Communication professionals in manufacturing companies have been uniquely tasked with managing new and inventive strategies for internal and external communications.
Understandably, many manufacturing communication professionals are currently focusing on internal communications because they fall into the essential business category, meaning operations continue to function and there is a reason their team needs to show up for work each day. They are dedicating so much time toward making sure employees feel comfortable at work, understanding the social distancing and safety policies in place, advising employees on the changing hours of operation,and just being a good steward to employees during this unprecedented time.
Unfortunately, what this means is that many manufacturing organizations have not been able to focus on external communications and being as present as they would like to their customer base. Here are 4 steps you can take to make sure you are communicating the right messages externally.
Make everything easy.
Anxiety levels are so high that any barrier to engagement that you present can immediately shut down a customer relationship. Put yourself in the shoes of a small business plumber or painter; they are worried about keeping their business in business, and the last thing they need are long customer service wait times, unclear information on inventory levels or challenges with reaching their trusted sales reps who now may be working from home. Instead, over-communicate the availability and safety of using your products and how to reach critical team members— call/text/email/online orders— make information easy to find and continue to remind them how to engage with you.
Being present and available as a leader is more important than ever before. Brands that have gone dark appear tone deaf and are perceived to be ill-prepared to implement a plan for their customers. Don’t chase perfection, but rather get your new communication platforms live and edit them and iterate in real time. Sherwin-Williams has done a great job being present for Painting Contractors, providing unique content and resources that demonstrate their support. Your customers will appreciate it, and studies have shown you will be rewarded long-term as companies that invest during downturns recover faster.
Revisit your automated responses.
Over the past several years, most manufacturing organizations have implemented marketing automation platforms. These tools can be a wonderful asset, freeing up time for your team by automating routine messaging. However, the messaging you implemented in February may not be right in April. Revisit any trigger-based communications, evaluate if the messaging is still right and if it’s not—rewrite the content to be more relevant or temporarily pause those sequences. As we mentioned above, it could be good to add COVID-19 safety measures, product availability and contact information in all trigger-based messaging as those are likely top of mind for your customers.
Plan for what's next.
As hard as it may be to believe right now, a new normal will emerge. According to McKinsey there will be five phases to returning to a new normal. There’s a good argument that with the positive COVID-19 related deaths sharply declining that we are well into the resilience phase. Which means we need to start thinking about Return. As strange as it may feel, you should be thinking about the right tone and content of communications for when the economy opens back up. What messages are right? What products will become more relevant? For painters it could mean moving to exterior painting only. And for plumbers, touchless technology is likely to be an attractive shift for consumers. Don’t wait. Hesitation could mean losing customers, so be proactive in this difficult time to help your customers.