• Fee Johnson

How to communicate with your customers, position your business, stay visible and survive.

Is lockdown an excuse to lie low or should you be going large?

It is slowly time to come out from under the duvet and communicate with your customers, they'll want to hear from you.

12 things to consider to help you get started.

You felt the fear when it was announced that the country was going into lockdown, we all did. The unknown the uncertainty, with worry and anxieties for our families and our livelihoods. A time for putting family and health first, with the added precariousness for business owners of how to keep your business afloat.

You know the show must go on. Businesses, large and small need to survive. Maybe you'll have to adapt, diversify, think outside the box. The bottom line is that businesses still need to be selling, just don't do anything too hasty and rush into it. And importantly how do you communicate that you’re still open and looking for business when the world is falling in around you.

How do you begin to be communicating your offers, products and services without seeming crass or appearing 'knee-jerk' or jumping on a bandwagon? Consumers are quick to spot when businesses are profiting from their distress. And no brand wants to be associated with that.

Some of the initial dust is beginning to settle, consumer panic is waning and food shelves are gradually being re-stocked. You're in this for the long haul, not just this lockdown period but beyond, and out the other side when you want your business to grow and soar once again.

You absolutely should have a presence on-line, stay on your social channels and use it to keep in touch with your customers. Now is not the time to be hiding. You don’t need to be doing the same level of posts as before and your content will need to be reconsidered. Simply get in touch with your customers through emails, as a bare minimum, or even pick up the phone! Remember your customers and clients will be feeling the same fear that you are. We are social beings and communication, in the right way, is good. 

Below are 12 tips to consider when connecting and reaching out to your audience. Communication, done right will encourage a more loyal customer base, gain support within your market, grow your reputation and leave you in a better position to go and make those sales!

Be authentic. We can all spot a fake a mile off. Hands up who received various emails over the last few weeks pronouncing the closure of a store and claiming to have the wellbeing of you as their main concern when it was clear from their tone that it was anything but. Customers easily get suspicious and don't want to feel taken advantage of. 

Budweiser is hoping to help Britain’s struggling pubs by launching a £1m gift card initiative for locked out patrons to pre-purchase drinks ahead of their eventual post-coronavirus reopening. Fearing the loss of business this would entail, Budweiser is doing all it can to help by pledging to match all purchases up to a combined cap of £1m, helping to maintain cash flows through this difficult period.

Not everyone has the budgets of Budweiser to make these kinds of pledges, but you can be just as genuine.

Be relatable. As above, we're all in this together so let's behave like we are. 

Grazia Magazine adapting and putting frontline NHS workers on the front cover.

Be consistent and stick to your core values. It is possible to add value and support without losing sight of your core values. Staying consistent with your messaging and offers from your business from life 'before' is what is important. If in doubt re-visit your aims, objectives and values. Staying true to these will help you in the long run when we are out the other side. Customers like consistency, they like to know where they stand with you and this builds loyalty and repeat business. Blake Consultants, who specialise in CRM systems for coaches, consultants and service based businesses, pulled off an incredible feat in organising a webinar just days into the lockdown. Pulling together a panel of experts across a range of relevant and much needed areas, the webinar gave support and guidance to the many businesses who were feeling lost and directionless at the time. Blake Consultants have always supported the business community, their core values were at the heart of this webinar. As a result Blake Consultants will come out stronger with an even better business reputation. 

Don't take advantage. Has anyone else spotted the rise in Divorce Lawyers touting for business? True, statistics work in their favour, but it's how you approach the sale. Offer support, stay relevant, maybe talk about a free consultation - this week is not the time for a hard sell. 

Add value. Many of us now find ourselves being a teacher alongside the many other roles we are trying to juggle. From Joe Wicks offering his morning on-line PE to Tractor Ted extending their website to include more free activities and ideas on their FunZone, they are adding value, increasing awareness in their brand and getting more hits on their website. That's then where the sales or lead gen can be done.

Be supportive. Business growth club Bigger Brighter Bolder has been one of many businesses that has had to move it's monthly meet-ups on-line. Yes, that's supportive, there is still the element of ‘business as usual’ and consistency and there will be gains for each member as a result. However, they wanted to do more, from increasing the level and frequency of support they offer to organising on-line social events. They have continued to build a community of loyal followers and champions who will stand by them and see them through these troubled times.

Rethink your strategy. You may have more visits to your social channels as a result of customers having more downtime and looking for escapism from within their homes. There is a lot more traction within each social platform. Your audience may have changed, re-think your messaging and ad targeting, keep an eye on demographics and time of posting. Check your analytics - has anything changed? Adapt and re-set.

Find a balance between addressing the fear without feeding the fear. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room. How many sales emails have you received that carry on like nothing is askew in the world.

Is your offer still relevant? How important right now is it to have 5% off shoes that you can go dancing in? Or relevant to have discounted flights and holidays, even holidays in the UK when we have no timeframe to work with. Sadly there will be no holidays or nightclubs opening for the foreseeable future. It will come, just not yet, consumers are still filled with fear and will smell a rat.

Sell but don't be too sales-y. Really think about the words you use and don't forget the pictures too. 

Staying true and consistent. Guinness by Luke O'Reilly for One Minute Briefs

Re-think your mass emails. These need to personable, more-so than ever. Breakdown your data into smaller chunks, find the common ground with each segment and be relatable. Think before you send. Do ALL your clients past and present really need to know of your hand-washing policy? Likewise, a blanket email announcing a price increase, with no acknowledgment of what is going on in the world will do more to turn customers away and look at a competitor offer.

Can you adapt?  Offer help in tangible and specific ways. If so, get to the point when you're communicating. Tell people exactly what you are looking for. A LinkedIn post from Snaffling Pig asking if any food/drinks brands needed help with storage, picking or packing and resulted in them working with 5 'frankly brilliant' brands. Great collaboration. Is there anyone you can work together with in this way, perhaps building foundations for future work down when we are out of this hole.

The independent brewer BrewDog has begun making hand sanitiser at its distillery in Aberdeenshire amid shortages driven by coronavirus fears.

Make your customers' life as easy as possible. Go the extra mile to support them, give them the extra time to chat, zoom or text. We're in this together. 

Show your customers respect and keep them at the centre of your business as The Social Co has done below with this supportive and optimistic video.


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