Vitamin or painkiller?

A few months ago I dug out my blister pack of vitamin D supplements that had been languishing in my bathroom cabinet for, well, years.


I’d heard the initial reports that black and brown people are 4x more likely to die of COVID-19. And I listened to the advice from the NHS to take my vitamin D.

But the messaging wasn’t new. 

I was well aware of the need to boost my immune system in a climate where sunshine is a luxury.  But my bathroom cabinet is crammed with all my good intentions for preventative healthcare. Frankly, the most action it sees is when I’ve felt a headache coming on, burnt or cut myself.

Everything’s different now. 

Even though I know that I probably won’t see a noticeable improvement in my immune system until at least three months in (if at all, since my supply is out of date!), the uncertainty has pushed it up my priority list.

And I’m not alone. April saw a sharp surge in vitamin D purchases. So in this case, ironically, the vitamin has become the painkiller. 

This got me thinking about, among other things, how quickly things can change, not only for us as consumers but for our clients and potential clients. And about how important it is to be attuned to where they are in times of uncertainty.

1. Speak to the pain, not the aspiration

We’re often told as entrepreneurs that we need to address the pain points of our potential and existing clients. It’s never truer than in times of crisis that what our prospects and community want is the painkiller, not the vitamin.

You need to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. It’s not that difficult in the current situation, as we’re all facing uncertainty about our future. The way to do this is to get laser focussed on their immediate and acute problem.

Now is the time to think through or revisit your customer or audience personas, and ask yourself some key questions:

  • Are there changes in their buying patterns? 
  • How are their finances affected?
  • What’s their home situation like?

Understanding your clients and their acute problems in a crisis will not only help you respond with messages that address their pain head-on, but it will also help you to identify areas where you can add value, build relationships and generate trust.


2. Go deep

If you’re in a position where you’re forced to ‘pivot’ you’ll be thinking of new services or products, new ways to deliver them, or new audiences. But sometimes the solution may not be so dramatic. It may be a matter of drilling down your messaging about your service or product to speak more directly to your ideal client’s immediate problem. If you haven’t already, think about how you can clarify the service you offer in a way that targets the need. For example, ‘Helping you to unlock the potential of your online leads ’ instead of ‘Brand Copywriter/Content Writer’.


3. Show empathy

The pain isn’t always immediate. Often it’s nuanced and complex. As a consumer, in particular a black female consumer, the NHS messaging hit home with the force of a blunt instrument. 

But there are a host of other issues that trigger the deeper pain of the structural inequality that makes black and brown people four times more likely to die from coronavirus in this country. Pain that’s only worsened by the recent brutal rupture of the deep wound of racial injustice, and compounded by the epic failure of the government to understand that the last thing we would want is first dibs on a vaccine.

Now, the question is, how can we, as solopreneurs and entrepreneurs respond? You may not think these wider questions and their secondary impacts have anything to do with your service or product. But writing with them in mind will help you to build the necessary bridges that, crucially, align with your values and purpose.


4. Know your context

It’s not always easy to understand your context in the whirlwind of a crisis. Things change daily. But if you want to serve and add value to your clients you need to be able to identify what stage of the crisis you’re in. 

At the moment, for example, we’ve adapted to living in lockdown, and it’s not likely that we’ll be seeing the end of social distancing in the near future. Messaging has shifted from life at home to considering life after lockdown, but the priority focus of purchasing habits may shift towards wellbeing.

Doing research into trends in customer behaviour, as well as the potential impact in your area of expertise is vital for keeping your finger on the pulse and making sure you are providing useful, relevant content. I find setting up Google alerts is useful for research. If you’ve got a customer base or a list, they’re a great source of information!


5. Stick to your tone

There’s a temptation to get caught up in the flow of a constantly shifting environment for the sake of joining the conversation. But if you alter your tone of voice to fit the times, you could risk eroding your relationship with your existing clients.

Be values-driven, flexible on your delivery and focussed on how your service or product will help your audience. Having tone of voice guidelines will help you remain consistent when responding to sudden changes in the operating environment for you and your clients.

It’s easy to snap to the shorthand. ‘Unprecedented times’ may have sounded apt at the time, but recognise that at some point there’ll be an element of fatigue around these well-worn phrases.

Do you want to receive a diagnostic on your current messaging to your audiences? Contact me to arrange a 15-minute chat.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top