Learning From How Brands Are Responding to Coronavirus
There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 is on a scale that no one would have imagined; and it is affecting not only the lives of each of us as individuals but also businesses in nearly every industry. For most businesses — especially our small hometown business and soloprenuers — facing this type of unexpected event, or pandemic as it has now been declared by the World Health Organization, is a first. I’m right there raising my hand for this being a first for me. ✋🏼
While products for sanitation and daily needs have flown off the shelves as consumers aim to protect themselves and prepare for quarantine, other products and services face losses from canceled events, travel transportation and tourism. Even consumerism as a whole lessens as people opt to stay home except for basic needs. While some shops and studios have suspended their hours and closed for the next few weeks.
As with anything new and unexpected, we can learn from the response of COVID-19 to improve our brands and build procedures and guides for any future unforeseen events of similar impact.
Everyone is having a hard time; we have to remember that. We don’t want to further increase panic and fear happening as a result of COVID-19, but we also have to face the realities it creates. How can we then solidify brand trust and engagement in this time and fight through to survive?
The First Answer: Be Supportive of Your Client & Customer
One of my favorite examples of this is from Loom. Loom is an online screen capture and video tool that I have used ever since it was recommended to me by Stephen Diaz on an episode of The Creative Legacy Podcast. Among the many emails I’ve received from brands on their plans and response to COVID-19 Loom’s stood out to me because they went to a place of service. For a period of time they are lowering the cost of their pro plan by 50% to make remote work as a result of quarantine and shut downs easier.
Come From a Place of Service
Loom went even one step further and announced that they will offer their pro plan to teachers and students for free, forever. As many schools and universities move to virtual classrooms during the upcoming weeks this is extremely helpful. It is even more inspiring that they made the decision to offer their service to teachers and students for free beyond the time the virus will have impact our daily lives.
I especially love this example because Loom is a company that has definitely seen an increase in usage from such an event where digital tools are needed, yet they decided not to try and simply sell but rather serve and support those most in need.
What to Avoid: Overselling
To further emphasize the importance of facing crisis from a place of giving support and serving and not trying to over sell; even Twitter has provided words of caution for brands during this unprecedented time, “This is not a ‘marketing opportunity’ to capitalize on, and we do not recommend brands opportunistically linking themselves to a health scare.” Twitter shared a complete article on communication in times of crisis; it’s a good read I’d recommend checking out!
Showing Support Will Look Different For Every Brand
For some providing support during a crisis will look like changes to existing policy; even if only for a period of time. Delta and other airlines are allowing travelers to alter plans without fees for current tickets. Travel is a huge concern for many, and customers will appreciate the option to adjust their plans without the worry of an additional fee. Some in the service industry are also waving cancelation fees for appointments if their client is feeling sick in encouragement for their client to stay home. Some businesses are providing free meals to kids who may not otherwise have a meal because schools are closed.
One more example of support that has really stood out to me is ConvertKit. They understand that COVID-19 will impact their customer, creators, in many ways financially. As a result they have opened up opportunities for grants to be given to those affected for things like childcare and rent or mortgages. How amazing is that?! And what an impact it will have for their customer!
Honest Communication Is Important
The Second Answer: Honest Communication Is Key.
Communication is always important but there is no better time to 10X your on-point communication game than now.
You’ve probably seen many emails from every list you are subscribed to or service you have with updates on how the brand is proceeding as a result of the virus outbreak. For food service like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A it means communicating increased sanitization measures so customers feel assured that they are coming into a space that prioritizes their health and limited seating or closures to their dining areas to encourage social distancing while still providing options to their customer to get their daily caffeine fix or grab a meal to go via their drive thru.
When we look at these communications they express care and concern for the customer. In talking with our clients we want to make sure they feel seen, heard, understood and important. But then when we think of a brand as a promise to the customer to provide a certain experience, what expectations do we give them during a crisis? Changes to our daily operations that will affect our clients also need to be communicated.
Opportunities to Communicate:
- How can clients reschedule an appointment?
- What things should a client consider if they were planning an event that now has to be canceled or postponed?
- How can virtual meetings be held instead of meeting in person?
- If you were hosting a class or conference, how can people still gain value even if it is canceled?
Share New Expectations
Moving on from communicating support for our clients, here is where I want to express a need for honest communication. Communities get to step up and support one another and acknowledge that things are just different right now. When we are faced with new environments its okay that it may take longer to respond to an email. However, share that with your client. Be honest that a spouse or your children are at home and childcare is not an option or certain resources aren’t as readily available and email responses, services or product shipment may take longer than normal. It is all creating clear expectations for our client.
Reach Out for Support
Beyond setting expectations, a crisis is a time to seek out help. This quote from Mr. Rogers has been shared a few times in my networking groups,
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Especially for small local businesses, losing the opportunity to be open or working for several days, much less weeks or losing opportunities due to canceled events can have serious impact when running on small margins. Like we get to show up in support for our clients and customers, we get to come with an honest and sincere heart to them as well and ask for their support. It will look different, sure, but it is moments like this when community shines.
A local company here in Green Bay, The Dough Shoppe has a great example. They posted this message on Facebook seeking help from their customers, family and friends:
The post went viral with supportive comments and shares. They ended up selling out within 20 minutes of opening the next day. The owners shared their gratitude via a Facebook Live video.
I’ve shared quite a few examples from other brands, but this is an opportunity to be creative. In what ways can you show support and communicate care in a way that is true to your brand and what you offer? It is a time for you to show up even more and in different ways. Gary Vaynerchuck gives a bit of advice in an IGTV video explaining how now is a time to be innovative.
This might look like:
- Perhaps if you are a brick and mortar that does not yet have an online store, this is the time to start one. Or create a pre-order and pick-up only system.
- If you have a food service, can you add delivery via Uber Eats, Grub Hub or Postmates? Many delivery services are offering no contact delivery
- If you offer an in person service, maybe you can offer a virtual services or a course related to what you offer.
- If you don’t have a product, is there something related to what you do that you can create?
- How can you show up in social media differently?
- If you haven’t been creating video, now might be the time. Or maybe it is a podcast. People are looking for ways to be entertained while remaining at home.
- Is there a guide or resource you can create or share to help people while they work at home and kids are out of school? Disney released Frozen II a whole three months before it was planned to be released via Disney+. No doubt parents are rejoicing over that one to keep the little ones entertained.
Protect Yourself In the Future and Today
Ok, so we can be creative to come up with new ways to serve our client, communicate and battle through this crisis. We can review our contracts and add or update a force majeure clause (protection from uncontrollable and unforeseen circumstances). We can write down procedures for times when disease, natural disasters, fires, etc. might happen and how we show up and respond. There are many great resources from The Rising Tide Society and Honeybook to guide you including this webinar.
What Changes Should Be Made to Everyday Business?
But also consider, what changes are you making that could and should be implemented as normal once social distancing is no longer needed and we return to our daily lives. Is there a policy change you made that would better serve your client everyday, not just in these next few weeks? How can you take this situation and improve your business and brand as a result to come out stronger than before?
We get to use this opportunity to be creative, think outside the box and expand what we can do to serve.
I’m Here to Help!
If you have concerns about how your brand is responding to COVID-19 and what you can do to up level your brand and come through this stronger please reach out. I’m happy to help guide you to give SUPPORT, COMMUNICATE to, & CREATE for your client to build a stronger up-leveled brand that outlasts this current pandemic.
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