10 Things you Should be Doing in your Business Right Now to Help you Survive and Thrive in this Pandemic.
Firstly, I hope you are staying safe and healthy and are ok mentally and financially. This is obviously going to be a difficult time for many and a lot of small businesses may not make it out the other side unscathed. Hopefully, your business is not one of those. However, it is ALWAYS better to hope for the best but plan for the worst. To that end, I have created my top ten tips to give you a roadmap to move forward with for your business through the ongoing COVID-19 Crisis.
1. Do your bit to help contain the spread – The only way we are going to get back to normal and get this bloody thing under control is to take all the appropriate steps to stop the spread. I assume, that like most, you have been putting in place the appropriate steps including increased cleaning and allowing staff the ability to work remotely where possible.
2. Make sure you can fulfil orders – You can’t pay bills if you can't get an income and you can't get income if you can’t fulfil your orders. Make sure you have a solid plan in place to continue on no matter what happens. Find a partner (even if its a competitor) and ensure that you can help each other through as a backup strategy if and when the need arises. It is better to have this plan in place early to avoid panic later on.
3. Chase the work that is out there – Whilst, for a lot of small businesses, it seems as though the world has fallen off a cliff there are a significant number of businesses out there that are seeing an incredible surge in business. If you can chase work from medical centres, takeaway stores, mortgage brokers, job centres, corner supermarkets etc then you need to be…now. Businesses that sell products or services that are in highest demand will need all the help they can get now as much as anyone, so find their pain points and give them the solutions they need to deal with their rush.
4. Tweak your marketing – Ok let’s get this out of the way up front…. It is NOT sensible to continue on with your normal marketing and pretending like nothing is going on. I saw a great quote today that said “marketing is all about engaging with the conversations your customers are already having” and ignoring what is going on around the world today will make your brand appear tone-deaf. One of the best things you can do right now is to help your customers out as much as you possibly can. Provide them with as much free information as you can because EVERYONE is looking for the right advice at the moment. It is unchartered territory for us all. If you provide value to your market you will endear new customers to your brand while locking in your existing customers when things bounce back. People remember who gave them great support and the right advice when they needed it most. Be that guy.
5. Increase your online presence – If you can afford it, now is a great time to build your database. People are soaking up information as quickly as possible and so it is a great time to start getting people engaged and signed up for your business e-communications and newsletters. It is also a time that many people are pulling back on keyword advertising making it an ideal time to start buying leads for a lower overall acquisition cost. You should also be focussed on your social media at this time, as more people are spending more time on it. And of course, if you do not have a good ecommerce presence then you should also be looking at this seriously. More and more businesses will be moving into online sales over the coming months and with it, overall consumer habits will shift. When that happens, ecommerce will become even more critical than, in my opinion, it already is.
6. Create or join a community – Now more than ever, people are looking for the support of a community. One of our clients' strategic plan included the release this May of a Closed Group Facebook Community to allow their customers a safe space to network and use each other as sounding boards for ideas and strategies. Given the current climate, they have escalated the launch of this Facebook Group and now intend to use this platform intensely over this period of instability to highlight to everyone that they are not in this by themselves and that as a united community they can get through this together. People are screaming out for leaders. If you can create your own community within your customer database and position yourself as a leader in your marketplace this will hold you in good stead for a long time to come.
7. Promote entry level products and services– Everyone is going to be looking to cut back and save where they can and so even though it does not mean you can't go after high end sales, you are bound to get better conversion by focussing on the entry level products. It may mean less overall margin, but a good margin is irrelevant if no-one is buying at the top end. Another critical fact for all small business to understand is that we are increasingly living in a world market. Your customers would much rather use a trusted supplier such as yourself but if there is a way to save some money in a climate like this, they will. You need to be innovative and creative to either prove the return on investment on your service over suppliers globally or bend to the market. I am not saying you need to drop your prices through the floor, but you need to be very mindful of where your customer's heads are at and price your products and services in a method that will allow you to stay relevant in the overall marketplace wherever possible.
8. Focus on efficiencies – Whenever we survey customers one of the biggest pain points we hear is that no one has the time to do everything they need to do in a day. Well, guess what? You now have the time… so use it wisely. Make sure you use the downturn as an opportunity to take some inward reflection on your systems and procedures to identify efficiencies you can put in place now, to make your life easier when things pick up. We all know that we could save ourselves time in the long run if we could just set aside enough time to get a new system or procedure set up here and there. Don’t waste this opportunity to make this happen, because when you get busy again you will regret not having put the work in when you had the time.
9. Cash is king – As the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I am finding it interesting to see that restaurants forced to temporarily shut down are promoting gift vouchers, airlines are promoting heavily reduced up front payment deals for next years flights and pay for one and get one free type of promotions are popping up everywhere. All these promotions are key to keeping cash flow moving. If you have debtors then one of your biggest risks throughout this period is that even your good payers stop paying you. Do what you need to do to preserve your cash flow as this will be the lifeblood that gets you through.
10. Look for ways to Pivot – If the last week has not given you the feeling that all your eggs are in the one basket then it probably means you have a well balanced business with a good spread of risk. However, if you have received a bit of a reality check then you are probably amongst the majority rather than the minority. Once the dust settles and you get through the process of implementing your immediate crisis management plans the very next thing on your to do list needs to be a look at your long term strategic planning. Every business large or small has the opportunity and your business in this time is no exception. So even if your long term goals are in place the coronavirus curveball will no doubt effect this in some way. What can you do to realign your plans and more importantly, take the opportunities that are out there right now? For example, there are an awful lot of businesses out there right now that are worrying about the ramifications this will have to their bricks and mortar businesses. If you don’t offer website services but know your stuff then this may be a good time to pivot into this market even if you rely on partners to assist with the technical stuff. If you are already an expert from working from home, you are in a great position to offer your services to help others out who have suddenly been thrust out of their comfort zone and if you know you have a customer out there who has a pain point that you know you could be uniquely positioned to assist even if it is not part of your core delivery, this may be the time to take the leap into that new area for your business.
Whatever your plan of attack and whatever you do from here, the most important thing to remember is that THIS WILL END, even though it may not feel like it now. The period we are in now can only be temporary and so your primary goal needs to be survival. Those that come out of the other end of this crisis are going to be well placed for long term growth and sustainability as markets inevitably bounce back. Follow these tips and your business will have the best chance to be one of them.