The world has been on a rollercoaster of emotions over the past few months. From ignorance and disbelief to fear and panic; empathy and caring to blaming and shaming; pessimism, optimism, resignation and rebellion, there’s little of the human spirit that hasn’t been on show during this pandemic.
And throughout all this, whilst consumer demands may be in a state of flux, we all still have needs – from food basics to more luxurious leisure and lifestyle products. Now the initial panic has subsided and the realisation that we may be in this situation for some time has set in, we need to keep the economy going – people are trying to make a living and businesses are still operating.
So how should you, as a business, be talking to your customers? Is it right to sell, should you even be communicating with them at all? Some brands are saying nothing for fear of getting it wrong.
Now is the time to review your tone of voice and messaging, and focus on the needs of your clients, your prospective clients, your employees, and your wider business network.
Getting the balance right
How should you be talking to your customers? There is a fine line between milking the situation and being authentic. Businesses risk turning customers off if they aren’t careful about their messaging. No one wants to be talked down to by a corporate machine, but they don’t want phoneys either and most people will be able to spot them. It’s about striking the right balance in order to portray your brand and business in a positive light.
Speak like a human, with real understanding and empathy, and you can help to alleviate some of the negative feelings your customers may be having, even if only temporarily. Getting it right now will mean you’re remembered for it later.
People want to find and talk to people who understand them, who have the same business issues and know how to help. These are the people that your prospects and customers will trust. Keeping it human is a subject I explore in many of my blogs – see some tips here.
What should you be talking about?
In times of uncertainty, we value content that helps us make sense of the disruption going on around. You need to offer help, but it could harm your reputation if you are seen as profiting from this scenario. The last thing many want is a business trying to convince us to buy its products or services. So, don’t.
Your content marketing should be mindful of the needs of your audience. Customers are not seeking confidence that potential suppliers are “here for them” in times of trouble. Nor that certain suppliers offer “best-in-class” solutions. Instead, customers are in need of confidence in themselves and their ability to survive, if not thrive, during times of disruption and uncertainty.
So, limit the sales talk and instead demonstrate what you can really do to make people’s lives that bit better. That doesn’t have to mean a new philanthropy strategy – just sharing your resources or offering expert advice can be of value to your customers. It’s all about highlighting the benefits of your business, not the features.
Keep it topical
News fatigue develops quickly so carefully monitor trends to know when your audience has had enough.
When the coronavirus pandemic started to become a real threat to our daily lives (about the beginning of March) there was a huge spike in searches for articles on COVID-19. People wanted facts. As people adapted, they wanted information about anything that would make their life feel more normal and comfortable. After that, they wanted something good to move towards.
Don’t broadcast what you’re feeling or thinking. No one cares. Listen. Be responsive with your messaging and strategy, listen to the current mood. Google Trends is a valuable tool for monitoring what people are searching for.
What type of content works in uncertainty?
Blogs – audiences would rather read an authentic blog from somebody who is just like them, than some formal White Paper. You can use your blog to breathe much-needed positivity into their lives in these trying times.
The idea here is to keep your blog active and relevant. While you might not be discussing your products/services you can still come across as a company that cares about its potential customers.
Social media – Nowhere is your human side more evident. Listen and respond, it’s easy to get it wrong on social.
Email – Emails are as relevant as ever, but this isn’t the time to pitch your products/services. Use emails to show your concern and provide help and advice and, if appropriate, illustrate how your product or service can help.
Need some help with your tone of voice?
Good marketing is all about your audience and not about you. And that is even more important than ever. Listen, drop the jargon and be the sort of business you yourself want to deal with in this crisis.
If you need help creating the right tone of voice, please get in touch.