Avoid “Going Dark” During Times of Crisis

COVID-19 has not only impacted marketing trends, but also consumer priorities and the entire business landscape. Now that the province has announced a re-open plan, many businesses, if not all, must determine their “new normal” and how the pandemic will impact the future of the company.

Now is obviously not a time for “business as usual”. It’s natural to wonder if you should pull back on marketing to save money. This could be an easier and quicker option than, say, blowing out old inventory. You might be thinking: “I don’t want to post anything online that could appear as insensitive messaging during a crisis”. Or maybe you believe you should be conserving scarce resources and turning down your web site. Our recommendation is to avoid disconnecting with your customers and “going dark”.

What does “going dark” mean? “Going dark” means ‘to stop all activities or communication, especially temporarily but for a fairly long period’. This might save you some cash and not impact your short-term results but doing this could have a huge impact on your mid- and long-term returns once we’re through this pandemic. If you feel you must, do it cautiously. In every crisis, there are emerging opportunities to engage, innovate, and connect. With so much changing, and a re-open timeline dependent on how the first phases go, you must find ways to keep your business running and at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Below are some suggestions for setting your business up for long-term success in this difficult business environment:

Build A Deeper Connection with Your Customers

“People’s needs shift during a crisis, and to embrace opportunity, companies must identify and meet those needs,” says Inc. Most of the population are at home, spending time online and a lot of other advertisers have reduced their spending so there’s less noise in the market. Remaining active on your social media channels, providing an up-to date website with new specials or offers, updating your Google My Business profile, or even sending out weekly or monthly emails are ways to continue building that connection with your customers and letting them know how you’re adapting. In your messages, be sensitive to the situation. At this point your customers might appreciate hearing from you and understanding how to best do business with you right now.

If you’re looking to try something new and you have not tried them in the past, then paid ads on search platforms such as Google are an easy and effective way to send a message. Your customers and potential customers are spending more time online right now, so much so that companies like Netflix have had to reduce their streaming quality due to the volume of users and its impact on bandwidth. People are looking for you online and right now, it is vital to be there to maintain your customer’s attention. The more people who see your content and are exposed to your business, the better chance you have at building a connection that will last longer than this crisis.

Shift Your Message and Be Present

If you were to ask any business owner, they would say they’re adjusting on the fly. Over the past month, we’ve been exposed to a whole new world of messaging – whether it’s on social media, a website, a digital billboard, etc. And most often, this messaging isn’t trying to ‘sell’ something, but rather, businesses have used it as an opportunity to tell their story, share information to the public, give thanks to healthcare and frontline workers that risk their lives every day to save and help others, or simply showcase a new offering such as pick-up/delivery. Be mindful of the content you are producing – being “tone-deaf” and focusing on pushing your products or services can do more damage to your brand than good. Use your social media accounts or email marketing to share compassion with your customers. Document your journey and remind customers of your values.

We agree with Forbes when they say “Smart brands recognize that this is not necessarily the time to continue on with the voice, tone, content, etc. they have worked so hard to articulate for years. Instead, agile brands (read companies) are meeting the moment with a voice that is more thoughtful, human, relevant and consistent with the times.”

Continue to connect with your customers so you stay top of mind. By shifting your message and being sensitive to one another, it shows you have been able to adapt to these times and that you care about your customers. This, ultimately, will bring them through your door once the COVID-19 situation has passed and the province re-opens for business.

Showcase Your Brand Online

If you’ve thought that your website may be ineffective during these times, you should know that search traffic has increased significantly and will continue to climb as we “hunker down” and wait this situation out. We’re all glued to our computers and phones looking for updates from companies we know and trust. Not sure what to do? You can call us just to discuss your options.

In late March, a survey conducted by 4A’s, 43% of consumers said it was reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust, while 40% want to hear what brands are doing in response to the pandemic. Only 15% said they do not want to hear from brands at all. The numbers speak for themselves: Do not make your marketing decisions based on only 15% of the population, especially since the current crisis will one day come to an end.

COVID-19 may be a new era and your messaging, offers and delivery method may change, but the “relationships [you make] with our communities and your customers will endure”, says Inc. Magazine Focus on caring, engaging, and adapting, and you will be able to see the opportunity in our current, and future, business environment.

– Teal Rybchuk is a Product Consultant on the Brand and Platform Team

April 24th, 2020

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