WRITTEN BY YAHEL DEMETER
The Coronavirus has a crucial effect on many businesses around the world, because as uncertainty rises, people tend to spend less on products and services that are not considered to be a necessity. It is a simple fact. Almost every business, no matter how small or big it is, will feel the current world-scale crisis in one way or another.
THAT MOMENT AT ROCKY POINT
There is a good reason that the Coronavirus keeps everybody’s mind busy: we are trying to control something we can’t, simple as that. It is certainly a once-in-a-generation phenomena, and while we know how and where it started, we don’t know how and where it will end. As the saying goes - we can control the ship, but not the weather.
When seeing empty shelves at the grocery stores, even the most rational people may think whether there is something they don’t know, and each one of us, no matter how rational we are, can remember the first moment we understood that this is going to affect everybody, in one way or another.
For me, that moment was on a sunny morning, after I finished my outdoor run, right here:
Rocky Point, a small and beautiful park in BC, Canada.
OPTIMISM IS GREAT, WHEN IT IS A PART OF A STRATEGY.
For the past 17, almost 18 years, I have been a part of the lives of hundreds of business owners, and I know how it feels, both as a business owner and as a branding, marketing and business development strategist.
So I made a list of action items that I think every business owner should consider to implement. I made it because almost every phone call or e-mail I get nowadays from clients, deals with this situation and asks questions about the future in one way or another, and if there is a room for careful optimism when it comes to their business. Because I am a strategist and not a fortuneteller, I always give the same answer - optimism is great, when it is a part of a strategy.
So here are some of my insights to minimize the blow and to prepare for the future. I hope you’ll find them useful:
1/7: THERE'S A NEED TO RE-IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM:
I was born and raised in the start-up nation, where people are constantly busy finding solutions for ongoing problems. That’s the core of every start-up and almost every business venture. Yours too, probably. In your daily business routine, your product or service answer a certain problem, but at a time like this, when anxiety levels are super-high and people think twice before they spend money or invest time in brands, products and commodities, the problem you knew is changing in front of your eyes: instead of buying X for Y, people buy X for Y+Corona. For example, if you usually buy soap to wash your hands, now you buy it to wash your hands plus Corona. Instead of buying toilet paper for your daily usage, you buy it for daily usage and plus 5 for corona.
Think how people use your product or service as Corona is spreading, and try to identify the current problem they are trying to solve through using your product or service. Then, consider a temporary change in your marketing messages. Remember that at times like this, many people are hesitant about spending money, and they act and consume in survival mode, even if they are not aware of it. The fact is, many less obvious products and services are actually a matter of survival, even if they don’t intuitively seem like ones.
2/7: ACCESSIBILITY BECOMES A PART OF THE PRODUCT
Accessibility goes far beyond deliveries and online products. It is also about helping people to consume the information you share, at the right time and in the right format. This is when it is necessary to adapt the content to the medium, and the product or service to the customer journey of your target market. In order to do that, you need to think how and when people are using your products and services in normal times and then think about how and when they may use it now. If there is a change, consider adapting your product or service accordingly. The idea here is both make it easier for people to use your products and services, and at the same time, to become a part of their newly adopted routine, maybe, because of the simple fact that they spend more time at home, lose work days, spend more time with their families. Let’s take this as an example and imagine that I own a restaurant. What I would obviously do, like many others, is offer some sort of promotion or more delivery options, right? Well, yes, but here is the thing: I want to become a part of these people lives when they are at home, and turn them into my customers when the crisis ends, so I would share one of my recipes with them so they can cook their favourite dish by themselves. Will it increase their level of confidence in uncertain times? Yes. Will they still be my customers even after I shared my recipe with them? Yes.
Try to segment your target market and identify a character that represents it. Then, think how you can make your products and services for this persona, now, because it is a time of crisis. Think about their real problem (time at home, need for control, low confidence + Corona) and think of creative ways to differentiate your products and services by making them accessible and answer immediate needs and problems.
3/7: ADVERTISING AND MARKETING ARE DIFFERENT NOW.
One of the key leverages of market flux is equal opportunities and even a relative advantage for local businesses, small shops and online activity. Let me explain. In normal times, branding, marketing and advertising techniques have a significant part in consumers' decision-making process. At times like this, the local and familiar business and brands, get a significant advantage, because people know them, are used to them and feel safe around them with no direct relation for their branding strategy sometime. Based on that, in many cases, the price is not the main issue while making decisions. Quality? Maybe. Location? Most likely. Think about it: What is better at times of crisis, lower price or proximity and convenience? Another aspect of the same issue is the social networks. The conversation now is around this Coronavirus, not about happy people consuming happy brands. In both cases, marketing messages require adjustment, because people are allocating their attention differently, again, in survival mode. Therefore, it is a golden opportunity to grow your customer base by talking about what matters for most people, and giving them the best value proposition, with a special emphasis on value. Try not to make cynical use of this, as people are super-sensitive for this kind of things, especially today.
