While supplies are down, communication — with customers, vendors and more — is going to have to go up.
It’s not often we see fully stocked shelves of toilet paper anymore. What about cream cheese, cat food, or Gatorade? And if you can find it on shelves, chances are you can only buy one or two at a time.
Thanks to supply chain issues, even Florida-native brands like Sunshine Ace Hardware face product shortages. Three or of four Florida business have experienced supply chain disruptions, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and more than five of six of those businesses have reported increased costs and delayed shipments as a result.
Many of us are starting to feel the pressure from consumers to address problems we have little control over. While we might not be able to fix the supply chain issues, businesses can employ strategies to minimize the disruption and keep consumers engaged. Three big ones include:
Invest in relationships
Customers that feel prioritized by brands through consistent engagement are more likely to remain loyal throughout the supply chain crisis, even if their favorite products are out of stock.
Studies show that building relationships with customers is an under-utilized marketing tactic that yields a sizable return. But it’s not enough to keep a customer “satisfied.”
Customers with an emotional connection to a brand:
- Spend twice as much (demonstrating 306% higher lifetime value total)
- Commit to the brand for an average of five years
- Recommend the brand at a significantly higher rate (71% vs. 45%)
So, how can businesses bridge the gap between simply satisfying their customers and forging a deeper, emotional connection?
Give customers the VIP treatment. Scout and train the right customer service representatives. Ask questions, listen to the answers and act on the insights. Be honest and provide speedy responses.
Also, go beyond posting on social media and interact with your customers by responding to direct messages and comments. Get creative. You could even organize an automated text service to nurture your customers throughout their journey. This example falls under the umbrella of conversational marketing, which enables businesses to drive a customer-centric approach through technology and in-the-moment dialogue.
Focus on building authority
If you have limited product to sell, now might not be the right time to double down on heavy sales messaging related to your product. But you can communicate your expertise, build brand awareness, differentiate yourself in the market and foster relationships as a result.
Content marketing is a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind while everyone waits on inventory. Write blogs with topics that provide value within your industry. If you’re in the lawn care space, provide tips on keeping the lawn green or pest-free. If you’re in deck construction, share inspiration for summer patio decoration. Become the source of information for your niche.
Collect and act on data
While your business invests in relationships, you will learn more and more about your customers. Keep track of those learnings — the FAQs coming into your customer service reps, the products that are in-demand (but might be unavailable) and customer pain points and desires.
These insights make the business smarter, but actionable insights grow your business. What will you do with that data?
If you hear the same questions or complaints, look for solutions that might resolve them and enhance their experience with the brand. For example, if there’s one product in high demand but out of stock, consider promoting a related product or accessory as a cross-sell purchase. Or build a content series out of little known features of the product’s previous version. If you can’t sell a new product, building affinity for what customers currently have in hand can ensure they’re not going to miss out on the upgrade when it’s available.
We don’t know exactly when the supply chain crisis will be over, but we must keep our customers engaged until it returns to normal.
Stephanie Shreve is vice president of partner engagement at St. Petersburg-based PowerChord. She is a software and digital marketing executive with more than 20 years experience leading high performing teams to support global brands and strategic partners.