2021 Planning Deconstructed

September 23, 2020

Big, small, for-profit, or not for profit – every organization needs a marketing plan, and that marketing plan requires a refresh every year. Now is the time to get your ducks in a row for 2021. The channels, audience expectations, and possibilities are changing faster than we can keep pace. A three-year-old marketing plan is absolutely obsolete.

Many businesses don’t even venture down the marketing plan route because they assume it has to be complicated and complex. The truth is, for most companies, even if they had such a plan, they wouldn’t execute against it because it had too many bells and whistles. I’d much rather see you oversimplify your plan and actually use it.

I want to look at the big picture vision of your marketing plan. If I asked you how confident you were that you could hop in your car and get to the destination, what’s the first thing you would say? It depends on the destination! If it’s Minneapolis, no problem. If it is Hong Kong, we have an issue. In that context, it seems absurd that I would ask you to get to an undisclosed destination, and yet that’s how many businesses run.

Without a doubt, the most crucial element of your 2021 marketing plan is the defined destinations. I use the plural because every plan should have more than one. Ask yourself these questions to define where you’re headed.

What metric will best define success when it comes to new customers for my business? Don’t assume it’s about more. It might be about bigger. Or a different composition. Or a whole new segment.

What metric will best define success when it comes to current customers of my business? Is it that they stay longer (retention)? It could also be that you have a bigger share of their wallet/spend. It might not have anything to do with sales. It could be that they become a more vocal, insistent referral source or an active source of five-star reviews and ratings.

What metric will define success when you look at your department or company’s workforce? It could be tied to improvements and enhancements in their skills or knowledge. For many businesses, the retention of key employees might be vital to a healthy 2021.

Finally, you need to define success in terms of your actual products and services. You might be planning on launching something new in 2021. Or you may want to have more of your customers using a specific service or bundle of products. Success may be tied to how many products or services your average customer buys.

Once you have defined success in these four core areas, you can begin to identify the potential barriers to achieving those goals. Is it a lack of awareness? Price issues? A competitive advantage that you don’t currently have?

If you can’t identify the potential barriers, you have some work to do before you can decide which marketing tactics will help you. It makes no sense to execute marketing if you don’t understand both where you are trying to go and what’s in the way of you getting there.

The more specific your answers, the better. Don’t just say the marketplace is crowded. List the key competitors and their position or influence on the market. Don’t just say your customers are hard to reach. Define what is in between you and that decision-maker.

If you put in the time and effort in these four core areas, I promise that you will have a great start on a marketing plan that you can dive right into executing.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


You didn’t get there on your own

September 16, 2020

One of the contributors to every organization’s success is the business partners that come alongside us to serve our clients better. Most businesses are reasonably good at showing their appreciation for customers. But the vendors who often save the day don’t always get showered with the thanks they deserve.

One of the truths of being in business is that sooner or later our clients get in a jam and we have the opportunity to save the day for them. But we rarely do that without an assist. I think in those moments, we probably gush with praise. As we should. But in the calm of “normal” workdays, our business partners are often the unsung heroes.

Harvard Business School and Wharton published research that shows that expressing your gratitude can result in a huge spike in a vendor or partner’s investment and willingness to help your business when you are in a jam. And if there is a given, it’s that we’re going to be presented with the opportunity to help a client navigate their way out of a mess.

I’ve seen some really wonderful ways that businesses express their gratitude to those save the day partners. But the common thread that connects all of them is that they’re intentional and calendared. If we don’t assign it that level of importance, it will get lost in the chaos of our day.

The suggestions below are not new ideas. And you’ve probably done some of all of them once or twice. What I am suggesting is that you magnify that occasional burst of gratitude by systemizing them. Which one of these, or a variation of one, would work for your organization?

Send your thanks up the chain: When someone at one of your partner companies goes above and beyond, don’t just thank them, send a note (not an email) or letter, celebrating what their teammate did. Let them know that the extra effort is what you value most about your work with their company and how it has earned your confidence and loyalty.

What if you identified one partner a month to celebrate with a letter to their boss? Get it on your calendar, so it actually happens.

Create connections: There isn’t a business you work with that isn’t looking for new customers. If they’ve been a rock star for you, odds are they can deliver that same level of service to other businesses in your network.

Do you send out a monthly newsletter? Or hold a holiday party for clients and prospects? Why not spotlight a vendor who is worthy of some extra praise?

