TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL? IS THAT EVEN THE QUESTION?
Part 2 – three simple guidelines
A big topic of conversation is happening right now around whether or not it is right to keep (or re-start!) selling now.
Is it ok or is it insensitive to keep selling while the world is in crisis?
As we move into week 4 of lockdown, and we normalise just a little, there are clearly two camps emerging online and in businesses networks.
There is a strong sense of “absolutely, step up and do it” from some, but this is tempered by others who have a strong sense that selling right now feels somehow ‘icky’.
If you read our blog yesterday, you’ll know we think the answer lies less in your timing, and more in your tone. (And if you didn’t read our blog yesterday, click below to do so!)
To recap why we think you should be selling right now…
- Business should continue, as much as possible.
- The people you serve need you.
- The economy needs you.
- And you need to be as ready for recovery as you possibly can be – whenever that comes.
But if you get it wrong, your reputation is damaged.
Yesterday we shared a case study – an absolutely true story from a very recent ad we spotted on social media. In that we shared some howling pitfalls to avoid.
And we promised you that today we’d look at HOW to pitch your message sensitively. Because the good news is – get it right, and your reputation is enhanced. (Get it really right, and your brand is elevated because you stepped up as a leader just when people need that most.)
First of all, ask yourself some questions about your customers. Consider the ways in which they need you more than ever, for example:
- People need leadership in a crisis; can you give them that?
- People have more time on their hands; can you help them use it for good?
- People crave some sense of normality – can you help them, specifically, with a sense of purpose or a sense of progress?
Answering those questions will start to guide you towards exactly the right messaging.
3 WAYS TO SELL WITH SENSITIVITY
I’m old enough to remember working through the crash of the late ‘80s. I was working in crisis communications when 9/11 happened (and called urgently into an airline; a sector in great shock and paralysis). I was in business through the financial crash of 2008.
Although this pandemic is different in some ways, the lessons from those experiences stand true today.
Building on those experiences, there are three really simple principles that give you an actionable framework to make sure you’re communicating your product or offer in a way that serves, adds value, and protects your brand.
1. SHOW PEOPLE THAT YOU CARE BEFORE YOU SHOW THEM WHAT YOU KNOW
There’s a principle you first need to understand about communicating in a crisis, and it’s this: when people’s levels of personal concern go up, their levels of trust go down. It’s like a seesaw. (It’s also why people crave leadership in a crisis – because those trust levels need feeding.)
For you, this means that people are probably looking at your content through a lens of low trust. They’re on the watch for profiteering. They’re conscious of staying in control at least to some degree, at a time when there is so much they can’t control.
And there’s a saying in crisis communication that has really stood the test of time for good reason: I don’t care what you know until I know that you care.
What this means in practical terms is simply making sure that your content starts with an acknowledgement. Recognise the impact of these unusual times, especially as it relates to the problem you can solve.
Referring back to the case study above, how different might that ad look if it started with something like: These are worrying times for all of us, and our first priority is the health and safety of our loved ones. But we know you might be worrying about money, too.
2. SERVE RATHER THAN SELL
At any time, selling from the perspective of serving is always going to elevate your content to a higher level. It is also the best way we know to be in business and be authentic.
But in a crisis, it is vital. People are still buying, money is still moving – but it’s fair to say that those people are more discerning with their buying decisions. If you are serving rather than selling, you know people are buying from you for all the right reasons.
How do you know that you’re serving, when it still involves a purchase? Think back to the reasons we listed earlier for why you should be selling – giving people purpose or progress, for example.
3. GIVE AS WELL AS SELL
Let’s be honest, your pricing models are nobody’s business but your own. But from a communication and reputation point of view, stepping up and doing your bit in a crisis is not just a moral decision. It’s a really visible part of your brand.
But you don’t need to follow a playbook or your peer group for this. Think about what works for YOU and your business model / finances.
We see people selling their existing products but at a discount. We see people giving away a free-but-bitesize version of their paid product. We see people offering a ‘pay what you can’ option, so that those in greater need can still benefit but contribute less in their time of need. Here at Lucy & Emma, we’re giving away all our crisis communication content in free posts like this – because we can and we want to.
You do what you can and want to do. But do think about this, because it will say a great deal about you, from a communication point of view. And it’s a really practical way for you to answer the question we posed earlier in this blog – who do you want to be?
So, there you have some well-proven principles that will make sure you keep your content well-pitched.
Please tell us what you think of all this – comment below, or on the Facebook post. And please share this (and the Facebook page) with anyone you know will find this useful. We are here to serve, this content is all free, and we want to help as many people as we can.
Lots more from us this week (make sure you like and follow our Facebook page). So until next time, stay safe and well.
Lucy & Emma x
En pointe as usual – thank you for such thoughtful and useful articles. Much appreciated.