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How to engage customers when face-to-face isn’t an option

How do you reach your customers when the all important physical opportunities to build relationships are vetoed?

On the one hand, this current environment presents so many challenges when it comes to engaging customers. But on the other, with the role of digital reaching new heights (80% of Brits are consuming more content) and a home-based audience, there are still many opportunities to reach out to existing customers and new ones.

Now isn’t the time to take a back seat, communication and content will be more essential than ever as we assess and adapt to the changing climate and customers seek information and clarity.

Here are our top tips to adapt your approach:

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

What can your company do that makes a potential customer think ‘That’s brilliant and really helpful’? A personalised approach for different audience segments is key and this is more crucial in the current environment. People are understandably anxious and so unless messaging is appropriate, your comms is going to fall flat. Keep a close eye on what your customers are doing, thinking and feeling.

The brands that do this and do it well, could come out of this in a stronger position than ever before.

2. Make sure your messaging is right

Review content that focuses on commercial selling and replace with a focus on innovation and support that you can give to customers right now. Address the key concerns that your customers might have with support and guidance that adds real value. approached this in a really interesting way – they used email comms to directly ask subscribers what would be helpful for them and their families.

3. Thought leadership

Going quiet isn’t an option right now; customers and media will be expecting to hear from you. There is an opportunity for brands to position themselves as thought leaders (especially if some of your competitors have gone quiet!). Think about how you can respond in an authentic and relevant way.

From a media perspective, we’re advising the brands we work with to focus more on online media with shorter lead times as the environment is constantly changing, as well as LinkedIn blogs.

4. Share your expertise

There’s a wealth of experts out there streaming online content on everything from exercise to cooking skills. Think about the experts you have within your business and how they could be sharing their knowledge and insight via podcasts, videos and webinars. This can be relevant no matter what industry you’re in. For example, Italian warewasher manufacturer Krupps is using the coronavirus lockdown to run a series of online training sessions.

The channel you share this on will depend on your type of business – it might be via training videos on YouTube or a masterclass on Instagram Live.

5. Listen to the data

Monitoring your website’s analytics plus active social listening can give you unique insights into how your customers are actively engaging with your brand. Make sure you’re reviewing this and using the insights to tweak and optimise approaches.

6. Think about the value ad

With many businesses facing tough times, now may not be the right time to be pushing a sales message. However, there’s an opportunity to make the most of a more engaged online audience. When thinking about what your customer needs right now consider how you can be helping them with value adds – this could be anything from sharing insights and ezines to offering free consultancy.

Think about what content you have to hand that could be repurposed, as well as what could be created from scratch. For example, short films can be created with existing and stock footage, and podcasts and webinars can be made from home. Upskill your teams to create their own content by sharing tips on how to film at home and ideas of what to share on social.

7. Build your network

This could be a good time to build your contacts and increase your social following but remember the above value-add point.

Social has a significant role to play in helping you stay relevant and present but be careful on what you post. Remember the 3Hs – be helpful, be human and be humble.

8. Make the most of a captive at home audience

Never before have I been so excited to hear the drop of post of my doormat! Direct mail has seen a growing resurgence in recent years as people get inbox overload, and the current climate presents an opportunity to brighten someone’s day. Just reaching out to ask for someone’s home address as you have a treat to send them, can result in responses from prospects who have never engaged before.

9. Consider collaboration opportunities

Are there ways you can engage and collaborate with the industry? Some of the most inspiring and powerful work being done is by competitors coming together.

As just one example, why not get involved in some pro bono mentoring – there are a whole load of schemes out there to get involved with for your relevant industry. For example, experts in the hospitality industry have launched All Together – a new initiative that offers pro bono mentoring and advice for company founders and leaders affected by the coronavirus crisis.

10. Even though events have fallen out of your diary, don’t forget to network

New networking platform, Lunch Club has gone virtual setting up online meetings that help users navigate finding new connections inside specific industries.

In the food & hospitality sector, Arena has moved its events series to weekly webinars on topics relevant to COVID-19 followed by virtual networking. I recommend both of these.

11. Entertain your customers

For those looking to stave off self-isolation boredom (i.e. all of us), there’s a hunger for content to keep us entertained. One of our clients, The Celtic Manor Resort has launched a content platform ‘Celtic at Home’ to entertain the nation which is getting some great engagement.

In these challenging times, ultimately it’s key that you stay true to who you are and what your brand does. Empathy and assistance can go a long way – relieving some of the short- term strain your customers are facing can pay off longer term.

Tags: customer engagementremote workingvirtual communications