The last few months have brought unprecedented damage to Main Street America, putting even the most successful businesses in a precarious situation.
During the first several weeks of the shutdown, a massive movement began on social media to support local organizations. Businesses and nonprofits rallied together with their Chambers of Commerce, industry associations, and other supporters to ask for help. This approach was a united call to action to help mitigate the damage through both government and consumer support. Yet after six weeks (and counting) of differing levels of quarantine, those who responded to the initial call for help are now suffering from messaging fatigue.
Messaging that once evoked an emotional response to help businesses and community organizations stay open now needs to shift.
The shutdown has continued far longer than many had anticipated. And that means those initial calls for help are now being heard by consumers who are exhausted, strained, and dealing with their own worries. People who want to be supportive face their own challenges: income loss, quarantine worries, financial uncertainty, and emotional stress. Relying on donations and goodwill is simply not a survival tactic for marketing-savvy businesses.
For some companies, the roadmap for recovery starts with going back to basics and re-evaluating this new client persona. What is the mindset of their target audience? What new obstacles present challenges in closing the sale? What are the best ways to connect with the audience?
Businesses must shift their strategies. Instead of asking for help, you need to cut through the marketing noise that’s about to be cranked up and regain the audience’s attention. In other words, your recovery isn’t just about you; your recovery is about your clients.
“The bad news is we have to hit the reset button on our marketing,” said mConnexions Principal Strategist, Julie Holton. “The good news is that we have an opportunity right now to hit the reset button on our marketing.”
Get to Know Your “New” Customers
The mindset of our buyers has changed. The buyers themselves may have changed. In both instances, this means the messages we use to communicate to those buyers also need to change. Ask yourself:
- What do you need from people?
- What do they need from you?
- What is your message to connect the two?
It’s not about you. It’s about them.
We need to really know our customers inside and out: their needs, goals, and challenges. We end up making a lot of assumptions about how to market ourselves when we focus on us and what we provide, instead of our customers and what they need.
If your buyer persona has changed, you have to change how you’re talking to people.
To develop this persona, start by answering simple questions:
- Who is your ideal buyer?
- What is this person’s background?
- What are some of the goals and challenges this person faces?
- What are some everyday questions this buyer has during the buying process?
- What are some common objections that get in the way of this buyer selecting your product or service?
- Who are your biggest competitors in gaining this person’s attention?
All of these things are going to help create a stronger marketing campaign. Once you’ve defined your audience, you can start mapping out how you’re going to reach that audience.
Re-Examine Your Brand Messaging
Right now is the time to re-examine your brand and your brand messaging. Your brand is your promise. It tells your customers exactly what they can expect from you. It also differentiates you from your competitors.
What makes you different? What makes you likable? What makes you needed? Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and what people perceive you to be.
And some of this may have changed.
Some things to consider:
- What is your mission? Why do you do what you do?
- What are the benefits and features your customers will get? In other words, what makes you good at what you do?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of you?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with you?
- Have you gone missing for the last several weeks?
It’s time to work through these questions and answer them honestly through the lens of this pandemic. If you have any changes you’ve been wanting to make, now’s the time.
Explain How Your Brand Can Help
What benefits can you provide to people during the pandemic and after? Is there a unique value that you’re able to share? Connect what you do to why this is important to them by telling your story and explaining how your business can be supportive. If your company is unable to be open in any capacity, are you doing anything to help others? Many companies have shifted to becoming donation centers for first responders, like the Crystal Gardens Banquet Center. There’s significant value in promoting your company’s way of helping those in need during this time, and as long as you keep the focus on helping people with authentic, real storytelling, it’s a promotion that will speak to people’s hearts.
This is also a key moment to look to brands that you follow or hear about that are bringing joy to others. From museums offering free virtual tours to curriculum companies giving away homeschooling lessons, there are so many companies working to bring happiness to their audiences (while also getting their name out there!). See what ideas they give you to reach your own clients and potential customers. What can your own brand do to engage your audience?
Update Your Visuals and Content
Your messaging matters, and that includes your visual content! A picture is worth a thousand words, and a photo of a crowd on your homepage is the last thing a potential client should see. Visuals must adhere to the new social distancing norms so your visitors are comfortable. Although pre-existing content didn’t have to consider current rules, it’s time to swap out photos that encourage or demonstrate closer interaction.
The content on your website and in your communication is equally important. While traditional marketing often encouraged “working closely together”, with phrases speaking to side-by-side help and face-to-face relationships, the content must be changed to reflect proper messaging. Evaluate your marketing materials, literature, and digital content with this new lense of what is appropriate for today’s world.
Crank Up the Volume on Your Digital Efforts
Once the rest is ready, it’s time to crank up the volume and go full blast! Ready to invest your marketing funds in a more optimized way? Digital marketing is where it’s at! Forbes reported that total internet hits have surged by 50-70% since the coronavirus began. The New York Times agrees that with the rise of social distancing, we are seeking out new ways to connect, shop, and entertain ourselves, and the internet is the answer. What can your business do online? Whatever your efforts have been for online sales, keep them going and expand. While many people are ready to leave their homes, there’s going to be those who venture slowly back into the world. Technology is key in capturing that market.
Website development is imperative to keep people connected and market virtually. Optimize your profiles and platforms, including any shopping sites like Shopify and WooCommerce. E-commerce options allow greater variety, like clickable links to direct products, along with new formats of marketing that turn viewers into active participants. Creativity is essential to attract and retain customers, and now is the time when everyone is looking to technology for finding information and products.
Is your business showing up in Google searches? This is the time to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) to increase your ranking. It’s an investment that can yield a very strong return once business returns to normal, and it remains a top marketing trend of 2020.
Investing in virtual marketing pays for itself! It helps you to generate new leads, regain your audience’s attention, and communicate effectively.
The times are certainly changing, and every day brings us closer to reaching the end of this pandemic. Marketing-savvy businesses will shift their messages to plan for strategic growth and the new normal, knowing that we’re all ready to move forward for the rest of 2020.