How to Engage Your Way Out of Lockdown

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

With lockdown restrictions slowly lifting and the green shoots of more freedom on the horizon, how do you tempt audiences back after nearly 3 months and on-going concerns? The answer is simple, engage.

Simple Answers Require Hard Work

Audiences have had time to evaluate all of their relationships during the lockdown. From their own family dynamics (including who cheats on the video quiz… aunty) and wider friend groups to taking the time to take a forensic look at what brands they support and indeed, which ones mean something to them.

They will be thinking about which brands they simply couldn’t have lived without during this time. Which for many, if like me, would be the numerous food and drink brands that have repositioned their offer to allow for online order and delivery options to keep your cupboards (and drinks cooler) well-stocked. But what about brands that offer an experience that cannot take place at home or are best shared in-store? How can you start to tempt your audience back, and importantly start spending?

Education, Education, Engagement

For all the news of the lifting of restrictions there is still a lot of misunderstanding, and frankly, confusion out there as to what people can and can’t do. There is a desire to be educated and led in what to do and how to act in this new social distanced world.

The objective here is to create comprehensive content that aims to deal with all conceivable questions that your audience may have about visiting your venue. It is important to give as much information as possible, to allay any fears and ensure that customers know exactly what they will need to do to be ready for their visit.

This is not to say you should be speaking in clinical terms. You are aiming to calm nerves, not add to them. Keep to your brand voice and explain what steps you’ve taken to ensure the safety of both customer and staff whilst making sure that the unique experience you offer continues.

This is your chance to tell the story of how your brand is reacting to the current conditions, and indeed, how the needs of the customer are at the very heart of your business.

I would recommend the following suggestions to ensure the messaging comes across clearly:

Content & style

  • Write in clear, concise language, and stay away from acronyms or clinical language
  • Create a series of FAQ pages that deal specifically with questions you think your audience will ask – ‘do I need to pre-book?’ or ‘do I have to visit alone?’ this makes the content easier to digest and you can link to more detailed explanations elsewhere
  • No matter how much you do, remember that customers will always have more questions. Ensure that there are links to contacting you directly for more information and if there will be a delay in responding

Positioning on your site

  • All existing pages on your website that deal specifically with visiting your business should be updated with your COVID-19 information, so it is easy to find
  • Develop banners across your site that link specifically to information relating to COVID-19, so the customer has no issue in finding this information
  • Make contact information, including eNews sign-ups, as obvious as possible – people will want more information
  • Consider the imagery you are using on your site – try not to use shots that appear too crowded. What looked ‘bustling’ before the pandemic will not have the same appeal today

Nothing groundbreaking here, I know, but now is the time to get these simple steps in place in order to build confidence in your audience.

Getting Your Message Out There

Once you have somewhere to send people to you should focus on sharing the message as far and wide as possible. Social Media, as always, is a cheap and efficient way to reach your audience and build interest. My focus, however, would be on your email database, as this will be the key to rekindling your engagement with your most loyal audience and develop your relationship more.

Photo by Onlineprinters via Unsplash

Email it forward…

In a post-GDPR world, your email database (should) be your strongest and most effective direct marketing tool. This is an audience that has consented for your brand to communicate regularly with them – so they should be your biggest advocates. So use them!

According to Campaign Monitor, click-through rates in emails for UK campaigns skyrocketed in 2019, jumping from 0.9% to 2.4%, showing that consumers engaged with content on a deeper level.

Over 2% might not seem very high, but think of it this way instead: imagine all the impressions your social media posts reach, how many of them actually click through? I’d imagine, on average, it is less than 1% in most cases.

Investing time and resources will be worthwhile in the development of a deeper and more profitable relationship with your audience, who will appreciate the work you’ve put in to keep them informed.

Delivering Your Online Messages in the Real World

You’ve done the hard work. You’ve successfully initiated the measures for this ‘New Normal’ and promoted them to your expectant, and thankful audience. Now what?

Well, aside from continuing to offer great customer service, you need to make sure that the messages you’ve been advertising online translate into your physical space.

Things to keep in mind: 

  • Artwork and language should be consistent across all channels. If you are using graphics for social distancing on posters, make sure it is replicated online
  • Wherever possible, ensure that signage pushes audiences online for more information, saving resources on additional, and unnecessary signage

A Relationship Takes Work

This is more than just announcing a reopening though. It is your opportunity to restart your relationship with your audience. Think about what regular messages you will want to share over the coming months and beyond.

Don’t just think in terms of new products or discounts, ensure you continue to update them about changes and (hopefully) further lifting of restriction. Think as well about including them in conversations about the future direction of your brand – how they can become a more integral part of your business. Everything from crowdfunding ideas on new initiatives to even crowdfunding to have more of a stake in your brand, engagement creates loyalty – and loyalty creates profits.

Invest time in producing a content calendar for your brand, charting the main messages you want to share at specific times and which channels would be the most appropriate. I would suggest, again, that email is your silver bullet here, and by promoting your sign up options prominently across your channels you can develop a recruitment and retention strategy of well-engaged and active advocate group.

Remember, people who love brands talk about them, a lot, online. Be that brand.

For support on the latest guidance, advice and requirements for operating during COVID-19 please follow the link to the government’s website.

For York Businesses, please follow the link below to a really helpful booklet put together by City of York Council on how you can get your business ready and fit into the wider initiatives taking place across the city – I highly recommend it.