The unprecedented events of COVID-19 took many small business owners by surprise. Yet Australians are used to navigating business during a crisis. From drought to floods to bushfires or even local emergencies, Aussie companies have adapted to make the best of it during trying times.
From drought to floods to bushfires or even local emergencies, Aussie companies have adapted to make the best of it during trying times.
Central to success is the ability to communicate and market to customers. Fortunately, social media and websites have made it simpler to ensure you can still get your message out there. However, it’s essential you also have a crisis communication plan to be sure you and any customer-facing staff are all on the same page.
How to craft a crisis communications plan
We’re all in this together’ is a common refrain during the pandemic. Just like you, your customers are seeking connection and positive messages in these uncertain times. When contacting your customers, show that you care. How can you do this? According to small business and personal finance expert David Koch, letting your customers know you are there for them is vital.
“Small Business owners have been doing it tough during 2020. That’s why we launched Small Business First in response to the pandemic. The focus of Small Business First is to help small businesses make money, save money, and find great, reliable content to help them survive,” says Koch.
“Don’t forget your staff,” Koch advises, “Establish a twin-fronts approach, so you deliver any essential info to both staff and customers.”
Stay in touch
Clear communication is essential during a crisis. Be proactive. Don’t wait for customers to ask questions of you and your business. Think about the kind of information they might need from you and deliver it. Whether it’s your opening hours, the status of stock or even the measures you’ve put in place to be COVID-safe. Announce any changes and impacts to your business so that customers don’t need to search for it. Being proactive in delivering crucial information also frees up you and your staff to focus on other areas of the business that may need attention.
For RSPCA South Australia, being able to respond quickly and communicate with their staff and volunteers was vital in the initial stage of lockdown. Salesforce solutions gave them a 360-view of their supporters. Enacting a communications plan was simple.
“Salesforce enabled us to react quickly to changing circumstances. We were able to quickly let our active volunteers know what was happening at our animal care centres, and what that meant for them. We were able to let the community know what help we needed. We could efficiently manage the offers of help that came back, as well as accurately record and acknowledge donations that were made,” said Keira Blanchard, Information and Systems Manager at RSPCA South Australia.
How will you communicate?
Today’s business owners have a variety of communication channels open to them. From email to SMS to push notifications and social media. The most effective way to communicate with your customers is via the channels they use most. If they are heavy users of social media, it makes sense to up the ante on your social posts. Choose appropriate channels to get your message across.
When the coronavirus crisis restrictions hit, RSPCA South Australia saw a surge in requests for pets. The charity was quickly able to navigate the situation to build out a successful campaign but using Salesforce solutions.
“We were able to respond to the changing circumstances quickly, putting in place the data capture capability to support a foster care call-out in a matter of hours.”
Similarly, when the brand needed to call on supporters for financial help, Salesforce was there to deep dive into the data.
“It took a matter of minutes to automatically capture those donations in our system and send an accurate and relevant acknowledgement sent to the donor, Blanchard explains.
Remember to deliver inspiration
In times of crisis, your business needs to be authentic and sensitive to your customers and audience. Be human. Work towards inspiring. If you are in a position to help other businesses, do so.
Says Koch “Kochie’s Business Builders has always been about helping business owners be the best they can be. During this time, we have focused on pushing out content that will help our community survive. Whether that’s inspirational quotes or how-to advice pieces or just spotlighting businesses that have pivoted and thrived, we want to make sure our people know they are supported. And that we are here for them.”
Koch’s examples provide several simple ways business owners can inspire customers with their marketing materials. Communicating your position with your audience allows you to share the journey and can be a catalyst for further good. Consider adding a donation button to your social channels to enable your followers to donate to a charity and encourage your community to get involved too.
Make a communications plan
So, you know how you will communicate with your audience and what you plan to say to them. Now you need a plan. How will you roll out your marketing comms?
- Review your entire marketing stream from social channels to emails and SMS.
- Identify which channels will be critical for communication and which you should pause or refine.
- If you are in the habit of scheduling content in advance, make sure to review scheduled posts. Delete or pause any that may deliver conflicting messages to your brand’s current position.
- Allocate responsibilities to different members of staff and develop clear templates for communications so that all communication reflects your brand’s style and the current circumstance.
- Develop a roadmap and identify the key metrics for your success. Make your metrics SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based).
“Thanks to Salesforce we’ve been able to be reactive to changing circumstances; keeping our supporters up to date with how restrictions impacted us, and what we were doing to keep our services going,” said Blanchard.
“This meant that when we needed to reach out to our community for support, they understood and were quick to come to our aid; fostering and adopting animals in numbers we’ve never seen before, and providing financial support to lessen the blow of temporarily losing income from our op shop and retail outlets. Our supporters have been amazing – continuing to help us even while many are going through tough times themselves – so having that unified picture of how each one supports us, and being able to recognise and thank them for that continued support, is invaluable.”
The coronavirus pandemic continues to be a tremendous challenge for small business owners. Adopting a crisis communications plan will help your business navigate these uncharted waters so that you can market to your customers with your integrity and authenticity intact.
For more advice on marketing, leadership and remote work, check out Salesforce’s Leading Through Change series.
This article was first published on Small Business First. You can find the original article here.