Re-engaging Customers During the COVID-19 “New Normal”

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How Can Companies Re-engage Customers in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Many companies have been hunkering down and operating with a minimal number of active employees and a reduced number of business processes. Now companies are beginning to re-emerge and start the re-engagement process.

For most companies, the likely reality is they are emerging from this initial phase as different enterprises. Their customers are emerging as changed entities as well.

It is tempting to think of COVID-19 as a Kansas tornado. The family abandons its home for the safety of a cellar or an underground storm shelter.

Now the twister is gone, and the rebuilding can start. Neighbors help neighbors, and the mending begins. Things will be back to normal as soon as the houses are repaired, the fallen trees are removed and the debris is collected.

The problem with this analogy is that it is not valid. We didn’t just survive a singular event, and we can’t just re-set everything to January 1, 2020, and go forward.

COVID-19 is still active, and it has affected people, companies and countries in many different ways. Some companies were barely touched, and others have been profoundly affected.

The fact is, this is not yet the post-COVID-19 era. We are still in the thick of it, and the final outcome of this weird time is still unknown.

Emerging in a New Reality

For most companies, the likely reality is they are emerging from this initial phase as different enterprises. Their customers are emerging as changed entities as well.

With this in mind, the first task of re-engagement is to communicate what has changed and what is still the same. This is true for both buyers and sellers in almost every market.

Daniel Newman delivers some thought- provoking considerations in a recent piece published on Forbes.com. He offers excellent insights on priorities to consider as you tweak your customer-experience processes to reflect this new normal.

Re-engagement with customers must occur at multiple levels. For years, companies have been promoting messages that relate to their values, mission and capabilities.

Much of this messaging as been delivered via high-level marketing programs designed to reinforce a desired and hopefully accurate image of the company.

Individually, sales reps have been engaging with customers, utilizing processes and selling products and services that also reflect that messaging. With the understanding that much has changed, re-engagement needs to be managed at both levels.

Re-engaging Customers at the Marketing Level

Marketing must first evaluate the currency of its existing messaging to see what is or is no longer valid for customers. Adjustments will most likely need to be made. Some of this will be obvious, and some changes will be more subtle.

For example, consider the tagline “people helping people.” It’s a great message, but if that message is reinforced with imagery showing crowds of people jammed together sweating and exerting themselves toward a common cause, it suddenly takes on a whole different meaning. The message is fine, but the reinforcement needs refining.

Once those adjustments are made, the priority is communication. Three actions will help marketing people provide the high-level messaging that will help redefine the enterprise and its position within the market.

  1. Double Down on Content – If you are trying to explain the “new you,” you are going to have to do the explaining on many levels. Content in the form of blogs, position papers, collateral and social postings will reach many different kinds of folks visiting your website, reading your ads and even visiting your physical facilities.Develop and offer content aimed at specific audiences about specific portions of your enterprise. Remove content that is obsolete or inaccurate in light of the new normal.
  2. Social Media – Talk and listen. Social media channels offer a wonderful way to engage user communities or vertical market populations. Use these powerful tools to deliver your message, but spend at least as much listening to what people are saying about your company and products. This important feedback loop will quickly tell you if your revised messaging is reaching the right people.
  3. Virtual Events – If you have an active user community, this is a wonderful time to bring it together in a virtual context. Virtual events can promote sharing between users and allow peer-to-peer communication of coping strategies and techniques that relate to mitigating the worst effects of the new normal.Again, this will also offer opportunities to the enterprise to promote new messaging and to measure the effectiveness of its delivery.

Other avenues are also available to Marketing through user communities and market and industry analysts. These are worth exploring and, in some cases, exploiting.

Re-engaging Customers at the Individual Level

As your sales reps and support personnel re-engage, they should spend some time discussing a few key items with their contacts. Before they can do that, they need to be equipped with some basic information.

Quantify How Your Organization Has Changed

Your people should be able to provide updates directly to individuals within your customer base. These changes might include structural changes within your enterprise, new products that are under development or recently announced, dropped or de-emphasized products, new messaging summaries and requirements that need to be met by customers related to the safe use and operation of your products.

Explore How the Customers’ Organizations Have Changed

Customers should be encouraged to share similar information about their status and how it might affect your B2B relationship with them as a vendor. Look for additional opportunities that relate to how your enterprise might serve customers more effectively.

Update Technology and Systems

Contact management systems, CPQ, CRM and MarCom and marketing automation tools all should be reviewed and updated to reflect findings derived from your re-engagement processes.

These tools will amplify your overall message and guide your day-to-day contact with customers and prospects over the short and medium term.

New products, discontinued products, new contacts, new content, new pricing and all the updates that reflect your new normal should be built into your systems.

It is a new world. It is neither better nor worse than the previous world; it is merely different. Successful companies will explore the differences and learn to exploit them as opportunities.

The faster your enterprise can understand and react to changes in the market, customer needs and supplier capabilities, the faster your enterprise will be able react effectively and turn these changes into market advantages.

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