Customers may be out of sight, but not out of mind

Turn on the TV these days and you’ll hear several companies ranging from fast food restaurants to furniture stores to car dealerships state when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, “We’re all in this together.” That messaging, along with the feel-good imaging of people happily spending time together or masked health-care workers giving a thumbs up, is not just about developing a sense of camaraderie and shared experience, it’s also about retaining customers and brand building.

Financial institutions are no strangers to marketing, but marketing to customers during a pandemic is new to every business. These are essentially uncharted waters. Any imagery, press release, advertisement or media campaign that was pre-coronavirus now must go on the backburner if it doesn’t have the right messaging or else it could be detrimental to a brand. If the marketing message is too casual, it could offend customers: too militant it could frighten them: no message at all could indicate a business was uncaring or unfeeling or, even worse, closed indefinitely.

In addition to the messaging, what are the images showing? Are there large gatherings of people without social distancing? Customers could be annoyed, frustrated or develop anger toward the brand for being insensitive to the world at this moment. So how does a business craft messaging that acknowledges what a customer is going through, but also reminds them that the business will be there for them when the national lockdown is over?

According to Brian Mulderrig, the vice president of sales at ViralGains, a marketing company that helps businesses understand the voice of the customer, a company needs to determine what the strongest message is that they can market at the time— and for Mulderrig, that message right now is one of trust.

“Trust in this landscape is key. A financial company needs to provide comfort and concern for its customer base, particularly when it comes to wealth management, due to the many ups and downs the market has shown recently,” said Mulderrig in an interview with ATM Marketplace.

“Financial marketing messages need to resonate with the customer, and some financial institutions are doing a better job than others. One of the biggest challenges in this market today is everything is continually changing. Financial institutions need to be able to pivot on their messaging platform.”

By pivoting, Mulderrig means if a company has stood on a messaging platform, they should determine how that platform will translate to the customer, especially in a time of crisis.

Take the case of Citibank, a bank that has long supported the cause of “No Kid Hungry.” The company was able to pivot easily during the recent coronavirus events and include the thousands of school children in need that were now home from school. Citibank helped by providing meals and made a sizeable donation to continue to help the cause. The response from customers was a positive one.

But for customers with limited media dollars, static messaging is still an option, but Mulderrig suggests leveraging the voice of the customer and capturing that voice in real-time will go a long way to understanding what a customer is going through and establish that relationship of trust.

For example, if clients are going to a bank’s website these days to get information, is the bank asking the right questions? Are they asking if they need help paying a mortgage or deferring a loan payment? Do they understand if they call customer service they may have to wait longer? Do they know the lobby is closed, but the drive-thru is open? Keeping the customer informed and focusing in on their concerns not only shows that a bank is aware of the issues, but they care, which is a message that really resonates with customers.

“Trust in both online and mobile banking solutions are crucial and messaging the customer base to ensure that they understand the safety standards put in place to help during the coronavirus is important,” said Mulderig. “Offering additional help, such as step-by-step instructions for the older generation online so they can use mobile banking or giving them an opportunity to listen to podcasts or weekly investment seminars are all ways to resonate messaging with a customer.”

And Mulderrig explained it’s key to remember that messaging is a fluid and flexible process. As in the case of advertisements showing large groups of people without masks or social distancing, a company needs to be ready to respond to customer scrutiny.

“We are crafting strategies,” said Mulderrig, “And sometimes we need to pause on the spending to craft new messages to answer a specific problem or issue. It’s important to understand the history of the messaging and use what it has taught us. It’s crucial to building trust and a company shouldn’t shy away from corporate responsibility.”

As the coronavirus pandemic lockdown starts to ease in communities in the weeks ahead, businesses, especially banks, should get their messaging in order to respond regarding services available and safety standards still in place. Afterall, we’re all in this together.

This article originally appeared on ATM Marketplace.