outshinery

Written by

Laurie Millotte

Published

April 23, 2020

Watch Outshinery’s first “On the Spot” real talk with Megan DeCicco on Facebook Life | free replay

One of the most quoted moments from Keltie’s conversation with Megan DeCicco, founder of Solutions on 2nd LLC, was this:

“Having space in a customer’s inbox or on their social feed is a privilege, and a pandemic is not the time to misuse that gift of attention.”

This resonated with so many viewers, and it’s just one of the gems and honest advice that Megan packed into 30 minutes of Outshinery’s first “On the Spot” Facebook Live video series. You can catch the replay below or over on Facebook.

To add more texture to the conversation (30 mins flies by), here is Megan’s guest post with extra insight and resources:

Meeting Customers Where They Are: Intentional Marketing During COVID-19

Originally published on Solutions on 2nd.

Megan x Keltie: Facebook LIVE “Real Talk” session to discuss ways to foster meaningful relationships during this global health crisis that can better serve your clients – and your brand – in the long term.

The theme of the day was a topic we have become incredibly passionate about here at Solutions On 2nd: meeting customers where they are. The idea started percolating as companies started mass e-mailing every one of their contacts, active or not. Megan watched these emails roll in to her personal inbox, and noticed almost all of them missed the mark in providing a meaningful message to her as a consumer:

“I’d become inundated as a consumer with emails from brands I have engaged with at one point or another over the years and who I rarely hear from. All of a sudden because they are in crisis they want to reconnect – or worse: send out multiple emails per week. I don’t need you to ‘carefully monitor the situation’ for me, thanks. What I need in my inbox right now is something fun or interesting to distract me from my own careful monitoring of the situation.”

And she’s not the only one who’s noticed this change in brand communications. Comedian and actor Matt Buechele shared a video he made about these messages that went viral on Twitter, having over 24.5k shares and 2 million+ views. It is an exaggeration of the issue, but not by much and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

It seems some businesses might have forgotten a crucial point:

Having space in a customer’s inbox or on their social feed is a privilege, and a pandemic is not the time to misuse that gift of attention.

At best, your brand can come off as white noise that gets discarded or scrolled past without a second thought. At worst, your follower could choose to rescind their generous offering of connection and unsubscribe or unfollow you completely.

This rings especially true on social media. Before, if your brand made a posting faux pas in image, copy or hashtags it might have gone unnoticed. But with the influx of people coming together on the social media platforms to check in on family, friends and their community they are paying closer attention to what they see in their feeds. They are becoming more vocal about things they see brands share that may contradict government guidelines or individual safety protocols, and even some jokes and off-brand attempts at humor are falling flat.

Which brings us to the next crucial point:

It’s called social media, not market-at-me media.

Brands and their ability to engage on social media platforms is an after effect to the initial purpose of allowing users to engage with their friends, family and community members around the globe in a real-time, virtual space. Brands and businesses are the outsiders here, and while the platforms provide a space to communicate with your followers it’s important to remember that people are first and foremost here for their personal connections.

Twitter prepared a wonderful list of tips for managing brand communications during COVID-19. There are some helpful tips and suggestions that apply to every platform, but the one that really stood out to us as a great mantra for marketing during COVID-19 is:

Consider the value you’re adding Resist joining the conversation just to join.

Don’t send another email blast just because you haven’t gotten a purchase since your last email three days ago. If you have nothing new or unique to communicate, there’s no reason to reach out again until you do. And no, a slight variation on the same offer from the previous email does not count as “new and unique”.

Mix things up and keep your mass communications to a respectable minimum. If you send out a promotional email about a sale this week, make next week a behind the scenes update with photos from your staff working remotely, or ways you are supporting your community through the products and services you offer.

Don’t jump in on a trending joke or meme theme just to be a part of the conversation and get exposure. This especially rings true for alcohol-related brands right now because there is a plethora of parents sharing their love of a good stiff drink (or three) after a day of working from home, home schooling and managing the new stresses of this global pandemic. But before you offer to ship them a new case to get through next week, think about moderation. Think about enjoying responsibly. And keep in mind that around the world cases of domestic violence and child abuse are going unreported in a scope we won’t fully comprehend until after COVID-19 is behind us and the victims can share their stories freely without fear of retaliation as they stay at home.

While it might be all in good fun, it might not seem that way to someone who is impacted by addiction or domestic abuse and perceives your brand to contribute to the situation. Because you can’t know who those people are, think long and hard about whether it serves your brand’s identity to engage in these activities to begin with.

Don’t make your messaging one sided. This last one is going to be especially tricky because as a small business you have bills to pay and your ability to work may have been limited or eliminated altogether in its current state. But now is the time to give gifts to your customers and build a stronger relationship with your business.