Invite them in: One of the most impressive ways to thank a good business partner is to be a better customer. Why not ask your best vendors to help you refine the way you work with them? I’m guessing they have some pretty interesting ideas that will help you bring even more value to your customers, make your processes smoother, and elevate your product or services.

This could be a monthly or quarterly initiative. Ask your team who has demonstrated a depth of expertise that you could tap into and invite them in. This collaborative brainstorming will make your company better and deepen the relationship you have with that partner.

We should thank our vendors because it’s the right thing to do. But if you need more incentive, just remember that there’s another jam around the corner, and our business partners can be our best referral sources.

Gratitude can be your business’ superpower when it’s heartfelt and shared liberally. Give it a go.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Give your message some space

September 9, 2020

This past fall, I was able to spend some time in New York City and was able to catch several Broadway shows. Some were musicals, and some were dramas. Some were based on real-life events, and others were pure fiction. Some featured award-winning, famous actors and others did not. Some were set in modern-day, and others harkened back to an earlier time.

To say they were all very different would be an understatement. But all of them had one thing in common. Each one was roomy. What I mean by that is each show gave the audience plenty of room to absorb the message.

The sets were simple and more representative than actual. For example, in Come From Away, twelve chairs were a plane, a path, and a church. To Kill A Mockingbird, two tables and four chairs were a courtroom. The dialogue was deliberate, and the silences were purposeful and effective. It occurred to me that we could learn from these masterful playwrights and directors.

One of the common mistakes we make as marketers is trying to pack five pounds of message into a one-pound bag. We end up drowning our core messages with noise in a desire to include everything. My recent experiences as an audience member reminded me that when we do that, we actually weaken our messages because they don’t have room to breathe, grow, or take hold.

The truth is that our audience is only going to remember one or two key points of any marketing message. Given the barrage of marketing messages out there, we can help our audience get the main point by not complicating the delivery so they can grasp and retain the message easier and faster.

There are some ways we can minimize the noise and give our core message the room it needs.

Visuals: One of the common missteps I see in ads, websites, tradeshow booths, and collateral material is the reliance on the photo montage. Rather than letting one visual stand alone and deliver the message, we feel compelled to use multiple images. That means the audience’s attention is immediately divided. Each photo or visual is smaller and has less impact.

White space: Another way we demonstrate our lack of conviction in our product or service is by using up every inch of space in a layout. We’re so worried that we’re not going to catch or keep someone’s attention that we need to add a starburst, five different font families, a headline, subhead, body text, bullet points, and some bold and underlined words as well.

Instead, we create a blur for our audience and force them to decipher what is most important … if they’re willing to invest the time.

Words: How do you leave room when it comes to words? There are a few ways. First – use fewer of them. Don’t tell them what you want them to know, and then tell them what you told them, and then sum it up by telling them again. Just say it. Say it boldly and clearly. And then, shut up.

Let your audience have time and space with your message so they can connect to it and assign it meaning that is relevant to them. Or, in some cases, decide that you aren’t relevant to them at all, and move on. Either outcome is better than having no impact.

It takes incredible confidence in your product or service to execute on this idea of giving your marketing message some space. If you lack that assurance, more words or pictures probably isn’t going to cut it. Instead, you probably need to take a step back and ask what would need to change so you could get comfortable giving your message a little bit of white space.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Viral is an elusive state

September 2, 2020

Pre-COVID, my daughter and I flew to Vegas to see a Lady Gaga concert. We were fortunate and had terrific seats. Right before the show started, security walked Bradley Cooper to the seats directly in front of us. As you probably know, he and Lady Gaga co-starred in A Star is Born and everyone was abuzz about their chemistry in the film.

Oddly, most people didn’t notice him there. As the concert started, we surmised that she might call him up on stage to sing with her so when she sat down at her piano and began to talk about a friend of hers, I was ready. From our unique vantage point, I caught the moment on video and uploaded it to my Facebook news feed before we left the venue.

Over 10,000 views, 50+ shares, and hundreds of reactions and comments later on Facebook, it certainly caught the attention of my audience. I was just sharing a cool experience that my daughter and I had with my Facebook friends, but it quickly went way beyond that. Because of our unique placement in the audience, over the course of the next couple of days, we showed up on The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, and a bunch of other news outlets, and the video was exposed to more and more people.

