Do you have a revised business and marketing plan for the next 90 days?
Now is the time to market your business. If you have resources available use them. If you are able to use them in a manner that generates revenue, that would be my focus, however if you cannot use them for revenue generation, use them to do good within your community. You have a duty to your employees, team members, and investors to do what is reasonably possible to keep your people and your firm moving forward. That being said, if you cannot generate business in the traditional sense, the next best focus is goodwill. Generating goodwill has the ability to pay massive dividends for your company at a later date. Goodwill is such a powerful tool many major corporations list it on their financial sheets for very large numbers. Goodwill is the value of your firm within your local community. The sense, feeling, or emotional reaction people have to seeing your brand or brand image.
You are not likely to generate a big brand type of recognition, but a local newspaper, non-profit group, or tight-knit neighborhood goes a long way. This type of awareness is only one side of the goodwill equation. The other side of the equation is the company culture you build through allowing your team members the opportunity to participate locally, and help people in need. Every business relies on customer service, and community service directly correlates to a more empathetic approach to serving customer needs. It also builds cohesion and a sense of belonging amongst your teams. The opportunity to do good for people in need is a win-win for everyone. If you can pay your staff during this time, pay them. If you cannot pay them, be upfront about this. Would they like to volunteer their time and get out of the house? It may also be helpful to explain the pay-it-forward benefits community service will have once the society returns to normal and the economic uncertainty subsides.
As you embark on using your resources for the greater good, don’t forget to take pictures. Post daily or multiple times a day as your team(s) have little successes or produce an eye-catching smile on the face of someone who needed the help. Use your Facebook page to self-promote your team members and their commitment to helping others. Apply appropriate hashtags to your Instagram pictures and geo tag them so others around you get an opportunity to see the good work you and your firm are doing. Tag others you’re working with on Twitter and ask your friends and family to retweet these events. Show the world you’re still open. This feel-good digital marketing will be instrumental in the future as you resume normal operations. Plug into your YouTube channel and upload a video explaining what your company is doing and why you’re doing it. How does this align with your company mission? How does it resonate with your personal values? Entrepreneurs and business owners tend to be natural leaders and have an innate drive to do good for others. Under normal circumstances this may be filling a void in the marketplace by providing a good or service for a fee, but giving back to the community under such extreme conditions is a natural extension. Blog about your experiences, tell the world about the pride you feel as you see your company taking on a mind of its own and doing good for local people and organizations in need.
A firm well positioned to handle increased demand once this pandemic has been controlled will reap a lion’s share of the work. The secret is to be ready for it. Make sure your equipment is maintained, your process is polished, your team is presentable, and your marketing keeps your entity ‘top-of-mind’ within the customer’s sphere. This cannot be stressed enough. Start your marketing now. It requires a tremendous amount of ‘touches’ to influence new customers. Assuming you’re established, run two campaigns. One to focus on reaching existing customers and one to focus on new customers. Certainly the two will overlap, and just as with a Venn diagram you will likely find common elements or themes that cross both circles, however the strategies can vary. Use one strategy to educate. Educate people about who you are and what you do. This is for new customers, make sure the media is clear and concise. Try to let photos do the talking where applicable. Design Facebook ads that will capture people’s attention and motivate them to take action. Properly designed ads can also be used to broadcast on Instagram at the same time using the same call-to-action. Ask for the page like, the initial appointment, the booking, or the sale. Use the advertisement as the top of the funnel then make sure your organic page content is in-line with the same ideas. Make sure you’re offering your customers value and providing them peace of mind that you and your people are the trusted experts.
The second strategy is to remind and entice. Make sure your customers haven’t forgotten about you. Remind them how awesome their experience was and provide them a reason to call again. Especially during this economic uncertainty, look to utilize tools that can bring in cash flow now: Prepay and save 10 percent. Consider referral incentives or value add propositions to make an appointment or purchase now. If your company offers a service perhaps you can offer a window of time to purchase gift cards with a guaranteed price. For example, you own a hair salon: Gift cards available for a cut and color, good for up to two years protecting the consumer against potential price increases or inflation, and generating cash-flow for your business immediately. Cash flow is extremely important during such difficult times.
When designing towards these two categories of customer be creative with your content, and design with clear, eye catching messaging in mind. Many people try to add too much text and quite frankly, people don’t read text. In today’s content medium of social media thumb scrolling, there is a 1 second opportunity to grab someone’s attention. Let the picture catch their eye, then let the call to action gather information. The basic tips? Be authentic, demonstrate passion, use humor where possible, and be concise.
If you are able to continue working throughout this social and economic shutdown be sure to follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and make this information clear to employees. Inform them of best practices and educate them on both the benefits of following the guidelines and the risks of not following the guidelines. Ensure you can provide the proper personal protective equipment, encourage the use of increased personal hygiene, surface disinfectant, and continue to practice social distancing techniques of keeping 6 to 10 feet of distance between people and personnel. Written policies and procedures are also a good idea in this situation. During such stressful and uncertain times, a leader cannot over communicate. Keep your customers and your team members informed and up-to-date. The coronavirus pandemic we are currently fighting is a very fluid situation and changes may continue to happen very quickly for a few more weeks or months. Resolve to continual communication between stakeholders via the medium you deem most appropriate. This may include email, YouTube recordings, a team communication app such as Slack or Asana, daily Zoom calls/webinars, or scheduled Facebook live videos.
Over the short-term, this may be a good opportunity to shift or pivot your business functions. Master home builders are advertising limited-time custom built cabinets, cutting boards, or benches to avoid contact with the population as we weather this storm. Counselors built out models to offer video conference calls and appointments to allow their patients access to mental health as we are all sheltering in place. Universities and grade schools are greatly expanding their use of online, remote learning and investing in the tools to do this successfully. All of these revised business models offer firms the opportunity to continue operating during this time period, provide short term solutions to our immediate problem(s), and potentially demonstrate opportunities for the future, or improvements to a current model. This pandemic is tragic, but there is also a tremendous opportunity to work on your business, instead of in your business.
Plan, record, and write down a business and marketing plan for the next 90 days. Look for opportunities to revise, improve, or survive. Build systems and strategies that will allow you to grow and recover as this crisis abates.