All marketers should communicate with their customers, especially if the pandemic has forced you to change the way you operate.

Faith Albers, director of client marketing at Whereoware

Your inbox is probably full of emails from countless marketers about COVID-19, saying they’re concerned about the well-being of you and your family, and encouraging you to wash your hands and practice social distancing. Many are from brands you haven’t heard from in years, diminishing the impact. For many, these emails feel inauthentic at best, opportunistic at worse.

We’re not suggesting that brands should stay silent, quite to the contrary. All marketers should communicate with their customers, especially if the pandemic has forced you to change the way you operate or even cut back hours or services. 

The goal is to inform customers of the changes they need to know and how your organization intends to support them during this extraordinary time. This need to notify customers goes beyond COVID-themed emails; it requires putting a business continuity plan in place, so your customers are assured they can continue to rely on your products and services.

Develop a COVID-19 continuity strategy

Right now, people have good reason to be very stressed. Stay-at-home executive orders mean “home” is now where people work, go to school, and support family life. For many, they have added home-schooling and full-time daycare duties to their full-time jobs.

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You can’t change these facts, but you can make it easy for people to find information on how the current climate is affecting your company. Compile this information into a single source of truth—a COVID-19 landing dedicated to your business continuity.

Your COVID-19 landing page should provide operational updates, from shipping delays to postponed product launches, inventory status, or canceled shows/events. Ensure critical contact information is easy to find, so customers continue to do business with your company, even if your workforce is dispersed. For instance, if your customer service operations have changed, describe the new procedures on your COVID-19 landing page.

Inform customers on how they can reach their sales reps, and consider adopting a solution like Zoom to set up virtual sales meetings. By using video conferencing software, your sales reps can mimic an in-person meeting and maintain personal relationships for however long this pandemic lasts. 

Be flexible in the face of real hardship

All companies tell customers they care about their wellbeing, but now is the time to put your money where your mouth is. The economy is suffering a slowdown. Some of your customers may have been laid off, had their hours cut back, or furloughed their employees. Help them through these difficult times using a variety of tactics and strategies.

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For instance, think about meaningful incentives and flexible options—discounts, product bundles, delayed shipping options, free-of-charge cancellations, new credit rules—that could help make life easier for your customers. Offering more flexible payment options will help customers struggling with diminishing revenue through a difficult spot (and ensure that your customers are still in business or have purchasing power when the economy returns to normal).

Additionally, the pandemic has caused some unfortunate, irrational behavior. Hoarding essential items, as we’ve all seen first-hand, results in artificial shortages that can hurt other customers if they can’t get access to necessities. Imposing limits on essentials will earn respect for your brand. On the flip side, many B2B vendors may want to consider removing order minimum restrictions to enable retailers to purchase smaller quantities of product than usual. 

Email thoughtfully

 In our opinion, it’s not mandatory to send a COVID-19 email, but it makes sense for some brands. In deciding whether to send an email, ask yourself: Is this message useful and sharing new information? Am I addressing and alleviating concerns? Am I offering a promotion or incentive that subscribers will value?

Whether you send a dedicated email or not, adding a “Learn About Our Response” banner to your one-off sends, linking to your COVID-19 landing page will make it easy for interested recipients to learn the steps you’re taking to ensure meet their needs.

Additionally, now is an excellent time to review all of your automated campaigns for copy or themes that may seem insensitive. Coupon codes that can only be redeemed in-person won’t be helpful if your store is closed or images of happy children playing in a playground may strike many as sad. Be sure to:

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  • Pause programs that promote out of stock products or prompt customers to reorder. You can inadvertently create a bad brand experience if the customer needs an item, but it’s unavailable to them.
  • Remove references to travel and invitations to in-person events.
  • Exclude promotions that can’t be redeemed online.
  • Allow subscribers to temporarily “snooze” receiving promotional emails, so you don’t see an uptick in unsubscribes! 

Finally, don’t bother telling customers to wash their hands and social distance—they got that message. Instead, explain how your company is adhering to CDC guidelines.

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, or when life can go back to normal. We do know that people are struggling to strike a new balance between work and home life, and many are struggling financially. Now is an excellent time to show your customers just how serious you are about supporting them and how you value their business, ensuring you’re top-of-mind when the economy recovers. 

Whereoware is a digital agency and software company.

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