Physical distancing in place at a B.C. business. Such signs are all part of the ‘new normal.’ (Tracy Holmes photo)

IT’S YOUR BUSINESS: Are you ready for the ‘new normal?’

It’s your business by Joe Smith

Special to The Record

People keep talking about the ‘new normal’ but what is it and will it be with us forever?

The term ‘new normal’ has been used before in times of crisis and uncertainty … most notably in reference to conditions following the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the global recession that it created for several years afterward.

While there is no single answer that would apply to every business, there are certainly indications that some of the trends that have surfaced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will play a greater role in future marketing strategies.

The reliance on social media in its many forms has dramatically changed the way businesses and consumers are able to connect. From being able to order products and services to full-course meals to be picked up or delivered has become the norm for some consumers.

What is most encouraging though according to the Canadian Marketing Association is that customers are shifting their mindsets to buying local and helping medium- and small-size businesses.

This is good news for many local operations that have been basically shut down during these trying times. However, messaging will be crucial to attract customers. Now may not be the time to come on strong with hard-hitting sales talk. People are still reeling from the impact the pandemic has had on their lives so messaging might be more appropriately focused on how your business can help your customers solve a need or help them deal with these challenging times.

Your ability to tailor messaging to your customers is incredibly important. You will need to be able to understand what they are experiencing in terms of any pain points and be able to effectively communicate that you understand what they are dealing with and offer relevant solutions.

Even with the easing of restrictions, it should be very evident that it will not be business as usual. The challenge, of course, is to identify how your business will respond to this ‘new normal.’ You need to be flexible and may have to adapt by setting up virtual events or shifting to more of a focus to online sales.

If moving to more online sales won’t work then now is the time to begin developing special promotions that reach out to your best customers when the doors are open again.

Wherever possible continue to advertise. Research has shown businesses that stop advertising during a downturn can take years to regain market share.

The reality right now is that no one can say for sure what the ‘new normal’ will be. New habits are being formed and when we come out of this there will be new expectations set. Currently, the key factor in communication with customers is empathy and providing a good experience. Businesses that understand this concept and practise it will come out ahead in the ‘new normal.’

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at joesmith@shaw.ca

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