The cause and effect of business and marketing best practices are not always clear and obvious. But these unusual times provide lessons that make the cause and effect of these practices painfully clear.
Don’t pretend it’s business as usual
We all want normalcy. One side of us wants to move forward with our plans and ongoing programs as if it’s business-as-usual. We may feel this will provide the sense of routine that our customers, and we, long for.
It’s not going to work.
All of us are experiencing a drop, maybe an over-the-cliff drop, in business activity. I’ve seen companies try to counteract this drop by increasing marketing promotions to reverse the downward revenue movement.
Don’t do it. You will sound tone-deaf, you can’t reverse what’s going on in the short term, and you can cause long term damage to your brand long term.
Lesson: Your PR and marketing communications need to be adjusted to take important events taking place outside your company into account.
What to do: Make sure any communications you send are relevant to your audience’s immediate needs. Pay particular attention to any marketing automation programs you have running. Pause them if you don’t have time to review them.
Customers don’t always want to hear from you
Unless you’re a medical or healthcare expert, not only do customers not need to hear from you right now. In fact, they don’t want to hear from you right now.
Unless a customer has work-in-process or has an immediate need for a new project, how your business is impacted by external events is not a concern to them right now.
Any emails you send now about how COVID-19 is or is not impacting your business will be outdated tomorrow, if not an hour from now. Email is just not a good form of communication for ongoing events.
Customers will look to your website, or pick up the phone and call if the impact on your business is going to impact their business. They’re not going to get this information from an email you sent yesterday.
Lesson: Customers are focused on their needs, not yours.
What to do: Put a banner message on your website stating how and if your customers are being impacted instead of sending another email.
Internal communications matter
The last week has made the need for clear and consistent internal communications to employees very obvious. Unlike customers, the impact that COVID-19 has on your business has a tremendous impact on your employees.
People are worried. They’re worried about the safety and health of themselves and their loved ones. They’re worried about next week’s paycheck, and if they’re going to pay rent or their mortgage months from now. And employees are worried if their companies are doing enough to keep them healthy and financially secure.
Unlike customers, employees are looking for leadership even though you aren’t a healthcare expert.
Now is not the time to be a control freak. Don’t wait to communicate until you’ve gathered all the information and understand how things will impact your business. The fact is we’re in uncharted waters and none of us no the end game on our business or society in general. Communicate what you know, what you don’t know, and what you are working on.
Lesson: Internal communications are important and have a big impact on your company culture.
What to do: Communicate daily, whether you have any new information to share or not. “No new news” is useful information.
It’s a surreal time, but don’t panic. Your competitors are in the same position as your company. When these times pass, and they will, we may have a new norm. You may find yourself in a worse position financially but a better position competitively on the other side.