A few weeks ago, our team members traveled to a client to conduct a site visit. That same weekend, a team member attended an arena soccer game with family members. Fast-forward today we are all practicing social distancing with our children and pets serving as our coworkers as we hunker down to protect ourselves and each other from contracting the novel coronavirus.
The beauty of Brand3's business model is that we were already afforded the opportunity to serve our clients in a remote capacity. As a remote company, we can continue to push projects forward and stay in contact with each other using collaborative tools while safely remaining in our homes. For other small business owners, working virtually has been a challenge, especially in such a short amount of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading quickly, with things changing rapidly in real-time. As the situation evolves, many small business owners are unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk and continue marketing. Aside from the growing human toll and panic, small businesses will have to shift how they operate, and how they market their products and services. Here are five things that small business owners should consider when navigating this pandemic.
1. Avoid knee-jerk reactions
A survey conducted last month by Econsultancy with hundreds of marketers revealed that brands are choosing between short-term goals and long-term planning. About half of them say they are reconsidering their marketing initiatives. It makes sense that companies are anxious about the looming recession and want to focus on short-term tactics.
Simon Sinek stated in his book "The Infinite Game" that businesses need to think ahead and play the long game rather than focus simply on "the next quarter." He says that finite games are played with known players, known rules, and a known period of time - the end of the game. In infinite games, there are can be unknown variables and more space for going against conventional methods to play for the long run. What this could mean for your business is being strategic about planning through the crisis and beyond.
2. Don't slash your marketing budget
To add to the point above, many small businesses may scale back on marketing dollars or get rid of marketing altogether. While this step can defend profits in the very short term, it also leaves your brand weakened and much less profitable post-recession. Demand is likely to decline and remain low during the COVID-19 crisis, but that does not mean it's going away. In fact, financial experts expect a spike in shopping and product demand once the crisis starts to subside.
While marketing is important, it has to be smart. Halt any automated marketing campaigns or messaging through emails, social media, or mass outreach so that your company does not sound tone def with everything currently happening. Maintaining a healthy level of marketing investment through an economic downturn could help businesses seize market share from competitors. Many competitors will not continue marketing during the downturn and that will help your business stay ahead of others in the industry. Be sure to consider the needs of your customers and ask "How can we help you?" Customers will remember your positioning during this time and it will impact their decisions to stay loyal to your brand.
3. Stay engaged
As the rest of the world adjusts to remaining confined to their homes, people worldwide have taken to social media to elevate their own experiences, experiences of others, and share information. We are witnessing firsthand the personal benefits of social media as it becomes a resource to help us cope with isolation and stay connected. These platforms provide infrastructure and access for government agencies, hospitals, and health care organizations to coordinate and engage with the public.
As the world shifts to being almost completely virtual, humans still crave interaction with people. People are even more starved for engagement through online entertainment and education. It is important to use social platforms to connect with customers in real-time with the use of video messaging, 1:1 messaging, and community-focused groups on social media (don't forget to include Tik Tok and Reddit along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
4. Craft the right messaging
Social platforms can also serve as a medium to remind customers that "we've got your back." Messaging can be both transparent and coherent - expressing confidence that the nation and your business will continue to survive post-pandemic, while acknowledging this is a time of adjustment. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together.
In this time, businesses are still expected to do their part. Take advantage of this opportunity to talk about what your business is doing to help. Many businesses have made announcements that they are providing additional sick time or making donations, and these marketing messages can be very powerful.
It is no question that we are in the midst of uncertain times. This can also be an opportune moment to evolve into better leaders and stay updated on the transition of working together in a remote capacity. Employees will remember those who led while customers will remember companies who showed up and helped them. During a crisis, social platforms can serve as a vital channel to help spread awareness and raise funds. Through these platforms, brands can not only connect with customers for business-related communication but also to spread positivity during a time of crisis with careful messaging and making contributions to a worthy cause.
While each brand should determine if a permanent shift to a full digital transformation makes sense for its business, it is still a crucial time to become acquainted with technological solutions for the short-term. However, it may be necessary for survival in the long-term to make investments in digital infrastructure to adjust to this "new normal."
As a small business, Brand3 relies heavily on Zoom to interact internally and with our customers. Zoom offers a "whiteboard" feature that allows all participants to annotate and contribute to during brainstorming sessions, and with a few clicks you can make Zoom much more secure. Slack is a messaging tool that is available as an app on desktop and mobile. Teams can instantly communicate with each other with push notifications faster than typical emails without bombarding your phone's text inbox. Additionally, attachments can be included and there is a search functionality that allows you to find old conversations. Basecamp is our project management tool of choice as it allows teams to track the status of tasks and projects in a streamlined package.
Take this list and apply what works for your business in your context. Brainstorm other ideas you can apply for your business and take action. And more than anything, remain calm and optimistic. You can do this!
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