We aren’t necessarily talking about something that costs money, either. Brands are coming up with creative ways to give something that costs them nothing but has intrinsic value to their audience in the form of a new tool, resource or activity.

  • When travel restrictions and stay at home orders started getting introduced, museums and art galleries around the world shared their virtual tours so people could enjoy their facilities from the comfort and safety of their homes. Travel + Leisure pulled together their Top 12, and you can find them here.
  • Disney Parks and Doubletree Resorts decided to share once coveted secret recipes with their fans and followers. In the words of Doubletree Senior Vice President Shawn McAteer: “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve anything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness.

What’s something that you can provide to your audience, doesn’t cost you anything but time, and can help them make a special memory with you to brighten these difficult days?

Necessity is is the mother of invention.

Plato was on to something. In these trying times, business owners across the country are thinking of unique and creative ways to meet their customers where they are. From bringing the party to them through door-to-door delivery, to allowing customers to pay what they can, here are a few of the unique and innovative stories we thought really stood out.

You’ll probably notice that each of these instances truly cater to what the individual brand stands for, the services they provide, and the customers they serve. While these ideas aren’t appropriate for every business, hopefully they are unique enough to get you thinking about how your business can temporarily reinvent itself while staying true to your origins, to meet your customers where they are.

Trek Light Gear

Trek Light Gear is an online retailer who specializes in hammocks, outdoor gear and handwoven blankets. One thing that we found incredibly inventive, on brand and sensitive to the current climate is their “Pay What You Can” program. Essentially they created a special landing page here that shares multiple discount codes from 5%-20% off, so users can pick the code that helps them comfortably purchase items to spread a little happiness for themselves or for others. They also offer for anyone in need of a deeper discount to reach out directly, all while reminding visitors that they are a small business and ask anyone who can pay full price to do so, to offset the discounts being provided to others in need.

From their About Us: “Trek Light Gear was officially founded by Seth Haber in 2003. Over the years we’ve focused on a simple, but grand, mission of spreading happiness and changing the world one customer at a time. We make products for people who live their lives with passion. For people who believe in following their dreams and in the power of a smile to change the world.”

Lucky Devil Lounge’s Lucky Devil Eats

When we first heard about “Boober Eats” we thought it was a joke, but it turns out an enterprising strip club in Portland, Oregon decided to bring the show to their customers when they had to close their doors due to the pandemic. With a commercial kitchen on site and dancers and bouncers in need of income, they hatched the idea of topless food delivery. The dancers wear hot pants and strategically placed pasties and deliver to the customer’s door – following all of the physical distancing guidelines while they do so – and the bouncers are the drivers and onsite security for each delivery.

Their growing popularity and features in publications like Rolling Stone magazine resulted in a cease and desist from Uber for use of the name Boober Eats and Boober, but Lucky Devil Eats has certainly found a creative way to deliver their unique experience to their customers!

Sweet Farm’s Goat 2 Meeting

Sweet Farm is a nonprofit animal rescue and sanctuary in Silicon Valley, that is usually funded by in-person visits and donations. When the stay at home orders were issued and activities like sanctuary visits ceased, Sweet Farm co-founders, Anna Sweet & Nate Salpeter came up with a unique and creative way to bring their animals and their cause to an audience well beyond their Northern California community; Goat 2 Meeting.

Goat 2 Meeting (a clever play on the virtual meeting software GoToMeeting) allows users to schedule a cameo appearance during their next video chat or virtual company meeting with one of their resident animals! In addition to this quirky paid service, they are also offering free virtual farm tours for schools and nonprofit groups.

These three examples are wildly different, from the type of their business to the audiences they serve. But what their unique programs have in common is a creative solution to continuing to serve their customers in a way that is just as different as the world we presently find ourselves in. We hope these ideas inspire you to think about ways you can meet your customers where they are, all while remaining true to your brand’s identity and the experience your audience has come to know and love.

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Bonus advice, just for wineries

Gift Cards

If you are among the large number of small wineries who rely heavily on your wholesale program and direct tasting room sales, you may not have a robust ecommerce program to help you through this crisis. That means unless your customers are really proactive and able to arrange curbside pickup or local delivery, they won’t be able to support you during this time if they are able. 

If you have the ability to make an online marketplace possible, now is a great time to do so. But if you are just trying to keep your business afloat and don’t have additional resources to put toward implementing a new online shopping experience, at the very minimum make gift card purchases accessible to your social media followers.

Facebook is partnering with online gift certificate sales channels to help small businesses add direct gift card purchasing to their social media pages for Facebook and Instagram. While direct wine sales are not allowed on either platform (yet), gift cards are a great way to get virtual sales from your followers without worrying about licensing and shipping restrictions, and can be used toward future in-person visits or online sales once they are available. They can also be purchased directly in Stories!

