Coronavirus: why social distancing shouldn’t mean losing touch with your customers

Coronavirus

The fallout from the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) is hitting hard.  

Not just in terms of physical illness and tragically, in some cases, death. But also lasting negative effects on mental health, as people across the world are required to social distance; self-isolate or enter into total quarantine.

And then, of course, there’s the economic impact.

Many well-known brands and thousands of small, local businesses have either folded or else are teetering on the edge of survival. Some are just days from collapse, as customers abandon the high street in order to protect their families, equally fearful for their own jobs and what the future might hold.

It feels almost apocalyptic.

But even in these darkest of times, there remains hope. And with hope, the opportunity to take stock. Rethink your proposition. And give some serious thought about how to stay in touch with and support your customers.

We take a closer look at some of the options.

The economic impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

In an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, the latest UK government advice is to stop non-essential contact with others and to practice social isolation. All schools will close on Friday.

In other countries, this has been extended to enforced quarantine, with people confined to their houses.

The net effect is that global markets are plummeting and US stocks have seen their worst fall since 1987.

The UK government has already committed to financial measures designed to shore up the economy against the impact of the coronavirus.

These include £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid; a business rates holiday as well as grants for retailers and pubs. Help for airlines is also on the cards.

This of course is unlikely to be the final total, as business and individuals require ever increasing levels of support simply in order to survive.

How to stay connected with your customers during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak

So, against this worrying economic backdrop, how exactly can you go about engaging with your customers – and prospects – during these difficult times?

Here are some useful suggestions:

1.      Build brand loyalty by supporting those most in need

Whatever your product, consider how you might be able to tailor it to those currently most in need.

Pret A Manger for example, has just announced that all hot drinks are on the house and everything else it sells is reduced by 50%.

Pret NHS offer

This offer is exclusively for those working for the NHS. But that’s still roughly 1.5 million people who stand to benefit. And the lasting goodwill it generates will likely benefit Pret A Manger even more.

Beer maker BrewDog has gone one step further by swapping out its production of craft beer for the production of alcohol based hand sanitiser, in an effort to address the current UK shortage. BrewDog is reported as saying it is giving the product to those who need it without charge.

Brewdog hand sanitiser

Other examples include companies waiving postage for online orders, mindful that customers can no longer pick up in store.

This can be particularly important for independent stores who have a loyal and local following and whose customers who would prefer to support them to continue trading, rather than buy from a multi-national.

Aware of the increasing demand for home schooling resources, some leading providers are now offering discounted access to materials, as schools across the country face imminent closure.

And how exactly are people finding out about all this?

No need to pay to advertise this one – the power of social media means that any genuinely useful offer will be shared (and shared again), potentially increasing traffic to your website (and subsequent conversions) by a significant percentage.

2.      Rethink your offering

We are not suggesting that if you sell food, you should also market children’s clothing and pet supplies! But if there is a different way to engage your audience with your existing offering, then it might be worth giving it some serious consideration.

Package your product to go

Many restaurants and cafés are now doing home delivery, which can offer a much needed morale boost for customers forced to stay in the house in isolation. It won’t replace lost footfall but it can help with cash flow and keeps the brand front of mind when the customer is next free to dine out.

And mindful that most people can still get outdoors as long as they avoid large groups, the National Trust has pledged to keep its gardens and parklands open and totally free to access, in order to encourage everyone to get some much needed fresh air.

So if you sell a tangible product, think about whether you can repackage it to go.

Share your wisdom and knowledge

But what if you sell a service? You might want to give some thought about sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

Sure, you may not be able to get out to customers and landscape their gardens but you can still give much needed advice on what they can be doing at home as spring approaches, in terms of garden maintenance.

Explore technology options such as livestreams (broadcasting video over the internet). Whether free, or paid for, you can then bring your offering right into the home of your customer – whether it’s a yoga lesson; accountancy advice; a tour of your stately home’s gardens or a free performance of your company’s latest opera.

3.      Improve your digital presence

There has never been a better – or more vital – time to revisit and reassess your digital presence, in order to give your product or service the best chance of being found online by the many prospects and customers who can no longer access you on the high street.

Overhaul your website

Start with a good hard look at your website. Is it up to date and secure? Is it easy to navigate? Where are the pain points?

You may not be in a position to commission a total rebuild right now but that doesn’t meant that there won’t be some useful changes you can make to the site, in order to improve its look and functionality.

Get blogging

Blogging – an (often informal) archive of timely content – involves the creation of new web pages, typically called ‘posts’ – which can be about news relevant to your website; your own latest news and activities; good causes you support or just your personal opinions about anything.

We have previously written about how businesses that blog see 55% more visitors to their websites; 97% more links to their website from others; and 434% more pages indexed in the search results.

And it’s worth remembering that historical optimisation of old blog posts can boost leads by 240%.

Google loves fresh content and this down time presents the perfect opportunity to create more engaging content for your customers and your website.

Pay attention to your SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about how easy it is for your website to be found by a search engine. It refers to your organic (as opposed to ‘paid’) reach and can be positively influenced by factors such as technical optimisation of your website itself, as well as external factors such as high ranking and relevant backlinks.

Sounds too technical? It needn’t be. But if you have a website and no one has thought to complete the basics such as your meta data, including title tags and meta descriptions, then it will come as little surprise to find that you are not ranking for key search terms.

The good news is that it is easy enough to fix – and even easier to measure exactly what difference any such fixing makes to your organic performance.

And if you haven’t already done so, set up Google Analytics and Search Console so you can better analyse traffic to your website and the behaviours of visitors once they get there. Plus you can also identify and fix any problems as they arise.

Define a social media strategy

Do you typically find yourself only posting on Facebook or Instagram when you get a spare second? Or in response to a comment on a post?

Is the content of most of your posts just about your products and services? Their features rather than their benefits? With very little engagement from your followers?

A good social media strategy will plan ahead and consider how best to engage prospects and customers, rather than just attempt to sell to them.

You can even encourage content generation from your customers themselves – and with many people stuck at home, there’s no time like the present to reach out to your audience and let them know that you’re still here for them.

Reviewing all aspects of your digital marketing presence and performance will have a positive effect that lasts way beyond the end of the current Coronavirus outbreak.  And if done well, it will increase brand loyalty and engagement as well as reach.

In short, think of social distancing as a golden opportunity for customer reconnection.

Need a hand engaging your customers during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak?

The Content Marketing Team is all about developing strategies to engage your customers which also have a positive effect on your bottom line.

This often requires a multipronged approach, looking at both your online and offline content alongside your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy, in order to ensure that you get found online for exactly what you offer.

If your business is being adversely affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and you think you would benefit from an informal chat about how to improve your current engagement strategy, then please just give us a call.

We would be more than happy to listen to what you’re doing now and work with you to help identify areas ideas for immediate improvement.

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