The world as we knew it has changed forever since the Covid 19 virus began to make its lethal journey across the planet. In only three months nearly everything we once took for granted has been shaken to its’ core.
When it comes to business, especially those connected with foodservice and hospitality, the foundations are shifting alarmingly. But there are now glimmers of hope, with the promise of some form of opening up in the near future.
However, we cannot unfortunately immediately return to life as it was and pretend it was all a bad dream. Operators will be looking at their businesses and re-evaluating their options. So how can marketing and PR help businesses recover and grow in this brave new world?
It’s a big subject to cover in a short blog, but here are a few thoughts.
It is a simple fact of life that people need to know about a product or service before they can even consider buying it. Marketing and PR are not an add-on in times of stress, they are a fundamental part of maintaining, growing or re-building a business.
One of the challenges is that none of us know for sure what the future holds, so any plan must be flexible and nimble enough to respond to a changing marketplace.
Be prepared to introduce short term solutions which can be superseded by more long-term options when the future becomes clearer.
The customer is the key
Successful hospitality businesses have always put the needs of the customers first, but it is likely that the needs of your customers may have changed. Talk to them, either individually or as a group through a simple form of online research, to find out what they need from you now. How has their business structure changed? How has the delivery of their service changed?
Change of message
Next, look at the product you produce or the service you offer with new eyes. The things that may have been secondary selling points of a product before, may now be its key attraction. Look at how it fits with the new way of working? Why would customers want to buy it now?
For example,if you make a piece of equipment for foodservice operators…
Pre-virus - You might have concentrated on ease of use, high quality and focusing on how it offers a premium finish.
Post-virus - Now, you are likely to attract customers initially by bringing out qualities like speed of service, simplicity of use, hygienic operation, and versatility.
In the case of a food item aimed at foodservice outlets…
Pre-virus - Messages might have focussed on qualities such as provenance, less waste, produced without additives.
Post- virus - Customers may now be attracted by practical points such as individually wrapped, individual portion size,versatile serve etc. The high quality of the produce will still be important,but may become the secondary messaging.
In both of these examples, the product and its qualities remain the same, but the needs of the customers have changed so the messaging needs to as well.
How to deliver the message?
PR is certainly going to be even more important as businesses tighten their belts after the economic turmoil. Unlike advertising, PR is not paid for, so finding a good agency can help provide highly cost-effective ways of reaching your target audience without spending a fortune.
Social media as a tool for reaching customers has surged over the last three or four years,however, the virus has seen it come of age. Targeted, carefully focused and well-positioned messaging that is in tune with the current climate requires expert guidance, but an effective campaign can make all the difference to the success of your business.
Many hope that we will come out of this a kinder and more forgiving nation. Priorities may have changed and for many who have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses and ambitions, the effects of the virus will be with them for life.
Helping others to be kind will be good for your business too, as operators will want to find ways to give back.
Many businesses will have been helping local or national charities through the crisis. Be seen and be proud of your achievements, without capitalising on the virus and its’ fallout.
- Offer a recycling service for customers who are willing to replace an old piece of equipment.
- Get involved with local homeless, NHS, food bank and other charities. Use these stories to get your message across. For example, a case study on how one of your products is helping a charity cook hotmeals for NHS workers would be of interest to a catering magazine.
- Encourage your customers to share their stories with you, and then create an email newsletter to share them and other points of interest with potential and current customers.This will demonstrate how your equipment or food products have been used indifferent contexts as well as circulating ideas and motivating others.
Whilst the environment that we work in may have changed, the core values and people that you built your successful business around previously will still be fundamental to its success in the future.