To help marketers find their way, we’d like to share a short interview with Joel Presman, GM and co-founder of Remarkety, who — like most of us — has had to adapt to working from home.
A lot of Remarkety’s customers have questions and concerns regarding marketing in a time of crisis. Obviously, when the situation is far from business as usual, marketing cannot go on with business as usual. Marketers have to keep the channels of communication open with their customers and demonstrate awareness of and sensitivity to a very stressful situation.
What guidance can you offer for businesses to remain in touch with their customers even when they know that they are not likely to make purchases in the near future?
I believe marketers need to take a multidisciplinary approach and take into account that marketing is only one part of their business operation. The pandemic has impacted their business in many ways — not only their sales. Everything needs to be orchestrated together to keep a business going. That includes managing the retail supply chain, service providers, financials, and employees whose health and safety needs also have to be taken into account.
That being said, it’s not the time to put all forms of marketing on hold. Marketing is built on sustained trust, and during these days marketers should nurture their relationship with their clients, keeping open channels and building rapport.
This crisis will eventually pass, and when the dust settles, customers will remember which brands handled it well, and which ones did not. That’s why I urge marketers to keep communicating with their customers. Keeping up contact with helpful, positive messages now will assure that when they start spending again, they are going to look to do it with the businesses that have proven they deserve it.
Is there a general approach that works for all industries, or does each industry have to specifically tailor its crisis communication to keep it relevant to its brand identity?
The latter, definitely. I’m a big believer in the need to take a different approach to different verticals and not “one size fit for all.” Some industries are actually seeing a boom (online groceries and necessities, for example), while others are seeing a decline (fashion, luxury goods).
The aim of the verticals seeing upticks is to maximize the transaction fulfillment and quickly deal with the surge in sales while maintaining long term brand loyalty. They need to communicate clearly about the logistics of the product delivery and be transparent about possible delays, as well as their policy for orders and returns, etc.
On the other hand, the aim of the harder-hit verticals is to focus on long-term goals. They have to maintain their place in the game and retain their relationship with their customers as a favorite store or brand. That way when the crisis blows over, those customers will return to them.
For example, sports equipment stores are likely finding it hard to sell baseball bats and camping gear right now. However, if they stay in touch with their customers with “how to work out at home” content, how to use household items for weight training, etc., they will be able to increase engagement and loyalty that will help them prosper in the long term.
What types of emailed communication are having a positive response in terms of reinforcing brand loyalty even while sales are down?
In times like these, I would recommend stepping back from pushing sales on customers who may be reluctant to spend money at a time of so much uncertainty in favor of customer communication that shows empathy and understanding. Work on interesting content that keeps customers engaged with your brand.
If the nature of your business does not allow you to wait on sales, though, now it’s more important than ever to offer the highest incentive possible by your business. It’s even worth offering a price that cuts out your profits for the sake of retaining your clients. Offer the highest discount possible, freebies, free shipping, 1+1 free or any other possible incentive that you can offer to help your customers who are currently trying to save money and reduce their costs.
Should businesses share what they’re doing to protect their employees with their customers, or is that not relevant?
Any time marketers consider what to include in their messaging, they need to ask themselves: “What’s in it for our customers?” Unless these protections impact the customers in a direct way, it’s not necessary to go into detail about employee protection, though it could be a kind of footnote to the main message. If the protection is related to the customer’s own concerns about ordering from your business, though, then you do need to make a point of explaining what safeguards you do have in place. For example, you can assure them that the merchandise is only handled with gloves, that sick employees are not allowed to enter premises, etc., so that they need not fear their orders may be tainted by the virus.
What trends do marketers have to bear in mind when crafting their communication at a time of crisis?
I think and hope that marketers will be able to connect more deeply with their customers as human beings. This is a very rare occasion in which many of us are sharing similar thoughts, concerns and fears no matter where we are on the planet. The marketer creating content now is, more likely than not, working from their home-office during a lockdown, and so are the people she’s writing for. It’s really amazing if you think about it.
Marketers have been talking about the importance of authenticity for some time, and this is really the time to put that value into practice. Just be real. It’s essential that the communication is genuine and does not come across as opportunistic because it can really backfire on a brand that will be seen as trying to capitalize on a tragedy. But if it’s done right, this is really an opportunity to connect very deeply through tapping into the shared experience.