Times of uncertainty present challenges to all of us, but they also present new opportunities. During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is anxious about their health, their family, their job, their company, and the future.
No one can predict what’s coming, but you can help secure your company’s future by solidifying your brand reputation. It’s an excellent time to build brand recognition and customer loyalty.
In times of crisis, customers look to trusted brands for a sense of security. According to a recent brand communications survey conducted by Twitter about advertising during COVID-19, 64 percent of consumers surveyed said that brands should continue advertising products as they normally would, and 52 percent said that seeing those ads engender a sense of normality.
The survey also showed that 77 percent feel more positive about brands that are taking steps to support our society during the crisis.
Paying attention to brand recognition and brand reputation is especially important during a crisis. Presenting a positive, empathetic, and altruistic brand image helps you stand out from your competitors, reassure customers, and maintain market momentum for the future.
A Crisis Can Affect Brand Perception
When we talk about brand reputation, we specifically mean how your brand is perceived by customers, prospects, investors, partners, and the market at large. Protecting your brand reputation and presenting a positive brand experience is essential, especially in times of crisis.
What customers and stakeholders want most from any brand is a feeling of trust. Your brand reputation should reassure customers that you deliver goods, services, and support reliably and consistently in a manner that helps them succeed.
Your brand should also present a sense of reliability and consistency, so your customers know they can expect the same positive experience every time.
During a crisis such as a pandemic, the risk of business disruption may impede that positive experience and erode that trust. By taking positive steps to support employees and customers, you can maintain and even build your brand reputation and brand recognition during a crisis.
Empathy Builds Your Brand Reputation
A crisis will create new concerns and new priorities for your customers, so this is the time to take the extra steps to address those new pain points and provide a new level of service.
During the coronavirus pandemic, for example, companies have been struggling with having to close their offices and maintain operations with employees working from home. Many businesses also are struggling with lost revenue, reduced staff, and changing budgets.
Technology projects and infrastructure changes have been put on hold and new priorities are demanding attention. These new realities mean your customers are scrambling to adapt to new operational realities.
Your business response needs to be empathetic. Promoting a sense of collaboration, a sense that we are all in this together, will build brand loyalty. Rather than trying to push through planned deals and signed contracts, listen to customers and understand their new reality so you can help them get through the crisis.
If you can help customers weather the crisis, then you will have their business for life.
Be Proactive to Protect Brand Reputation
To protect your brand, you need to be proactive, especially during a crisis. Don’t wait for customers to come to you. Reach out to them and ask them how they are faring and how you can help. Discover their sales gaps (many of which are new in 2020). Empathize with them. Stay relevant to them.
Start with open communications. Talk to your customers and suppliers to acknowledge the crisis, explain what you are doing to address it, and ask what you can do to help.
Have your Customer Success team reach out to customers and identify areas where you can offer assistance. Open communication is a prerequisite to customer empathy.
Depending on the nature of your business, there are various ways you can offer assistance:
- Provide extensions or restructure payments.
- Offer free subscription upgrades.
- Renegotiate contracts and delivery dates.
- Offer special deals and special terms.
- Restructure contract cancellation policies.
- Discuss new pain points and determine where you can help.
This is the time when your Customer Success team needs to step in. Unlike customer support, which is reactive, Customer Success is proactive and is designed to help forge a deeper customer relationship by understanding and addressing customers’ changing needs. Your Customer Success team are your brand representatives, reaching out to customers to understand their concerns and provide proactive support to get them through the crisis.
The sales team will also need to apply new sales strategies to show empathy and support brand reputation. For example, while many sales reps are used to working on their own, their customer contacts may not be used to working from home. Active listening is an important sales tool.
Talk to customers and prospects about their new reality, offer advice, and be helpful. This will demonstrate your long-term commitment to the relationship. Remember that every employee is a brand ambassador.
Also bear in mind that company actions also speak to your brand. For example, if you lay off half your staff and stop paying suppliers, it undermines any positive message you may share with employees and customers. Be sure to be as transparent and positive with internal brand communications as you are communicating with customers.
To provide ongoing, positive, and consistent brand recognition, consider outsourcing strategic aspects of your sales operation. Hiring an expert Sales as a ServiceⓇ provider allows you to maintain consistent customer communications, even if your internal team structure changes because of the crisis.
Your Sales as a Service partner serves as your brand bearer, interacting with customers to deliver the empathy and support they have come to expect from your brand.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to come together to survive. The same is true in business.
By collaborating with strategic outsourcing partners and customers, you can create a winning strategy that helps customers through the crisis, improves brand loyalty, and ensures that you will be ready to get back to business with stronger brand recognition when the crisis has passed.
If you want to learn more about building brand recognition and promoting Customer Success, be sure to download our e-book, Embracing Customer Success.