First off, if you are looking for ways to make a quick quid out of the coronavirus, back the way you came! This post is not for you. Cashing in at a time like this is morally bankrupt and you should asses your life choices. For everyone else:
Rule #1: Do not make fearful decisions.
It’s fair to say none of us have ever seen anything like this before. The Corvid-19 outbreak has caused a global scale health crisis and has begun causing a global business crisis as well – the vast majority of businesses will be affected in one way or another and it’s tempting to knee jerk reaction ourselves into hasty decisions that may adversely affect our businesses far beyond the current situation.
I myself am totally at risk of being financially hit by this crisis, so I thought it would be a great time to offer some crisis management advice to my clients. It’s times like these that we really need to trust the experts, so trust me to offer you some advice on how you can mitigate the damage of the situation, refocus your efforts and consider the sudden change in market as a way for you to shift your marketing activity to retain your customers and potentially reach new ones. Plus, do some social good while you’re at it!
Rule #2: Look after your staff first.
If you’re worried about your business, then your staff are worried too. Enabling your staff to do their jobs as best as they can is the first thing to get right – being as productive as possible will keep everything calm and this is the best thing you can offer your customers as well. As of 16th of March 2020, the UK government has advised that if your staff can work from home, they must. If you are an office based company, then your staff can probably do their work from home. If you are a larger company with an IT resource, they will be your first port of call in getting your employees setup for home working.
If you are a smaller company and don’t have tech savvy staff, then here are some resources to get you setup and get things working.
Communicating as a team from home is important: Skype, Microsoft or Whatsapp might be the first things that come to mind when you want to do this, but I would recommend Slack – a lesser known solution that is free for small groups and offers many ways to keep things organised.
If you require a collaborative project management system to keep your jobs organised and see where you are at a glance, I would recommend Trello as a fantastic, free way to get started.
If you are worried about your staff slacking off and being unproductive, then a system such as Clockify can keep track of what your teams are spending their time on.
If you are a small or medium business and need advice on how to migrate your staff to remote working. Get in touch and I would be happy to make recommendations.
Rule #3: Reassure your customers.
People are rightly concerned about their health and the number one thing on people’s minds is how to prevent themselves from getting infected with the virus. If your business relies on close contact with customers, then this is your number one challenge. Think of ways to continue your business activity without making face to face contact if possible: Phone calls are great, video calls are even better: Facetime (Apple devices only), or Whatsapp are universal and easy to use. If you need to show people presentations, screen sharing or need something a little more professional, services such as Zoom and Teamviewer offer excellent features.
If your business is inherently customer facing and without this you cannot function, this poses a bigger risk and a bigger challenge. You must first build trust with your customers and then communicate your actions to them so that they are confident enough to continue using your services. Ensure they can rely on you to reduce their risk of infection.
Most importantly, absolutely do not pressure your customers into interacting with you if they do not feel safe doing so. If you run a subscription model business, consider freezing their payments or offer incentives that will add value for them in the long term. If they are happy to continue using your services, then make sure you have done everything you can to reduce risk: No hand shaking, offer hand sanitisers on your premises, create space between individuals to reduce exposure, hire more cleaning staff and ensure you are using virus killing cleaning fluids. Take any practical steps necessary to keep your customers safe.
Once you have decided on your plan of action to reduce risk, communicate these actions to your customers. Do not be afraid to ask them to take measures to protect you, your staff and your other customers as well – this is going to take a group effort if it is going to work. Put up signs, send emails or have 1-2-1 conversations to let people know you’ve done all you can to mitigate risk and that you expect them to do the same.
Rule #4: Find a new angle.
While it is easy to feel helpless at times like this and think that your customers are gone for good. In reality, they are still there, but many are working from home or have temporarily changed their lifestyles so that they are not able to interact with you in the way they did before. With any huge and sudden change in behaviour there are opportunities, not to take advantage of the situation, but to actively fill in a new void that has been created by this mass change in society.
Shift your thinking and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What do they need? What new challenges are they facing by being away from the office and potentially unable to access amenities on the outside?
This isn’t applicable to 100% of businesses, but here are some examples:
IT companies: If your customers are working from home, they are going to need IT support to get tools and services setup, approach local small and medium businesses who do not have an IT department – let them know what you would recommend.
Estate agents: Offer virtual valuations of homes. Setup and test software so that you can instruct customers on how to show you around their properties and offer them your normal service, remotely.
Restaurants: If you are not a takeaway business, become one! Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats all offer platforms for you to get your business setup online. Get your food to the people if they can’t come to you.
Bricks and mortar shops: If you sell clothes, candles or pet food. You can get your business online. eBay, Amazon’s seller platform and Shopify all offer quick ways to get setup as an online store – you need to pay a commission fee – but it may be a way to weather the storm until you customers return.
Rule #5: Know your own worth.
Many businesses are going to look to cut costs and shed extra weight, this is going to hit contractors, freelancers or zero hours contracts employees. If you are worried that your service may be seen as a luxury or surplus to basic business requirements – prove them wrong! Think about what you offer to your clients and explain to them why they still need you during these times.
As a marketer and web designer I will come up with ideas for my customers to ride this out as best they can. I will use my creative ideas to keep them viable and afloat, and I will use my communication skills on their behalf. So that their customers are being reached and assured, and my customers messages are reaching the right people.
Remember the phrase; ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. When people are required to adapt they will, and this means that grafters and astute people will be starting their own businesses from home. This will create a new market with new opportunities for you – make sure you’re there when that happens.
Rule #6: Help the community.
This situation is very serious and ensuring you secure your business continues is important, but helping your fellow human beings is more important. If your business is robust, or if you have found a niche way to reach or even increase your customer base because of the coronavirus, then give back. What can your business do to help your community? For me, I thought it was important to write this article to spark creative ideas amongst my customers and help them help themselves. I’ve also used my expertise in business management to help set up a local Mutual Aid group for my area
Stay connected to your customers and your community, help your employees if they need time off, donate your time or some cash to organisations supporting vulnerable individuals. Do your bit, and for the love of God, wash your hands!
If you need help with your marketing or general business advice during these unusual times. Get in touch and I would be happy to help.