On a very micro scale, it went viral. Not intentionally, but it certainly got more attention than most. For many marketers, creating a video for the business or client and having it catch fire is the holy grail. We all want to launch the next ice bucket challenge, but it’s rarely manufactured. It usually is lightning in a bottle sort of magic. Let’s use my Lady Gaga video to dissect this a little bit.

Timeliness matters: If I had shared my version of what happened at the concert a few days after it happened, no one would have cared. My video was share-worthy because no one but the people at the show knew it had happened and there was no official Lady Gaga issued video of the event yet. My video was live 15 minutes after the concert ended.

If you want your video to take off and it’s tied to a moment or event – there’s no time to finesse the edit or run it by legal. You either can go live immediately, or you risk sacrificing your edge.

It’s tied to a more significant reason or cultural hot button: A Star is Born was a huge movie, the Oscar nominations had come out four days before, and both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were nominated. On top of all that, they’d never performed the song (Shallow) live before. All of those factors contributed to the interest level.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was tied to a charity and a crazy stunt which also added an element of participation, which the Lady Gaga video did not.

It captures something unexpected: No one who bought a ticket to that concert thought Bradley Cooper might show up. It was a fluke event, and that was part of the appeal. Think of the videos of the kid on gas after being at the dentist or the cat frightened by a cucumber. One of the reasons we share them is because they surprise and delight us. That’s pretty tough to manufacture.

Video is a very effective marketing channel, but the odds of us creating something that goes viral are pretty slim. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time – take full advantage and leverage it for all you can. But we need to stop trying to create something that is, almost by design, a freak event.


Fool me once

July 29, 2020

A couple of summers ago, social media exploded with the announcement from the International House of Pancakes that IHOP was being changed to IHOb. To pique the interest in their announcement, they would not reveal what the B would stand for and even launched a new verified Twitter feed at @IHOb.

Their first tweet on the new account was “For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb. Find out what it could b on 6.11.18. #IHOb”.

IHOP fans took the big news seriously, railing against the change. They didn’t want their iconic brand to change, and they certainly didn’t want their favorite menu items to go away. They reminded the brand of how well New Coke went over and vowed to keep calling it iHOP, no matter what the actual change might be.

For the rest of the world that was not as emotionally invested, it became a game to guess what the B might stand for. Breakfast, bacon, and many other B words were suggested. As you might imagine, there were plenty of more inventive guesses as well.

For an entire week, IHOP fanned the flames of the story, and the world responded. Mainstream media picked it up, and other food brands started building off of the IHOP news with their own twist. One of the best aspects of this campaign was watching the other restaurants, like Wendy’s, leverage the IHOP announcement for their own gain and reach.

As promised, on June 11th, IHOP prepared to answer all of the questions and admitted that they weren’t really changing their name at all. It was a publicity stunt to promote the fact that they had enhanced their burger offerings. The restaurant has always served burgers ever since they opened in the ’50s but it was never a focal point. They pointed out that they’d always put an SM behind IHOb (as opposed to the ® behind IHOP) to say it’s a new service line, not really a name change as they had stated.

As you might imagine, the internet was not amused. People felt like they’d been stooges to an online prank and they weren’t happy. IHOP did get millions of views, incredible PR, and media buzz and the world was talking about them like they hadn’t in years. Many would call that a win. After all, it was just a publicity stunt, right?

I don’t think so. A publicity stunt is generating a lot of interest around something sensational that you’re going to do (for those of you old enough to remember, think Evil Knievel trying to cross the Snake River Canyon) or a bandwagon you are jumping on to steal some of its audience. But imagine how the world would have felt if Evil Knievel had told the world for weeks that he was going to jump the Snake Canyon and then on the day of the jump, pulled up on his motorcycle, and yelled, “Psych!”

In a world where transparency and living your company’s values are front and center, lying to get attention seems like a risky, if not downright foolish, play.

You work for years to build credibility and trust with your prospects and customers. Beyond that, you bust a hump trying to delight them and get them to value and even have an emotional attachment to what you do for them. Why would you do something that risks unraveling all of that?

Making your devoted customers feel foolish seems like a huge price to pay to let the world know you’re upping your burger game. Being playful with your audience can often be a great tactic. But doing it the way IHOP did it, by doing it to their loyal customers rather than with them, isn’t smart brand ambassadorship.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Marketing: How do you retain their business?

July 15, 2020

This will wrap up our look at how to successfully reopen your business to customers to make them feel safe and welcome. Previously, we’ve worked through how to properly prep your team and your location for client visits and what to do to make their actual visit as frictionless as possible.

