• Epistle Communications

Outreach in the time of Corona(Virus)

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Anupriya Saraswat, Editorial Strategist

You’ve heard it all: businesses are now officially endorsing washing hands and using sanitizers, reaching out to ensure your well-being, and ‘here for you in trying times’. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve used their products or services in a long time, or even possess the means to access them at present – chances are that you have been contacted by a representative in the days since the lockdown has been put in place to let you know that they are committed to making the most of this time ‘for you’.

Consumers are typically targeted through a minimum of two mediums, with Emails being a perennial favorite, often seconded by flash SMSs. This, of course, runs in tandem with primary sources of brand info being broadcast over social media and websites, maybe even a blog or two. All of which is great – necessary, even, to ensure a corporate entity maintains an effective interface with its existing as well as prospective customers – but the present pandemic has revealed a serious dearth of understanding of customer needs through unclear calls-to-actions and a quantity-over-quality approach to outreach.

As the world – target customers and marketing experts included – finds ways to adapt to a new normal, monitoring the volume and frequency of incoming communications has become a personal prerogative for everyone. It is only natural, and even commendable, for business owners to similarly adapt to these circumstances by finding new ways to engage with their customers, but a ham-handed approach focused on the bottom-line and not real benefits will almost certainly backfire.

So, before you reach out - keep these three things in mind:

  • Be Clear, Not Loud

Your business must prepare to operate on austerity mode – this includes your approach to target audiences as well. This is the time to retain existing customers and users, and offer help to those who are already engaging with you. It can be tempting to try and rope in more users or clients – and if you are offering something truly pathbreaking, go ahead – but it is likely that the people who really want to hear from you are those who are already listening.

Reach out to them with timely updates on whether you are operative, and what you are offering. Has your business moved to the digital space? Let your existing customers know how they can reach you. Are you unable to fulfill a commitment made in better times? Update your clients on why, and what you can offer instead. When resources are running short, focus on keeping one happy customer over gaining ten anew, if only to keep your accountant happy – they are much likelier to bring you new business than a hasty SMS or Email to a hefty database ever can.

  • (Communicate) Your Value System

Customers care about what you believe in (your values), and what you offer (your value proposition). While mixing the two can seem about as intuitive as stirring oil in water, as a business owner, brand or consultancy, you must keep in mind that everything that you offer is predicated upon why you offer it.

This is the time to really put your value system to the test – when you reach out to customers, users or clients in this time, focus on why your values call for this specific action, and why you think this can make a difference. Generic well-wishing simply does not cut it – and in fact can appear insincere and spammish. So pause and think about what you are offering your beleaguered audience at this time, and why – and only then, communicate.

  • Less Is Less, but More Is Too Much

With lives lost, livelihoods suspended, and entire communities stranded on the streets, there is crucial information that a person needs to have for the well-being of their own selves and their loved ones; it can be a hard pill to swallow, but your business offerings likely do not make that cut.

If so – step back. It can be tempting to send a message out to retain eyeballs, but in a time when every brand is doing so, it is unreasonable to expect this approach to yield any meaningful results. Be mindful of the how often you communicate: reach out when you are truly ready to help your users or customers, or can offer them something distinct. Stopgap messages will alienate your audiences and make them less likely to listen when you do have something pertinent to say; when everyone’s attention is compromised by the virus-riddled elephant in the room, make your words count.

We are used to viewing the silence of a brand as its death – or worse, its irrelevance – but in times like these, the benefits of a careful word to the right person far outweighs the potential posed by a tweet that reaches 10k in 24 hours. Covid-19 statistics are already ruling our lives – let’s not let digital marketing numbers keep us from doing what’s right and what’s necessary, at this time.

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