Coronavirus (Covid-19) has impacted businesses and individuals across the world. Of course, there is a lot of suffering right now, unfortunately some us are losing our loved ones and thinking about your business’s recovery may be far from your mind. But recover we will, the virus will be cured or steps to mitigate its spread successful. At some point, life will resume with the energy and vigour that we are used too and ‘business as normal’ will resume.
So, what of those businesses that were forced to suspend trading, what about your business? How will we recover from problems caused by Coronavirus. How will we rebuild and recover from the loss of trade?
Whether you are a local retailer, a freelancer, established chain of restaurants or a services business. Even a travel business! When people emerge, blinking into the light and start to leave their homes again, things will eventually get back to normal. There will be pent up demand for your products and services. So how do you prepare your business for 'business as usual'? How do you rebuild? How do you set your sights on growth once again?
Within this post we have collected up some resources and links to blog posts as well as provided our own thoughts and advice on this critical subject. Hopefully we have provided a number of ways that you and your business can start to prepare now, during and get ready for the new world that is sure to come when the Coronavirus crisis is over.
Please remember that Improve Marketing is here for business, we are open (albeit remotely) and normal service continues. If you have any questions with regards to this post, marketing or need help in anyway then feel free to contact us. Even if its just for a chat.
Pandemic Best Practice: Rising cases, closing businesses.
We are in a place right now where the majority of non-essential businesses have closed, airlines are prevented from flying and citizens are being told to self-isolate. Global travel has largely ceased. Supermarkets and Pharmacies are doing well, some services businesses are helping other businesses with HR or to help their workers move from office working to remote working, the supply chain is being coordinated at government level and some non-essential businesses are being told to shut up shop entirely.
But what of all those disappointed customers? What should you do with them? What could you do for them?
Rule number 1 for your business right now is to ‘Be Kind’!
As you know, your customers are the life-blood of your business, your suppliers too. They will remember how you treated them when it all started and positive memories will endure and bring them back once again to choose you, negative experiences will linger much longer.
My partner works in the wedding cake business, she makes amazing cakes for brides up and down the UK. Weddings take so much planning and mean so much to those that are planning them. Although a small business, largely living invoice to invoice, my partner has shown kindness and empathy to her brides, she emailed them all saying how sorry she was that their planning has been disrupted and potentially their wedding days postponed. She has told those that when they are ready and able to confirm a new date, she’ll be there. All deposits are transferable, and her brides can move the date of their weddings and expect to get their amazing cakes whenever they are ready to celebrate their big day. These acts of kindness will be remembered, and no doubt communicated on review sites and via word of mouth later on.
Remember February? #BeKind
On the other hand, there are the wedding venues, some of which appear to be committed to a different route. She has had reports from those same brides of wedding venues refusing to return monies paid, asking brides and grooms to commit to awkward days in the following year, lose their deposit or in some cases lose payment in full. They are trying to protect their revenues yes, but they are doing it in a way that causes stress. Some are using pressure selling, some of the more unscrupulous are trying to use this as an opportunity to fill up unsold weekdays in their 2021 inventory.
As businesses scramble to protect revenues and cash flow or even seem to try and exploit the situation you must remember that your customers are not just that single transaction, that non-refundable deposit, that short term opportunity to take the money and run. Down the road, they aren’t just lost revenue, treated fairly and kindly they will also become your referrers moving forward. Future customers are their friends and families, people that they are connected to on social media. Be wary of this.
Just as the Coronavirus (Covid-19) multiplies and spreads through people, those businesses that were unkind will find that their reputation has too been multiplied positively or negatively. Poor reviews on websites can cripple businesses, just check out what happens on Trip Advisor to poorly reviewed destinations and venues. With Airlines offering non-transferable ‘vouchers’ instead of their customers money back, leisure businesses refusing to allow gift vouchers past their expiry date, your future customers are watching. Indeed, we have already seen lists being created that will be shared throughout and long after this crisis. Companies will be remembered by how they treated their customers in these unprecedented times.
Look after your customers, answer your phones, email and social media where you can. Refund where fair and offer fair alternatives if you cannot.
Stabilisation, preparation and downtime:
At Improve Marketing we work with businesses large and small. Start ups to manufacturers, brands to sole traders. The one thing that unites all of these businesses is ambition. Ambition to grow, in these times ambition to persist and /or keep trading, ambition for their staff and teams, ambition that drives them to be successful.
