As more and more sectors of the economy start to reopen, there is a tremendous amount of anticipation and excitement from consumers eager for their lifestyles to return to normal. Yet, as many franchise brands recognize, the only certainty is uncertainty and there will undoubtedly be many challenges for businesses to overcome as they navigate a new normal still not completely out of the COVID-19 shadow.
Here’s a checklist for franchises looking to communicate and promote their brands’ reopening while being responsible and sensitive to lingering pandemic fears.
Reestablish your brand values and purpose
Over the past couple of months, brands have had to do some introspection to understand how they stand apart from their competitors amidst chaos and noise. While many companies tried to express empathy and solidarity with hurting consumers, the messaging of some businesses rang hollow because they had never fully fleshed out and communicated their values and purpose.
Hopefully, your brand has taken this time to understand how you’re more than just the cheapest offering or the best feature set. Your brand is not just a logo or tagline — it’s the story your customers tell their friends and family when you’re not around.
As you start to relaunch any brand awareness campaigns, make sure your existing and potential customers know what you stand for and how you plan to build a relationship with them in this new state of normal.
Develop a reopening manifesto. This should be a powerful statement that clearly defines your brand values and purpose and demonstrates your commitment to your customers and employees during the pandemic crisis.
Use email and update your website to share your manifesto with both your employees and customer base. Pepper your brand awareness and PPC campaigns with snippets of your manifesto so that your message reaches a wider audience and is reinforced with those who already know you.
Update your online presence
Your website is not the only source of information consumers go to. Make sure your hours, reopening announcement, and any other relevant information are updated on the various listings and platforms on which your franchise locations may be present. Include information such as:
- Reopening date
- Hours of operation
- Contact information
- A FAQ link to your website for any anticipated questions
Develop a checklist of listings and platforms and check them off once they’re up to date. These may include Google My Business, social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and listing sites such as Yelp.
Keep your employees in the loop
Like your customers, your employees have been through a lot as well during this pandemic. Let them know you’re there to support them as they transition to working in a new environment with different risks than before. Communicate the steps you’re taking to keep them safe and protected. Remember that any extra step of generosity and intention taken during this time will go a long way toward building a culture that employees will be excited to be a part of. Take special care of them, and as the front line of your brand’s customer experience, they’ll take care of your customers as well.
Send your employees an email detailing your franchise’s current state of affairs and reopening protocols. If possible, have franchise owners and managers contact employees personally, whether it be by phone or other means. This extra touch, while time-intensive, will stay in employees’ minds for a long time to come.
Reengage existing customers and members first
It’s time to repay the loyalty of your existing customers and members by letting them know first about your plans to reopen. Build upon your relationship with them and make them customers for life by giving them exclusive reopening access or a special limited-time offer. After all, loyal customers are the most valuable revenue source for your brand. By creating advocates for your brand, you’ll be able to test out new features, products, or offerings and get feedback before rolling out a full-scale reopening.
Send existing customers and members a special email with an exclusive offer. Follow up with a survey to see where you might be able to iterate and improve. Needless to say, ensuring your full reopening goes seamlessly will be hugely important as customers who don’t feel safe or who have an unpleasant experience may not come back in this climate for months or even years.
Balance anticipation with easing fears
While some customers may be ready to engage on Day One, recognize that many others will still be wary of doing business in person. Be empathetic in your communication, acknowledging that many consumers have been affected by the pandemic. Get them excited with limited-time reopening offers or updates on any new products, but don’t be overly promotional. Emphasize the precautions and process changes you’re implementing to ease their health and safety fears.
Develop content that will give returning customers a glimpse of what doing business with your brand will look like when you reopen. That way there will be no unpleasant surprises or assumptions made regarding safety and the inevitably altered customer experience.
This could look like a blog post that details how you’re taking measures to align with government-recommended guidelines. Or it could be a video that walks customers through your new store or service experience. Whatever your content might be, just make sure it is balanced in tone and transparent with your audience.
Invest in digital promotion of your content. The percentage of consumers spending 5 or more hours online each day has increased over the last couple of months to a whopping 59%. Not only that, but digital marketing (especially social media) continues to be one of the most cost-effective ways to reach targeted audiences.
Putting your franchise on the path of recovery
With the right reopening marketing strategy, you can create greater assurance for your customers while also attracting more business and putting your franchise on the path to faster recovery. For more helpful tips for helping your franchise succeed in the aftermath of the pandemic, contact our team.