Right now, consumers are more concerned with everyday needs than ever before. Much of the world is in survival mode. The branding strategies and marketing tactics that worked before COVID-19 reached our shores may not be effective in this new environment.
In a recent SCORE survey, researchers talked to 3,500 business owners. About 55% of respondents said their businesses were profitable at the same time last year, but a mere 34% reported they are currently operating in the black.
You can learn a lot by studying successful companies’ branding strategies. Even during a pandemic, there are opportunities to grow and reach customers on a deeper level. Here are eight strategies to adopt.
1. Empathize With Customers
The pandemic has been challenging for everyone. People miss seeing their families and friends and worry about falling ill. Some have even lost their jobs and homes. It shouldn’t be business as usual.
If you care about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. What are their greatest needs right now? How can you ease their fears? Clean and sanitize more frequently, and inform customers of any new safety protocols you implement to give them peace of mind.
2. Promote Social Distancing
The CDC recommends social distancing as the best way to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. For brick-and-mortar stores, steps might include adding tape to floors to show proper spacing and moving seating to proper distances.
Online businesses likely still have office staff who should either work from home or at a safe distance from one another. Put the appropriate measures in place to keep everyone safe.
3. Offer Help
These are unprecedented modern times. Look for ways to show your customers you care, rather than giving off the vibe you only want money from them. What can you offer right now without an expectation of anything in return?
For example, liquor distilleries around the United States shifted to making hand sanitizer when there was a shortage and gave it away to frontline workers and customers. This goodwill helped create a loyal fan base beyond their original clients.
4. Develop Relationships
The public is used to hearing from brands only when they launch a new product or have a major sale. You might never communicate with your audience unless you want to promote your business.
However, strengthening the emotional connection between your shoppers and businesses will position your brand as compassionate. Send an email wishing them happy holidays. Offer advice on de-stressing during the pandemic. Give them a greeting or pass on a positive affirmation without asking for anything in return. When things turn around, they’ll remember these small, simple kindnesses.
Would you call one of your friends to chat, then ask them to give you money? No, and you shouldn’t treat your customers that way either.
5. Be Aware of Regulations
Once your company develops a reputation as being opportunistic, it’s hard to shake it. State attorneys general cited some companies for price gouging. These businesses sold essential items, but raised the prices beyond what was reasonable due to increased demand.
The laws vary by state, but you don’t even want to give a hint of prioritizing profits over people. If at all possible, don’t raise prices during the pandemic. If increased costs on your end force you to charge more, provide a concrete explanation of why.
6. Rebrand Your Business
The pandemic created pockets of extra time for people. Most used the time to reflect, learn new skills and reprioritize their lives.
You can use this time to do the same for your brand. Reassess your mission statement. Does it reflect your core values? Perhaps you’ve grown as a company and need a new attitude to match your changed outlook.
Consider the things you’d like to improve upon and take the opportunity to reorganize and rebrand.
7. Invest in Digital Ads
Advertiser Perceptions looked at 200 marketing and agency professionals and found most brands reallocated their budgets to digital advertising. Around 75% of companies who planned to advertise locally or regionally stated they’d do so on social and display online channels.
People are staying home more, which means they’re online more. They stay connected via social media and browse for new topics. Taking out online ads drives traffic, even if you only serve local clientele.
8. Understand New Priorities
The pandemic has changed many people’s priorities, as communications firm Edelman discovered in a survey. When asked what they valued most, spending time with family increased 38%, and helping other people by 24%.
Luxury and extras might not matter as much to your customers as whether you give back to your local community. Think about your buyers’ needs and what they care most about. Factor in how things have changed in the last year. Market your brand based on your research into what they care about.
Review Past Ads
If there is one thing 2020 taught the business world, it is adaptability. Look at past advertising and how you might change it to match the current climate. Pay attention to your language. Stay sensitive to your customers’ current fears and needs. With a little focus, you’ll weather the pandemic and come out a stronger, more resilient brand.
Lexie is a digital nomad and business owner. If she’s not traveling around the country, you can find her baking some chocolate chip cookies or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.