Learn more about this gift card program:

Wine Club Members

Unless you intimately know and communicate with each of your wine club members on the regular, you probably don’t know how COVID-19 is directly impacting them. Before your next shipment comes around, take the opportunity to reach out individually and check in with them. If doing so is uncomfortable for you, use the opportunity to verify you have the correct mailing address and payment information for the upcoming shipment and let the conversation go from there. 

If a member doesn’t have any updates to make and are excited to receive their shipment, you can take the opportunity to share what’s in the upcoming shipment and ask if they want to add any extra bottles to their order. Extra points if you look at their purchase history to know what their favorites are, so you can target the right wines to upsell. You can also invite them to send a gift membership to a friend or loved one who might appreciate a special surprise.

If a member is having financial difficulties they may want to cancel their membership to avoid being charged for the upcoming shipment. By proactively engaging in this conversation you can take the opportunity to see if a modified shipment would be possible (say three bottles down from six, or six bottles down from 12; depending on your shipment size). Some sales are better than no sales, and if they aren’t able to afford a modified shipment give them the opportunity to skip this next one. By giving them the opportunity to scale down or pause their membership until they are on more stable financial footing, you are letting your member know you care about them and want to meet them where they are. 

For All Customers

Always let your customers know how much you appreciate their support during these trying times. Be open about the challenging circumstances and compassionate to the fact that your customers are facing hard times just like you. 

Make it easy for those who can purchase to do so, and make it fun and inclusive for those who can’t purchase right now to still be a part of the conversation.

Insights Are Important

As a small business, you might not have a PR Director and a Marketing department digging into your analytics; so looking at what messaging is working on your social media channels might not be top of mind right now. But it should be. PR Week shared four ways for brands to succeed after COVID-19, and in the article they talk about the very real possibility that your customer’s attitude toward your brand could change in the post-pandemic world. 

In the live chat with Keltie, I discussed the importance of staying true to your brand throughout the crisis. If you start sharing content that contradicts the brand persona you have spent years building, it might miss the mark with your audience. If you are trying new things with your messaging, be sure you are keeping an eye on the analytics of these posts and seeing how people are reacting and engaging. This is especially important if you are not your brand’s usual social content creator and are filling in during staff absences. 

It’s also a great idea not to work in a vacuum. Check in with a few trusted customers and ask them for feedback on your email content and frequency; social media content and frequency; and selection of sales and special offers. Take your cues from the people who are actively purchasing from you now and cultivate more followers like them. Don’t let non-purchasing customers direct your communication strategy, or you’ll end up focusing on an audience who doesn’t impact your bottom line.

Industry Watch

I will always advocate for watching what others are doing in your own industry. Keeping an eye on things and seeing how others are responding is a great source of inspiration and can help you get more in touch with how you want to adapt and respond to your own audience. But don’t force the fit.

What works for one winery or winemaker may not work for others, and that’s ok. Jumping with both feet into things like live streams and virtual tastings has been easy for some and a source of stress for others. All I have to say to that is: You’re an amazing winemaker, not a social media influencer. No one expects your first adventure into live streaming and hosting virtual events to be flawless and perfectly executed. They want to hear you talk about your wine, not take them on a tour of your professionally decorated villa!

Because so many brands are trying this form of outreach for the first time, there is a lot of understanding and support from the social media community that there will be a learning curve. But if you find that you just can’t get behind this movement, don’t force it. It just means there’s a different solution for you to engage with your customers that you haven’t uncovered yet. I say this because if you hate it, you won’t do it. And if you don’t do it consistently then it will be hard for people to participate.

Think of other ways you can share information that lets your customers follow along: 

  • Create a photo album on Facebook that you add one photo to each day that follows a specific series such as: daily cellar tasks; the lifecycle of a specific varietal (topping barrels, taking samples, singing to it, etc.); your inspirational quote or letterboard message for the day; your selfie of the day; daily or weekly vineyard changes; etc.

  • If you aren’t comfortable hosting your own, participate in group streamed activities scheduled through your local visitors bureau, vineyard association or chamber of commerce and share them across your social media channels.

  • Encourage direct connections with your customers – invite them to reach out to you personally in a way most convenient for you to schedule personal calls or video chats to take the broader audience out of it.

  • Ask your wine club members and customers how they would like to be interacted with in this new virtual-centric world! They might have ideas they’ve seen or experienced from other types of businesses that could work for yours. If nothing else, you can put your energy toward the types of experiences your followers actually want to have, versus the ones you think they might want to have.
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