Coronavirus is causing huge change. It’s disrupting production, distribution, in some instance’s businesses are being told to cease trading until further notice. We can expect this for some time, in fact all the way to recovery. However, there are some winners. For those businesses still operating disruption is inevitable and some businesses are filling the 'new' gaps.
Technology companies like Zoom or Skype for example will have long lasting benefits that will continue long passed this crisis. The disruption that has been caused to the way that we work may change the way that we work entirely. With some businesses realising that their staff can work from home, successfully. Perhaps we’ll even see businesses choosing to work this way in the long term when they realise that their expensive offices are an overhead that their businesses simply do not need.
There will be lots of winners during this crisis. How can your business adapt?
Amazon as ever will thrive, as will other ecommerce retailers who can provide great service and get their products delivered to those who want and need them will of course do well. Online gaming and gambling will thrive. Fitness instructors are taking to Youtube and monetising their social media channels. Learning and resources companies are opening up their inventory to be utilised by those who are stuck in their homes. Business is adapting.
Whatever happens and however long it takes to recover, this crisis will stabilise and eventually recover. So how do you prepare your business for this?
If you are in lock down or your business being prevented from trading, then you might be experiencing more downtime than usual. Working from home, rather than in an office, shop or factory suddenly provides you with more time. So, don’t make it downtime, be productive. Take this time to step back from your business and review it.
Make an action plan, trust your team, look for quick wins and create green shoots.
With so much going on it’s hard to know where to look or what to do next. We have put together a list of useful posts from trusted resources that talk about how to recover from business crisis’s such as the Covid-19 Pandemic (as more become available we’ll continue to add to this list). Here’s that initial list:
Aside the business practices that you’ll need to undertake. Marketing is going to play a huge role in your recovery. If you have downtime, extra time, in fact anytime, it’s time to start planning and activating those plans.
Before all of this had started, had you got a marketing plan? You or your team may have created a marketing plan, if you haven’t got one it would be a good time to put one together. Within your plan you’ll need to have short, medium- and long-term goals. Make it flexible. Planning communications to maintain contact with your customers now, during and once the Coronavirus crisis is over.
Here’s some short, medium and long-term goals that you should consider as part of your plan. Additionally, if you have no marketing plan click the link and find out more about how to write a marketing plan for your business.
Short term goals:
If you had to shut your business, how can you maintain useful contact with your customers? What do they need right now? How can you or your business help them or do something useful to help others. Big clothing manufacturers for example are changing their production to create medical gowns, supermarkets are creating times where the at-risk groups can shop or allowing NHS staff special access and discounts.
If you provide domestic services but are unable to visit your customers homes can you provide some sort of remote help.
Are your products in demand? If so, how can you improve delivery times, or prioritise the most needy. Can you create content to better help customers use those products better, for longer or more efficiently?
Even if all of you are doing is providing useful information such as cancellation details, how a customer could move their appointments or keeping your website opening times up to date. These are all things that your customers will find useful and ultimately thank you for later on. Use your email lists, use social media, use whatever you have to maintain positive communications and updates to all of your customers.
Make sure that your business lives up to its purpose, provide value and be useful.
So many businesses invest in their brands (rightly so), they publish their values and create a living, breathing and recognisable identity that their customers relate to. Make sure that your brand or business lives up to its purpose and values, do not disappoint your customers now, they might not forgive you. Live up to your brands purpose. Raise your standards further.
Medium term goals:
Once you are dealing with the short-term business and marketing requirements, created and executed your short term plan, it’s time to start thinking about recovery. How can you get your business into a better position than it was pre-Coronavirus?
Within your plan you should think about all those jobs that you wanted to do to market your business before. Perhaps you were to busy in the day to day, perhaps you had relied on your customers finding you and you didn’t market at all, maybe you hadn’t got a plan at all? This is the time to write one.
Cash flow is important but so is time, and if time is what you have right now invest that in your business!
When thinking about your plan it’s time to start thinking about what you were and are doing right. Honestly assess your business, look for strengths and weaknesses. Amplify the strengths and mitigate against those weaknesses. Are there any opportunities that will arise from the Coronavirus crisis, think of the technology companies and how they have worked to assist this disruption and how it will benefit them longer term.
