Brian Garside is the founder of Manage Comics, subscription pull list software for comic shops, and he’s dedicated his life to helping comic stores grow, survive and thrive. This post is part of his series “Managing Your Shop

All week I have been working with comic shops to help them adapt to the current situation.

I have talked with comic shop owners who are trying to figure out how to survive in this climate, and with Diamond announcing that they are suspending all new shipments, we’ve been working on ways to make sure that even though their doors are dark, they are able to continue to pay bills.

I want to re-iterate right now that I am here to help. I don’t care whether you’re a Manage Comics customer or not. If there is any way I can help you, I am here for you.  Book a meeting with me and I will do what I can for you, I want to see comic shops survive this.

I’ve got 30 years of marketing and technical experience, making websites work better, using email systems, content marketing, payment gateway experience and more.

How to communicate about your store during a crisis

With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring unprecedented efforts to contain and control it, many states, counties and cities are requiring non-essential services to close. With Diamond’s decision to stop shipping new product effective immediately, we’re in new water, and many store owners have unwanted downtime and a sharp decrease in sales.

We don’t know when this will end, or how bad it will get before it is over. Uncertainty is a terrible thing for an entire industry that is based on predictability and consistency. One thing you have known for decades is that every Wednesday new comics will ship, but April 1st that will no longer be the case.

So what do you do? While comics aren’t an essential service, they are a quality of life service. They can help stave off the boredom of quarantine or self isolation, and communication is key during this time.

Step 1: Review and Revise your Service Offering

Shutting your doors to the public does not necessarily mean shutting down operations for your store. Now is the time to adapt to this unexpected change to continue to serve your customers and make sales.

Many businesses including comic book stores have adapted their business operations to now serve customers through shipping options, curb-side pickup, and even home delivery.

What you do and how you are able to offer service depends entirely on your area. Make sure that you are abiding by all local rules and regulations as we all strive to flatten the curve.

Most of your customers are stuck at home and looking for entertainment options to keep themselves and their families occupied during this crazy time. This gives comic book stores an opportunity to grow their sales by adapting to their customer’s needs and make it easier for their customers to access their products.

While this health crisis has created the necessity for comic book stores to adapt quickly to these sudden changes, these tips can also remain in place to address downtime that occurs under regular circumstances in your shop.

When customers don’t come to you, you need to go to your customers.

Step 2 – Increase Communication with Your Customers

Offering new services is just a part of transitioning the focus of your business. You must also raise awareness with your customer base and followers that these services are readily available and running smoothly.

Now is the time to increase your communication strategies and frequency to keep your customers informed and motivated to make purchases.

Ensure you are delivering a clear and unified message to your customers across all of your available communication channels.

Let them know what you are doing to ensure both your own, as well as their safety during this time.

Communication strategy for your website

Your website should be the first line of communication. Anything you say here will be reflected in search engines, especially if you make this messaging the first thing the search engines see.

Create a visible and prominent message on your main web pages explaining the current status of your store and any impacts on your operations due to the coronavirus.

Explain all the precautions your shop is taking to address the health crisis and what steps are being taken to keep your staff and customers safe.

Then, take the opportunity to direct your customers to your available delivery options as well as how to place their orders whether it is online or by phone.

For Manage Comics we’ve created a prominent banner at the top of our page which says exactly what we are doing.  You’ll notice that Google has picked up on this and adjusted our summary with the same messaging.

Key Messaging

Communication Strategy for Social Media

Your social media channels will be your easiest and most impactful way to remain connected and grow your customer base.

Make sure to post all information regarding the crisis and updates to your services and offerings as they happen.

Keep in contact with your customers and express your gratitude and need for their continued support through this difficult time. Remind your customers of delivery options as well as post content, suggestions, and questions to keep them engaged.

Now’s a great time to get some dialogue going about some of your favorite comics, trades and graphic novels. Showcase some great art, or engage with your favorite creators. Creators like Nick Bradshaw are doing amazing things to reach out to comic shops.

Sample social media post:

Vision Mini-Series

Hey fans, one of our favourite stories from the last few years was Tom King’s Vision mini-series from Marvel. It’s influencing the upcoming WandaVision series on Disney+. Have you read it yet?

Communication Strategy for Email

Use your email capabilities to contact your customers in a more personal manner explaining the details surrounding the situation, the impact on your store, delivery and shipping options, as well as ways they can continue to support your shop.

Remind them you are ready and available to fulfill their orders and continue to provide your services. Use email for one-to-one communications to let them know what is waiting for them, and how they can help your store by paying for their orders.

Also, be human. Let them know that you’re counting on them in your time of need. Cashflow is king now more than ever, and getting cash into your business right now will be key to you staying open long term.

Sample email:

Hi (storename) fans;

We just want to let you know that we’re still here and ready to provide you some much needed entertainment during this time. We’ve taken extra precautions with (the ways you are staying safe) and we’re making sure any packages we make are safe as well by (the things you do to keep packages safe).

If you’d like to place an order, it’s easy to do (describe how they can order from you).  We have options for how your books can come to you.

During this time, it’s vital to us as a small business that we keep paying our bills so we need your support now more than ever.

Thanks (ownername)

Personalized Notes

A small gesture such as a handwritten note dropped into a delivery package expressing your gratitude for their continued support can create a positive long-lasting relationship with that customer.

It’s always the little things like this that delight customers because they know that you took time out of your day to give them a tiny piece of yourself. Whether that’s a quick handwritten note, a little doodle, or even just a small thank you on a post it note.

Lil Cyke

Step 3 – Set your Communication Schedule

It is important to maintain routine communication with your customers through various communication channels.

Aim for updating and communicating through your website on a weekly basis; this can be done through announcements, updates, or blog posts.

Use a weekly email to keep your customers updated on the latest happenings and special offers.

Post daily on social media where you have the ability to not only connect with your current customers but attract new customers and grow your following.

How can we help you?

I’ve been working one-on-one with shops all week, and I’m happy to help in any way I can.  At Manage Comics we can help you set up an online presence quickly and keep your business up and running during this time to ensure you continue to bring in revenue and remain connected with your customers.