I went for an ocean paddle on the weekend, and once I was a few kilometers out to sea, I popped on my goggles and I went overboard for a dip. After a few minutes of bobbing around, I noticed a school of fish, darting around erratically, curiously approaching me and then rapidly fleeing when I returned this curiosity and approached. If you’ve seen a school of fish up close and personally, you’d know just how fast they can move… one second they’re right in front of you- and the next, they’re gone!
With my mind never too far away from business, I thought this was a perfect metaphor for what has happened to small businesses and large corporations alike on a global scale in the past few weeks… one day, we were swimming in customers, with new and curious visitors approaching day after day, and then, the next- they’re gone. They vanished as quickly as they’d arrived, with no indication as to where they were going. How can we find them again? Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
I wrote last week that your organisation needs to position itself in the market, and ideally, gain a reputation for itself as an informer or an educator, not just a vendor of a product or service. I mentioned this in the context of maintaining customer relationships in a time of crisis, and it applies perhaps even more so when you’re trying to attract new customers. That same article talked about the HEART framework, with the process of humanising your organisation, educating your audience, assuring them of stability through changes, revolutionising your offerings and tackling the future with innovative new ways of operating. This HEART framework should be deployed to both your existing clientele, but also on your website, in your social media activity and across any of the touch-points that future customers could potentially ‘touch’.
Now, to address an obvious point, I’m well aware that for the coming weeks and months, a large number of potential customers have, and will continue to go into ‘buying hibernation’, and it will take some time to get them back. That’s fine, and completely understandable considering just how far and wide the economic ramifications travelled from the pandemic. While this is sadly true, at the same time, I refuse to believe that customers have entirely vanished, they’ve just relocated for an indeterminate period of time, into their homes. I also refuse to believe that this is nothing less than an opportunity for you and your organisation to target those prospective customers with content and information that is relevant to them.
In order to make that content especially relevant, you could try a brainstorming activity that gives these prospective clients avatars; give them a name, a gender, a set of interests and dislikes that can help shape the flavour of the content that you’ll push out in the future. You can also refine this avatar-creating to somewhat of a science when you start studying things like Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest, which not only give you an idea how a keyword is being typed in around the globe by the volume of searches, it will also give you an idea of what else is being searched. This can be invaluable when it comes to shaping the content that your current audience will potentially enjoy reading, watching, listening to or otherwise consuming, as well as giving you some ideas of what your potential customers that are out there somewhere will want to consume that will ultimately lead them to your organisation’s - figurative - front door. You need to gain a pretty good understanding of who they are, and what they want, which should shape your marketing strategy for the short-term. Don’t forget to check back on the effectiveness of this, and keep a constant lookout as to other keywords or concepts that your organisation can offer to prospective buyers.
After being bombarded with traditional advertisements for decades now, and exponentially more so now with time spent on the internet, humans are almost immune to advertisements. It’s the recognition of that fact that has led me to believe that the best way I can interact with the public, be them current or prospective clients, is to offer them something more valuable than an advertisement. I’m giving away knowledge that others would charge for, I’m recontextualising macroeconomic concepts into the real-world examples of small business and I’m constantly reaching out an olive branch for anyone that is struggling to connect with me personally for some one-on-one consulting. These are just a few of the ways in which you should start to really connect with your clients, and offer them far more than business as usual; that went out the window the minute the economy dictated that we needed to reassess how we’re going to operate.
In tough times, the best thing your organisation can do is to be open and honest with your existing customers, and keep a high level of communication with them in the hope that they’ll empathise with your organisation’s situation. In terms of attracting new customers, however, you need to be proactive in your search, as well as your delivery of content and offerings that are relevant and attractive to them. Some of this process will take time and resources, but at a time like this, you should be more motivated than ever before to get the ball rolling, to find some new customers that will engage with, and hopefully love your organisation’s core offerings.
For now, thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.
Kobi Simmat- Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.