Communicating with Customers During Quarantine

Marketing departments all across the world are grappling with important questions right now, questions about how to move forward, how to help customers while also helping their companies. Standard sales pitches are now inappropriate and, worse yet, tone-deaf in the face of our current situation. Campaigns have been shelved, costly materials have been scrapped, and carefully prepared messages have been returned to the drawing board. Advertisers have been presented with a new and tricky question as well: how do you support sales and keep brands at the forefront of the collective consciousness without irritating or alienating consumers? It’s not an easy task, but there are ways to stay in contact with customers during this time while maintaining your reputation.

Changing Tunes

If your customers ever find themselves annoyed by the constant flood of marketing emails previously, it’s a safe bet that they could be bordering on upset now. Trying to sell things to people while they fear for their lives and livelihoods is in poor taste at best, and risks coming off as callous or inhuman at worst. Times like these call for radical – but temporary – changes to how you approach your marketing. 

The first step is obvious: stop sending consumers emails heavily promoting sales, promotions, and new products. Your marketing shouldn’t be focused on driving sales right now. Instead, focus on sharing important updates and informing customers about shipping delays, unavailable products, and crisis-related information that directly affects your firm and its product offerings. Also consider using direct mail marketing materials to both convey safety information but also to let your customers know about any money or products you’ve donated to charities and what you’ve done to help your local community. If your customers know you’re doing your part they’ll know you care and be more likely to patronize your business when the economy restarts.

Changing Channels

With more and more people being furloughed, laid off, and forced to work at home, people are spending more time online and on social media than ever before. Inundating your customers with direct messaging is never a good idea, but taking the opportunity to connect with such a large and captive audience over social media? That’s the kind of indirect, non-invasive advertising that continues to work. And social media advertising is only going to grow in importance over time so now is a great time to build expertise and develop your presence across platforms. 

Just remember: every social media platform is different. LinkedIn, for instance, is a poor place to post silly or irreverent ads, while messages targeting professionals and business owners may get mocked or go unnoticed if posted on Twitter. You’ll need to adapt the tone, content, and presentation of your message to suit the audience and “personality” of each platform while maintaining a consistent voice and messaging across posts. Combine this approach with liberal use of each platforms’ ad targeting tools and your message will soon expand your reach and resonate with customers you couldn’t reach previously. 

Palatable Promotions

While seasonal deals, flash sales, and other traditional promotions have to be pulled back and become less intrusive, you can still use unconventional, not obviously self-serving marketing plays to support sales during the crisis. A perfect example would be a restaurant using banners to advertise deals for takeout and delivery. That is a perfectly acceptable way to encourage sales. You can even offer a free gift with each takeout or delivery order, such as a bottle of hand sanitizer or a roll of toilet paper. 

It can be difficult to determine how your customers will react to new promotions during this time, but here are a few guidelines to follow:

First: Many of your customers are suffering, and your promotions should reflect that fact. Any special deals should explicitly benefit your customers. Being sympathetic and helpful towards your customers will make you sympathetic and encourage them to remain a loyal customer in the future. 

Second: People will feel better about your sales pitch if it comes with a charitable cherry on top. Start a promotion that includes donating a portion of sales to relevant charities, contribute some of your own money, and let your customers know how much was gathered and donated when the promotion ends.

Finally: Drop your company’s infallible image. Customers want to support businesses when they can, but they won’t do so unless they know you’re being honest with them. Embrace the “We’re all in this together” mantra and do all you can to create win-win scenarios. Customers understand you run a business and are happy to help as long as they know you’re there to help them as well.

In Closing

Staying in contact is essential to keeping your business in the minds of customers, but right now standard marketing playbooks have been thrown out the window. Marketing and advertising effectively during the crisis requires a complete about-face in messaging and approach, but following a few rules can help you not only stay in contact with customers but actually strengthen your bond. This situation won’t last forever, but the way you communicate with customers now may leave impressions that last long after the world is out of lockdown. 

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