Regardless of whether you believe the scientific data, follow conspiracy theories or think Covid-19 has something to do with political agendas, one thing we can all agree on is that this pandemic has disrupted lives and economies around the world in unimaginable ways. The good news is that we are resilient, we are not strangers to overcoming hardship and adversity, and we will come out of this better, stronger and more prepared than we were before. It’s easy and a bit cliche to say all of those things, but those words have more meaning when you are proactively doing something to ensure that your eruption from the disruption puts you on a trajectory for rapid recovery. When the idea of #StayAtHome and geographic lockdowns first presented itself, I riffed a few ideas on how businesses could address what was happening. Now that we are much deeper into it and impact is being felt I want to share with you, some of the things we are doing with our business, and advising others to do. So…Here’s a list of 5 things you should be doing right now:
Hopefully you’ve done some of these things. If you haven’t, the first thing you should to do is…
Assess your business model and your market and identify the pain points you may be experiencing as a result of the Covid19 Pandemic, but also reflect on the areas of your business that needed attention before a global crisis presented itself. If you are a brick and mortar retailer, is your website up to date and are you offering online ordering? Do you even have an e-commerce website? Some of the conveniences consumers gained through #StayAtHome and #SocialDistancing includes expanded options for online ordering, touchless transactions with online payments and door to door or curbside delivery. Crisis or no crisis, I recommend providing these same conveniences to your customers. Consider it part of the “New Normal”.
Perhaps the only thing more important than identifying your pain points, is identifying the pain points your customers and your local community may be experiencing. Think outside the box and determine whether you can serve their needs in some capacity other than the way you normally do. This exercise may take some creative thinking and may even pull you out of your comfort zone, but the benefits of serving others far outweighs the challenges, and you will find that in the long run, the time and money you may invest in serving others will come back to your business in exponential multiples. If Ford can retool it’s factories to make respirators, ventilators and face shields, and apparel companies are now making face masks, what can you do to meet the needs of your community? Here are a few examples I’ve seen that may give you some ideas:
- A restaurant that converted into a corner grocery store, selling fresh produce and prime cuts of meat to their community.
- Locally, there is a company that makes uniforms, now making machine washable face masks, and is supplying essential businesses locally, and offering their products to consumers online, nationally.
- Our firm is offering free consulting services to startups and small businesses adversely impacted by Covid-19. (sign up)
Alternatively, you may choose to do something as simple as donating lunch and/or products to first responders, frontline healthcare workers or employees at essential businesses. These people are risking their lives for our communities. They deserve everything we can do for them.
As a result of more people staying at home with less to do because of Coronavirus, combined with the fact that most companies are posting less content than they were prior to the pandemic, engagement across social media networks is spiking. Whether your business is currently operating normally or not, it is imperative that you engage your customers and prospective new ones regularly across social media channels. If you aren’t posting something on social media daily, your customers will assume you are closed and may even wonder if your business is going to survive the temporary closure. If you are a retailer, there is no limit to the meaningful content you can provide to engage consumers and funnel them into your website or landing pages. For starters, you can offer daily deals. Even if you don’t have an ecommerce website (which every retailer should have at this point), you can list and sell products on platforms like Facebook with relative ease. You can also showcase different products daily, do product reviews or even do virtual seminars on one of the conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts. The options are endless. The important thing is that you keep the audience engaged. If you weren’t doing it prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, you should be doing it now, and should continue on an ongoing basis. Additionally, if you are actively open for business, you might consider a modest digital marketing campaign to help spread the word and build momentum. When launching digital ad campaigns on platforms like Facebook or Google AdWords, it’s wise to start with a small budget to test and optimize your ad creative, messaging and targeting before blowing your budget on ads that don’t convert. It’s advised to A/B test multiple versions of your ad to see what performs best. Once you hone in on the sweet spot, create multiple versions of ads or even multiple campaigns so that the audience doesn’t get fatigued by seeing the same ads day after day. One you are happy with the way the ads are performing, you can allocate more budget. If your ads aren’t converting, don’t continue to throw money at what isn’t working. You’ve got to figure out what’s not working, and fix it. While running a digital ad campaign is pretty straight forward, analyzing and optimizing performance comes with some complexities. If you need help, there are some resources online to help you navigate through it yourself if you choose. Google AdWords provides an account manager who can help you with their platform and many other products and platforms online that can help the DIY marketer. There are of course, many digital marketing professionals and virtual teams working remotely who can take the guesswork out of the equation for you if you prefer.
PLAN YOUR ERUPTION FROM THE DISRUPTION
Regardless of whether your business has remained open through this health crisis or not, there is no denying the fact or escaping the reality that this pandemic has caused a major disruption to life as we knew it, and when this is all over and done, there will be a new normal. Covid 19 has also slowed us down from our normal pace and given most of us a chance to pause. While it’s important to take advantage of some of that new found time to catch our breath, care for our families and even meditate through the stress and anxiety this may be causing in your life, if you aren’t taking advantage of the time you’ve been given to complete projects and tasks that have been languishing on your to do list or master a new skill, your wasting time and a valuable opportunity. At the very least, you should emerge from this with an updated and optimized website. If you don’t already have an e-commerce website, it’s time to get one built. Online sales are going to be part of the new normal, in fact, one could argue that it was already part of the old normal. Even if you’re a small mom and pop shop, you’ve got to have it. If you don’t, it’s only a matter of time until the online dealers and Amazon collectively eat your lunch. Many businesses with limited products do well with ecommerce sites built with Shopify, however websites built in WordPress are much more robust and powerful. There are plenty of free WordPress Themes (templates) that make building these websites pretty easy, however, this may be an area you want to hire a professional. Unless they do it for a living, this is not the project you want your kid or grandchild to take on. Websites are a lot like digital ads, if they aren’t converting, you’re wasting your time and money and this project in particular is one that takes a significant amount of time. It’s worth hiring a professional to get it done right.
This is also a good time to revisit your business model and your marketing strategy, plan a marketing and promotions calendar or post-pandemic special event. Determine if any course corrections, enhancements or pivots can help drive your Eruption from the Disruption and put those plans in motion.
Whether you are trying to thrive through the shutdown, deal with the slow down, or position your business to emerge from this stronger than you went into it, it is imperative that you put your plan into action and execute your strategy methodically. Even if your business is closed, you should be spending a few hours a day doing something your business will benefit from. For you maybe that’s working on social media engagement, starting a Vlog, improving your website, planning a marketing calendar or taking an online course on digital marketing. If you need help, it’s easier to find than ever, as half the world is either working remotely or living off of government stimulus checks and eager to work.
Most importantly do what you need to do to keep yourself, your family and your community safe through this crisis. We’re all eager to get to the “New Normal” and there is no doubt that we will get there, but don’t expect that to happen overnight. Even when communities re-open, it’s going to be a gradual return to business as usual. Whatever plans you make and actions you take to emerge from this, keep in mind that consumers and communities remember who stood by them when they were down, and if you are able to cater to their pain points or pay it forward in any way right now, they’ll go out of their way to support your business when the New Normal takes shape.
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