“Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time.” – Ann Handley
How do you acquire new customers in a pandemic? Will the customers you’ve always had keep coming back? Will any marketing during COVID come off as opportunistic?
The pandemic has unearthed new buying motivations and new expectations for how businesses should behave. And it’s here for a while, so let’s start wrapping our heads around what marketing during a pandemic really looks like—for better or for worse.
Talk to New Customers
You’ve put a lot of time and energy into understanding who your customers are and what motivates them to come to you.
Here’s the bad news: you can’t assume what you know about them is still true.
There’s good news, though; there may be potential new customers waiting in the wings. You just need to be agile enough to pivot your messaging.
Call, email, text or greet new customers in your business and start a conversation. Ask them how they’re doing and why they’ve come (more on that below). Don’t hand them a survey; engage them as one human caught up in this mess to another. That way, you’ll get a real answer.
Make It Genuine
We’re social animals to the core, and COVID-19 has denied us some of that. Anxiety has skyrocketed, and we feel more disconnected from each other than we ever have.
At a time like this, generic, passive-voiced corporate-speak is going to do you more harm than good. Ditch that; it will bounce off your customers like water off a duck’s back.
When you talk to your customers, do so human-to-human. Take the corner office armour off and be your genuine self. We’re so starved for real human contact right now that your efforts are sure to get noticed. Here are a few tactics to employ:
- Do more on social media. Not with canned promo posts, but with videos or pictures of you and your people. Start talking on camera about things that matter to other people. Talk about the difference that your business can make through its services, how you’re adapting and keeping your team safe, and how you’re committed to being there for your customers.
- Reach out. Talk to your customers, whether that’s calling them out of the blue or tracking them down in-store. Stop the throwaway small talk and ask people how they’re really doing. They want to hear from you. They want to engage with you. They will be honest and open with you about their business and give you valuable information that you can act on.
- Content, content, content. In the BC era (as in, “before COVID”), content was important for building web traffic and thought leadership. Now, it’s essential because it can educate, comfort, and even entertain when your customers crave guidance. Tell them the stories about what you do and why you do it. Teach them how your business can make their lives a little easier right now. This is the time for more content, not less.
Stand for Something
The phrase “purpose-driven consumerism” largely derives from the rise of the largest demographic in human history (the Millennials), and their desire to feel good about how they spend their money. Now it’s even more impactful.
We can’t defeat COVID alone. From masks to vaccine research, the tactics are as much about helping others as helping ourselves. Society is gaining a new appreciation for the needs of the many over the needs of the few.
Your marketing should reflect that. If you don’t visibly support a higher cause, then find one. Make it relevant and show your involvement in an engaging way. Study brands like Nike to learn how standing up for something that your core demographic believes in can catapult your brand forward.
Of course, what you stand up for hinges on how well you understand your customer; not just your traditional base, but a potential new COVID-era customer as well, which brings us back to the thread uniting all these tactics: open communication.
Talk to your customer. Human-to-human. It’s been the world’s best marketing for eons, and it always will be.