The pandemic-induced economic crisis has many beloved small businesses struggling for survival. In the face of events that are far beyond their control, it can be tempting to make desperate, emotional pleas to your clientele. While it's tempting, this sort of approach simply doesn't work.
While it's possible to tug at the heartstrings of customers to help draw them in and keep your business afloat, you should never posture as the recipient of charity. Customers go to a business for what it can do for them, not to help a hapless victim.
Instead of being the victim who needs saving, be the guide that customers need in these difficult times.
Heroes, Villains, Guides, and Victims
Author Donald Miller, founder of Business Made Simple University, hit the nail on the head with his concept of brands as stories. Successful marketing campaigns rely on telling a compelling story.
Throughout the history of storytelling, both ancient and modern, there are really only a few roles.
The Hero can be an underdog, according to Miller, but not a Villain. If your business is in dire financial straits, painting yourself as a victim is a weak marketing position. In one sense, you have been victimized by events far out of your control, but so has everyone else. Making the crisis about you and your business defies marketing wisdom.
While being the victim is your worst course of action, positioning your business as the Hero isn't much better. Miller recommends that you position your target audience as the Hero. Successful charity fundraising drives do not succeed by focusing on how great the charity foundation is, but by emphasizing the good that a viewer does by donating. The only key role left for your business to play is that of the Guide.
How You Can Help Customers
Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi, Neo had Morpheus; the list of great guides in fiction goes on and on. A guide can take many forms, but the essence of the role is that they might have been a hero themselves in the past. Now, their experience and expertise play an indispensable role in supporting the main character of the story.
Now more than ever, our community needs guides. The pandemic-fueled crises of 2020 have each of us searching for some sense of normalcy and security. Instead of posturing as the victim, make your case as to how you can guide your future customer, the hero, make it through this difficult period. Center on the customer and their problems, demonstrating your solution. If your messaging can compel prospects to take action from a trusted guide (you), then you'll earn their business.