We are now experiencing an unprecedented period of shock, grief, confusion, and fear—one that the world has not experienced for decades. Your customers are shaken, so are your employees, and if you are honest, as a manager or business owner, you are feeling it too. As my wife (a psychologist) would say, this is normal, and part of being human.
But times like these also spur us to become better. We take stock of what we have, what needs doing, and the tools we need to get it done. And digital marketing can help keep your business healthy and teams employed even—and especially—during the coronavirus shutdown.
Here are some practical steps you can take right now:
1. Tell your customers about your situation
Whether you are simply adjusting your hours to protect your team, or struggling to make payroll, it’s important to keep your customers updated. This inclusive transparency allows them to respond to and empathize with you and your employees, plus it lets them know that you are taking actions to keep your community and loved ones safe. Psychologically, your open-hearted disclosure builds a sense of “we’re all in this together,” shifting to a focus on solidarity that can lift spirits and lead to mutual cooperation. In fact, “normal” advertising can be off-putting in situations like this, especially if your current campaign doesn’t match the somber mood created by the national shutdown. Regular updates about your business hours and dedicated measures (like shifting to “takeout only” for restaurants) serve as context-appropriate substitutes for traditional ad campaigns.
Cocoa Cinnamon, a locally owned and operated coffee company in Durham, NC has adopted this approach:
2. Give generously when you can
Entire industries are shutting down for the first time in generations, and it’s putting people out of work. Predictions of a recession seem foreboding and inevitable. Although we know this disruption is temporary, many employees will be hit—hard—especially hourly workers. If your company has the means or capacity to help, either by hiring additional employees, offering discounts including free delivery, or adding bonuses, then do it! History has shown that such measures will be remembered when things return to normal. More importantly, we’re all in this together and we all need to do what we can.
3. Become a source of information
Unemployment and emergency insurance may become widely available, but sadly, many people who would benefit remain unaware of those measures. Consider posting links to state and federal twebsites. Customers and employees who follow your social media or visit your website will be grateful to learn about the government assistance available to them. You don’t have to present yourself as an expert, and you probably shouldn’t attempt to answer questions about these programs (unless you really are an expert). Instead, just help spread the word about these programs. By doing so, you affirm your position as a brand that cares about your customers beyond economic transactions. You become a trusted friend.
Here are the relevant websites for state unemployment in California and Tennessee where we have offices:
4. Promote safety precautions
Despite numerous warnings about the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to flatten the curve, many people have been slow to take precautions. Businesses can have a significant impact by mandating that employees heed these safeguards, by sending non-essential personnel home (and with benefits, when at all possible). Beyond caring for your employees, you can use your position of influence to promote these lifesaving precautions to protect your customers and your communities. Re-post content about social distancing, stay-at-home living and frequent hand-washing. This content doesn’t have to be heavy-handed, and you can even keep it lighthearted. Late Night hosts like Jimmy Fallon have been doing a great job at this:
5. Promote Remote or Online services
I mentioned this briefly before, but if you can, this is a good time to add and promote remote and online services. For realtors, maybe it means finally learning the best way to use FaceTime to do digital showings. For therapists, maybe it means really leaning in to teletherapy. For everyone, it means getting comfortable with video calls and remote meetings, often with new technologies. Thankfully, these new services can be just as effective as the old in-person meetings you're used to