While there’s plenty of disagreement across the country as to when we should reopen businesses and allow people to move freely in public, that conversation is centered around timing. Ultimately, business owners will have to await the decisions of the lawmakers in their jurisdictions before reopening. However, there’s one thing that none of us disagree about: once we do start ramping back up again, how we approach our customers, leads, vendors, and stakeholders (both figuratively and literally) must look a lot different than it did at the start of the year.
Prepare for a True Reboot
In the computer world, rebooting a machine solves a lot of problems by clearing the current state of the software and giving the hardware a chance to start over. A reboot also provides an opportunity for updates to be applied to current processes and programs so they work better given new conditions that may have arisen since the software was created.
Given that understanding, it becomes clearer to see how apt the metaphor is for businesses preparing to operate after the Covid-19 emergency. As your company begins planning its communication strategies during the reopening, clear the current state of your operations, apply a few updates to help your communications work more successfully in the “new normal,” and relaunch your efforts with confidence.
Clearing the Current State
This doesn’t mean you should dump everything you’ve been doing; instead, it means to hit pause on your current communications so you can take some time to evaluate your audiences and assess what’s changed about their needs. Some will be temporary, such as those who are still operating with a stay-at-home order in place. Others will be long-term, such as the need to provide physical space and use masks in public. Some may be permanent, such as those who will continue working from home indefinitely.
One important consideration across most industries is the huge upswing in transactions being completed via the internet. One survey found that more than half of all internet users across 17 countries reported spending more time shopping online in almost all industries. The only exceptions include tourism and luxury items, which is probably not surprising. The survey also found that while most of us had no choice but to acclimate to doing business digitally, we have also become more comfortable with the practice and will likely continue well into the future.
While your communications are paused, reevaluate the context in which your customers, leads, and stakeholders will be receiving your messages. This may involve creating new segments of your audience and reorganizing your leads as their activity from the first months of the year will no longer be informative of their future decisions. Compare your most recent sets of data to see how behavior and choices are changing and in which direction trends seem to be heading. It’s also the right time to reevaluate your marketing channels as people have been changing their internet consumption habits and discovering new places online to learn, relax, and work.
Installing Some Updates
As you think about the multiple touchpoints that customers and leads have with your company, remap your customer journey to accommodate their new context. In some cases, this may mean reduced demand for a formerly popular product or service, but it may also be the perfect time to look at new markets for all your offers. For example, there may also be hidden opportunities for leads who have gone cold; perhaps their situation has changed enough, or your products and services have changed, and that lead can be rewarmed.
Another critical update to install is the tone of your messaging. Authenticity has always been an important component of successful marketing, but people are even more sensitive now to orchestrated attempts to tug at their emotions. Stay in your brand’s lane and find ways to contribute that are appropriate for your company, positioning, and values. Filter your messages to ensure they are not insensitive based on everyone’s new contexts and be absolutely sure you will not appear to be capitalizing on fear and uncertainty.
Probably the most critical update for your messaging should be a focus on solving problems, not selling products. Content marketing and the inbound method have already been the catalyst many companies used to start focusing on the needs of their customers and solving their problems. But, if you’re still behind on this trend, it is crucial to make the shift now.
Restarting with Confidence
When discussing the reopening of states, leaders are consistently conveying how important it is to have a smart plan and to roll it out slowly. Take one step forward. See how it works. Then you take the next step. The idea of taking cautious and deliberate steps is critical. As we’ve all learned during this crisis, things can change on a dime, and it’s difficult to predict how (or when) people will react.
Remain transparent in your communications. We are all in this together, whether we’d like to be or not, and that means that everyone will be understanding when things must change, especially if you’ve been upfront and honest from the jump. And, remember, rebooting is a good thing. If the economic climate has another major shift or consumer behavior starts trending in an unexpected direction, don’t be afraid to restart again.
Just like you wouldn’t be expected to muddle through an assignment with a computer that has crashing apps and stalling processes, your communications strategies shouldn’t be expected to continue working when critical components are stalling. Hit pause, take a look around, add some updates, and roll it out again one step at a time. And, if you have questions or run into any issues, don’t hesitate to reach out for help and advice.