The other day I interviewed a CEO for a book I am writing. During our conversation, he told me his company did some research 10 years ago about what differentiated them from their competition. What did their customers tell them? They learned from their customers that it was how the company treated them—the way the employees made them feel—that made the difference. And that has provided them with some strategic branding opportunities.
We can apply a lesson from this story to how we deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The Chinese character for the English word crisis is composed of two characters: one signifies “danger” and the other signifies “opportunity.” At this time, we can choose to look at this crisis for the dangers it presents, or we can look at the opportunities it offers.
Right now, the COVID-19 crisis provides you with some strategic branding opportunities. By providing what your customers and prospects want and need in this crisis, you can cultivate a closer relationship with them. Here are three questions for you to consider how you can benefit others—and benefit your company—during this crisis.
1. What are you known for?
Now is a time for you to consider your brand. What is it that your company is known for? And since this crisis provides strategic branding opportunities, here is a better question: What do you want to be known for?
You can reposition your company for what you want to be known for at this time. This crisis is an inflection point that you can use to reposition your organization.
Now, you cannot use the crisis to tell a false narrative. You can’t tell something about your company that isn’t true. But you can reposition your company in a new light because this is a new time. Everything in the world has changed as we know it. And this is a great time for your company to change as well.
2. What do your customers need?
Think about what your customers are looking for. What is it that they need? But because this is a new time, what do your customers need right now? Your customers may need something different now than they did last month.
And because this is a new time, your customers may not even be fully aware what they need. There may be a difference between what they perceive they need and what they really need. Or they may not even be aware yet of what they will need.
Perhaps during this crisis, your customer cannot buy what you provide. They may not have the money or they may not be able to go where you are. Think through what they will need when the crisis is over.
Make sure you have fully thought through what your customers typically need, need right now, and will need when the crisis is over.
3. What can you provide?
Now think about what you can provide your customers. What can you do for them right now that meets their needs?
It’s possible that you cannot provide your customer with your products or services now. In that case, what can you do right now to serve their needs? It may be that you provide that product or service free of charge at this time. So think through what message you want to send to your customers through what you provide at this time.
- What can you uniquely contribute to your customers’ wellbeing right now?
- How can you provide something of value to your customers that is specific to your company?
- What can you do for your customers that meets their needs and reinforces your brand?
By thinking through the narrative you want your customers to internalize about your company, you can identify what makes the most sense for you to do now.
This exercise can help you see the strategic branding opportunities that this crisis provides. If you focus on the danger the crisis presents, it can be a scary situation. But if you look at the opportunities this crisis provides, you can position your company to come back even stronger after the crisis is over.
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies make ideals actionable.
How are you responding to the current crisis? I counsel leaders on strategic branding. I would be glad to help you emerge from this crisis with an even stronger brand.