10 Ways to Stay in Front of Customers During the Coronavirus Crisis

Out of sight, out of mind. That is what happens when the people you usually do business with don’t hear from you for a while. You cannot afford to lose their patronage. How do you stay in front of your customers and prospects when, it seems, the economy has been put into a coma? Here are 10 ideas businesses and other enterprises of all sizes can adopt to their situations:

Yes, We’re Open             If your business has been classified “essential,” make sure your customers know it. Send out an email with particulars such as store hours and what people can expect when they come to your place of business. How can people order in advance? Can they get delivery? What is the charge? Consumers will also want to know your staff is wearing masks and gloves and what you are doing to keep the store COVID-free. Share the information via social media and place it prominently on your website, too.

Working from Home      If your business is operating remotely, people need to know how to reach you. By email? Are office phones set up to roll over to employees’ cell phones or land lines? Make it easy for people to find this information. Use email, social media, and your company to get key contact information formation in front of your customers. Have sales reps and managers send personalized messages to clients and vendors. You can prepare talking points or sample messages and use bulk email to make it easier for them to get this done. Better yet, give them a call to see how they are doing and let them know you look forward to seeing them when conditions return to normal.

Update, update, update               We are in a fluid situation. Conditions change with little notice, and business have to adapt, e.g. change store hours, curtail services, stop accepting cash, etc. When these changes occur, make sure your customers know. Our local Trader Joe’s instituted early seniors-only hours but didn’t let people know they changed them. I wasn’t happy to arrive shortly after 9 a.m. and see dozens of shoppers ahead of me waiting to go in. Updates are another opportunity to provide important information via email, social media, and your website to your customers. You could be setting yourself up for bad feelings if you don’t.

Provide helpful information        The need for information to help people cope with the coronavirus crisis is great. However, many organizations are providing nonessential information that just becomes part of the noise, and that can harm your brand. It is OK to be concerned with people’s health and safety and to look forward to the return of normal conditions, but that should not be the lead on your 10th message. Help your customers find help with problems they usually come to you for. For example, a garden center could provide tips on lawn care, how to build a composter, etc. A travel agent could provide guidance for cancellations of airline and train tickets and cruises.

Join the conversation     Social media is a great environment for establishing one’s status as a thought leader or expert. However, you cannot simply start spouting opinions and expect to become an Internet star overnight. Focus topics of interest to your target market. Follow the conversation and identify opinion leaders. Then start by commenting on threads where you have something to say of value and interest to your market. You can gauge your effectiveness by seeing how many likes, shares, retweets, and new followers you get. Then, when you have established credibility, you can post on subjects that showcase your expertise. Whether it is Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, the same formula applies.

Get quoted         Even though traditional media, especially newspapers, have fallen on hard times, people still turn to them for credible news and information. A mention or quote in a story could get your name (brand) in front of thousands, or even millions, of people. Journalists are always on the lookout for people with etwxpertise on topics they are covering. Even if you don’t have a publicist on retainer, you can get your name out there though services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Don’t expect to be quoted in The New York Times your first time out. Focus your efforts, instead, or your local market or industry. You can follow journalists in your niche on Twitter and comment on their posts to cultivate relationships.

Meet real needs              Having to shelter in place has disrupted the lives of people around the world, and they need help to adapt to this new reality. A restauranteur could post videos on YouTube showing how to make tasty meals with ingredients likely to be found in the pantry or freezer. Some manufacturers have repurposed their facilities to produce vitally needed health supplies as facemasks or hand sanitizers. Discovery Education created a parents’ tool kit to support homebound students. That is a great idea to reinforce their brand while supporting the common good.

Hold online webinars     Share useful information online in this live interactive format. With many people unable to work, they have more time on their hands, so an informative program could be a productive activity that helps them stay current. Apps like Zoom and Blue Jeans make this fairly easy to do. My synagogue is holding morning and evening service this way. Rebecca Fannin, editor and founder of Silicon Dragon, is reinforcing her brand by holding Q&A webinars with venture capitalists. If you can speak before a target group like online reputation expert Juan Vides did recently, so much the better.

Always Be Closing           Marketing is about more than building awareness and making people feel warming and fuzzy about your brand. There are mouths to feed and bills to pay so you need to make some sales to keep the doors open, even if it is the door to your home office. Come up with special offers get prospects off the fence and make sure you get the word out. Enable people who normally come into the store to easily make large purchases remotely, as my favorite appliance store, Home Appliance, did. Make sure to get the word out. If you have read this far, you know the drill by now. And, if you need a hand with any of this, just get in touch: esimon@optimum.net or 516-524-6804.

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