Think about your marketing messages: A value proposition can be changed in many cases in times of crisis, making your brand more approachable and much more relevant. This is also a golden opportunity to create new and relevant online marketing strategies and products, and thinking about global activity to grow your markets and customer base.
4/7: PEOPLE HAVE MORE TIME.
When you combine the mega-crisis like the Coronavirus with the fact that people are more inclined to stay in the safe environment of their homes, you get anxiety, because people have more time to worry about things. Some schools are closed, concerts and sport events are canceled, gatherings are postponed and people are urged to stay at home. Media is covering it non-stop, people are talking about it, and it is always there, even when it isn’t. People are actively searching for distractions from this constant discussion, and this is your chance to help them by sharing your content. Again, don’t make cynical use of it. Create valuable content that will help people direct their thoughts to other places and to learn more about your brand, while getting to know your products, services and professional activity. The key here is value, because you want to make sure it is a win-win situation: you give valuable and actionable content, and get brand awareness. Examples for such content can be e-mail campaigns with information and not only promotions, online courses, videos and articles, just like this one. If you send online campaigns on a regular basis, examine the analytic reports to see the differences in people's receptiveness to the new campaign, provided of course that you created the right content and used the right messaging.
Think of ways to share your expertise with people who can benefit from that knowledge, even without buying your products and services. Then, consider the medium and the format, and keep on giving that value through multiple communication channels.
5/7: PEOPLE WANT TO BE IN CONTROL.
Every day, and especially nowadays, people love to be in control. This is a part of the reason why you see all the lines and empty shelves at the grocery stores and supermarkets. People want to feel that they are taking action to prepare for what's to come, even if they don't know it. You probably feel the same in some way, as do your clients. The key here is that you can help them feel in control, and you can actually use your brand for that. This is the time to distribute a survey. You can ask clients what they think of your business, what can be improved, what their problems and pains are, what are the best solutions and the best scenarios in which your business can help them, and use their answers for two things: to learn and develop, and to help your clients feel that their input is meaningful. There is a common saying that when you ask 10 Israelis (myself included) for their opinion, you get 15 different answers. That’s because we like to stay in control and we want to help. Same goes for your customers: They want to help you, they want to feel in control, and they have time, and if you can combine these factors and personalize your business to your customers’ needs - you’ve done your part.
Think what answers from your current customers will help you grow your business, what interests you about their consuming experience and what can be done differently, and consider using these insights to grow your business together with your customers.
6/7: YOU HAVE MORE TIME.
When the news describes the symptoms of Coronavirus in people, I always think to myself that they should also describe its symptoms in businesses. I just feel that it deserves more attention. One of these symptoms is that business owners have more time. The whole supply chain changes, the customers' activity changes, and people take their time. This situation can produce anxious business owners, and they have every reason to worry. As a wise woman once told me - “The solution for anxiety is being proactive”. This is the time to invest in your business and get things done. If you open your website you will probably be able to identify things you wanted to change there but didn’t have time, articles you wanted to write, videos you wanted to create. If you look at online courses platforms, you’ll find many topics that may catch your interest, both personally and professionally. This is also an opportunity to invest in yourself. Being a business owner is not easy sometimes, and although it might sound odd, try to take time for yourself. Talk with people you wanted to talk with for a long time and didn’t have the time. When you run your own business, a tired business owner equals a tired business. This low traffic is given, so think about using it for your own benefit.
Think what you can do to generate more business now and after the crisis passes. Learn, write and even make changes to your marketing materials, campaigns, and website, and get things you postponed done. However, make sure you adapt the messages not only to the current situation, but to normal times and regular business routine as well, because this crisis will eventually end.
7/7: GET READY FOR TOMORROW.
One thing is for sure: This crisis has to end sometime. We don’t know when, but it will. As business owners, our goal is to keep moving, and to help people with certain problems and pains. This is why we are here, and we are here to stay. One of the things we should aim for is getting people to talk about our business, even at difficult times, and we want to do that by giving them a good and positive reason. This reason is value, help and support. This is the time to help the community around you, the one that has built you over the years. The one that is always there, even during difficult times.
History shows that crisis is often followed by substantial growth, so you should be prepared for the day after. There is no better way to prepare than helping the people around you, investing in yourself, investing in your business, and understanding how this crisis affects your business and what you need to do to come out of it on top. Think how you can take advantage of the growth opportunities this crisis brings, because one of the certain things about uncertainty is that it generates growth.
The rules of the game are changing and businesses who give better solutions to a specific problem win.
Make your products accessible today, so people continue using them tomorrow.
Make sure your marketing message bank corresponds with the current situation, not only with your brand values.
Always provide people with valuable content, especially when they have the time to take it in.
Help people feel like they are in control.
This is your time to develop both your business and yourself.
Learn how to identify opportunities and to distinguish signals from noises.