Strong relationships are at the core of all successful marketing. Whether you’re a major brand interacting with millions of consumers, or a boutique PR firm with a handful of select clients, your relationship with your audience determines everything from your reputation to your bottom line.
Now, at a time when coronavirus has the world feeling apprehensive, it’s never been more important to invest in relationship marketing — that is, to further develop trust and engagement with your audience. But can you continue marketing to existing clients at a time when most businesses are closed down and most employees are working from home? You can — and here’s how.
Taking relationships virtual
In-person meetings, lunches, and coffees may be off-limits at the moment, but “social distancing” doesn’t have to mean a pause on all socializing. At a time when most people are working from their kitchen tables, take your relationships virtual.
There are plenty of free or affordable tools for meeting face-to-face — or rather, screen-to-screen — with your clients. Zoom is the current king of video conferencing, and has a free plan that likely works for most small businesses. Zoom paid plans offer more features and flexibility, and cost about $20 per month per user. Skype and Google Hangouts are good alternatives.
Don’t be shy about scheduling virtual meetings, either. If you previously met with your clients in person each week, maintain that same schedule for virtual meetings. If you’re a nonprofit with key donors, take time each week to check in over video. If you’re new to virtual meetings, the software company Slack has a helpful list of tips, tricks, and etiquette titled “The Ultimate Guide to Remote Meetings in 2020.” One tip to always remember? “Don’t work on other tasks (like checking email) during the virtual meeting,” Slack advises.
Make sure any communications you’re sending to your relationships add real, positive value — especially at this moment, when there’s an information glut and people have fewer free minutes each day.
Right now, people need quality information about health and safety, not sales pitches — and so savvy brands have slowed or repurposed their routine marketing and fundraising.
Consider sharing news that’s relevant to the crisis. Transparency and authenticity are key in times of unrest, so reassure clients you have their best interest and most timely needs top-of-mind. For example, hospitality brands like Delta Airlines and Hilton have been sharing regular updates with customers about changes to their services and extra health precautions that they’re taking. And brands like ConEdison and Ally Bank are sharing important information about suspending shut-offs and banking fees.
If you’re business isn’t directly impacted by coronavirus, consider sharing a digest of the most enlightening news articles and health information you come across: a message from the CDC, a factual report from the New York Times. Or, consider sharing tips with clients who are suddenly juggling working-from-home and childcare: “Ideas to Keep the Kids Busy at Home,” was the subject line of a recent email from Franzoso Contracting, a construction company in metro New York. The company provided a list of ideas, like recipes and crafts.
This may sound new, but really, it’s just a new take on your existing retention marketing strategy — keeping your clients and audience engaged.
Be kind (and creative)
Relationships are put to the test during tough times like these. And while you can’t comfort an uneasy audience or jittery client in person, you can still be caring and creative. Now is the time to send a stress relief and wellness basket to strategic partners. You might send something people need in the short-term: comfort food, a stack of good books, magazine subscriptions. A subscription to a video conferencing service isn’t a bad idea, either. Or, you could think farther down the line: a restaurant gift card, for when eateries are back open and there are new business opportunities to discuss.
Sold on the idea? Your gift basket could come from a company specializing in them, like Harry and David or 1800 Flowers. Rather assemble your own? There’s no shortage of blogs with DIY gift basket ideas, from movie night-themed baskets, to s’mores-themed, to coffee lovers-themed. For more ideas, check out this Business Insider list: “23 small gifts and gestures for friends or family members who are having a hard time self-isolating or social distancing.”
Relationship marketing is always important, but now more than ever brands should strengthen relationships with their clients and audiences. People are seeking a personal touch and quality information right now — and your marketing can provide exactly that.