How to Engage with Clients When Your Doors Are Closed
Now well over 100 days since the first COVID-19 lockdown went into effect, businesses are still coming to terms with how to operate.
One of the biggest challenges? Staying in touch with customers.
With so many retailers shuttered due to stay-at-home regulations, keeping customers engaged and interested in a business can be difficult. But the time to hesitate has passed. Businesses that want to stay in operation are getting creative using a variety of innovative tactics to keep them top of mind with customers, even as COVID-19 keeps many stores closed and business doors locked.
Using timely tactics that optimize your know-how to spread your business message, you can reach your customers wherever they are. Here are a few smart strategies to engage clients, even when your doors are closed.
Let Customers Know What You’re Doing
It might surprise you that customers are actually curious about what retailers and businesses are doing to weather the coronavirus storm. And really, there’s no reason to keep it a secret.
Authenticity and honesty are powerful marketing tools, even if that means telling customers that times are tough for your business. Transparency is key and understanding how to communicate change to your customers is crucial during these trying times.
Whether you want to share that you’re preparing to reopen soon or shifting to online ordering only, getting that message out there is the most important thing, and there are lots of ways to do so.
Tell them what you’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19
While it’s certainly not a requirement, alerting customers to how your business is handling the pandemic and the relevant safety protocols is a positive PSA that can put clients at ease even if your business is closed.
Via email or storefront signage, let customers know what changes you’ve made, for instance:
- New cleaning protocols
- Staff adjustments
Why Stay in Touch With Customers During the Outbreak?
U.S. retailers could announce between 20,000 and 25,000 closures of businesses in 2020, according to tracking by Coresight Research, due to the coronavirus. For small businesses trying to break through, it’s survival of the fittest and how you stay in touch with customers could make or break the next six months.
If you’re one of the thousands of businesses still shuttered due to health and safety concerns, there’s reason to be optimistic. You still have many tools at your disposal to stay top of mind with consumers. And, there are plenty of unique business strategies to cope with COVID-19.
Why should you stay in touch even if your business is closed?
- Prepare customers for reopening – Keeping customers abreast of your status will give them the incentive to visit once your doors reopen – and can help build excitement for your grand reopening.
- Reassure them of your business safety – This time of uncertainty can be an opportunity to reassure customers that you’re taking every precaution necessary, both for consumer and staff, to keep everyone safe and healthy when you can reopen your doors
- Build loyalty – Studies have shown that the pandemic has encouraged consumers to support small businesses. Give your customers a reason to be cheerleaders for your company by staying in touch with updates and information.
Ilona Andrews once said, “If you remove adversity, you remove ingenuity and creativity with it. There is no need to strive to make something beautiful or better if it already is.”
That’s one way to approach the pandemic. Rather than simply get frustrated with the challenges your business is facing, use it as an opportunity to get creative with your client engagement and marketing. It’s time to think outside the box.
Here are some creative ways to reach out:
Say you run a niche sportswear business for Ultimate Frisbee. With games canceled and players staying off the field, how can you still reach out to customers? Why not interview a star Ultimate Frisbee player and livestream the interview on your social media channels? Not only will customers tune in to watch the discussion you're providing them, but they’ll also associate your brand with exclusive content.
Offer a Challenge or Competition
With your business on hiatus, you don’t just want customers to visit your site once to read about your closure and then never return. Give them a reason to keep checking in with a competition or challenge.
For instance, Bruni Bakery Blog in Dublin, Ireland, started a monthly baking challenge for customers. Participants had to follow a handful of recipes then post their creations to Instagram. The winners are announced at the beginning of the next month.
Not only does this keep followers engaged, but they’re also inadvertently brand evangelists.
Share a Discount Code
Believe it or not, coupons have been shown to increase oxytocin levels – you know, those happy vibes? According to Huffpost, a 2012 Coupons.com study found that “coupon recipients who got a $10 voucher experienced a 38 percent rise in oxytocin levels and were 11 percent happier than those who did not receive a coupon.”
Who isn’t looking for a pick-me-up these days?
