I won’t pontificate about the obvious — these are trying times indeed, no matter your business. For leadership teams responsible for making difficult decisions, times like these are when we need to balance day-to-day reactions with careful consideration towards our future. This current crisis stings. It pains our souls and minds as we think about the humans affected across the globe, but it also puts tremendous pressure on our business objectives and conjures deep thoughts about the uncertain future fallout of such a massive event. You might be asking what do I do today and how will I laugh tomorrow when I can’t even smile today?
These are the times where we need to take charge, be decisive and find ways to rise above the situation forced upon our customers, employees, and the bottom line. So, as of this phrase, this lecture is now meant to inspire you to take control of what you can and empower your teams to think differently, act swiftly and also plan for the future. These are a few of my ideas that can help you navigate the “known unknowns.” I have personally implemented all of these suggestions in one way or another, in both good times and bad, for dozens of brands across my career. I hope they inspire you to try something new, to be bold, and help galvanize your business so that when times like these hit again you are well prepared.
Your brand needs to address COVID-19, so do it. But then move quickly into the opportunity in front of you. Your customers may not be ordering at your counters, booking your rooms, or filling your stadium seats, but they ARE still active. They’re online more than ever. As I type this PS5, the PlayStation console, is trending on Google. Celebs are getting pregnant and it’s all the rage. So, go where the people are and give them a reason to keep your brand top of mind. Some ideas that can be executed in days, not months:
- Create a simple sweepstakes (with poll questions) giving away 100 free sandwiches a day, a hotel package a day, 10 free tickets every single day until the public can congregate again! When they can, they will come back and reward your business.
- Flood your social feed, emails, influencer content, and paid media with positivity and chances to win. It’s far easier and less expensive than you think. I’ve run over 300 of these campaigns for brands with massive success.
- Collect consumer data in the form of first-party and psychographic insights NOW to use when normalcy returns. Personalize emails and SMS offers based on the entry data. I could talk for days on how this simple tactic builds excitement for consumers while the data is collected
Think about tomorrow
What would you be able to do right now if your marketable database was doubled? Tripled? Could you engage more consumers? Of course. So, if your brick-and-mortar channels are wounded, invest in a strategy that brings new audiences into your fold. If you have a great database right now but they can’t get into your stores or buy your flights, engage them online and learn more about them.
- Create polls for your audience that ask them to expand their profiles and offer a value exchange for it. A discount coupon, a free consultation, or an upgrade.
- Get the data directly from your competitor’s customers, along with your own email database that helps you make better decisions. Not just transactional first-party data but their psychographic data. What puts them at ease? What worries do they have? What products or services do they miss being able to get from you right now?
- Build that database and learn from the results. Your audience IS your focus group except you get to sell to them after the study is over. Oh, and that database will be a massive asset when the cookie is dead. More on that here.
How loyal is your audience when they aren’t able to buy from you?
Do you have a formal, robust loyalty program? If so, good. Go give that audience a surprise and delight right now. Give everyone a 10% bonus in points or rewards. Give them a discount that doesn’t expire til the end of the year. They’ve been loyal to you when you asked, now return the favor when they need it most.
Don’t have a loyalty program? You should jump in the river and get your feet wet. If you did have one you’d have one more direct-to-consumer communication channel to use in times of trouble to keep you top of mind. So, make time to explore one.
In the U.S. over 90% of adult consumers belong to a formal loyalty program. And 35% participate in 4-10 programs. Your customer are loyalty savvy, time to get up to speed. Take the time, put a team in place, and research the benefits. Not only will your business thrive in times of prosperity but when weird times come again you’ll be glad you had it.
Plan to come out stronger, more resilient
Like loyalty, put everything in review. Can you personalize to the level consumers expect? Can you orchestrate meaningful messaging or offers in real-time based on customer interactions? Can your marketing efforts get smarter with machine learning and analysis on all of your disparate datasets? Where are your areas of opportunity going to come from in the future?
Now is the time to reassess your tools, strategies, and partnerships. These are the backbone of your business. Reflect, get introspective, and take a hard look at the foundation that is set to power your future. Look around and try to get a new POV on how you are doing business today so that you’re prepared for tomorrow. There’s never a better time to kick the tires than when you’re laid up and sitting on the side of the road. Before you crank it back to 110% be sure you have what it takes to get to your destination on time and be able to weather any storm that may cross your path.
I’m fairly new to Cheetah Digital as an employee, but I’ve used their technology to power the ideas above across more than 300 campaigns for dozens of clients. My agency (which still survives) has a 90%+ retention rate with our annual clients because ideas like this work, in good times or bad. Everything above can be powered by Cheetah Digital in unique ways our competitors can’t provide, but every idea is achievable on your own, too.
I hope these ideas inspire you to try something new and get you to look up, see the horizon and know that this crisis too shall pass. Simply take charge, lead, and come out stronger than ever. Good luck and for now, let’s momentarily forget how to shake hands and simply focus on washing them.
P.S., I hope you enjoy the song titles hyperlinked within. They all lead to a playlist I’ve curated for my audible pleasure, but I hope you like it, too.