During a time of crisis and uncertainty, clear communication and a sense of community is more important than making sales. Here are three tips for keeping your customers close.

Growth targets. Sales forecasts. Office expansion.

Businesses love making ambitious plans for the future. And that’s great. But unfortunately we live in a world that’s unpredictable – and sometimes a cruel twist of fate can leave your plans in tatters.

We know that global pandemics happen. Natural disasters happen. Economic meltdowns and acts of terrorism too. Unforeseen events such as these have no respect for your business ambitions. And unfortunately they can leave you facing a fight to survive.

During a crisis, many different factors can impact your ability to sell your products or services. You may be unable to source crucial products from suppliers. You may not have the staff to fulfil orders. You may be forced to temporarily shutdown your premises.

That really is a very difficult thing to acknowledge. But it needn’t mean you have to wave goodbye to the customer base you have worked so hard to build. Here are three tips for keeping your customers close when you are unable to sell.

Stay connected

If you want to keep your audience engaged with your brand, saying nothing in a time of crisis is not an option. Remember that building a brand is often about engendering a sense of loyalty, rather than chasing sales. (When you get the loyalty bit right, the sales tend to come more readily.) Your channels are there for a reason. Don’t be afraid of reaching out. We have advice on how to do that tactfully and sensitively in the articles below.

How to create an intelligent crisis communications strategy

Explain why Madagascar is famous for vanilla

You are an expert in your chosen field. How can you use your knowledge to help your community? Let’s say you are working in the travel industry during a lockdown. You are unable to sell holidays. But you can showcase your love of what you do – and help your audience find escapism – by telling the story of how everyday products that we take for granted were pioneered in certain regions of the world. Why is Porto famous for port? Why is Jerez famous for sherry? Why is Madagascar famous for vanilla and Ethiopia famous for arabica coffee?

Another example. Imagine that you run an online apothecary that is temporarily unable to fulfil orders. Okay. You specialise in wellbeing and healthy lifestyles. Maybe use your area of expertise to help your audience find alternative ways to look after themselves – such as meditation, gentle exercise or dietary plans. Or perhaps you can use your penchant for potions and panaceas to help your audience make their own products from home.

Instead of selling your product, showcase your expertise.

Take a look at what you stand for as a brand and work outwards.

Then tell a story in a way that your audience can relate to right now.

…but what if your product is relevant to the crisis?

Perhaps you have a product that is particularly sought after in the circumstances you find yourself in – such as soap during a viral outbreak. Your sales have the potential to go through the roof.

Be careful.

Piggybacking on a crisis is not a good look. Actively promoting your wares will leave a sour taste. In a crisis people need clarity of information. Be tactful and explain precisely how your product might help.

Staying with the example of soap, what are the active ingredients that make it useful? Can your audience make their own alternatives at home? Educate people and give them the information they need to make confident decisions based on facts.

And if your profits really are rocketing, you may wish to make donations to any relief efforts that are related to the current crisis.

Because it’s also important to…

Put your community first

It’s about community, not your company. How you interpret community is up to you. It could be your community of customers, your local geographic community or the national/global community. But it’s important to show that you care. That you stand shoulder to shoulder with those who matter to you. And – if applicable – that you have the expertise to help and can outline the measures you are taking to do so.

Let’s talk about your industry – we are willing to help

During a crisis it’s easy for a business to fall into panic mode. Comms become highly reactionary. Many brands either go totally silent or begin making lots of noise, without actually saying anything of real value. The tips above can help to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. But if you would like more advice on how your brand can communicate in a crisis, please call us. We are experts in crisis comms and would be happy to offer you some tips that are specific to your business and industry.