(Asking for a friend)
Of course, we all care how others are doing, but do we adapt our communications to effectively show it, or take action to help? Content marketing tone-deafness seems rife these days. We see it in ill-timed marketing messages that bulldoze ahead without a pause, failing to consider the New Normal (illness, hardship, coping with change). We see it in new, well-meaning website banners expressing empathy, but whose placement or wording may appear like decal art, not resonant or reflective of any response or change in marketing, sales and service practices.
People are bouncing up and down all over the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid (see graphic) like never before: one day, on top of the world; next day, pinned under it. One reader summed it this way: “In November, we were all psyched about the top 2020 tech trends; yesterday I was psyched just to swap a loaf of bread for a bag of carrots”.
The New Business Opportunity: Listen
The new business opportunity is, in a word: Listen. Next: demonstrate by your own actions that you actually listened. Stop selling, start serving. Each individual customer and prospect is processing information differently. The famed buying funnel, which really always was more of a tornado anyway, is now spinning up – or down – a bit more frantically. Your challenge is to check in frequently to be sure you are doing what customers and buyers need which, incidentally, could also be just what you need too. The two are not mutually exclusive, but the timing is everything.
Here, in priority order, are some things we are doing in these New Normal times to help us avoid Sender’s Remorse, including client feedback and the results we are seeing.
Four Tactics to Avoid Sender’s Remorse
Here are some tactics to consider adopting, accompanied with a few stories about how we did it, and the results we saw.
1. Listen to what customers need urgently now. Listening intently helps you lean away from the instinct to put messages out there, and lean more toward interpreting others’ needs. This positions you better to offer solutions that your audiences will value under their circumstances. For example, if you have a “sympathy” banner statement on your website, consider replacing those sincere words with a demonstration of sincere action. Maybe your customer needs to get fuller benefit from a purchase they already made. Help them do that. It’s part of your support arrangement, isn’t it? If not, make it so. Consider prioritizing the most relevant product / service categories. Give something away at first, so people can evaluate whether it fits their most pressing need. A “freemium” model might work here; just be in it for the long haul, and extend free trials beyond the customary 90 days, to accommodate the distraction and drawn-out decision processes that now typify buying decisions.
What we did: I sent a personal email to each key client executive expressing understanding with the current situation and offering to completely scrap, modify, or at least revisit our current projects and agreements, to change it up according to their most urgent needs. Every single one of them emphatically stated they want to talk about continuing the relationship, happy to discuss any needed change. We were thus able to re-prioritize our work based on those client updates. Instead of sitting around wondering, our direct engagement has helped us confidently move forward productively.
2. Make things more convenient. Improve access to your support and service. People are feeling abandoned enough; don’t add to the frustration. Be the oasis, be the rock. Listen and respond. Consider adding new or more convenient payment, delivery, service, redemption and return methods. Form new partnerships to support your efforts here. Staff up your Chat bot hours.
What we did: Please skip to that answer under #3 below.
3. Educate or train for a small fee. Everyone needs to learn new things to adapt to new realities. Is there some expertise or body of knowledge you possess that could be offered to clients, or the general public? Consider what you can offer that could also help people manage through rapid change.
What we did: Understanding the new Work from Home trend, we began doing free webconferencing user training for clients (Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc.), who enthusiastically accepted the offer. Three surprising results came our way.
Firstly, we got better acquainted with more client-side Users who are newly working from home. Their first-person feedback and dialogue really helped us to better understand the needs of that broader user group.
Secondly, we were referred by some of our customers to other organizations to deliver the same videoconferencing training, and those new contacts are happily paying us to do it. Result: we have a new service offering, and an easy and natural way to introduce to our other main product and services offerings.
Third: We received some strong referrals that led to new clients.
How can you apply this? Maybe your skills, products and services would benefit existing customers and open new markets; offer to train them. Take an “each one teach one” approach. Give it a brand name and maybe a hashtag. Make it a new service. Make it a new product category. Do what’s needed now.
4. Redefine loyalty. Get customer input to determine what values have changed, and how. Get ahead of the Next Normal: videoconferencing, e-commerce, sustainability, etc. Increased public interest and concern about these topics could be matched or mitigated by your knowledge, your content, and your approach to sharing it.
Watch out for “Tone-deaf” Humor. Even professional humorists can get humor wrong. Consider maybe not leading with a joke that could be construed in bad taste which, of course, is highly subjective. To repeat Tactic #1 above: First, check in with people, listen, and gain some perspective. Only then can you determine what, if any, type of humor or irony may be appropriate and appreciated.
Avoiding Sender’s Remorse: the final edit step
If you’ve adopted the four steps above, you’ve probably gotten better acquainted with your clients. Next, start a content theme focused on client stories, with your client as the hero. Resist the temptation to sell, but by all means provide sidebar links to your own newly adapted products, services and support programs: free training, relaxed trial periods, whatever works for them and you, based on your new listening campaign. Send a test email to your own internal review team, but consider including your client (story hero)on that test message too. Make them part of your review process, even if only for a cursory “okay” response. In addition to ensuring a more satisfactory result, you can give clients a more intimate glimpse and appreciation for the rigor of your effort to get things right. Oh, and incidentally, it also demonstrates once again that you are listening.
Over to You.
How are you adapting to the new normal? Are you now in closer contact with customers? What can you easily do to adapt and deliver on their needs? Love to hear your Comments and stories.
References and Resources
How Marketing Leaders Can Manage Coronavirus and Plan for the Future (McKinsey)
Show You Care How Audiences are Doing (Content Marketing Institute)
The Bright Side of COVID-19: Seven Opportunities of the Current Pandemic (Forbes)