In the last week, I have seen such beautiful examples of business resilience from the Viennese community. Even though small business owners are responsible for their own marketing and promotion, they are doing a fantastic job of connecting with their customers. Adaptability, prioritising, refocusing resources, reacting to what people want to see and, most importantly, DELIVERING are the winning traits of businesses that are kicking ass right now.
The importance of content marketing during coronavirus pandemic
Staying connected despite what your initial instincts tell you – to slash the cost and skip on what appears to be unimportant for your business to focus on recovering income streams as soon as possible – is paramount in securing your business’ market position. Study after study attests that brands that continue communicating will recover the fastest after the situation normalizes.
This very insightful analysis of marketing aiding post-recession business recovery (an absolute must-read for you) by CXL references a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study of 4,700 public companies, which were looked at the three years before, during, and after recessions. Progressive companies, the ones that holistically evaluate their businesses and get the loss prevention – promotion mix right, came out stronger after the recession.
Not to mention, your customers do not want you to be silent. Marketing Week published results of a survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally by Kantar, which found out that only about 8% of respondents thought brands should stop advertising. There’s a strong consensus that while the brands should not stop their chatter, they should react to what is going on:
However, there is a clear expectation that companies should play their part, with 78% of consumers believing brands should help them in their daily lives, 75% saying brands should inform people of what they’re doing and 74% thinking companies should not exploit the situation.Marketing Week, Just 8% of consumers think brands should stop advertising due to the coronavirus outbreak
Content marketing isn’t just blog posts – content marketing has evolved beyond singular pieces of written content to a holistic approach, which combines available digital channels (social media, website, e-mail) and binds them with a clear strategy dedicated to serving your customers.
I understand that for many of you, the situation is dire. The income stopped flowing in. I feel for you and I wish this all were a bad dream.
But it isn’t. Das Leben ist kein Wunschkonzert.
I can confidently tell you that you are still in a good position to prepare your business for the coming weeks and months and re-establish a plan of action of how to jump back once the tide turns.
Smaller businesses are agile, they also tend to have more freedom in implementing decisions fast and are one run by the most resourceful business owners on this planet. Smaller businesses are embedded into the fabric of their neighbourhoods and have a much better understanding of their ecosystem.
How to adapt to the new reality of content marketing during coronavirus? I summarized the steps into four distinct sections:
Brands, that got marketing in the age of coronavirus right
#1 Keep it consistent
Let’s get it out there first – brands, that have manifested authenticity and transparency in their activities, as well as connected with their customers in ways that fostered loyalty, way before the world was swept up in the pandemic, are absolutely nailing their marketing.
This just shows that a good marketing strategy, one that has been clarified and pursued with consistency, will always serve you well.
For example, Bags with Legs, a social impact venture based in Vienna, which supports women with refugee background, have always had an extremely candid and colourful way of communicating. Once you start digging deeper, you will see that the brand is a direct reflection of its fierce founder, Annamaria Tolvaly.
The official channels feature the products and the very women, who produce fashionable Bags with Legs. The owner herself constantly puts 100% effort into publishing content that is unique, fun, honest and completely consistent with the brand.
Bags with Legs did not do a complete revolution of how they talk to their audience because of the novel coronavirus – they seamlessly blended in the messages of support and working hard on the brand’s vision despite the pandemic into their Facebook and Instagram feeds. They keep promoting but they are doing it tastefully. ME GUSTA.
Their official website also immediately references the situation in the same signature direct but compelling tone of voice.
Tip #1 – Instead of thinking what is expected of you in this trying time, stay level-headed and consider your purpose. The core of your brand is the reason why you have created it in the first place and that remains unchanged. How can you continue to serve your vision when customers are in self-isolation? How can you take care of them in this difficult time? Here comes tip #2:
Tip #2 – Do not be greedy or out of touch. If necessary, ask a couple of people to sense-check your content. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a popular high street clothing brand, which explained that they have to close their stores and warehouses to protect their workers, but they will still continue taking orders online. However, it’s the next line that made me pause: “[…] we’ll still be taking orders, we just can’t promise when we will get them to you. It could take weeks, although we hope not.” How about you make the decision NOT to accept orders but push vouchers and online gift-giving? Why would you even send an email that indicates you are inconsiderate of what will happen, when customers will start regularly checking-in with customer service about the whereabouts of their orders?
What if your service is not perceived as relevant or related to the coronavirus but you still want to make a statement? I want to bring up Unsplash, my favourite free stock photography site. Btw, if you need some stock photos from Vienna, I regularly contribute free photos from my photowalks to Unsplash.
Unsplash’s homepage usually features a simple grid of photos. Now, it’s got an added animation – photos moving away from one another – and a message about staying healthy by social distancing, which links to the WHO guide on coronavirus. It’s a subtle but strong statement.
