The 2020 global pandemic has not been like a typical crisis. It is not an isolated incident, like a wildfire or a hurricane. It did not come and go within a few weeks or within a 24-hour news cycle. It didn’t just affect a single community or region. It continues to affect us all.
Fortunately, there is some good news that comes from this global health emergency. Since we have all been affected, we have all rediscovered a deep capacity for empathy and compassion for our fellow clients and colleagues as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis together.
Yet, the bad news is that this collective humanity can go out the window when we start to think about “getting back to marketing” or “staying top-of-mind.” People think that being a so-called “marketer” means becoming one of the loud, boisterous, hard-sell blowhards trying to drum up business no matter what.
But, that’s not how it has to be — and it’s also not how it should be. Modern clients and couples don’t respond well to strong-arm marketing tactics, even in the best of times. In times of a crisis, such tactics can ruin your reputation and leave a bad taste in the mouths of both colleagues and potential clients.
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There’s a better way to stay top of mind during a crisis and in its aftermath. Believe it or not, it’s actually easier and more fun than you may think. Here are seven ideas for staying top-of-mind during and immediately following a crisis.
Keep listening. The best way to avoid being tone deaf is to understand what your potential clients (and colleagues) are going through and saying about a situation in your area. You can typically find colleagues on Facebook groups, such as Caterbuzz and ICA Roundtable. Audit your inbox, reflect on current phone calls and look at client social media channels for any current client concerns.
Continue to solve problems and be of service. As you get insight from listening, monitor comments for challenges and issues you can help solve. Do you have a great money-saving solution for seasonal menus for clients who have to reschedule? Do you have tips from colleagues for managing other parts of an event, like handling a guest list or replacing vendors who are unavailable. If so, shout it from the rooftops. Write a blog post or long-form social media caption and let people know that you have a heart of service and are an authority in your area.
Reach out privately. Staying top-of-mind is not just about posting on social media or finding new and clever ways to market your business. It can also be about connecting with people who are in a position to refer you. Stay in touch with clients (past and present) who represent your ideal market. Tell them you’re thinking about them and ask how they are doing. Do the same with local colleagues. Showing care often goes much farther than clever marketing tactics, especially during and immediately following a crisis.
Share events and caption posts with stories of hope and joy. A big question I get is, “Can I post images of past events?” Yes, you can—but make sure whatever you share respects the current context, whatever that may be. If your region still has a shelter-in-place order or has limited public gatherings to fewer than 10 people, consider choosing past events that conform with those guidelines like an intimate elopement. Caption your event photos with stories of hope and joy about previous clients and staff.
Jump on the virtual bandwagon. The new normal includes virtual meetings, parties, tours and tomfoolery on TikTok. Feel free to not only shift client meetings to a virtual platform like Google Hangouts or Zoom (both are free), but also consider taking a page from Chef Adam Gooch’s playbook and offer free cooking classes to potential clients stuck at home. The idea is to stay top-of-mind, building trust and good will, so when clients are ready to book again, they think of you first.
Continue to sell, but softly. Clients are still planning future events in certain regions. Make sure you communicate that you are available for future bookings by updating your services page on your website. Also, make sure your social media bios and about sections are up-to-date. Update client consultation or sales processes to a virtual system so you can take sales calls now for future events.
Keep networking. The new-normal includes virtual networking events, cocktail hours and parties, as well as informational webinars and education. Join in on these networking events when they are scheduled in your area. You may also want to consider joining an association, such as the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE) or the International Caterers Association (ICA), both of which offer education. NACE also has virtual networking events and local chapters.
Although it may feel like we’re all in a collective holding pattern, it’s important to remember that every crisis comes to an end; thus, we should be adapting our businesses as much as possible to continue operating once we reach the other side. We will endure and, in the meantime, there are plenty of low-cost marketing strategies we can employ to remain top-of-mind so get your creative hat on and hit the drawing board.