them a daily dose of inspiration, or providing them with helpful guidance around adjustments being made in response to the outbreak. Curating news and other helpful resources relevant to the audience you serve is another great way to provide value.
Keep Customers Top of Mind
Even if your business hasn’t been devastated by the recent shutdowns, it’s likely some of your customers have, which makes it more important than ever to keep them at top of mind. Consider ways to adapt your products and services to make it easier for customers to purchase from you –shift in-person training into remote classes or think of ways to turn your service into a product. Many local restaurants, for example, have adapted by switching their core offering from a dining experience to a product that is picked up or delivered to the customer.
Keep It Real. Be Human.
It’s vital to remember that we’re not just interacting with businesses, we’re interacting with other human beings. Now is the time to open up, be real, and share stories that people can relate to. The easiest way to be perceived as authentic is to BE authentic.
Even if you don’t have all the answers, you can/should leverage your expertise and industry knowledge to provide your customers with the information they need to make informed decisions. Being a trusted source that your customers can turn to in times of crisis will pay off in the long run.
Tips to Adjust Your Strategy and Practice Authenticity
Revisit Your Marketing and Communications Plan
The pandemic continues to affect industries and verticals in unforeseen ways. By revisiting your marketing and communications strategy, you can review and adjust messaging accordingly. It’s more important than ever to be sincere and compassionate during this time. Businesses should especially consider the challenges customers are facing and share valuable and relevant information on how they can help.
Review Your Content Calendar
Start by reviewing your content calendar. Are blog posts, tweets, and other scheduled social posts still relevant? Will your reader still find value in the content you share? If so, keep it. If not, don’t completely discard it but save it for a more appropriate time.
Once you review and update your editorial calendar, you may notice gaps in your content. No need to fret! Host a brainstorming session with the team to come up with a few ideas for relevant themes you can use to fill those gaps and adjust your tone so that it demonstrates empathy and authenticity.
We recently did the same here at PALO. Our content team got together to revisit our own content marketing strategy, updating social media posts and brainstorming new themes and topics for our blog, which included:
- Remote Work Tips
- Small Business Support – Create Our Own Posts & Reposting Client Posts
- Shop Local Campaign
From there, we mapped out what content needed to be created, and updated our posting schedule. By reassessing our marketing and communications strategy, we were able to adjust to the current needs and challenges our customers were experiencing. By doing so, we were better equipped to provide value to our audience and resonate with them on a more human level.
Leverage New Platforms to Stay Connected
Thanks to technology, there are a plethora of ways to connect with customers virtually. With social distancing in effect, people are yearning for connection. Take advantage of the multitude of platforms at your disposal and engage with your customers where they are right now – online.
The late-night talk show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is a prime example of a company that has recently and successfully shifted its strategy by leveraging new platforms to stay connected. The show, which is normally broadcasted from Rockefeller Center in New York City, recently had to suspend production due to coronavirus concerns.
In response to the show’s suspension of on-site production, The Tonight Show quickly pivoted its strategy and decided to launch an ad-hoc version of the show from home. Overnight, the show went from being a high production with an army of producers, production assistants and camera operators to Jimmy himself hosting the show in his kitchen.
Consider finding ways to replicate the dynamic of personal interactions, such as leveraging new platforms to stay connected. For example:
- Live Video Streaming
Consider leveraging live videos to connect with customers in a real and authentic manner.
With the recent rise in online activity, webinars are a great option for businesses looking to connect with their customers and be an educational resource during this time.
- Virtual Events
Turn in-person events into engaging virtual experiences. Virtual events allow you to easily network, collaborate, educate, share ideas and engage with others, all from the comfort of your home.
The experience a brand provides its audience should be at the forefront of any marketing strategy. Organizations should focus on the human side of business, especially during uncertain times. Being authentic, personable and relatable can result in increased customer loyalty, consumer interaction and most importantly, trust, which are all things organizations should strive for.