It’s a tricky time to be marketing for sure, but as businesses look to cut costs, it’s important to remind ourselves of the value of our existing customer base. If you’re not aware of the research, here are the key stats:

Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%*

Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one*

If you lose customers, you’ll have to start from scratch on the other side of COVID-19 and that is not a smart strategy (paying five times more!). Smart businesses are currently tailoring their marketing activities to prioritise the retainment of customers.

So, how to keep customers interested, especially when you have drastically changed your products, service, or gone into a hibernation mode? Here are some ideas.

Don’t ghost your customers

Do not go silent! This is the first rule. Keep your existing frequency of customer communications. If you were sending a monthly newsletter, continue to do that. Same goes with social media. If you were posting three times a week, continue.

Keeping in contact will put you ahead of your competitors who may have turned off customer communications to save on revenue. Since COVID-19, social media consumption by consumers has gone up — not down — so it’s not the time to leave!

Helping customers as a guiding principle

Be helpful; consider what you can offer to help customers right now given the lockdown. It might be some educational advice around a recipe that you can type up or live stream, or a small product giveaway, something that will make their time at home more bearable.

Get creative! For example, if you’re servicing takeaway, you could publish and share your restaurant’s regular Spotify playlist. You can’t send a waiter to serve the food but little touches like that will bring the magic.

If you can afford it, discounts or concessions will be appreciated when many are struggling financially. Offer this as customer exclusive (not new customers), to make your existing customers feel special.

Honesty and clarity with your communications

All brands need to be implementing best practice crises communications right now. This means being clear, consistent and transparent in your communications as well as updating your audience on changes in your products/services.

If you are offering takeaway and you didn’t before, tell them!

If you have since launched a new e-commerce store for delivered goods, tell them!

If you are continuing to operate as usual, for example, you may be a winemaker or retail store, then share the precautions your business has taken to work around COVID-19 (social distancing, cleanliness etc.) so that customers feel safe to purchase from you.

These COVID-19 related communications should sit on a dedicated website page and then you can use your newsletter, social media and home page to link through and promote the updates.

Review your tone

Reviewing your tone of communications is vital at this time; consider how your emails, social media posts and website copy will make your audience feel? My general advice would be to pull back on hard sales messages until we’re on the other side of the crises. Be sensitive, positive, light-hearted, and offer a bit of tasteful humour.

Should you mention the coronavirus? Of course, you need to acknowledge it, but don’t get melancholy. Customers are hearing enough negative news so brands should take the opportunity to help, inspire or entertain. Now’s the time to share feel-good stories and make people happy.

Customers will remember your care and service

In line with being helpful, is providing excellent customer service — don’t cut costs in this area! You need to be ready to answer questions quickly and efficiently. Make your customer service team and sales teams available. As your competitors look to cut back on support, maintaining excellent customer service will make you shine above. Better yet, step UP your service, customers won’t forget.

Eliminate any barriers for purchase (make it easy!)

Following clear communications is making the purchase easy. Have a good look at the customer journey. For example, how simple is it for a customer who leaves your social media profile to visit your website, and then browse and purchase?

Talking to your website developer is a good way to get advice on this. Practical upgrades could include updating your home page with clearer click-throughs, creating filters to guide customers to their preferred product on an e-commerce browsing page, or reducing the number of data fields in an online purchasing form.

Convenience is everything for the consumer, in ordinary life, but especially now. If you’ve considered the development of a smartphone app or a partnership with a delivery service, now might be the time to expedite these sorts of projects.

Content thought starters for customer engagement

Everyone has something they can offer in terms of expertise or advice. Here are some examples, by industry, on the content you could publish under lockdown.

Hospitality

This should come naturally to you! Live cooking demonstrations in your home kitchen, produce shopping tips, or sharing secrets on your top suppliers and what’s in season now. Also, cooking basics — hacks to peel garlic, or how to make the best roast potatoes — anything around comfort food is a win right now.

Winemaker, brewers & distillers

I’d start with tips on what to buy and how to match with food at home. And don’t just promote your brand, share the love by publishing top picks from other producers. As another idea, if you’re still in vintage or bottling, you have a unique opportunity to bring people in on the action with photography and video, connoisseurs love a behind the scenes looksie.

Tourism operators

You may not be able to take people out, but you can still broadcast. Perhaps interviews with a charismatic staff member, or live streaming of wildlife or nature destinations which offer some respite and relaxation. Check out the incredible streaming from Zoos Victoria, ‘Animals at Home’. My toddler has watched at least an hour of the Healesville Koala Cam since lockdown!

Capitalize on free live streaming apps

Live streaming is an awesome and easy way to engage with customers, and especially relevant if your business was reliant on gatherings or events for marketing previously. No professional video gear required, just you and a smartphone. Easy options to consider are Facebook Live and Instagram TV (IGTV).

As an example, many wine brands are starting live wine chats to replace cellar door experiences and wine dinners. Yarra Valley winemaker Mac Forbes is interviewing wine experts every Tuesday night on Instagram ‘Tuesday Tipples’. So, customers can enjoy a mid-week tipple, and be entertained and educated at the same time. What a great way to meet the needs of your wine-loving audience under lockdown!

And consider making it exclusive, by only offering the streaming, only to your existing customers and database first. This will increase the appeal and also strengthen your customer relationships long terms. Everyone loves VIP treatment…