‘Don’t Stop Now; Keep talking’: Why communication is still vital for businesses

When it comes to adapting your approach to deal with the current pandemic, going dark with your F&B business’ marketing and communications is the last thing you should be doing. Recent studies have already shown a 61% rise in social media engagement, compared to usual usage statistics. Therefore, whether your business has been forced to switch to delivery-only options or cease operations for the time being, it’s vital that you keep talking to your customers. 

In unprecedented times like these, going dark with your communications puts your business at risk of being an afterthought when all of this eventually blows over, so here are some tips to keep you talking.  

Make Some Noise

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken part in various webinars and advice sessions, received many calls from concerned clients, and spoken to people at all levels of the F&B industry. A topic that continues to pop up over and over again during these discussions is the massive importance of communicating with customers, instead of going dark, throughout the lockdown.

While many brands are cutting their marketing budgets, you should look at upping your game, if at all possible! By combining fun, creative and engaging content with an effective digital marketing strategy, you can keep your business top of mind with existing customers and build engagement with new ones. Moreover, you can do so without spending an arm and a leg. We recently saw a client execute an Instagram campaign with a budget of just £1 a day, growing the brand’s following by 10,000 in a week, with a very creative campaign and neighbourhood-specific targeting.

Neighbour, Neighbour

Now is the time to re-evaluate how you talk to your target audience and find new ways to connect with them. At a time like this, you can really reach out and get to know your customers, which, in turn, will help you better understand and, subsequently, satisfy their demands. A recent market research study by GlobalWebIndex found that 95% of consumers are spending more time on in-home media consumption, and 45% of them are spending more time on social media. Simply put, if you want your F&B business to remain relevant, you have to start actively communicating with your customers online, particularly on social media. 

An important point to remember is that people aren’t looking for polished, generic and insincere messaging. Instead, they are craving transparency, honesty and positivity from the online content they consume. Take the time to put real effort into your CSR – positively contribute to your community and help out the most vulnerable in your neighbourhood. Trying your best to do your bit for the people around you in such a difficult situation shows your customers that you genuinely care about them. Your good deeds, even simple gestures like discounted meals for the elderly or free meals for frontline workers, will be remembered long after the pandemic has passed, when your business is getting back on its feet thanks to the goodwill and loyalty of the people you helped. A great example of this is Deliveroo’s pledge to give 500,000 free meals to NHS workers.   

Get Creative and Keep it Personal

From cooking tutorials and recipe guides, to IGTV/Facebook Live Q&As, reposts of user-generated content (UGC) and enlightening emailers, there is an abundance of ways to engage with your audience at the moment. Take emailers, for example: A recent Bouncex data report showed that retail email open rates are up by 40% compared to before the Covid-19 outbreak, with data also pointing to even higher rates in the UK. Therefore, if you haven’t already been updating customers via email, build your database of email addresses and get started now. But don’t forget to get creative when doing so! Creativity is key at a time like this, and people are looking for that all-important personal touch, so make sure your messaging is fun yet heartfelt, your content is entertaining yet genuine, and your tone is positive yet compassionate.

It’s also important to know where your target audience members are going for their online content. In addition to a significant rise in usage statistics for big players like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you should also be paying close attention to Tik Tok’s soaring popularity. The video-sharing app is closing in on a billion downloads and is widely considered the social network of the moment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that only teens are jumping on the bandwagon, though, as tens of millions of Tik Tok’s monthly active users are aged between 18 and 34 – key demographics for F&B businesses. So, if you haven’t realised the untapped potential of TikTok and how beneficial it can be for your business, it’s about time you jumped on board, because the chances are many of your target audience members are already on it.

Communication is Key

Even though it might seem a little overwhelming at the moment, remember that this will end! We’re all in this together, not just as an industry, but as a community. It’s vital that we support each other and be at our best, despite circumstances being at their worst. Above all, keep the conversation going, keep it positive, and keep communicating with your customers, team-members and fellow business owners, because there’s no bright side to going dark with your communications during Covid-19. 

Put yourself in your customers shoes, and, the next time you walk past a closed restaurant, bar or other F&B business, ask yourself, “Where’s the first place I want to go for food and drinks after the lockdown?” Then, ask yourself, “How will I even know if they’re still open if they aren’t communicating with me online?”

By Georgie Woollams, managing director of Katch Communications and Katch International, integrated communications agencies in London and the Middle East 

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