Filhaber breaks down the impact of COVID-19 on marketing for small business owners and water treatment providers
WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello asked Dale "DateDale" Filhaber, president for Dataman Group Direct, about how the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, impacts marketing efforts for small businesses and water treatment providers. Read the interview below, which highlights the importance of open communication during crisis and dedicating time to strategize.
Lauren Del Ciello: First off, you had mentioned to me that your office is very busy lately and businesses and dealers seem to be marketing pretty heavily. What kind of factors do you attribute to this trend so far?
Dale "DataDale" Filhaber: First of all, there are two pieces here. We look at ourselves as advisors and consultants for many of the companies we work with and a lot of the companies wanted to know how to communicate during a crisis situation because the way a company communicates during a crisis really shapes how their customers and prospects and employees think about them. So everything that we talk about in terms of marketing at this particular time really has to start with that in mind. And I think that's a very important piece in the messaging and how we look at marketing
Customer Communication During a Pandemic
Del Ciello: What kinds of concrete actions can dealers or a small businesses or really anyone who has some questions about how to communicate during this time–what kinds of steps can they take to keep honest communication channels open while also still protecting their own safety?
Filhaber: Of course, I want to bring also the Water Quality Association (WQA) piece into this because one of the things that WQA continues to talk about is ethical marketing and how during all of the different crises the water industry continues to flow through. I think one of the things that's very important about marketing during this time is not to create fear. People are scared enough. What you want to do is create reassurance because your people–whether it's customers, employees or prospects–want to know what your company is doing and how you are planning to keep them healthy and safe.
I think it's really important to provide factual information because a customer's experience is made up from the marketing, to the in-home sales presentation, to how the product works in their home, and how they're going to talk about it to other people, and how it is serviced. It's a whole experience thing in terms of how the water industry products protects and creates a healthy environment. So I think that that's part of the message that the industry needs to evoke.
Del Ciello: It's so important to stress scare tactics are not the way we need to be communicating right now. That's not how we're going to get to our end goals together.
Filhaber: That's right. And I think the word "together" is really important. Again, that's a reassuring word. In marketing, there are some words that work better than others. Some words that are more reassuring. Some words that convey a better idea. So marketing at this time is really important.
Strategizing Marketing for the Long Term
Del Ciello: For those who may be staying inside and practicing social distancing right now, how can they use this time to position their business for success when eventually and hopefully we returned to a normal state?
Filhaber: One of the things that I've been doing is working on my own website because this is the time where you can go page-by-page. Now the Dataman Group website has 738 pages, give or take, and my job at this point is going to go through each page to make sure everything is current and up-to-date. Every link connects and that I've done as good a job as I can for SEO and how to be found when somebody goes online. So I think that's really important for business owners to do.
That's part of putting together their entire marketing plan because when the all clear sounds and businesses need to get up and running again, they need to make sure that they have their marketing in place and ready to turn on just like a faucet. Because when the economy switches up and people start wanting to do business again and you know it's full steam ahead businesses need to be ready. I think marketing is a really important opportunity for people to take the time to focus on right now.
Del Ciello: Good advice. It can absolutely be a time to focus on long-term strategy. My last question for you is how can businesses potentially learn from these experiences to create an even more resilient future?
Filhaber: First of all, this is the water industry. In this industry, the glass is half full, not half empty. We're going to get through it, we're going to get through it together, and we're going to be better than ever.
Del Ciello: Couldn't have said it better myself.
*Editor’s note: The above interview has been edited for grammar and clarity. The above interview was recorded March 24, 2020.