Coronavirus: How to keep your customers engaged during lockdown
28th April 2020
The phrase ‘unprecedented times’ has practically become the tagline of the lockdown period, but it hasn’t lost its meaning. With only essential workers leaving their homes, and the majority of the workforce furloughed or working remotely, businesses have taken a huge hit – in every direction imaginable.
There has, however, been a noticeable increase in awareness and support of small businesses during this pandemic. As lockdown begins to feel like the new ‘normal’, it’s key for business owners to keep in touch with their audiences in a relatable and relevant way.
While this may not mean ‘selling’ your brand, it’s valuable to remain connected, even if just to check in with your community.
Read on for a few tips on how to keep your audience engaged during this pandemic. Remember, yours and your employees’ safety and health should be your number one priority – only try out the ideas that you can do safely and practically.
Embrace your local community: Use fellow small businesses and existing networks
During this pandemic, traditional means of custom like foot traffic and in-person services are suddenly out of reach. But with many working from home, and limited essential-only travel, most customers’ geographical spheres have shrunk. This has meant many people are looking to connect with their local area now more than ever.
Consider joining regional Facebook groups and looking at other businesses that are in the area. Are there any you can partner with to increase your offering and potentially increase your audience? Is there a way you can support the local area, either through your business or personally?
Ensure you maximise the local community support that is on offer, whether it’s for keeping revenue flowing or just to target an audience you’d like to know your business for the future when lockdown lifts.
What’s more, you may be able to help other businesses in ways you hadn’t thought of, and vice versa. Your community may be able to provide commercial and mental strengths when times are tough.
Discover your social audience: Tidy your digital shop window and communicate in new ways
For many people, social media is one of the few constants that is successfully bridging the gap between our lives before the lockdown and now. As we stay in touch with our friends, search for advice and keep entertained, social media users are engaging more than ever, meaning there has never been a better time to explore or audit your social media channels.
Firstly, make sure your profiles are up to date and relevant. Let customers know if you’re open for business, or if you’ve adapted your services, on a regular basis. Check you have visible contact details, and if they’re still contactable if your bricks-and-mortar business is temporarily closed. Treat your social media profiles like your digital shop window – what would you want clients and customers to know amongst the uncertainty?
Next, consider using this time to work out what your audience is looking for and what they’re sharing. Is there a way you can get involved in a genuine and authentic way or can you offer advice or tips? It’s vital any content you share is relatable and tonally relevant to the current situation, so make sure you’re not just pushing your product, especially if you know it won’t be front of mind.
Some options include offering competitions or sharing sector specific advice. For example, a gardening business could share short and useful ‘how to’ videos that resonate with customers who are making the most of the sun hitting their gardens. Hairdressing salons could consider home hair dressing tips for those struggling with their hair maintenance. Giving tips won’t stop your customers returning after lockdown but will remind everyone that you’re the expert at what you do.
If you have more time on your hands than you’re used to, now’s the time to test and experiment: live stories, ads, different styles of content, different social channels or even influencers... Find out what works for your business and what creates the most engagement. This will ensure that your brand is still in the mind of the consumer, even if you’re not running BAU.
Adapt your strategy: Reimagine your offering
Social distancing is affecting all of us in unexpected ways. If your product or business has become more relevant during the pandemic, look at how you can expand your communications to ensure both your potential and existing audience are aware of what you can offer.
If you’re struggling due to the restrictions in place, consider the possibilities of pivoting your strategy slightly. For example, if your business is usually focused on a physical service, why not look to see if you can take it digital? If you’re in the retail business and able to, set up an online store and start delivering your products - ensuring you‘re following social distancing guidelines and your employees are taking all necessary precautions to be as safe as possible.
For businesses that are niche but in demand, this could be a great opportunity to offer a service that might not be available elsewhere. Experts in their fields could run digital consultancy sessions, or offer online coaching and development programmes. Now’s the time to think outside the box.
Look to the future: what can be done now that will bring benefit later?
It’s vital to keep in mind that this will end, and though there are no definite timelines, it’s possible to look at what you may need to do when the restrictions lift. There are still ways to intrigue your audience with future offers, so you could consider suggesting vouchers, recommend future bookings and, if you can manage it, offer ‘buy now pay later’ schemes to customers who may have been furloughed or have lower incomes than usual.
Whilst these tips should help keep your audience engaged and could see your business reach a wider audience, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you are communicating the right messages, at the right time, to the right people. Remember that everyone is experiencing challenges right now, so make sure your efforts don’t appear to put your business before your people or customers.
Most importantly, stay safe and follow all the recommended guidelines.
If your business is struggling, check out our list of financial resources available to small and medium businesses below, or visit our COVID-19 help page by clicking here.
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