If you’re in any doubt about the importance of clear communication with your customers, look at governments around the world and how they inform their citizens.
Those with leaders who make it clear what is required have succeeded far better than those who muddle with either too little information, too much, or worst of all, contradicting information. (1)
The same applies to your business.
do your custoMErs know you're still in business?
Your customers need to know what’s happening with your business. Keep them up to date via:
• Accurate website information
• Engaging emails
• Social media
• Useful articles
Accurate website information
At Akira, we have lost count of the websites we have visited recently that make absolutely no mention of what’s happening during the pandemic. Their website is pretty much the same as it was a year back. Chances are, it won’t change either as the restrictions are lifted.
This is such a mistake - and a lost opportunity. Your existing customers need to know what’s happening and if you’re still open. It can be a simple message on your home page such as:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we are continuing to operate by working remotely. Our offices in Main Street will be closed until further notice. You can contact us via phone or email, and we also offer video conferencing meetings by appointment.”
Now compare that with a more informal approach that essentially says the same thing:
“We’re open for business and working from our home offices, offering the same great service you expect at our Main St offices. So just call us, email us, message us, and arrange a Zoom or Skype meeting to discuss your requirements. We’re here to help!”
Both say the same thing, but we think the second one ticks our three criteria of being accurate, honest and transparent. (If you want to see this approach in action, check out New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden continuing with a press interview during an earthquake! (2)
COVID messages on your home page
Many businesses seem afraid to change any aspect of their home page, including adding messages. A great solution is a pop-up box that appears temporarily on the home page when visitors first arrive. We’ve implemented this for the majority of our WordPress website customers. It shows a short, simple message that doesn’t overwhelm your home page, or confuse your customers. You can change the message anytime you like or switch it off via the website back end.
Accuracy is also about being honest from the outset.
- If you are closed for the time being, say so.
- If you’re very busy and it’s taking longer to reply, put your hand up to it.
- If your usual speedy delivery service is taking much longer, flag that up too.
Yes, that does mean you’re going to have to check every page of your website and make sure the text is accurate. There is no point in putting a notice on your home page about delivery taking 2 weeks, if on every subsequent page you mention how you offer 1 day delivery as standard. Another phrase that catches people out is “Call into our office/store at 123 Main Street…” Change all these too.
If you have backend access to your website, you can usually make most of these kind of textual changes yourself - and change them back again once restrictions are lifted and we move into the new normal. It’s double the work but worth every minute to ensure a clear consistent message for your customers.
if you’ve got a database of existing customers, send them an email with a positive update of what’s happening with your business. At the start of the pandemic, we were inundated with emails from businesses that tried to sound calm about “small changes to our working practices” but actually served only to increase our anxiety levels.
Now we’re months into the pandemic, the emails that grab our attention are positive, helpful, reassuring - and useful.
- Special offers and codes tempt us back to buying online.
- Details of new products entice us to try that new craft beer or local organic grocery box, especially if we can collect them curbside.
- Items created with social distancing in mind help us step out in style in our new cloth face mask with dogs on, or “keep your distance” pool-noodle hats. (3)
An email from your business will only be read and retained if it is useful. Now is the time to offer genuine help, whether as downloadable guides, videos, webinars or just an good old fashioned “Let us know if you need anything”. Even just one engaging email will help but do make clear you are contacting them as an existing customer; sales mailings come under separate rules on data privacy.
At Akira, we are great fans of using MailChimp (4) for email campaigns. It’s simple to use, free if you have send to less than 2000 contacts a month, manages your list, and has lots of great design templates you can use. We’ve been using MailChimp for literally decades, and are happy to help with designing custom templates and writing emails as part of our social media services.
Social media: open all channels
- Whatever else you do, keep your social media ticking over at least. If you are closed for business, that doesn’t mean posting a “We are Closed” image on every channel and leaving it. Post something that people will enjoy seeing or reading that is in some way related to your business.
- Restaurant closed and not able to provide home delivery? Share recipes and tips from superstar chefs.
- Can’t sell your fresh brewed coffee? Film a short video explaining about what makes your coffee special, or share a “how to taste coffee like a pro” graphic.
One major bonus of lockdown Zoom meetings and TV reports filmed on phones is that now people don’t care about video quality. So, feel free to film on your phone or your webcam - just make sure the sound is good. Also, most customers actually prefer the “Here I am in my kitchen” style anyway - they get a chance to peak at your shelves, your store cupboard, behind the scenes at your business, and perhaps your cat too.
Useful, helpful articles
What are useful articles? You’re reading one now (we hope!). Help your customers help themselves with advice and information relevant to your business and their needs.
Don’t think your article has to be on a unique topic that nobody else has ever thought of. Wedding suppliers know that every year, thousands of people get married for the first time. These couples won’t have a clue about how to organise a table seating plan, or why it’s important to coordinate marquee lining and napkin colours - until the wedding supplier’s article tells them so. Equally, couples won’t necessarily know the current restrictions on marriage due to COVID-19, and how they apply in Ontario - until your article tells them.
Always promote your articles on social media and put a link to your blog page in your email footer for maximum exposure. Your MailChimp email can also include a link - in fact, a new article is a great reason to email existing customers anyway.
Keep the conversation going
Client and customer communications are not just for COVID days. Keep the conversations flowing to ensure customers are engaged and enthused moving forward. Remember, the business new normal will be shaped primarily by you and your customers, and how you both adapt to change.
That’s going to be the subject of our next article in this series, “Changing the way you do business”. Follow us on social media and we’ll let you know the moment it goes live!
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash.com