Can you provide your services in a different way? How will customers interact with your business, post-Coronavirus. Also understand the threats that could impact you. Particularly those that may impact your team, your cash flow, your customers.
Take the time to understand your customers motivations, revisit who they are, interrogate any data that you may have on them and think about how you can better serve them.
Also important at this time is to take stock on your competitors. Who were / are the winners and losers, what actions did they and are they taking. How could you do something similar, what differences should or could you make to your business. Again, this could be as simple as providing a delivery service, I have no doubt that when the Coronavirus threat disappears, some fear will linger, particularly in those groups that were affected most heavily by the virus. Depending how long this takes to recover from, delivery of certain items may become habitual, online services the widespread norm.
Plan for and target growth. You were most likely marketing your business before, from the smallest businesses marketing through their Facebook page to large businesses with marketing teams and big budgets. This is the time to really review what was working and what was not. Again, go back through your data, understand the impact of everything that you did and did not do and plan not to make those mistakes again.
Target growth in your plan, the data provided at this stage will allow you to not only put realistic values and costs to your marketing but also allow you to forecast potential returns.
Yes, it will be different, but if you are a business that provided a good service or product that demand will return. So be ready for it.
Long term goals:
Unfortunately, some businesses will simply sit this out and when normal business is allowed to resume they will go back to doing what they used to do. Hopefully most businesses will be able to resume trading, but what if your plan was different? What if your plan was more ambitious?
I (the writer), once worked for Go Ape and headed up the marketing team there. For those of you who haven’t heard of Go Ape, Go Ape provides adventurous outdoor activities, tree top adventures, for families across the UK and US. During the 2008/2009 credit crunch, Go Ape decided that their plan would be different. Instead of ‘waiting it out’ they decided to be progressive, to expand. They built more sites, expanded their offering, opening up different markets with their junior courses and built a foundation for growth. When the crisis started to subside, and customers return to the luxury leisure sector Go Ape were already in position.
They had been marketing consistently throughout the credit crunch crisis and had built a springboard from which to grow.
Yes, you can imagine that they were nervous about investing cash rather than holding onto it. But once the good times returned, so did their customers and they enjoyed excellent and consistent growth potentially all the way up until they have been temporarily shut down, like all leisure businesses by the Coronavirus.
So how can your business plan for growth? Whatever the size of your business, there are things that you could be doing now. From revisiting or re-writing your marketing plan to preparing your shop to once again accept customers. Crunching your data to redeveloping your website. There is a whole lot you could be getting on with. So, do it, make the most of any spare time and start to develop plans and strategies that can be used in the short, medium and long term.
There are actions that you can take now that will benefit you in the months ahead. Get ahead of your competitors, act now!
Even if your shop, office for factory is closed there are other steps that you can take now to better understand your marketing, its impact or steps that you can take to raise the visibility of your business.
We have already spoken about maintaining contact with your customers and providing them real value at these uncertain times, this can be achieved with signage, email marketing, social media, content marketing or even changing your business model to provide on demand services.
Perhaps now is the time for you to review your brand? Build a new website or start considering what marketing channels could help your business to grow post-pandemic.
This list goes on, there is no reason to stop working and planning for growth.
To further assist you, below, we have listed information and blog posts that we have previously written to help business get ahead. All of these posts provide actionable and instructional tips and tricks that will help your business to be in a better position to get more customers than it was prior to the Coronavirus / Covid-19 crisis. You can action them now, so consider them in your plans moving forward.
We will continue to produce blog posts and content throughout the Pandemic that can be used to better position your business for when business as usual resumes, and it will resume! We will also be operating as normal, albeit remotely, throughout.
To summarise our thoughts on the Coronavirus crisis here at Improve Marketing would be to ask our readers to focus on the positive. This will end, crisis’s always do. Yes, some businesses might not make it through it, but what can you do now to improve your chances and better position your business in the future?
The answer is:
Take action. Look after your customers and suppliers and make a plan for the future.
If you would like to take action, discuss how we could help your business or have any questions regarding this post or in fact, any of our others then please do get in contact with us. Otherwise stay safe, wash your hands and we look forward to seeing you when this is all over.
Our opening times remain 9:00am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, you can email us or call at anytime.
Best of luck!
The Improve Marketing team.