I’d like to begin today’s post with an understatement and a cliché: COVID-19 is a game-changer.
Despite quick and decisive action that follows the advice of doctors and virologists, Canada has not been spared the community spread of COVID-19. My home province of Ontario has seen the highest rates of infection in the country. Our municipal, provincial, and federal leaders are unified across party lines in their approach to this crisis and are keeping citizens informed with daily press conferences.
Take note. Business leaders – whether you own a small or medium-sized business, or are in the c-suite of a large company – it is paramount that you keep in regular communication with your clientèle.
Send email communiqués.
Publish announcements over social media at least once a week.
Buy ad space in print and digital newspapers and magazines or on television.
Laying low and waiting for this crisis to end is a mistake.
Perhaps you’re not sure what to do or say, especially if yours is a small or non-essential business that has been asked to stay closed. Perhaps you feel that what needs to be said has already been said.
The best course of action during a crisis is to communicate constantly – even if it’s the same message. There is reassurance in repetition. Plus, you’re ensuring that anyone who missed your email or post the first time will see it on one or more subsequent occasions.
Take a page from those companies that are staying on top of the crisis.
Acknowledge the crisis.
Let your customers know that you understand that there is a crisis and that you understand what it means for them. It is not business as usual for anyone. So, don’t pretend that it is. Make sure you tell your customers that you’re working on a solution. Tell them how the crisis will affect daily operations. For instance, my daughter’s karate classes have obviously been cancelled. Yet, the school has not told me how it plans to handle the payments I’ve already made for those classes.
A crisis is a breeding ground for questions. Try to prepare a response to as many as possible.
Empathy goes a long way.
Let your clients know that this crisis is hard on everyone, particularly them. Some of your clients may have lost their jobs. Thankfully, during the turmoil that COVID-19 has wrought, Canadians are able to access bridge payments and other forms of relief. Healthcare is available and free. Banks, landlords and other sources of bills have been asked to provide relief and forgiveness. In many cases, even those measures are not enough to quell the stressful realities that your clients may be experiencing.
Tell your customers that you know how hard, painful, and fearful this situation is. If you can, offer your employees some kind of financial relief and let your customers know about it. Again, if possible allow your clients and employees to contact you to express their fears and frustrations.
We’re all in this together. Let’s be kind to each other.
Reveal the plan.
No one knows what solutions will work best in this situation. But, it is possible to offer some plans for next steps – even if those plans are just for the next week or two. Your employees and clients want to know that you’re staying on top of the crisis and their needs as much as possible.
Remember: Wash your hands. Keep a 2 metre distance between you and others. Stay home.
Need a content writer to help you craft your crisis communications? Contact me.
COVID-19 Check-in: How Are You Doing?
I truly hope that all of you are well during these uncertain times. I’m used to working from home, but I can imagine what a strange transition it must be for those of you who are used to sharing space with your co-workers. But, all of that is inconsequential in light of the very real devastation that COVID-19 is causing worldwide.
If you’re worried about your business, your employees, or your family, I’m here to listen. Just reach out.
In the meantime, let’s all keep Health Canada’s wise directives in mind…
Wash your hands.
Stay home and self-isolate if you are (or think you might be) sick.
Practice physical distancing (2 metres, 1 caribou, 6 feet).
They love you. They leave you. They’re back with a box of chocolates. Who knows how it’s all going to end? You just have to take it on faith because sometimes all the statistics in the world can’t tell you what will be.
Speaking of stats, did you know…
*57% of customers make purchasing decisions based on a company’s ethical values?
*61% believe that boycotts, speaking out on social media, and other types of protest influence how a company behaves?
**92% would drop a brand for another that had a compelling social purpose?
Uh huh. That brand-customer relationship is fraught with love and heartache.
the usual back-and-forth
Want to know what your customers are saying and thinking about your business and your products or services? Use these listening tools:
Surveys Ask the right questions and you’ll end up with a birds-eye view that reveals your customers’ thoughts.
Social Media Read the comments and questions that consumers post on your social channels. That, my friend, is instant (sometimes brutal) feedback.
Employees Your frontline staff are more perceptive than you might think. They hear what customers are saying, and they see changing buying patterns in action. Ask them what they know.
Well, you know, any time you ask for someone’s opinion, there’s a chance that you won’t like what you hear. That’s ok. Take what you’re given and run with it.