#2 Mobilize your channels for proactive customer service
One of my pet peeves is brands that forget to check their inboxes on various social media platforms or brands that leave their social media pages unmanned. Brands that leave their Google My Busines profiles without a kiss goodbye.
When coronavirus measures were introduced by the government, as a customer, I wanted to know what was happening with my subscription and orders immediately. Brands, which have proactively dedicated extra time to respond to inquiries – I don’t even mean to solve them but to acknowledge that they are working on finding a solution – were immediately gaining in my eyes.
Right now, people are spending a lot of time online. Facebook is experiencing messaging and video calls usage increase, but also across sees a spike in people browsing Facebook and Instagram feeds. Instagram Lives are the new webinars. Steam has broken the 20 million user record, which continues to climb, as more people are spending time at home.
BUT let me butt in with a tiny rant. In the past week, I have received so many emails from brands that I have stopped interacting with many, many years ago. That annoyed me. What annoyed me more is that these were “service emails”, from which I couldn’t unsubscribe.
Do not just blast your entire email database. Email your active customers and manage the replies.
Do not tell your customers that they can count on you. Tell them how you are going to manage pricing and replacement services for what they paid for.
Do not publish a post on how to wash hands properly. Tell your customers how you are implementing the protective measures at your facilities. Assuring them that you are taking this situation seriously should be part of your customer relationship management.
Do not make it difficult to cancel your service if someone is determined to do so. Honestly, if someone wants to, they will. Be responsive to such requests but offer an incentive for them to come back.
Your content marketing strategy can be easily adjusted to getting social with your audience.
Use your channels to immediately get feedback on the proposed solutions. Invite customers to a special trial webinar and use their testimonials on your channels. Spend time telling them how they can use your product efficiently – people are at home, looking for ideas on how to spend their time. The list of ways to engage with your target audience is endless.
Tip #3 – Content marketing shouldn’t be plain fluff and no substance. If you are producing content for the sake of producing content, then you are wasting your time. Your content marketing should be first and foremost skewed towards delivering real value to customers. The best way to start figuring out what that value might be is to ask your customers.
#3 Keep it authentic
Many brands will publish content that has nothing to do with their core competencies. For example, many brands will now be distributing advice on how to work from home, such as N26. N26 is an all-online bank.
I click on the article and what do I see? A set of generic tips I have already seen. And at the very end of that riveting, text-only, article is a mention of N26 and how they help to manage money.
Some tough love coming up.
My problem with the limitless number of such articles is this – what was the reason behind its creation? is N26 attempting to rank in Google for “home office tips”? Is “home officing” an inherently important concept for the customers of the N26 bank? Is the fact that N26 wrote a generic article on the subject making it a more valuable bank? Why not produce an infographic instead?
I even checked the comments underneath – the sentiment has not been positive. The 25 shares do not represent tangible business results.
If I were their content manager, I would have fun researching money-saving trends for staying indoors, as well as focusing on the number of services that they are providing for free. I would go through their existing content (and they have plenty of it) and update it with information relevant for coronavirus times – online security, safe online shopping, overdraft information, mention of customer service. I would definitely highlight their credit cards with travel insurance coverage. God knows it would have made my trip cancellations in March much easier to bear.
If you do not have any contextual connection to the topic, do not create custom long-form content around said topic.
Tip #4 – Every topic can be approached with a very unique angle. Do not follow the herd and fall into the trap of repeating the same advice over and over again in your own words. Keyword research combined with trend research and customer insights should constitute support your decision-making on what content to produce – not what everyone else is doing.
#4 Listen to your customers
Now is the time to reconnect with your purpose and with the people, you want to serve.
It’s actually quite simple.
You are going to add two items to your to-do list. Item one will be to create a recurring, daily or weekly check, of what people say about you. You will check reviews, comments on different forums, your own social media profiles, your DMs. You will search your brand name and you will create a spreadsheet of opinions.
Item two: you will create a customer feedback process. It could be adding a check-in email to your regular communication with your customers, explicitly asking to rate your services. It would be adding an additional field in the feedback form. It could be designing a survey. As long as your are keeping it real, non-interruptive and aligned with what your brand stands for, you are going to delight your customers.
Once you have these procedures in place, you will use these insights into customising your content marketing strategy.
Oh, one more thing – the most creative content marketing campaign won’t make up for bad business decisions.
Interesting reads for you:
- How tourism brands bounce back by Lucy Aitken, WARC, spotlights three case studies of marketing helping recover tourism traffic after three separate instances. In all three instances, marketing has been pivotal in increasing the number of visitors as well as activating local communities.
- Stats roundup: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising courtesy of Lizzy Hillier & Nikki Gilliland via Econsultancy
- Are brands living up to their purpose during the coronavirus crisis? by Matthew Valentine on Marketing Week
- A fantastic long-read by Allison Collins and Kali Hays on WMD: Marketing in the Age of Coronavirus: The Dos and (Many) Don’ts
- Read the Room by Rand Fishkin