bannerFranchise News

How To Adjust Your Marketing For The Post-COVID Landscape

In our “new normal,” marketing will become more humanized, resourceful and consistent.

When COVID-19 forced the majority of people to stay home, the way that we worked, played and spent our money changed almost overnight. Some brands that didn’t acknowledge what was going on sounded completely tone deaf, and others that stopped communicating with their customers completely missed the opportunity to be a trusted resource.

Since COVID-19 hit, how many times have you gone online looking for information about a business and struggled to find it? Probably more often than you would have expected. But in our digital age and currently (at least partly) quarantined America, having a strong internet presence has become a necessity to survive.

This, among other insights, was provided by Shelly Jackson Buffington, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Look & The Feel, an Atlanta-based branding agency that has been helping clients navigate their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, during an interview with 1851 Franchise. Read on for advice on what businesses need to be doing with their marketing efforts now and how they should be planning for the future.

Humanize Your Brand by Relating to Customers

The way that brands speak to consumers has certainly adjusted since COVID-19 hit. One major change is that companies are displaying humanity and empathy when connecting with their customers.  

“People want to connect even more than ever right now,” Jackson Buffington said. “Online marketing has already created a layer of isolation, so when shelter in place happened, we haven’t had as much access to people that we have in the past, so we feel even more isolated. When a brand creates social media or blog posts, it’s about making sure that you’re coming at it from a place that shows that you’re a human talking to another human, instead of just trying to sell something.”

Because the unknown is scary, and everyone has a lot on their plates, now is the time for brands to show humanity to their likely stressed-out customers. Jackson Buffington comments that showing compassion and humanity is key for brands right now.

Continue to Offer Resources to Your Customers 

To cut through the clutter of other brands trying to sell their products, Jackson Buffington suggests that brands provide useful, relevant resources to customers.  

“If you continue to show up adding value and being resourceful, people will recognize that. You could share resources in a newsletter, social media, or blog post. For example, a tutoring company could share activities to help stimulate STEM learning at home so parents can tune into reading an article or resource online that would be beneficial during this time,” Jackson Buffington shared. 

Even though business owners may question the appropriateness of marketing their business during this challenging time, the reality is that communicating with current and potential customers is critical right now. 

“Something to remember is, you don’t want to go radio silent. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will,” Jackson Buffington added. “You can’t control the virus or the economy — you can’t control everything — but with your business, you can control what, when and how you communicate with customers. Being understanding of that and coming out of a place of empowerment is important.”

One reason business owners should not skimp on marketing is that your network wants to know what is going on. It is crucial to keep your customers and potential customers in the loop on your updates. Are you open? Are you partly open? Can people shop or pickup from your business? Being transparent with this information is crucial to help your business survive this unpredictable time and uncertain future.

Email marketing isn’t the only place to be communicating. It’s important to also update your voicemail, adjust your website, add changes of hours or services to your email signature, put up signs at your brick and mortar location and to make changes to your Google listings. It’s in a business owner’s best interest to make themselves findable. 

Adjust Your Services

Now is the time to optimize the customer journey or experience, advises Jackson Buffington. She suggests asking yourself these questions: What are my customers dealing with right now? How can we provide additional support or services that are relevant and timely right now? 

For example, one of Jackson Buffington’s clients, Berkeley Community Acupuncture Clinic, is considered an essential business, but since they’re in San Francisco, they’ve pivoted to provide support at home with virtual sessions, began doing curbside acupuncture and opened an online shop. 

Another client, A Mother's Perspective Doula Services, based in Northern Virginia, has completely shifted from offering in-home, in person, or in hospital deliveries to being completely virtual because doulas can’t enter anyone’s home or hospitals. They also began offering their fitness classes online, which have been extremely well-received, realizing that moms don’t have time to go into the studio and would rather squeeze in a workout at home. The new online fitness program has been so well-received that A Mother’s Perspective plans to continue it even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. 

The Future: Tech and Connections

Moving forward, businesses staying connected virtually and speaking to customers with compassion will continue, as well as maintaining a strong, mobile-friendly website presence. Now that we have adjusted our entire mindset and behaviors, it isn’t all going to magically go away, so businesses need to look at continuing to pivot to give consumers what they want and what they need.

“The thing about COVID is that, just like with any crisis, it’s unexpected,” Jackson Buffington said. “When you own a small business, it’s inevitable. There are going to be challenges, going to be crises. What is important to note at this time is you can learn from this crisis and become better equipped to weather storms in the future. Regardless of where you are in the business cycle, this is a big learning experience. If you can follow best practices and marketing tips to stay in touch with customers, when COVID lifts, you’ll be better positioned for future success.”