Create the Content Your Customers Need Right Now

by Katie Joll

Have you been wondering what to do about your content marketing efforts lately?

If so, you’re not alone. Many businesses are grappling with which direction to take given the current global pandemic. Is it business as usual? Is it time for a new message?

Whatever your choice, you still have a story to tell and customers to help. Business is different right now for most, but underlying all of that, you still have an audience out there, and they have needs you may be able to meet.

What can you do to be there right now?

Free download: How to survey your customers for their content needs
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Not “just another” coronavirus message

Have you checked out your inbox lately? How many “corporate coronavirus” messages does it contain? It seems that everyone and their house cat has a coronavirus message to share, but mostly, they’re of little consequence to the audience receiving them.

Don’t get me wrong, crisis communication does have its place. It just doesn’t necessarily follow the same template for everyone.

For example, if you ship physical goods, have direct contact with people or handle food, it very much makes sense that you share how you’re taking customer health seriously in light of the pandemic. It makes a lot less sense coming from companies that only sell a digital product or a service that can continue on a remote basis. In fact, sometimes it comes across as just jumping on the bandwagon…

Where can your messaging actually make a difference? When you’re able to identify and meet the needs your customers have right now. Just to give an example, many people now find themselves living and working in a remote, digital environment who weren’t before. We’re experts within this environment at Audience Ops (and you may be too), so, how can we help?

Show up for your customers

In a world that seems to be full of confusion, even panic, being a steadying voice can be quite reassuring to customers. The first thing we’d suggest you do is look at your own customer base and ask, how do they need us to show up?

Your content should focus on what is important to your audience. Are the same things still important? Or have they changed somewhat given the current crisis? 

Now’s the time to show up for your customers. What content do they really need? Click To Tweet

What do people need right now?

Now’s probably a great time to survey your audience and simply ask, “how can we help?” In terms of content for many businesses, now is a time to double-down and look to produce high-value, meaningful pieces that address current needs. 

A few examples of needs we have seen and heard include:

  • How do I work optimally online?
  • What can I do to keep my business going at this time?
  • How can I reach customers right now?
  • What options are open to me if my work or business needs to pause for a while?
  • How can I structure my day now that the kids are home, too?
  • How do I stay visible and relevant right now?
  • What can I do that might make a difference to others?
  • What proactive steps can I take to protect myself/ my business / my family financially?
  • Where can I find [insert high-demand products] online?
  • How can I keep myself well mentally and physically right now?
  • Is there something of value I can be learning while I’m sheltering at home?
  • Is it okay if I don’t seem to be as productive as everyone else? (This is huge right now, with many feeling the pressure to produce something amazing from quarantine, like how Shakespeare wrote Macbeth…)

You can probably find plenty of other examples within your own target audience. People are looking for solid advice right now, glimmers of hope or simply an entertaining diversion. Be a voice that they can consistently trust.

Be adaptable and sensitive to the situation

One thing we’ve observed is that the situation with the coronavirus seems to move and change very quickly. We’ve seen countries shut their borders in short order, shelter in place declared for many areas and in-general, people’s regular routines suddenly flipped upside down.

You may find that people’s pressing needs change rapidly, too. We’ve seen online delivery services suddenly inundated with orders and unable to keep up with customer service requests. The ripple effects have been felt across many sectors; for example, if you’re a SaaS with ecommerce clients, have you noted heavier loads on your servers or greater volumes of customer service requests?

Be prepared to be adaptable and of course, it should go without saying, sensitive to the situation!

We’ve seen a few examples of what “insensitive” looks like in terms of content at this time. As with almost any situation, there are those that have tried to leverage it distastefully for profit, or influencers that have posted tone-deaf content.

Remember, the pandemic situation right now is temporary, but what you do can stick around for a long time. Taking a customer-first approach to your content avoids that “ick” factor. The bottom line: is it helpful?

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Keep an eye on the long-term

If you take a look at what has transpired at similar moments in history, there are some interesting things to note about how businesses have conducted their operations and how that worked out for them.

One thing that stands out is those that enjoyed the most success took a long-term view.

Specifically, there have been a few different studies conducted, looking at the approaches various businesses took and how they fared given their individual approaches to recession and other challenges. Interestingly, those that refocused rather than cut spending were like to come out on top later. Progressive businesses were able to keep staff in jobs and keep a strong brand.

Marketing is often one of the areas that companies automatically look to slash, but what happens long term? Here’s one notable example, featured in a Forbes article:

“In the 1920’s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring “Snap,” “Crackle” and “Pop.” Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.”

If content marketing is a key part of your marketing strategy, then it’s worth considering that disappearing now may hurt your visibility later. Your content is a resource that remains available long-term, but when it comes to the SEO and audience reach benefits, consistency is the key to success.

What you produce now stays with you for later. The goodwill you generate by helpfully addressing key customer issues and the visibility for your content remains. You can be the voice that your customers need: the entertaining diversion, the helpful advice or the practical “how to.” It’s worth adding, while so many people are now sitting at home, a lot of digital content is getting consumed!

You can do what other brands aren’t, by maintaining a consistent voice and an adaptive, sensitive approach. Whether you produce content yourself or you outsource to others, now is a good time to keep it going.

Download our quick guide to surveying your customer’s needs here

Final thoughts

You don’t want to put out “just another” coronavirus message, but your customers still need to hear from you. Focus on their needs – what can you do to help?

Now’s the time to produce content that addresses the critical needs of your customers and provides them with a reliable voice. For them, it will often be about addressing something they’re concerned about right now; for you, it will help to keep your brand voice alive for the long term.

And people remember. People know who tried to exploit a situation, who was insensitive and conversely, who upheld a sensitive approach. What will you focus on?