All too often, people think that marketing stops once the transaction is complete. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The most important marketing you’ll ever do isn’t the effort to get the first dollar. It’s to get the second.

How we communicate with our clients who have made the conscious decision to break free of the pandemic’s paralysis just to do business with us is going to be where we win or lose the game. It doesn’t matter if that was a client you’ve had for a decade, or you’ve never met them before – we’re living through a dramatic reset, where we have to re-earn everything.

What does that post-visit or post-transaction marketing look like? It starts on the inside. In many cases, your employees are working in an agitated, artificial environment. Checking in with them to see how it went is your first step. Catch them doing things right and use those as teachable moments with your entire team. Do more postmortems than usual, identifying unique situations, and work together to define best practices for handling each scenario.

With your clients, in order to retain them, you first need to communicate your gratitude for the opportunity to serve them. This has to be done in a very authentic way, so it feels and sounds like you. Now, in particular, is not the time for canned, generic messaging. Ask for candid feedback on their experience and what you could have done to make it even better.

There are some danger areas where you may need to communicate with more frequency and depth. If they have a complaint about their experience, remember that people are on edge. That escalates their reaction to everything, so factor that in.

If you had to create some sort of workaround during the pandemic to facilitate sales, like curbside pickup or special financing that you are not going to keep offering, you will have to over-communicate not only the change but more important – why the change.

Why aren’t you still offering whatever accommodations you created during the shelter in place period? Don’t be too hasty to eliminate all of what you thought of as “during the crisis” changes you’ve made. Some of them may have won you new clients. But if you really believe you should eliminate some of the temporary stopgap measures, try to see the change from your customer’s perspective and explain it with that lens. Saying you aren’t going to do it anymore for self-serving reasons is not going to play well in this current environment.

As you communicate with both customers and your team members about what’s coming next, changes, new additions, or elements that may be going away, be very mindful of the words you choose.

Now is not the time for absolutes. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable. Do not make promises you may not be able to keep as we continue to work through the phases of recovery. We are definitely in a season of under-promising and over-delivering.

You also want to make sure your messages convey the emotional side of the equation. Because we’re all a little weary, it would be easy to take shortcuts with our communications. Guard against that. Communicate often, and remember: Brands that lead with their heart and genuinely and consistently demonstrate their concern and care for the team and their customers will win the day.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Marketing: Tribute to front-line workers

July 8, 2020

A while back, we began to explore how customer service is shifting as businesses reopen after an eight- to 10-week shutdown. In that piece, we talked a lot about the importance of preparation. This is a measure twice, cut once moment in time. With everyone’s emotions as raw as they are, you want to get this right. A mistake can cost you a loyal customer or a devoted employee.

Today, I’m going to assume you’ve prepped and are ready to go. Now we’re going to turn our attention to what we need to be thinking about once we are open. One of the most heartening trends coming out of COVID, according to a May 2020 study by Accenture, is that, as consumers, we’ve never been more motivated and excited about buying local.

That bodes well for us, whether we sell direct to consumers or to other businesses. At this stage, you’ve decided as the business owner or leader which rules you’re going to choose to enforce when it comes to masks, the number of people in your establishment at once, client face-to-face meetings, etc. You’ve met with your team and briefed them on the rules.

Hopefully, you’ve done some brainstorming and role-playing, so they are feeling prepared as well.

Now it’s time to open the doors. The work you’ve done with your team isn’t done yet. In this phase, they need you to:

  • Help them enforce the rules with lots of visual cues and specific language to use with your clients.
  • Model well. They’re nervous, so they will be watching how you respond to your customers. Let them know when they handle a situation well. Thank them for helping you enforce the “new normal.”
  • Show grace. No one will get this 100% right, so come to work with an abundance of grace and give it out generously.

Your employees aren’t the only ones who are going to be a little anxious. Your customers are too. They may have been out and about for some time, but for others, your business location may be one of the first they’ve entered since March. For many of us, it was the grocery store, pharmacy, home, and repeat for quite a while!

Here’s how you can make it easier for your clients to walk through your door for the first time since the quarantine.

