In our current world, people’s normal lives have been interrupted, and we're all adapting to how best to . . . well how best to do anything! From homeschooling our kids to helping the companies we work with completely pivot their way of doing business. (You can see how Acquia is adapting our own operations, here). Some of those pivots are straightforward enough, like ordering groceries online rather than going to the grocery store. Others can be monumental, unfamiliar and driven by the need to help a business survive and maintain its relationships with customers.
As a marketer, I’m now constantly challenging myself and my team to find the best way to continue marketing to our customers and prospective customers, by adjusting our message to be more educational and supportive, rather than salesy. So what’s the best way to handle communicating with our customers, partners, acquaintances and even complete strangers as people’s mindsets and behaviors evolve and adjust to these new circumstances? Be genuine and thoughtful. Achieving the right balance between emotional sensitivity and offering proactive, helpful solutions can be difficult to accomplish.
When we receive a message, through any medium, we very quickly make a decision as to how relevant to us it is. Our communication systems are even designed to help us make that decision, with email subject lines helping us prioritize our inbox. The popularity of message previews and smartphone notifications mean that brands have just a split second to prove themselves worthy of a customer’s attention before they even commit to opening the full message. When every company is now sending out their support messages and crisis plan, the key to being heard is to make sure your brand tone is genuine and your message is contextually relevant.
Let me share my top tips for being relevant, genuine and thoughtful as you aim to communicate successfully with your audience.
1. Above All Else, Listen First
Listening to your audience applies even when the world isn’t going through a global pandemic, but is especially true now. You can’t just broadcast your own approaches to solve a problem before you’ve identified what those problems are and made the effort to demonstrate support and care for your audience’s new challenges. At Acquia, we recently reached out to some of our partners to listen to how they’re adapting to the current situation. Some of our European partners shared their insight with us:
“We evolve and adapt. We readjust our teams and priorities on a daily basis. Distributing forces in the right places and rebalancing efforts are part of our DNA. Being agile is essential in a time of crisis. We are learning every day. This is why our teams are training, tackling internal issues and continuing to dedicate themselves at 100%, alongside our clients.”
- Fabrice Perrin, General Manager, WIDE Switzerland
We also invited our customers to join a webinar where we offered our tips, tricks and support to help them carry on as normal. Here is just one example of the things they told us:
“With our council buildings closed to the public and information changing daily, our website has been even more important than usual for interacting with our residents and businesses. We have seen huge increases in traffic, and our priority has been making sure the visitors to our website have the information and tools they need, as well as providing reassurance. But, with so much information out there it can be easy to just accumulate pages of content. The main challenge for us has been making sure we keep the communication clear and as straightforward as possible to make sure we are providing the best support we can.”
-Francesca Tye, Harlow Council
2. Help People Solve Problems, Quickly
The learnings we gained from just listening before acting here were incredible for us here at Acquia. It taught us that firstly, more than anything, our community of customers and partners is strong, resilient and fighting back against this awful virus. It taught us that people are trying to solve new problems in new ways and that technology can often help. It taught us that people need support, education and help to solve these problems and that the most valuable thing to them right now is time - either in speed of change or in the lack of hours in a day to keep up with their regular responsibilities.
The world is no longer running on a traditional 9-5 schedule. This means that the most helpful thing we can do to support our customers and partners is share precise, educational content that can be consumed quickly and at a time that suits them. If we host a webinar, we better be publishing the recording. If we send an email, we better be getting to the point. If we publish a video, it needs to be on social media and easy to access.
3. Think Before You Speak
This one isn’t quite as simple as those four words make it sound. What I mean is that we shouldn’t rush to say something to our audience. It’s much more effective to say the right thing rather than striving to speak first. If you’ve evaluated a situation and feel your business is the right voice to weigh in, ask yourself these simple questions to help frame the context and tone of your message:
1. Who is the audience and how well do I know them?
You never want to sound over-familiar in a one-to-one message if you don’t know them that well. However, if you do have a strong relationship with the subject, acknowledging them specifically and placing your message in context of that larger relationship will go a long way.
2. What is their current reality?
If they work in an industry that’s been badly affected by the pandemic, do they want/need to hear from you right now? If they do, then make sure your message is appreciative of their situation and helping them solve a pain point.
3. Are you/is your business relevant to them right now?
It’s sometimes tough to accept, but the solution that you or your business offers may not be their top priority right now. Sometimes saying nothing is the best demonstration of compassion and empathy.
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll find yourself seeing the world through a customer-centric point of view. Putting yourself in their shoes is going to help you strike the right tone and balance your appeal to your audience without overstepping. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings and showing humility helps you connect. There is no big “brand moment" to be had right now, but every small “human moment” is a win for your brand.