To visit or not to visit, that is the question
Recent events have had a profound impact on businesses right across the globe. We’ve never experienced anything so far-reaching in its influence in our lifetimes.
But even the effects of pandemics eventually ease, and businesses are now focusing on the future, planning how they will operate in a post-COVID-19 environment that looks a bit different to how it did before. This brings a whole plethora of challenges to address, one of which is when, and how, to resume client visits.
Diverse types of organisations are going back to work at different paces and in different ways. For example, retail, leisure and beauty businesses will make their premises as safe as possible, advertise that they are open and then customers have the choice whether to visit or not. It’s a different situation for B2B companies who have a greater need to proactively go out and see their clients to get their relationships started again.
The key is communication
The problem is that the virus is still with us, and each person will be judging their own risk. Whilst some may welcome a socially distanced visit with open arms after months of lockdown, others will be anxious about whether it is safe. The last thing you want to do is instil a sense of fear in your contacts, or have them think you are jumping in too soon.
We’d suggest that you treat each customer individually and communicate with them in relevant ways to assess their needs. With some skilled account management, you should be able to navigate this tricky area in a way that maximises your ability to go out and visit but prevents upsetting anyone who is not ready.
Rather than jumping right in with a call to arrange an appointment, take your contacts on a journey back to a fully operational relationship, and it will become apparent at which stage each of them will welcome you in person.
Clients lives have changed
So, maximise digital marketing by providing information that is entertaining, useful and worthy of their attention. The key is to maintain your relevance to them amongst the stream of virus-related news that we are all bombarded with. Aim to become a positive presence that counters their concerns and stresses by sharing constructive content and advice. Think about the tone of voice you should use. Make it considerate and empathetic.
Use effective communication channels
Consider the demographics of your client base and use the best communication tools to make you relevant to them. A coronavirus information page on your website should be kept updated as circumstances change. Companies with a younger client base may find them more responsive to text or WhatsApp communications whilst an older demographic is more likely to read an email. Ensure the content is relevant to the recipient and addresses their concerns. And don’t expect a massive response. Some contacts will still be furloughed, and others may be focusing internally on their own businesses in the short term.
Think about how to make an impression
For key contacts, gestures to demonstrate your client commitment in the form of thoughtful gifts will show you are thinking about them. You don’t have to spend a fortune – a bouquet or basket of fruit with a personal note will show that you value your client and their business. Another idea to keep you front of mind is a physical mailing that outlines a promotion that can be used to restart their business with you when they are ready to do so.
Use your account management skills
When you judge the time is right to contact your clients directly via phone or video to see if they are open to a visit, have a clear goal in mind. Explain why you’d like to visit – to understand your accounts more fully, or to formulate your account plans for the next year, with a personalised approach based on their needs. If there’s resistance to a meeting, offer other solutions until such time as they are comfortable with seeing you.
If you do meet face-to-face
It goes without saying that you should take every precaution. Wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands – you know the drill by now!
Finally, we would say now, more than ever, is a time for honestly. Projects may take longer to complete, deliveries may be slower, locations closed. Let your clients know the score – and collaborate with them for the best possible outcome, whether meeting face-to-face or not.
Have you arranged any physical meetings yet and if so, were they welcomed? Let us know by commenting below.