Verdin’s tips for ‘Boost’-ing your business or nonprofit during a crisis

by: Amy Blasco

In May, we launched Verdin Boost: A Marketing Pop-up to help local small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 by inviting the public to weekly Zoom chats with our in-house experts about marketing, design, social media and building brand loyalty.

We enjoyed connecting with our followers and fielding their questions about how to best serve customers and clients during an unprecedented time. If you missed any of our chats, or would like to get the key takeaways, here’s a quick recap of what was covered.

May 11: Adapting Advertising & Messaging to Current Times

Moderated by President Mary Verdin, Media and Research Strategist Lisa Campolmi and Copywriter Amy Blasco offered tips for navigating the changing world of marketing and advertising during the pandemic.

So, how do you craft the right message? The best way to do this is to meet people where they’re at. Think about what your audience cares about most and what they need. How can your brand meet that need? Then make sure to do it. Action is critical during a crisis.

Strive to be compassionate, clear and confident in your language and to connect with customers on a human level by tapping into the power of emotion.

When it comes to advertising, the Verdin team suggests researching media recovery packages and using social media regularly to communicate with customers and clients. The biggest takeaway: Your clients and customers are your most valuable asset. Use your existing database to reach out to those who already know you, and offer incentives through your products or services, and then make good on your promise.

May 18: Use Strategy and Design to Tackle Uncertainty

In this session, Mary Verdin introduced VP of Client Services Ashlee Akers and Art Director Megan Condict, who offered the following tactics for communicating with customers when you don’t have all the answers.

It is important to connect with people authentically. Being honest and transparent with your team and the people you serve will build credibility and trust. Flexibility is critical during uncertain times but having a plan, even if it has to be modified, gives you a path for moving forward. And don’t just tell people what your plan is; show them.

Design is also a great tool for communicating effectively. Keep your design professional—if possible, opt for a professional designer to represent your brand—you need to gain trust and your visual communications can help with this. Don’t risk getting ignored because you have too much going on in your creative content. Lead with a concise, easy to read and compelling design in your social media posts newsletters and let a landing page or blog deliver the rest of the information.

If you don’t have a budget for design, try one of these free resources: design website Canva or free stock image sites Pexels and Unsplash.

June 1: Harnessing Your Social Media During a Pandemic

Account Coordinator Kate Hardisty and Designer Katie Kollmann joined Mary Verdin for an in-depth discussion about how to make the most of your social media channels during a crisis.

When it comes to messaging, be a trustworthy news source for your followers by keeping your information up to date. Post every day, if necessary. Then grow your audience by engaging with other posts related to your brand. But make sure that your content and tone are appropriate.

Get your message across with a designed graphic that is personally branded to your company. It brings variety and uniqueness to your social media and shows that you care. Take your graphics to the next level by using the same filter or editing techniques to keep it consistent.

Last, but certainly not least, take great care in choosing photography. Using your own photos is best, but if you use other images, always make sure you have permission. You can purchase stock photos for use, request permission from other users on social media or use photos from royalty-free stock sites such as Unsplash and Pexels.

June 8: Building Brand Loyalty During a Crisis

For our last Boost talk, Mary welcomed husband and Verdin principal Adam Verdin to discuss how to build brand loyalty during a crisis, showing how their family restaurant Old Juan’s Cantina responded to the pandemic as an example.

The keystones of a strong brand, especially during difficult times, are being authentic and staying true to your values, showing humanity and creating short-term actions based on long-term vision.

Like many sit-down restaurants, before the pandemic, takeout and delivery accounted for only 1 percent of total sales. Suddenly it was 100 percent.

Their business’s productivity severely impacted, they started looking for ways to support the Central Coast community and interact with customers. This included posting “Stay strong, Five Cities” signs near the restaurant, donating gift cards and food to local nonprofits and hosting a burrito giveaway to anyone who stopped by, resulting in 478 free burritos given out in one day.

They also shifted their business model to all pickup and delivery by creating a drive through in the Old Juan’s parking lot and increasing the number of phone lines and delivery platforms. When Alcohol Beverage Control eased their laws, Old Juan’s started selling takeout margaritas and posted a video on social media showing people how to make the perfect drink.

Constant social media updates proved to be incredibly effective for communicating with customers and the community at large. Data from both Facebook and Instagram showed that engagement levels increased by 435 percent, from a pre-COVID level of 18.7 percent to 81.3 percent.

Check out this montage of all our Verdin Boost talks!

Want to learn more? Check out our COVID-19 white paper, “5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.”

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