I like Ikea’s example. As popular as Ikea furniture is, there’s a reason why it’s so cheap. (Also, assembling the pieces can inspire some pretty creative language use. But, that’s another story.) It’s meant to be disposable, which contributes to landfills … which is baaaad. So, in an effort to refresh their product (and their image in this time of heightened environmental concern), Ikea asked customers to help them design useful products. The result was a fantastic new product line called Open Source Ikea. Under that label, Ikea produces pieces that customers can combine in infinite ways. Need a crib? Add sides onto the base. When baby grows bigger, you can remove the sides, add arm rests and turn it into a chair. So. Many. Possibilities.
brand-customer relationship – the old ways
For the longest time, we thought of influence as running primarily in one direction – from business to customers. We convince customers to buy and they follow through. We ask customers to tell us what they think of our products or services, and they do. And why wouldn’t they? Answering surveys has always been a way to be heard, to speak directly to the company, to hopefully convince that company to listen to your ideas.
brand-customer relationship – the new ways
So, I’m not going to say those old ways are gone forever. They’re still around, and still effective. There’s just … well … more now. Social media has been a mighty “empowerer” of people – mostly good and sometimes not so. Set up some listening tools for mentions about you and the products or services you sell to learn how consumers see you. A fairly simple listening tool is a hashtag that relates to your business. Read what people are saying under that hashtag. The information might be very useful. Consumers are less likely to tell you when they’re happy or dissatisfied. Instead, they log into their social accounts and spill the details. They’re not just venting. Consumers express their thoughts on social media to effect change.
the content writer at work
COVID-19 has certainly put things into perspective. Social, labour, environment, and health concerns reign. Take your business blog and use it for the good of society. Oh sure, you’ll get some negative feedback. There will always be people who don’t believe businesses should speak out on political or social issues. Forget about them. Show your customers – through blog posts and community action – that their well-being (and your employees’ and society’s as a whole) is important to you.
Stepping into the fray can be scary. But, you and your business live there already. You might as well embrace it.
Over to you: How much time do you put into planning and writing your blog posts and social media updates?
* “Majority of Canadian consumers buying from companies that take a stand on issues they care about and ditching those that don’t, Accenture study finds.” CNW
I truly believe it’s time to stop talking about cultural fit in the workplace. Hiring for fit sounds like a good idea. How could it not? Everyone getting along, on the same page, able to finish each other’s sentences … it sounds like the perfect formula for business success. If your team is ONE, accelerated positive growth seems to be the natural outcome.
It’s a bit of a dramatic title, I know. But, I’m going with it to draw attention to two facts.
First, as business owners, we want to promote the good work we do for our customers. Sharing success stories is one of the most effective marketing tools we have. It’s the reason why there are so many review websites all over the internet. The customer experience told in their own words is a very powerful sales tool.
Press releases are like that first line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times. I was the worst of times.” Some of them can be wonderful reads – replete with all the right information set out like a compelling story. Then there are those that are not.
The question for you is whether, as an owner of a small or medium-sized business, you should even bother going to the trouble of preparing one.
You are a rockstar! Starting your business and scaling it up is not exactly easy. As a business owner, myself, I know how many hours it takes to lead a passion to fruition. My business has had its ups and downs – sometimes of my own doing, sometimes not. Like me, I know you’re trying to keep up with new marketing trends that will keep your business in front of as many eyes as possible. You’ve bought ads in your local newspaper. You’re an active member with the local chamber of commerce. Maybe you even have a website.
(By the way, did you know that 40% of small businesses do not have a website?)
My point is that business owners are not just experts in their field. They also need to be experts in marketing. There is, however, one marketing tool that most small and medium-sized businesses likely haven’t tried. Continue reading → Every SMB Needs A Press Kit
Hats off to all of you inspired to write about lifestyle. It’s a fabulous subject area loaded with possibility. Of course, there are already a whole lot of articles written and published every day covering everything from food to health to travel and beyond. But, I’m very glad that fact isn’t dissuading you.
By now, you know that your business website needs a blog. No doubt, you’ve heard all of the pros.
It will help you build a solid foundation of return customers.
It will help you grow your business.
It will help you showcase your products or services.
Yes. All that and more. There’s a lot of proof out there that shows how beneficial a blog can be.
Over 3/4 of internet users say they read blogs regularly.
72% of marketers said that having a good content strategy was a major key to their success.
Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13 times more likely to see positive ROI. (All stats from Hubspot.)
As an owner of a small or medium-sized business, you probably don’t doubt for a minute that bogging can be a very beneficial marketing activity. Any method that puts your business in front of more potential customers has to be good. The problem for most of you, though, is numbers. There’s only one of you, maybe a few of you. Even if there are a hundred of you, it can be hard to fit in one more task. You and your team likely already wear multiple hats. Yet, here I am, asking you to put on one more. Continue reading → How To Create A Business Blog
Some people seek the spotlight. Me? I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person, which makes me particularly suited to be a copyeditor. I really enjoy helping people build and clarify ideas until they morph into a nicely structured, publishable piece.