Improve your customers’ mood by sharing a discount code they can use when you reopen.
Teach A Class...
Right now, a lot of people have nothing but time on their hands, and many of them are looking to learn something. Be the solution to their educational quandary by offering a class or downloadable guide. Seattle’s bead store Beadworld stopped in-person classes in April and pivoted to free downloadable project kits available on its website.
The detailed instructions allow customers to continue their hobby in a safe and socially distant fashion while staying in contact with the store.
...Or Post DIY Videos
If you can’t teach a class, trying to keep your website content fresh is crucial, and one fun way to do so is to give your customers do-it-yourself instructions on your goods and services.
- Get creative with your products – If they can’t buy flowers from your flower shop right now, provide them with a free step-by-step guide to creating a bouquet at home.
- Offer instructional, expert guides – Think of all the people who desperately need a haircut right now. As a salon owner, you might not be ready to encourage everyone to cut their hair at home, but maybe you could videotape a guide to something simple, like trimming bangs.
Video tutorials add value to your brand and encourage customers to share the information you’ve provided them with their friends and family. In turn, your brand grows that much more.
Hold an Online Event
Just because your company doors are locked doesn’t mean you can’t host an event. Not an in-person gathering, of course. Instead, take your event online. Many industries are finding success in hosting virtual functions.
One example: Richmond Virginia’s Hardywood Brewery.
Beginning in April, the brewery began offering online beer tastings with its production manager and quality assurance manager. Participants could either drink the beer they had on hand at home or request delivery of the beers being discussed and use an online (contactless) payment to join.
Promote Gift Cards
Just because you’re closed doesn’t mean clients can’t plan for your future reopening. Offering gift cards is a great way to build anticipation for your business relaunch, and, as a bonus, it brings in revenue in the meantime.
Choose Your Channel
Coming up with how you want to engage with your clients is just one part of the puzzle. Next, you need to figure out what channel to use to reach them. There are a variety of options, but some marketing channels work better than others for certain messages. There’s the old school newspaper ad, billboards, electronic signage, and more. But for many marketing budgets, looking online will be the most affordable option.
Here’s a look at what’s available:
If you have a robust list of contacts, sending an email newsletter with updates and links to your social media platforms is a great way to reach out. But remember, with email, as Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and managing frequency is imperative. Don’t bombard your clients with too many emails, or they’ll get frustrated and send them to the dreaded SPAM folder.
Social media sites can give businesses with strong followings a great way to stay in touch. Here would be a good place to post a video or even a poll seeking customer input. It is important to understand how to leverage social media while reopening your business to reconnect with customers. If you’re not sure how to successfully reach customers using social media, check out the 5 steps to success with Nextdoor Business Posts.
The hyperlocal community hub is a resource every closed business should be using right now. Not every business has spent years building up social media followings, and that’s where Nextdoor comes in.
With Nextdoor, there’s no need to try to grow followers. Instead, when you join, you get instant distribution to local customers in your neighborhood. And these real neighbors, verified by address, 88% of whom shop at a local business once a week or more.
These are the neighborhood community members your business will need to reach in order to reopen and weather the COVID-19 storm successfully.
Want to Get Started With Nextdoor?
Getting started as a business is easy. All you have to do is:
- Claim a free Business Page
- Customize it to share your unique business story
- Engage with your clients via free Business Posts
- Run promotions targeted to your neighbors with Local Deals
Once you’re ready to engage customers, Nextdoor and its easy local Business Page customization can help you immediately connect with customers.
CNBC. 25,000 stores are predicted to close in 2020, as Coronavirus pandemic accelerates industry upheaval. www.cnbc.com/2020/06/09/coresight-predicts-record-25000-retail-stores-will-close-in-2020.html
Huffpost. What science says about discounts, promotions, and free offers. www.huffpost.com/entry/what-science-says-about-discounts_b_8511224
Beadword. Project Instructions. beadworldnw.com/projectkits.html
Hardywood Brewery. Shop All. hardywood.square.site/
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.