Strategies for Businesses Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak
By now, you’re probably somewhat of an expert on COVID-19. There’s been lots of information shared around what businesses can do to accommodate this unique situation, but not a lot of discussion around how businesses can ensure the continued success of their organization.
We know you’ve put your life, sweat, blood, and many tears into your business. We know you’re a servant to your community, your team, and your clients. We want to ensure the amazingly positive ripple effects that you create in your community will continue on for years to come!
What should businesses be doing during this challenging time?
I wanted to provide some insights and offer some guidance, as well as share some stories of what some of our amazing and creative clients are doing. We have clients in many different industries and while we are all affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in one way or another, some businesses are more directly impacted than others.
The travel industry has been hit the hardest. One of our clients in the travel industry, USA River Cruises, is getting creative and really focusing on serving their clients. I’m just blown away by Cindy’s (the Owner) leadership and mindset during what is no doubt a challenging time for them. Here’s what she said, and I’m paraphrasing:
“While others in our industry are freaking out and making fear-based decisions, we’re using this opportunity to get strategic and double down. We’re really focusing on getting creative and taking care of our clients. We believe this will be over soon and we’ll actually expand our market share when all is said and done.”
She’s inspired me to look at every challenge with a different perspective to find where the opportunity lies. Sometimes it’s just that there’s an opportunity to help. We helped create a notice on their website to notify all clients not only about the flexible rescheduling options, but about some amazing incentives they’re having.
I’m going to share some tips that are good for everyone, but if you’re in one of the more directly impacted businesses these perspectives should help.
Get Your Mind Right
Your team, your industry, and your community need your leadership now more than ever! There’s no question that we’re going to get through this and people will remember how you stepped up to help (or didn’t). The most important factor in determining the success of a business is the mindset of the leader(s).
Put yourself in the minds and hearts of your clients. In my book, Future Proof Your Marketing, I shared a simple methodology for creating effective marketing strategies and adapting to future changes. Little did I know it would apply to a national emergency around a virus. In short, here is what I said:
“Customer centered marketing ensures that the better we understand the customers needs and behavior, the better we can align our strategy to serve our customers and to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Not only does this help you win now, but by keeping your finger on the pulse of the customer and continually monitoring their journey, you will be able to adapt as their needs and behaviors change.”
Do you think some of the needs and behaviors of your customers may have changed recently? The short answer is, YES! This is a massive behavioral shift for everyone and more people will be looking online to meet their needs. Marketing budgets that used to be going to trade shows, events, and print ads are being moved to online marketing. How can you better help your customers during this time?
Be Proactive, Do Your Part & Communicate with Your Customers
Your clients and potential clients will be reassured by seeing that you’re addressing any potential issues and that you’re stepping up to not only do your part, but to take care of them.
- Don’t assume people know you’re open for business. Let them know!
- Don’t assume people know you’ve taken additional precautions to keep them and the community safe.
- Get these communications out to your clients via email, your website, social media, etc.
- One of our clients (for 11 years now) Kidspace Child Enrichment Center, shared a well thought out update on Facebook.
- Support other small businesses and people who are working. Purchase something, give a little larger tip, buy a gift card, or just be kind. We can all be kind.
Be Creative and Change Your Perspective
This is probably the most important practice. If you haven’t been “thinking outside the box” as a consistent part of your business then this challenge may bring you some opportunity after all. You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
- How can you provide additional value for your customers during this time?
- Can you sell online or over the phone?
- Can you presell? Many people are looking to support local businesses during this time. They may be more inclined to support a business if they’re offering a great deal. You could presell gift cards/certificates at a discounted rate. I’d happily buy gift cards at a 30% discount because I’ll just use them in a few months when this has calmed down. Don’t be shy in telling others how they can support your business. USA River Cruises has negotiated some amazing deals for their customers that want to book travel later this year or in 2021!!
- How can you adapt to better utilize online marketing/selling/meeting/working?
- Fewer people will be out and about. People will be spending a lot more time online using search engines to find solutions for their needs. They’ll be on social media discussing solutions with their friends and family. How can you make sure you’re showing up for them? What content can you create during this time that provides additional value and can be shared?
- Unfortunately, during any market contraction, there will be a number of businesses that close. While that sucks, it does represent an opportunity in the market to serve the customers who are no longer being served. When the market bounces back you will actually have a larger market share of a larger market.
- Whether you’re working or meeting online you can take advantage of Microsoft, Google, and Zoom offering their solutions for free during this time (great idea BTW).
- Did you put off selling online in the past? There’s a number of different ways you can do it. Now, might be the time.
- Can you become more efficient by utilizing technology (your website, software and other solutions)?
- For some of our friends in the restaurant industry that are only able to serve take out or do delivery as of today (3/16):
- Could you partner with some businesses to provide lunches to their team? Contact us!
- Can you deliver? I would like to know as I’ll have food delivered to our team to show them the love and help support your business.
- How can you show support for some of the amazing people on the front lines of this epidemic? See one example here.
- Re-frame: Sometimes it’s about changing the way you view things. One client was worried about the schools closing down and how that would impact their business. They work with youth and in the past, they followed the schools’ lead on a number of things. After some discussions, they thought to themselves why have we always done it that way? Could we do it differently?
- They changed their perspective and saw the opportunity of the kids/parents having more time and their schedules potentially being more flexible. They created new heightened safety standards that included social distancing where only 3 kids could be in at a time and they were all in separate rooms. They communicated these practices to the parents and let them know that they were receiving additional scheduling requests and they are doing their best to accommodate them. Low and behold parents were like that’s right, we can schedule more sessions with the additional time.
- Celebrate more! This is a great time to celebrate every new and current customer. Share this on social media, on your website, via email, and thank them for their support. Ask your customers to share via social as well. There’s no better time to activate your “Brand Champions” (The people that love your brand/organization/you) to share that they’re supporting your local business and encourage others to do the same.
When I look back on some of the hardest and most challenging aspects of my life, I realize how beneficial those experiences were. How they made me, our team and our company what we are today. While you’re in the struggle, it can be much harder to think about what positive will come out of this, but it’s critical that we not only think about addressing the challenges in front of us now but see a vision for a better future and strive to make that happen.
Smart businesses that don’t let fear determine their decisions and take action now will emerge stronger and in a better position in the next few months as things calm down. My hope is that you are one of them!
In order to help, I’ve blocked out two openings a week for non-clients and the rest of my schedule is dedicated to serving our clients the next 6-8 weeks. I will personally spend time with any business (no additional charge) to help them strategize and brainstorm creative ways to help them flourish.
Please just reach out to your Account Manager or if you’re not a client just call our office and ask for David. He’ll schedule some time for us to get together.
Additional resources for businesses:
- $10,000 Emergency Grant Online Application: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/. If you haven’t applied for the 10K, DO IT NOW! It takes 10-15 minutes and it does not need to be paid back if you’re using it to cover qualified expenses like payroll, etc.
- Payroll Protection Program: I’ll include a link as it is updated. This is a forgivable loan for up to 2 and a half times your monthly payroll expenses for businesses that qualify.
- Google Ad Grants (SMBs who have been active advertisers since the beginning of 2019 will see a credit notification appear in their Google Ads account in the coming months.) https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9803410?hl=en
- Facebook Ad Grants: https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/grants