28-04-2020

DON’T MAKE CUSTOMERS DO THE WORK!

In the midst of business disruption, Alexa discusses the importance of keeping customers’ and prospects’ needs at the heart of B2B comms strategies.

Author: Alexa Mills

So here we are in the sixth week of lockdown in the UK and I wanted to share some thoughts on how good communications with customers and business prospects can be maintained despite these very challenging times we find ourselves in.

Now more than ever, communicating effectively is critical. Everyone is working in a very different way – in different places, at different times of the day. And they’re also using platforms and content formats that perhaps they weren’t very familiar with before. But the important thing is that we are all still communicating, all day every day. Probably more so now we find ourselves rather isolated.

And in that isolation, it’s easy to think that sales cycles have paused, that people aren’t looking for products and services and that potential customers aren’t doing their research on what the next investment is to take their business forward.

But many business leaders, having responded to the immediate impact of the crisis, are now very focused on their recovery plans. So, they’re spending time analysing what works and what doesn’t and they’re getting their ducks in a row ready to hit the ground running when the world returns to a sense of normality.

Prospects are still looking for and engaging with content and they are likely to still be open to hearing from businesses just as they were before, provided that the timing and tone of the communications or content are appropriate. They may just be in a different place to receive it or on a different platform to engage with it.

And with that in mind it’s really important that three things are happening:

  • That customers are being put at the centre of all external communication strategies
  • That messages reach them where they are now – not where they would normally have been
  • That the information that customers receive is absolutely relevant to them now and in the near future

The same fundamental principles of communications apply now that did six weeks ago. If someone has to work too hard to understand your proposition and figure out how you can solve their specific problem, they will switch off and find the answer somewhere else.

We need to be making sure communications are clearer and more precisely targeted than ever.

So one consequence of the current crisis is that we’re seeing relatively new concepts being initiated very quickly. In the wake of live event cancellations, for example, we’ve seen virtual demos and virtual exhibition booths. And in the absence of face to face contact with customers, we’re seeing a lot of long-form video content produced using video conferencing platforms.

Our advice would be that, while we’re all looking to replicate real-life experiences digitally, businesses have to stay mindful of how content is distributed and how they expect an audience to engage with it.

For long-form video interviews, are you also thinking about creating shorter edits that speak to specific audiences and sharing the relevant sections of that with them. Or are you expecting all viewers to watch 30 minutes of content to pick out the bits that are relevant to them?

If you’re exploring virtual exhibitions, are you thinking about taking advantage of the digital format to create segmented versions of the stand, with content relevant to very specific audiences so that customers aren’t wasting time navigating digital content that isn’t relevant?

It’s necessary right now for us to replicate real-life engagement in digital form, I get that. But it has clear limitations. In the real world, the knowledge and expertise of your sales teams helps prospects to discover the most relevant content for them. So the sales teams do the hard work, not the customer. And we need to apply this same principle of curating and signposting content for our customers in the digital space.

There are always ways of connecting with customers and prospects. Perhaps now is the time for more one on one communication, using the time for informal virtual coffees with prospects, for example.

If you want to use video, there are formats that don’t require live shoots but that do speak directly to the needs of the viewer, or enable you to share insights that support your customers’ vital business planning.

If you’d like to brainstorm ideas for devising and distributing effective content that will resonate with your customers now and in the coming weeks, please do get in touch. There’s lots of ideas we can share and lots of examples we can show you.

Take care and see you next time. Thanks for watching.