Messaging Tips for Small Businesses: What You Need to Do Right Now

My background is in marketing and communications, and like you, I’ve never faced a world-wide crisis, so we’re adjusting and learning together as we figure out this new reality. If you’re struggling with figuring what to say, here are some messaging tips and best practices you can follow as you reach out to your clients. 

Be Proactive

Here’s the thing. People are scared and they aren’t thinking the way they normally do. Things are changing rapidly, and as a result, we’re all reactive. To keep things moving forward and to serve your clients in the best possible way, you must be proactive.

How Restaurants Are Leading the Curve

One example is the restaurant industry. Restaurants have moved to takeout or delivery. The ones that are the most successful are messaging their customers about their daily specials via text, email, and even Facebook messenger. They’re still finding ways to communicate with their customers to keep their business running. In fact, food trucks have done this for years by posting their location to social media. 

The big takeaway from this is to reach out to let people know how they can still work with you, or buy from you. Most of them aren’t going to call, so you must be proactive, whether you’re a restaurant or in another industry.

The Move to Online

I have a friend who just opened a business teaching art to parents and children. With the new quarantine measures, in-person classes aren’t feasible, but she has been successful in moving her business online. In fact, she can reach more people! 

Parents can sign up online, art supplies are included (and drop-shipped from Amazon), and she’s now streaming the classes online!  The same principals can apply to other small businesses.

Going Viral Takes on a New Meaning

Media Shower has put out some great crisis communication messaging tips. One thing that struck me was their comment that we call content going viral because it spreads like a virus. I found that statement particularly impactful.  After all, viruses spread from person to person, and so too does communications. 

However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this in your messaging. The right way is to focus on positivity. Yes, we’re all scared and a little uncertain, and that’s okay, that’s normal.

It’s totally okay to say that. In fact, authenticity and truthfulness is better than playing fake. People have a particularly well-honed B.S.-ometer… they can tell from a mile away if you’re not sincere.

So be proactive, reach out, say, “Yeah, it’s tough, but we’re all in this together, and we will get through it.  Here’s how we can work together, and here’s what to expect from me.”

It boils down to teaching them how to work together and showing them how you can help. (Spoiler alert: It may mean that you’re helping them make the transition to a remote workspace.) 

Use These Messaging Tips to Stand Out and Help Your Clients!

Since everything is changing and there’s so much unknown, you have an opportunity to really stand out to your clients.

Here are four messaging tips for genuinely communicating with your clients:

Tip #1 – Let them know you’re there for them. 

Many are struggling and unsure about the future. Show your support for your clients. Encourage them to talk to you about what challenges they are having. You can get to know more about them and show your expertise while authentically building a positive relationship.

Tip #2 – Check-in on them to let them know you care. 

Make it a point to regularly connect with them. Send them a quick email or text message just to ask them how they are doing. Offer coffee chats over Zoom to connect in a non-work setting.

Tip #3 – Let them know how you can help them and partner in their success. 

Ask them, “How can I help you work virtually?” Do they need tutorials on Zoom, Internet speed, Cloud computing, etc.? Better yet, you can create some content on your website to showcase what you know, and that you can reference when you send them emails. Or if there are other resources you have already bookmarked, share that information with them too. 

Tip #4 – Give them options for maintaining life in this new reality. 

Maybe you have tips for clients that they’ve asked about or maybe it’s information they don’t know they are missing! It’s difficult to know what we don’t know, so make a list of some of the ways you’re finding success and share those with them. Maybe they’re cloud-based project management tools, maybe it’s that fitness app you love that’s now free for 90 days (Hello, Peloton!) If there’s someone you love who has something awesome, let your clients know! Be a sharer and be a connector! 

We Are All Adjusting the Way We Do Business

Although not all of these are messaging tips, per se these 10 observations about our new reality will help you and your clients as you move forward in this age. 

  1. What’s professional has changed. It’s not about wearing suits or spending 10 hours on slide presentations. It’s about showing up and getting things done. 
  2. It is okay if your kids show up, too — it’s our new reality. If you haven’t seen the BBC interview from a few years ago where this man’s kids (and wife) popped in mid-discussion on policy, it’s absolute GOLD. I have loved it for years.

    He didn’t know he was setting out to normalize family in the workplace, but I think you can expect to see similar scenes in your calls. It’s okay, it’s the new normal, and like I say on my own website, the extra laughs are free. There is nothing more authentic than real life making its appearance in your business.

  3. You must be sincere. As I said above, people have well-honed B.S. sensors. So make sure what you’re saying is authentic.
  4. Make it all about THEM. Find out how you can help…and spoiler alert, it may have nothing to do with how you normally work together. Instead ask, “How can I help you?” or “What do you need?
  5. Be Brief. You know the statement, “That meeting could have been an email?” Well, it’s truer now than ever. Be mindful of people’s time…and of your own, since we may be measuring attention spans in minutes (say 15-20) now instead of hours.
  6. It’s okay to not have the answer. We are figuring it out together and we can be collaborative. It’s okay to not be an expert. However, you can say, “Let’s figure it out together,” instead of, “I don’t do that.” Your clients will remember that you are invested in their success. 
  7. Be reassuring. Show them how much they can still accomplish remotely. I saw a GREAT email from a realtor friend letting clients know how they can work together on listings (and sales) without actually meeting. 
  8. It’s not always about the crisis. Instead, it’s about the connection in an online world. Check-in weekly with your regulars…you don’t have to wait for a crisis to connect. And, with social distancing, one of the best messaging tips I can offer is to see how they are doing in isolation. 
  9. What can you do right now? Your clients don’t care about what is going to happen in 2, 3, or even 6 months. Well, we do, but the truth is none of us know. So don’t talk about what’s down the road. Offer insights about what we can do right now with what we know. 
  10. How you communicate can change. Maybe you start instant messaging using Slack or Voxer. Maybe you send emails from MailChimp or MailerLite. Calls are good, and personal is good, but you don’t have to repeat each interaction individually. Use the “personalize” functions of your email software so each missive has their name, but then you can send the email once and it still feels personal. 

Now Isn’t the Time for Perfection

I mean grammatically, in particular. However, I also mean it’s okay not to have all the facts. The reality is that if we waited to have all of the facts, we might be waiting for a long time, so don’t let a place of not knowing stop you in your tracks. 

This is an evolving situation, and it’s okay to say you don’t know. People understand that. And since what we know changes rapidly, it’s okay to reach out based on what we know today. Then as we get more information we can send out updates. We’re all doing the best we can. And, it’s more important to stay in touch than to disappear into your home office and binge Netflix.

If you need to help clients adapt to working remotely,  click here to learn about the tools I love.

Have questions about your business communications right now? I love generating ideas, and I want to help you. Send me a message or if you know you want to get some real-time messaging tips or set up a brainstorm sesh, book a $97 live review/strategy session.

 

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