Flux. It’s a strange place for any business to operate, and Eastern Standard is no exception.
Our teams have all transitioned to working remotely, and while we’re moving along pretty seamlessly in that area, the thing we miss most is the regular interactions with one another and with our clients. This is a deeply personal business, and removing all face-to-face interaction just feels so foreign. However, we’re rapidly adapting to the situation and focused on helping our clients stay two steps ahead of the curve.
While some “essential” businesses must remain open despite health risks, others are enduring temporary forced closures and the hardships that come along with that. Like us, many of our service-based clients and educational institutions have moved to remote practices. Each is struggling with both how to adapt and how to communicate effectively about the constant changes they are facing and what they mean for their audiences. Across the board, travel is restricted, supply chains and delivery cycles are delayed, and consumers are concerned.
Whatever your own unique situation is, this feels like an important time for a reminder that this won’t go on forever. And there is power in knowing that there are steps that you can take now — and tools you can and should put in place to navigate the issues at hand, to stay in close contact with customers, and to restore a sense of normalcy as you look to the future. Let’s take a look at a few of them at a very high level:
1. Find alternative ways to stay “top of mind” and focus on the evolving CX.
There are a variety of digital tools that allow you to work within the changing communications scenarios yet still feel closely connected with your customers or audiences. You can leverage them to reassure your audiences and keep them informed about things like changes in service, availability, and operating hours, or special safety precautions that you have put into place. Most consumers are overwhelmed with information and confusion right now, and we’re already seeing immediate fatigue around corporate messaging on the subject. In short, make sure your messaging is meaningful to your users. Always put yourself in their position, and ask yourself, “Does this really answer the questions and concerns that our customers are having right now, and does it offer an improved way of interacting with our brand?”
A real estate developer client of ours now offers one-on-one video tours of their properties in addition to in-person tours, for instance. However, people may avoid pursuing the research around a required and planned move right now for fear or inability to be out and about. So, it was essential to create a series of messages and deliver them to those who may be in the market soon. “Emergency” banners and popups can be annoying, but they can also be useful in a situation like this. So, we deployed new features across their web properties over the weekend and created a corresponding email and social campaign combined with targeted promotion and retargeting to mine new prospects.
You can also use these channels to find out what challenges clients are facing on their end and what adjustments you might be able to take to address them, both now and in the future. We’ve done a lot of research around user needs and behavior, and we’re already seeing interesting paradigm shifts in the work we’re doing at this very moment.
Email marketing — Whether you send one-off e-newsletters or establish an automated, drip email campaign series that is shaped by your readers’ responses, use these communications to make sure your customers know where your level of service presently stands — and where you foresee it going in the future. The key is to avoid surprises: Keeping your audiences informed will allay their fears and set the right expectation for what’s to come. Tone is important right now, too. People are not ready or interested in being bombarded with marketing messages, now more so than ever. Make sure you’re providing authentic information in a sensitive manner. An expert viewpoint can be very helpful.
Read more on this topic: Email Personalization and Segmentation: How to Maintain Relevance
Digital advertising campaigns — You can use specific targeting techniques to ensure your ads reach audiences who may be in particular need of your products or services during this time — and employ retargeting strategies that keep your brand in front of viewers after they leave your website. This is particularly important for those who are preoccupied with other issues or unable to have an in-person experience. And, spend some time thinking about how the market has changed, if your USP is still relevant, and if that’s temporary or potentially evolving and permanent. For schools and businesses, there will be more remote interaction. For a clothing company, customers may be more interested in casual lines than workwear. What offerings do you have that will be relevant, and how can you switch gears? While some may not yet be ready to buy and we’re up against a very uncertain economic scenario, you want to get ahead of the market for customers and even interactions like donations before a deluge of marketing begins when things start to turn. Work done now can be ramped up and essential to survival in a challenging market.
Social media — Thankfully, social distancing does not apply to social media. Know which social channels are preferred by your customer base, and use them to stay in real-time close contact. As noted, be authentic with your messaging. Your customers know that times are difficult, and they’ll value your honest insights far more than manufactured “Instagram perfection.” There’s a lot of noise out there right now in particular, but people are hungry for meaningful content at the same time.
Your Websites — Your site offers many opportunities to relay timely information and updates to new and returning visitors. For things that may change moment to moment — such as restricted hours or newly launched specialty services — consider temporary modal pop-up windows and alert banners to promote areas of change or immediate relevance that may not be well understood. Because popups can be set to be dismissed before entry to the site is allowed, you can be sure the message will be seen by every visitor. Longer-range announcements and information is better suited for news sections and blog posts.
2. Keep your messaging on point.
Make sure all communications you send show that you have a sympathetic understanding of the specific problems faced by your customers and any changes in their decision-making process during this time. Many companies are offering temporary free delivery or a short-term suspension of membership fees normally charged for services like online fitness classes, premium content collections, and audio book recordings in order to alleviate the financial stressors and social isolation felt by their client base.
You’ll want to ensure that the content and tone you use to convey these strategies matches the emotional state of your readers in the context of current conditions — which should represent a departure from your normal day-to-day approach. You may even want to create a temporary tone guide to help your internal team understand the special communications strategy you’ll be employing during this time.
Across the board, assess how your messaging and content strategy can position you as a partner in helping customers think past the current situation, plan for the future, and focus on solutions to the concerns they face throughout the process.
For more on this topic, see How Prospective Undergraduates Navigate Websites — and What They Expect From College Content. While this article addresses the higher education market, there are some universal truths you can leverage about informed content strategy in meeting the needs of your users and how that can impact conversions and other desired outcomes.
Machine Learning and the Content Connection: What You Need to Know
How User Experience and Content Strategy Influence Search Rankings
3. Continuous Improvement: Build on what you have.
Because of the significant migration to virtual-only interactions, now is a great time to focus on improving your online experience. Start with changes that matter most given the current climate, and then plan to efficiently chip away at other upgrades over time. Good starting points include:
- Conducting usability testing and examining analytics to identify areas for improvement
- "Refactoring" code and swapping out components to address current needs
- Focusing on new feature build-outs and improvements
- Ensuring you are meeting the current accessibility standards
- Conducting scheduled server and website software and security updates
For more on this topic, read Why You Might Not Need a Ground-Up Website Redesign.
4. Focus on quality — not quantity — of web traffic.
While any uptick in web traffic can generally be considered a good thing, when it comes to analyzing the leads you’re receiving from your site at this time, your attention should be on conversions — getting those that are most likely to add to your bottom line to take action.
To that end, there are a variety of powerful website analytics tools to help you make sense of changes in traffic patterns and trends in user behavior in order to improve the effectiveness of your site and measure the success of any marketing campaigns you’re currently running. Making time to understand this information and use the data correctly will help you make better decisions, improve your overall user experience, and keep the attention of those visitors who are most likely to meet your conversion goals — whether that involves making a sale, soliciting a donation, signing up for an email distribution, or some other action — either now or when more normal conditions return.
While predictions vary widely on when a return to more routine circumstances can be expected, doubling down on the strategies described here will help both you and your customers maintain a positive perspective as you ride out the lows of this period.
If you need assistance with any of these topics, reach out and let’s talk. As always, we’re here to help.