A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel with around 50 other CMOs run by Latane Conant, CMO of 6Sense and moderated by Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing. The conversation centered on how marketers can begin to adapt their goals and continue to deliver good customer experiences amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The event itself, which shifted format from a breakfast gathering to a virtual meetup, (complete with online delivery vouchers — thank you!) was an example of the unprecedented change and need for innovation every industry is up against right now. And the main takeaway? Most marketers aren’t sure what to do next.
As events, tradeshows and conferences are canceled and the majority of communication becomes digital, marketing leaders must reevaluate how to best care for their customers and maintain their brand reputation in a climate where every action feels strange and unfamiliar. Marketing depends on building trust and having conversations with your audience; yet in a moment of global crisis, it can feel incredibly difficult to send any message at all. Still, this struggle presents a great opportunity for brands to reveal the untapped potential to create new impactful digital experiences that invoke that same entertainment value and feeling of human connection as a face-to-face conversation.
Rather than focus on prospecting and converting new customers, businesses should prioritize nurturing and listening to the customers they already have. Marketing needs a good sales enablement strategy to make sure that both your marketers and your sellers are communicating a united value-driven story that your customers care about. Clear, consistent communication is absolutely critical. No brand wants to add more chaos and confusion to this situation by posting incorrect information about their services or changing their customer response strategy once you’ve already released a statement.
Stay Open with Your Audience Through Authentic Communication
Now is clearly not the time for brands to be shouting, but they shouldn’t stay silent either. The immediate instinct for many brands is to totally mute all channels to avoid any risk of appearing insensitive. However, going too far can confuse customers or damage brand trust as, without access to physical stores or events, your audience is relying on digital channels as their main source of connection. Don’t cut them off. If you go dark and try to return only once the crisis has passed, you risk disappearing entirely from the public mindset.
Marketing has always been about anticipating and understanding the needs of your customer and that promise hasn’t changed even though those needs may now look different. It’s more important than ever to listen to what customers are saying and proactively offer meaningful solutions. Corporate response is a tricky thing to balance because companies don’t want to look as though they’re profiting from a public crisis; yet by doing nothing, they risk appearing unsure, or worse, indifferent. The brands that have been getting it right are those whose actions feel authentic and in touch with their overall brand purpose. We need to ask ourselves, “Does this message demonstrate empathy for your audience, and does it make sense coming from us? Are we the right people to be entering this conversation?”
The Acquia platform powers many of the world’s most visited websites. We know that in a time of need, digital communications and continuous access to information is critical, which is why Acquia is offering for free - full service, support and platform capabilities to any organization on the front lines of this crisis in healthcare, government, higher ed and nonprofit sectors. We have put in an application process for organizations to apply for support. We recognize that these are unprecedented times for every business, and we want to do everything possible to alleviate worries and pressure from organizations as they shift their operations and strategies to a greater focus on personalized digital experiences.
We’ve already proactively upsized many customer accounts in these critical, public-facing industries and are working alongside companies like Eastern Bank, a community bank based in Boston that is dependent on small businesses, many of which are women and minority owned. With all of their branches currently closed, Acquia is helping Eastern Bank stay connected and communicate a sense of warmth and safety as it relates to COVID-19. Their team is utilizing our personalization tool, Acquia Personalization to help ensure this message is touching the right audiences during this time of need. More specifically, CEO Bob Rivers has spun up communications offering small business loans of $2 million and $5 million. They are now speeding towards the Personalization Campaign to get the COVID-19 messaging right for the long haul; all of this in just three days using our Acquia Personalization solution.
Another brand that is stepping up to offer assistance is Zoom. Obviously, video technology is more critical now than ever in helping people stay connected, and their decision to provide their video conferencing software free to all K-12 schools is a huge help in mitigating the struggles many families and teachers are currently facing with public schools closed. Restaurant tech company Toast’s Rally for Restaurants relief fundraiser is another power brand effort, which demonstrates clear compassion and understanding of their core customers and the very real pain that small businesses and food service workers are facing right now. Now’s the time for marketers to get creative and explore opportunities in digital channels to keep serving their customers and business needs by using their public platform as a source of trust and support.
Prioritize Educational Content and Strategic Planning
While we need to step away from sales pitches and product-focused messaging, content and resources are still needed. It’s not good for people to spend all of their time watching or reading the news. However, people are searching for any kind of good educational or entertaining material that allows them to focus on bettering themselves or working toward a future goal. Now’s when brands should be stepping up and providing that valuable top-of-funnel “how-to” content and thought leadership, whether that’s through webinars or certification programs or informational blog series. Relevant educational content offers your audience relief and gives people a way to feel in control of their own path in a situation where not much else can be controlled.
As a CMO, I’m using my time for learning and reflection. I’m evaluating all of our current marketing challenges and strategies and trying to understand where we could be doing better. While many businesses right now aren’t going to be buying new tools, we can still do the research, so that we’re ready and informed to make the right decisions when that time comes. People want to keep learning. Valuable educational content shows customers you’re there to help them with their concerns and builds a trusted relationship with your audience.
For more information on how Acquia is supporting organizations during this time, you can contact us here.