By Tom Harvey, co-founder,YesMore drinks marketing agency (www.yesmore.co.uk)

2020 is a year where it feels like everything has changed.

But in the case of marketing and communicating with cus- tomers, in many ways, the basics remain the same.You can keep lines of communica- tion open with clientele; reach out to new customers and encourage sales and loyalty by going back to what you know and being confident in your comms.

In fact, some ways this is even easier than before. Customers are now by necessity local, and while different groups of customers (retirees versus 20-somethings, say) will always have their preferences, right now, everyone is united by some common circumstances and feelings.

Namely, people are largely desperate to go out safely, and helping them have confidence in that is essential.

Getting comms right for this winter might require taking a step back to plan afresh and come up with some good creative ideas that resonate.

Starting with a blank sheet of metaphorical paper, you can make an assessment of where you currently stand. So for example, what are your marketing channels? How are they performing? (How does Instagram com- pare with Facebook? What’s your email database like?), and what do you no longer have at your disposal (i.e. passing trade, walk-ins after work).

You might then want to add a column on how your customers have responded and how they’re feeling. One rule of marketing is to never assume you are feeling the same as your audience, but right now you prob- ably are.

From there, it’s about understanding your current offer – what are you selling, what is working well, what is your place in the local community?

And what are your aspirations (practical plans and creative ideas) for the coming months?

This is definitely a time to think about ways that you might offer some- thing new – brunch; click and collect; outdoor winter dining, small and secure events. Are there local groups you can support? Are there groups that it’s vital to have on board?

An overview like this will help you to understand where you stand, but should also give you confidence that though the messaging has changed, the approach is the same: have something to talk about; be relevant, reassuring and helpful and a valuable part of your clients’ lives and community. All of these will support you through this winter, and create a stronger customer base when we come out the other side.

If we had to come up with the five most important things to communicate this winter, they’d be:

1. Find your place in your local community. Stand up for the things your customers care about and support the things that matter to them. From being a source of trusted information and communicating changing rules, to providing support for local groups – from hosting them in person (where you can) to sup- porting them charitably.

2. Present flexibility and confidence with moving guidelines.Telling your customers that whatever changes, you’re on top of it and there for them is vitally reassur- ing. Communicate before, during and after changes to local and national rules and help clients understand what you have to offer.

3. Find new opportunities. Having something irresistible to communicate is the best tactic of all, nothing’s changed in that respect. Great offers, competitions, safe events, partnerships, packages and more are all compelling reasons to get in touch. Setting up a calendar of initiatives and a comms plan will help get through the coming months.

4. Listening to customers, Communication with a loyal client base has always been two-way. If people aren’t in the venue any more, find other ways to inter- act, from surveys to discussions on social platforms.

5. Understand your channels, grow and test new ones.This has always been important – and with in-person opportunities reduced, this is even more vital. Testing on and offline channels – flyering, Instagram competition and partner- ships are all things you can test and improve during this time.

 

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