Have you heard the story about the tortoise and the hare? From how I remember it, they were about to compete in a race against one another. When the race started, the hare single-mindedly sped through with all his might and encountered many challenges along the way, while the tortoise made small, steady, measured steps towards success. Guess who won?

This article focuses on the small, measured steps FMCG brands can take to face COVID-19 disruptions with the same aplomb as the tortoise.

In a blink of an eye the world has changed. COVID-19 has created an obvious disruption to life. Purchasing habits, B2C relationships and how we all operate has shifted.

You can’t control everything but you can control this. Here are five effective, low-risk, measured strategies for today to build profitable relationships with consumers:

  1. Lower barriers to a sale and eliminate risk in path to purchase. While some industries will boom and others will not, consumers are still shopping to an extent, so make it easier and more desirable for them to buy your brand. Review your returns policy, give consumers the peace of mind they’re after that this purchase is a good one, address online hiccups, offer bonus perks such as free shipping. The other way to lower resistance is to improve on other touchpoints, i.e. your customer service should be brilliant.
  2. Arm yourself with consumer intel. Consumer usage and attitudes towards your brand and category will be different to what they were six months ago. Take stock of sentiment today as well as motivation to purchase. Review your customers’ revised path to purchase and the most effective ways they are building relationships with brands. Also, the research will ensure you craft a brand message that truly resonates with what the customer cares about today. Make business decisions based on today’s facts, not assumptions. Market research delivers clarity.
  3. Be open and transparent in your communication. Some industries and product types will be more affected than others. For those whose revenue is more influenced by this new state of affairs, be sure to share updates, keep your customers informed about what is happening with their products/orders/bookings etc. That way, they feel confident in their knowledge. The alternative is that without information from you, people could make assumptions that are untrue and this causes brand distrust – a sales deterrent. As a brand, communicate this information via your channels as well as via secondary channels including trusted influencers.
  4. Stay top of mind and maintain relationships. When this current climate has stabilised and the world moves forward positively, you want to be the brand people turn to. The only way this will happen is if you are still top of mind. So in the meantime, add value to your current and potential customers’ lives that goes beyond the actual transaction point. For example, share information (article), spread inspiration (how-to tutorials), provide samples, resources (e-books), online tools that all benefit their life and their current needs. When they are ready for the actual sale, it is your brand and your relationship-building efforts they will remember. Plant the seed today to be fruitful tomorrow.
  5. Pivot, adapt, improve. Be adaptable to changing marketing conditions. Maybe you can’t do everything you’ve been doing. Or maybe you should, with revisions. This is an opportunity to improve and become much more customer-centric. Challenge the status quo. An example of pivoting/adapting is to look at strategic partnerships. Join forces with another complementary brand that shares the same audience to implement joint strategies with shared risk. A way to improve is by implementing a systemised, measurable and proactive customer referral system.

If we look at the bigger picture, the core foundations of “what” brands need to do to build relationships with customers will not change in the face of COVID-19, as they have been the same for centuries. People still need to know you, like you and trust you in order to buy from you. The main difference now in the current landscape is that the tools we have to work with have evolved, and will evolve further.

Power your brand through this period with confidence by knowing the facts, being customer-centric, staying relevant, having an open dialogue and taking many small steps to larger success. Like the tortoise.