As the world has made significant shifts in response to health and safety in the last few months, so have businesses. Perhaps more than anyone, business owners have had to retain their sense of humor, stay flexible, and present a stalwart self. It's no easy task, and just like much of business, it's not for the faint of heart.
One of the most important aspects of getting agile and adjusting has been businesses' need to engage customers from a distance. Not quite in the same way Bette Midler sings about, but in an active, partnering role, that works together during this uncertain time. That's why today, as we continue our H.E.L.P. campaign, we're taking a look at a few ways you can engage customers from a distance to keep business churning and your audience happy.
First, Get Yourself A Strategy
This is one of those things you can't do by the seat of your sweatpants. To engage customers successfully from afar means having a well thought out, defined digital strategy. This means that when it's time to implement, you've got tasks ready to dole out to your team with action items that are defined by deadlines and clearly communicated expectations.
Sound like the organization needs a system? That's because it does. If your team hadn't previously been using an internal software to keep things organized, ping one another, and have clear set deadlines that are visible to the whole team, it's time to get one. We highly recommend Trello, Asana, or Hive.
For ease of understanding, let's pick an example and run with it through each step of the way. Let's say you own a barre studio with a core group of dedicated followers. With the new reality of the shutdown, you've got no classes and no customers coming to your door. Never one to rest on your laurels, you decide to create a digital strategy centered around at-home workouts.
Your strategy could include: Guided workout classes that you upload to a Youtube channel
- Instagram Live Q + A about how to stay active during shut down
- A free Zoom workout class that brings people together
- A few social media posts, sharing some of your other favorite industry professionals who are doing different types of workouts for your audience to try.
Rethink Your Target Market
As our world shifts and reconfigures through the shutdown, so does the new normal for businesses. Going digital may mean you've got to rethink your target market, or at least add to it now that you're online. Let's keep rolling with our barre studio analogy.
Before, your target market was a highly specific group of people, primarily women, who were motivated by the idea of an in-class, community-centric approach to workout. You created a feeling of family through your business, and that's what kept people coming back again and again. But now that you're online, that changes. While you'll still have your core group, you'll likely add a few new profiles to that target market. Tons of people who used to prefer their own open gym workouts are now on the hunt for at-home tutorials.
So, how can you reach them? With a barre studio, you have the advantage of body-weight focused workouts. As most people don't have a home gym set up, you could specifically target people searching for body-weight or equipment-free workout routines. You may also want to consider marketing to men who would have been too uncomfortable in an all-female environment but now can work out in the privacy of their own homes. Maybe they're joining their wives, or perhaps you just come up first in the search bar. Either way, consider the multiple ways you could speak to new segments with your online engagement.
Most importantly, you've got to be S.M.A.R.T. with your goals. And we're not just talking about hand washing quotas or not touching your face (though these things are important). We're talking about setting measurable, attainable goals that are realistic. Sure, you need to engage from far away, but if you decide you're going to go big, you might bite off more than you can chew.
Creating a 12-week at-home workout course, complete with exercise guides, meal prep videos, and a recipe plan sounds like a great deal. It would be filled with things you should still be able to find at the grocer, and have a Facebook page for people to connect, so they don't feel alone. You could also add a new fitness t-shirt line to generate some recurring revenue. But... the odds are high, that you've just set yourself up for failure.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are always important, but they become increasingly important as you navigate the constantly changing and unpredictable landscape of a pandemic. You're going to have new pressures put on you that you could never have foreseen, and without a solid, achievable plan in place, it's easy to let it sink you. If you want a step-by-step guide on how to create a S.M.A.R.T. goal, start here.
Keep Your Eyes Forward
The good news is that this won't last forever. While the blur of days that run together may make it seem otherwise, it's important to remember that the shutdown will, at some point, have a cut-off point upon which the world will slowly slip out its doors and back into the hustle and bustle of things. When this happens, it's vital that as you return to normalcy, you take some lessons with you.
Introspection never hurts, and this pandemic has undoubtedly made many businesses take a good, hard look at themselves. They've had to have honest conversations about cash flow, their priorities as a whole, disaster prep, and much more. As you learn to engage customers from a-far, what insights can you take with you back into the real world? How can you set the systems you're using now up for success in the future?
The goal isn't just to create a makeshift patch (while that is necessary at the beginning), but rather, how can you sow something together that can be implemented in the future. How did the online project management software improve productivity? What communication skills did you learn that you didn't need to rely on before? Maybe you hit a major chord with your fitness t-shirts and want to sell them in your brick and mortar. Perhaps you learned that your audience has more nutrition questions than they do fitness. All of these things are little golden nuggets that shouldn't be discarded when we get back to normal.
What are some ways you've learned to engage your customers from afar? We'd love to hear how you've gotten creative. Tell us in the comments below!