Retail Performance: Maneuvering COVID-19 Fears With Advantage For Your Business

It seems like all anyone is talking about lately is COVID-19 and the ramifications on our society (well, and Tiger King.) And with good reason; like a natural disaster in slow-motion, COVID-19 has had serious and profound effects on almost every business and every individual on the planet.

From the Fortune 500 to the small businesses lining Main Street in any given small town, businesses are feeling the effects of this pandemic, and scrambling to adjust and survive. From optimizing your own operations to learning how to manage customer expectations, there’s plenty you can do to stay surefooted in this time of crisis. From using a follow up email extension to ensure you’re maintaining contact with your customers to considering how to optimize content to resonate with new leads or prospective clients, here’s a few tips to help you weather the storm.

Crisis Leadership: Keeping An Even Keel

Key concepts:

  • Stay calm
  • Be deliberate
  • Have a plan

First off, don’t panic. The key to making good decisions in a crisis, be it about your marketing campaigns or anything else, is to remain calm and deliberate. Your employees, customers, and stakeholders will key off you. A calm and deliberate approach will not only help you make the best decisions you can make, it will actively cultivate trust and confidence in those around you.

Calm and deliberate extends to every aspect of your business. Yes, events like this wreak havoc on business plans, and you can’t stick to your existing plans. You still need to plan carefully, but as you build contingency plans, build them with flexibility and be thoughtful about when it’s time to stick to the plan, and when the plan has been rendered obsolete by events.

It’s What You Say AND How You Say It

Key concepts:

  • Tone
  • Empathy
  • Consideration

People are worried, stressed, and confused, and this means many of your customers are much more likely to get bent out of shape over poorly worded messages or insensitive language. You don’t want to appear to be profiting or benefiting from a natural disaster; avoid missteps like establishing a ‘COVID19’ discount code is one of the ways to market your small business, while sharing unverified and alarmist information, or making unrealistic claims about your products’ usefulness to combat COVID-19.

Make sure every email you send out applies to your customers and leads. So many emails are going out referencing COVID-19 that spam filters are being more sensitive to emails containing related keywords, and people are quicker to click ‘this is spam’ on emails that prey on their fears or are irrelevant. Be clear about your purpose and send valuable emails; this will only help build credibility for your brand.

Think about how you react to the COVID-19 related emails YOU receive; use that as a guide to how to craft the emails you are sending out. This is a great time to build your brand and boost customer loyalty if you focus on service before the hard sell and look at your emails as your contribution to all of us getting through this crisis together.

Crisis Email Management: Transparency and Automation

Key concepts:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Marketing Automation

Two of the keywords to keep in mind in everything you do during a crisis are honesty and transparency. Good communication can reassure your employees, suppliers, vendors, and your customers.

Another concept to remember is that Marketing Automation is the Key here, both for existing email campaigns and for new communications. If you’re running marketing automation campaigns, it’s a good idea to look at the emails you’re sending out. If you’re like me, you probably tend to let things run once you’ve tweaked them to perfection, but in a time of crisis, being tone-deaf can not only render your email campaigns ineffective but even hurt your brand image.

Using an effective follow-up email extension can definitely help you stay in touch with customers and keep your automated email game strong; with many of us working from home, automated email tools are more relevant now than ever before. Customers still expect quick responses and accurate information even during this emergency, and automated email replies can put you ahead of your competitors by ensuring quick replies and stellar service even in these times.

Look at your existing campaigns and content; don’t be afraid to put the brakes on where appropriate, tweak copy where needed, and even look at where you can add helpful information or encourage engagement. To use one example from my inbox, sending an email out offering customers free tickets to a baseball game is probably not an effective pitch right now. I also wasn’t amused by an email from a hotel chain declaring that ‘This Is The Best Time To Travel!’

Using your marketing automation tools effectively can be a boon in times like these. Many people are home and bored; while you don’t want to hard-sell people in a time of crisis, the right tone can encourage people to interact with or shop with your business, and build a great brand image in the eyes of the public. Give people tips on how your products and services can solve their problems in this crisis, or talk about how your business is implementing CDC and WHO recommendations for the safety of your employees and customers. Make your emails relevant and actionable even in the middle of a crisis.

In Conclusion: Once Again, Don’t Panic!

With a thoughtful and empathic approach to your marketing and communications, you can come out of this crisis with a stronger brand and higher customer loyalty, all for doing the right things by staying home and sharing relevant and valuable information. While you’re staying at home and flattening the curve, let your marketing automation tools do their part to keep your business strong even in a time of economic and health crises.

Author Bio:

Michael Habiger is a marketing enthusiast who sees the future of marketing in data-based automation. He has over 6 years of experience, currently head of marketing department at FollowUpFred.

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