  • Paint a clear picture of what to expect before they show up. Whether it’s how the chairs in the conference room will be arranged or what inventory you have in stock, eliminate as many surprises as possible. Take advantage of all of their senses. Have prominent, bold signage that points them in the right direction, floor markings if that makes sense, PA announcements, and more live help than you usually might have.
  • Stationing someone at the door to greet your customer and help them navigate through your space will ease their worries significantly.
  • Show your excitement and be genuinely happy to see them. Remember, if you’re wearing a mask, facial cues are lost, so speak up and welcome them with warmth.

In this phase, you’re going to need to be very attentive and observant. Watch for signs of anxiety, discomfort, or confusion and be quick to jump to that employee or customer’s needs. Don’t worry if they’re not ready to buy yet. Just getting them back into your location and engaged is a win.

Slow and steady is going to win this race. Our job as business owners and leaders right now is to reconnect with our team and our customers.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record as one of Drew’s weekly columns.



Marketing: Have you met your new customers?

June 17, 2020

As Iowa reopens, we are being greeted by brand-new customers. Even if they look like our old customers, they’ve been changed. Two+ months of isolation, deprivation, and raw emotions can alter anyone’s perspective.

We have to remember that we’re not to the new normal yet. We’re in the temporary, abnormal phase of reentry. What complicates this phase is that no two people are reacting to the idea of our state’s reopening in the same way.

That makes the decisions you need to make as you invite your clients back to your location a little less black and white. Please do not make the mistake of assuming your customers will behave the way they did pre-COVID. Typically people don’t change much in 60 days. But there’s not all that much that is normal right now.

The discomfort and nerves are showing up in a wide range of reactions. Between COVID and the protests, it’s no wonder that most people are a confused cocktail of emotional responses. You’re going to interact with customers who are exhibiting a mix of fear, frustration, anger, and delight at being able to leave their homes. These emotions are distorting people’s perspectives and expectations. Some will be so happy to be interacting with you in person, they won’t notice much else.

Others will be so anxious that they’ll notice everything.

How do you meet their expectations? It starts with understanding what they are. If there were ever a good time for a customer survey, June 2020 is it. A recent study done by Accenture identifies five new consumers that we’re all going to encounter.

Twenty-one percent of consumers are worriers. They are typically 56- to 69-year-olds who have some underlying conditions that make them take the stance that they’re not willing to take any chances.

Twenty-two percent of them are what Accenture called the individualists. They’re more frustrated by people acting stupid by hoarding toilet paper than they are about being exposed to the virus. They tend to fall in the 18- to 24-year-old range.

Thirty-nine percent of consumers would be considered rationalists. They are not concerned and believe that all they can do is to keep things clean and hope others do the same. They tend to fall into the 25 to 31-year-old age group.

The activist subgroup is about 8% of the population. They believe it is their social responsibility to socially distance. They also tend to be in the 25 to 31-year-old age group.

Eleven percent of the population is indifferent. They think the situation has been seriously blown out of proportion. This attitude is most prevalent in 40- to 55-year-olds.

As you build out your survey, be sure you ask your customers how they feel about some of the changes you’ve had to make during COVID. What may surprise you is that they fully expect you to keep the modifications they personally like. Whether it’s to-go margaritas or private shopping by appointment, you may be planning to abolish something you thought of as a temporary fix, and they saw it as a valuable enhancement.

Another insight you’ll need to probe to identify is exactly what will make your clients feel like it’s safe to come back to your location. They may be ready to be out and about but are they ready to come back specifically to your establishment? This is a dangerous place where many assumptions live. Some consumers will absolutely feel safer if you require everyone to wear a mask. Others will choose to avoid any business that has that policy.

It’s always been smart marketing to have a deep understanding of what your customers are thinking and feeling. Right now, as we navigate these completely uncharted waters, it’s essential.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Does it even matter?

June 10, 2020

Two months ago, we couldn’t imagine anything worse than the coronavirus pandemic. But at least we were in it #together. And now, in the past week, we’ve seen just how not together we all are as we watch our country unravel in cities far away and right here in Des Moines. As I write this, people are afraid to leave their homes, not because of the virus but because of their neighbors.

There have been moments in my life when I have questioned my professional calling. Surely I could do something nobler than marketing. I can’t do blood, so being a doctor or nurse was never in the cards. But I could have been a lawyer or a policeman or run a non-profit.

Would the world have made better use of my talents in one of those professions?

I suspect some of you may be finding it challenging to even think about business or marketing right now.

You may be wondering if it even matters. Is anyone listening, or is the world’s noise so insistent that they can’t even contemplate anything beyond their own survival?

