Jo Stott shares her best advice on communicating with clients, employees and business colleagues during a time of crisis
During uncertain times, just like the one we are facing now, it’s vital to stay in contact with your clients, employees and business colleagues. Therefore, as a business owner, you need to put a crisis communication plan in place.
Firstly, begin by reaching out to all of your clients and let them know that your boutique is now closed and all safety precautions are in place. Furthermore, update all of your customers on your temporary telephone number and email address if these have changed. Reassure your brides-to-be who have paid for their gown that their dresses are safe and are being stored correctly. Next, change the delivery address to your home address so everyone will have peace of mind. Finally, transfer client files from your boutique to your home and make sure you remember your handover and store diaries as these are essential.
When communicating with your employees, be open and honest about any imminent strategies and future contingency plans. Reassure them of their safety and give them financial reassurance, albeit government lead. Finally, all business colleagues including service providers, landlord, management companies, business neighbours and postman should be informed about the business and given the correct contact information during this period.
Once you have established the crisis communication listed above and feel you have accomplished this, you need to carry on doing what you need to do. When this virus is contained, there is going to be a massive influx of brides-to-be shopping for their wedding dress. So as a store owner, you need to strengthen your online presence, reputation and appointment generating mechanisms to prepare for this. This is a challenge I know, however, you need to see it as an opportunity to grow and expand your business, building momentum and future revenue.
Brides search for wedding dress shops on Google and if you have a semi-impressive three-star rating you may be overlooked. The best way to deal with a negative reputation online is to drive a significant amount of positive reviews. Use this period to construct a personal email to send to previous brides, kindly asking them for a review. Make it easy by giving them the direct link to your Google my business ‘write a review’ page. Text messaging is even more accessible to people as it has a 99% open rate. This is my favourite way of contact and it has been very impactful for me. Your goal is to have at least a 4.5-star rating on Google!
Your website is the only window (at the moment) for your store identity. Remember, people have a significant amount of more free time on their hands, so putting out tailored content for them will help your future sales. Concentrate on updating information on your gowns and designers. Finally, make sure the usual website values are in place, including security, good user journey and easy appointment accessibility.
Instagram usage has and will continue to massively increase. This is a tremendous opportunity for you to engage with your brides. Remember there is going to be a massive influx of brides wanting appointments when this is all over, so make their choice easy by engaging with them on social media first. It’s key to be your authentic self in addressing this situation. It is not business as usual, so acknowledge the issue and explain how you are handling it.
There are many ways to increase your engagement during this time. For example, share your ‘Gowns of the Week’. Just think of this as showcasing your gowns, like you would in your store. You could also share your new designer ‘Capsule Collection’ of the week and again showcase throughout the day. It’s a good idea to post content two/three times a day to your feed and as many times as possible to your stories. But remember, every post must be creative, meaningful and current.
Finally, this may be a great time to start a contest, however, think carefully about this and remember to be engaging and relevant to your brand.
This can be done in different ways depending on where you are and what accessibility you have to your gowns and visual conferencing calls such as Zoom, Skype, etc. Begin by introducing yourself to everyone and greet each person as you would in the boutique Make sure everyone can see and hear you clearly.
Let your bride-to-be know where you are and what the plan is:
Use these virtual appointments to create rapport and engage new potential customers. This will, in turn, establish some trust between you and your new brides-to-be and her virtual guests.
Furthermore, you can share your screen and go through some different styles of gowns either online or visually. Talk about different silhouettes, necklines, fabrics and what they do. If you can get some preliminary information about which gowns the bride is most interested in before-hand this could be advantageous for this virtual appointment. We all know this probably won’t be the right type of gown for her, but again, this can help you maintain rapport.
Dependent on your whereabouts, it is a good idea to have a selection of one of each style of gown in the background of your new makeshift virtual boutique. This will allow you to showcase your accessories a little easier while you have your bride’s full virtual attention. This is not essential and may be difficult to achieve. However, your product knowledge is essential and key at this point, you need to know your stock and describe gowns that will be right for her.
Finally, build momentum and talk about the process from here - what to expect during her store appointment, how to order, fittings and alterations. 100% commitment is difficult due to our current situation, however, agree a date that everyone approves of and put this in your diary. You will see your diary fill up in the agreed months which will protect you and your business and give you the momentum you need.
After your virtual appointment, text or email the bride some images of the gowns they were most interested in and confirm the appointment follow up time discussed. Now you have established some sort of trust with your bride-to-be keep the momentum going by inviting her to watch videos of you and the team over the coming weeks on trends, the business, designers, and encourage her to be social with you all on the usual channels over the coming weeks and months.
During this period, the government have announced financial support to help out small businesses. For more information, take a look at our article here.