Lockdown may have been going on for 7 weeks and counting, but many are still struggling to find their way with the new normal when it comes to business. On top of juggling kids, worries over elderly parents and disruption of typical routines, many are trying to find the words to still talk about their businesses and continue to sell. If you’re wondering if or how to keep selling during this time, this article by Catherine Erdly from The Resilient Retail Club will give you some pointers on where to start.
Before we get started – is it right to sell at all?
To kick off, let’s address a common fear that many sellers are experiencing right now. Is it right to be selling at all, or is somehow profiting from the pandemic?
Every business owner has to make their own decisions on this point, however, it is pretty clear that government guidelines are that online retail is still permitted and, in fact, is actively encouraged. There’s a big difference between people who hoard essential supplies with the intention of selling them at hugely inflated prices, and hard-working small business owners with families to support and livelihoods to protect.
Everyone has their own view point, but if you are able to work with social distancing measures in place, it only helps the economy when businesses do well. Small businesses are a vital part of the UK economy and finding ways to continue to trade will help the long-term recovery.
1. Meet your customer where they are now
It was very clear, after lockdown was announced, that some businesses had kept sending out their pre-scheduled content, without amending anything. Talking to your customers as if nothing has changed is at best tone-deaf and, at worst, upsetting. Your messaging needs to reference the situation that your customer finds themselves in.
Does that mean that you have to become a 24-hour coronavirus update service? Absolutely not. You don’t have to focus exclusively on the current situation. But you do need to acknowledge it – even just a few words here or there will help your customer feel heard and understood.
If you use humour in your business messages, feel free to use it – although be aware that people are understandable more sensitive at the moment, so if you think something is questionable, don’t post it! Humour can be very subjective and you don’t want to be unintentionally offensive. If you typically post uplifting messages, continue to do so. Now is not the time to be changing the tone of voice of your business. Instead, now is the time to be using your voice as a business to talk to your customer and support them.
The most important conversation that goes on during the selling process is the one going on inside your customer’s head. Tapping in to that, even just a little, is a powerful way to stay connected to your customers.
2. Think about why customers would buy
Part of meeting your customer where they are now is also thinking about why they would even buy from you at this time. People are buying for three main reasons:
- to protect themselves and their families
- to connect with loved ones and the outside world
- or to distract – either themselves or children!
If you look at your business and what you offer, can you create messages that will resonate with your customer around one of these key motivators? Can you offer gifting options to allow them to send presents to their loved ones? Can you highlight the products in your range that are perfect to support home learning? How about demonstrating journaling techniques in your notebooks?
Look at your product range and think about why people might buy them at this time. As we’re all going through lockdown at the same time, it won’t take much for you to put yourself in your customer’s shoes – you’re probably already in them!
Instead of thinking about selling, think about serving. How can your products help your customer at this time?
What if selling was as simple as figuring out how your customer can use your products to connect, protect or distract – and then letting them know? If you’re just sharing the benefits, this is the easiest way to sell without feeling pushy or distasteful.
3. Consider your messaging – connect and give value, don’t just sell
How many of your posts or messages to your customers even need to be sales-based? Best practice, at all times not just during a crisis, is to rotate your messages between three types of posts:
- Connect – Connect posts should make up around 40% of your content. This is any post that builds a connection between you and your customers. Sharing your stories, asking opinions and showing behind the scenes of your business are all connect-type posts.
- Value – Another 40% of your messages should give some kind of value. That could be a tip about how to use your product, how to care for it or even a motivational message.
- Selling – Only 20-25% of posts should have a direct sales message. So make sure you’re only saying “buy now” or “visit the site to buy” every 4-5 posts.
If you’re not feeling sure about how to talk to your customers, why not focus on ‘connection’ and ‘value’ content as a place to start? As I mentioned previously, connection is probably easier at the moment because we have so many shared experiences – possibly more now than ever before! These types of posts should be the bulk of your messages anyway, as they allow you to stay visible, keep close to your ideal customer and stay at the front of their mind.
TRY THIS: Spend 15 minutes brainstorming ideas around how you can connect or add value. Then think about what your sales messages could be. It’s always easier to come up with ideas in one sitting rather than staring blankly at your screen when it’s time to put up a post. You don’t have to create a hugely involved schedule, but if you at least note down some ideas that are appropriate for the current situation, you’ll find it much easier to keep connecting with your customer.
4. Keep showing up!
Many of us have taken a step back while we get our head around the new normal. While taking a break is a natural reaction, don’t forget to get back out there and reconnect with your customer when you can. If you can keep showing up consistently, it will make a huge difference to your business.
Meet your customer where they are right now, think about what they’re going through and how your products can help, and above all, keep connecting. If you can do that, selling won’t feel difficult or unpleasant.
Featured image: Sending Big Hugs card by Hofficraft
Want some more help getting through this time and building your business up to come back stronger? Check out the Resilient Retail Club for support and practical advice to start, grow and scale your product business www.resilientretail.com