I believe what we do does matter, and I believe we have a unique role in helping the world be a better place for all human beings.

It’s probably always been true, but in the last decade, the marketplace has made it very clear. People want to do business with companies that stand for something. Who defend something. Who fight for something. Who believe in something and, most of all, who are willing to take action to change the world in alignment with those beliefs.

That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t sell your products or services. In fact, the research is clear. When you declare your corporate position on whatever issues you choose to tackle or help resolve, your consumers want to buy even more of what you sell. That’s their version of high fiving you.

Whether you are a solopreneur or the CEO of one of the largest companies in the US, the opportunity is the same. We can build a community made up of our employees, our customers, and our prospects, and we can share those beliefs. We can talk about what we are doing to accomplish social change, and we can invite our community to be a part of our efforts.

I’m not suggesting that every business should jump onto the #blacklivesmatter bandwagon because of what is happening right now. If that is genuinely an issue you want to fight for over the long haul as an organization, by all means – stand up and be heard.

But for this to work, for both the world and for our own hearts, who are wondering if we’re making a difference in our career of choice, this can’t be a superficial cause of the month situation. As we have seen time and time again, systematic change is neither quick nor cheap. You don’t just run an ad out of solidarity and then go back to business as usual. If you are not ready to devote resources to this and weave the fight into all of your business practices and policies, then don’t bother.

The world is reminding us, loud and clear, that each of us plays a role in the kind of world we share. While we all can and should speak up as individuals, some of us can do even more.

I believe as marketers and business leaders, we have a unique and powerful opportunity to have incredible influence in shaping the future for ourselves, our neighbors, and future generations.

You have a platform and a megaphone. Use them well.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


In these unprecedented, challenging times of togetherness

May 27, 2020

We have reached the saturation point for trite phrases (unprecedented, challenging) that signal to your audience that you are trying to acknowledge the fact that pandemics are not the norm. These words and phrases have been overexposed to the level that they are now like chalk on a blackboard – creating a screeching noise in our mental ear so distracting that we actually lose the point of the message.

I am pretty sure there is not a human being on the planet that does not know we’re living through an unprecedented and challenging time. Which means you can skip the setup and get right to the message.

Here’s what people want to know from you now:

Are you open: If so, have your hours changed? Do you require masks or some other change in how they’re used to interacting with you? If you’re a retail establishment, are you controlling the number of people in your store at the same time? Do I get a number or do I check in somewhere? How/where do I wait?

If you’re a B2B organization, are you back in the office? Are you conducting face-to-face meetings again? Have any of the rules of engagement changed?

Are you doing business differently: Are you shipping your products in a new way? Is there a change in your payment policies? Are you keeping some of the delivery models you developed during the lockdown? Are you delivering some things virtually that you used to do in person?

Are you having issues with your products or services: Will there be delivery delays or are there certain products or services you can’t offer right now? Is there a longer than usual window for deliveries? Are you anticipating any problems with your supply chain that may impact me?

How are you staying safe and keeping me safe? Have you increased your standards or the frequency of your cleaning schedule? Are you wiping down surfaces between customers? Is your warehouse doing anything different so my items are packaged in a noncontaminated way? How are you helping other customers keep their distance and protect us from each other?

How can you help me right now? Beyond your products and services, are there any special deals or arrangements you’re offering because of the current circumstances? Different delivery models? Relaxed payment schedules? Added incentives or bonuses for buying now?

How are you? They genuinely want to know how you and your business have fared through the last few months. Are you okay? Were customers nice to you during all of this? Did you have to let go of some of your team or close a location?

Your marketing messages should be focused on what your customers and prospects actually want to know. That’s not a C19 recommendation – that’s just marketing 101. But given that everyone’s on edge and any little thing could deter them from buying at this moment – it’s even more important to be sensitive to what they really need.

But even more than that — if there was ever a time to humanize your marketing, it is now. Everyone’s emotions are raw. Everyone has suffered loss over the last few months. And everyone is gingerly stepping out, afraid of what might be waiting around the next corner.

You have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate your compassion, understanding, and commitment to your audience by stepping away from the trite phrases and communicating as authentically and empathetically as you can.

Invite them back, help them remove as much of the worry and anxiety about doing business with you that you can, and encourage them to share input and feedback.

Demonstrate that you actually are in this with them, as opposed to just using the hashtag.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.