When a business emergency occurs, what’s the most important thing you can do? Cultivate deeper, continued engagement with your existing customer base and fortify relationships.
When an economic downturn or business crisis hits, a less-seasoned business owner might spread their resources too thin by trying to onboard as many new client relationships as possible. But what if you’re putting yourself in a position where you might underserve these new clients? What if this strategy during the present crisis is actually damaging to your brand’s longevity and legacy?
I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t seek new clients in order to generate more revenue. However, I am saying that new clients shouldn’t be your primary focus. You need to stabilize your existing customer base by giving them a level of attention that will calm their fears and increase their confidence in you. At Cardone Ventures, we call this three-step process Ripcord Retention.
1. Attack your power base
The mentality of you and your team must be a mindset of attack. You’re in the midst of a battle—fighting to keep your business alive to survive another day. Survive to thrive by fortifying your client roster and earning your clients’ continued dedication.
Your clients fuel the engine of your business. When a crisis hits like it did for all of us in spring of 2020, the very first thing you need to do after stabilizing, focusing, and readying your own team is to reach out to your clients. Contact your clients quickly, with strategic and consistent messaging, and with absolute clarity and confidence.
This communication must be one-to-one, not a mass mailer, social media campaign, or recorded voicemail. Your only agenda is to see how they are doing and offer whatever support you can to them. This is not a self-oriented call; this call is about their needs. The goal is to maintain your relationships in the most human and empathetic way possible: showing clients that their needs are important to you, even in the midst of a crisis.
2. Adopt a retention-first strategy
Once you’ve contacted each customer with a personal touchpoint call (stopped the bleeding), your efforts should now turn towards retaining your power base and gathering referrals.
Retaining the customers you already have by transforming them to a place of stability, instilling trust, and continuing to provide superior service. Creating this intentional mindspace for your customers will lead to the next priority: collecting referrals. Your clients have trusted you in good times and now in bad, and you’ve recently demonstrated to them that you’re the relationship for the long haul. Don’t be timid here! Ask your clients what are some like-minded businesses who also could benefit from your services during these rougher waters?
You’ll want to prioritize the guaranteed, low hanging fruit (your happiest customers) during this part of the outreach process. These are usually the relationships that you’ve invested the most effort into. The referral conversation also creates the opportunity to further incentivise these customers through referral-based discounts or free trials on beta services. Also use these conversations as opportunities to reinforce that when one individual wins, we all win.
The goal here is to increase your cash reserves through referral expansions, so that you can survive the present uncertainty and even have the flexibility to make bold moves in the next uncertainty (like buying a struggling competitor). Strategically leaning into your loyal customers and carefully expanding your client base creates those opportunities.
3. Evaluate your communications
Hey, the world has changed. Have you changed the way you communicate? The last thing you want to do is go silent. That’s a death knell. But you also don’t want to go out into the world with a muddy, undisciplined communication strategy. With that in mind, consider the following when creating your own communication strategy:
Put it in context
Remember, you’re in the midst of a business crisis. People are paying attention. They’ll remember how you respond under pressure. In other words, think carefully before you speak.
Put yourself in their shoes
In the midst of a business or economic crisis, it’s likely that your customers’ needs (if not their state of mind) have shifted. This is your opportunity to present yourself as a solution. Don’t feed into fear tactics.
Let the news be the news. You be your business.
I see it all the time. Someone tries to hijack the news in order to increase visibility or leverage a PR opportunity. Most of the time, the strategy backfires. And who suffers? You. Your team. Your customers. Stay focused on the business.
Pause and review all scheduled posts
There are few bigger amateur marketing moves than forgetting to review all of your scheduled social media posts and creating an online furor because your content insensitively (though accidentally) aligned with some piece of bad news. One, most people don’t understand what scheduled posts are. Second, those that do will think you’re inexperienced and unprofessional. Third and most important, your audience deserves real-time updates from you. It’s not a time for this type of automation.
Leverage your social media to increase customer service and engagement
A warning: you need to be prepared to actually serve them. Work with your digital team to iron this out, and you might be surprised to learn what opportunities this creates.
Acknowledge and address their concerns
There’s nothing more important than being positive, actively listening, and serving your customers with empathy.
It’s okay. Talk about the real stuff.
It might seem superficial to discuss brands, pricing, and customer behavior as we stare
down the barrel of an emergency, but the practical reality is that we need global economic trade to be healthy and to function in order for all of us to prevail. Increasing your awareness and communicating your knowledge is important during this time.
Don’t forget to treat your team with respect — always
There’s no bigger indicator of how “good” a company is than consumers’ perception of how you treat your employees. Communicate openly and honestly about how you’re taking care of the team during this crisis, especially how taking care of the team means you’re better able to take care of your customers.