Your business is hurting. It’s okay to admit it. You’re far from alone. Your employees are anxious, scared, tired and frustrated. The same goes double for your customers. You’ve had to completely reinvent your business operations in a very short space of time. You will almost certainly have had to enable remote working for your employees. You may even have had to place some employees on furlough or let them go altogether. You may assume that this is the beginning of the end for your business. How could anyone possibly chart a path to prosperity in such a perilous and unpredictable landscape?
But fear not. Even in the darkest times there are still rays of hope. And no crisis is so cataclysmic that there are no opportunities to be found. You’re in the middle of a paradigm shift. Like your competitors, you stand at a fork in the road. One path leads to business as usual. It’s a familiar road, but one that may lead to a sharp drop. The other road may be less well travelled with some precarious spots. But your business might just emerge on the other side stronger than ever!
In this post, we’ll look at the opportunities that can be mined in the coronavirus crisis (and, indeed, any subsequent crisis). Hopefully, we’ll never experience another pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetimes. Nonetheless, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Here’s how you’ll turn a crisis into an opportunity…
Use this as an opportunity for introspection
Your competitors may be wondering “when can we get back to normal?”. But you’re wondering what parts of normal are worth returning back to. That’s the difference between you and them, and the mentality that will see you thrive where they flounder.
Even if things were going well for you prior to the pandemic, you’ll likely want to use this opportunity to take an unremitting look at your business from all angles, from your branding to your operations. You’ll want to think about how you can make strategic changes now that will protect your margin and improve your sales tomorrow.
This might mean investing in professional web design to give your online presence an overhaul. Your web design isn’t just about looking pretty. It can make you more visible to search engines, improve conversion rates and make your branding more cohesive. It can help customers to develop a stronger relationship with your businesses.
Now might also be a great opportunity to make your operations more efficient by strategically implementing automation. Or simply to re-evaluate your business tools, software and network. Many businesses are great. No business is perfect. Use this opportunity to ask yourself some searching questions about what is and isn;t working, and be prepared to give yourself some honest answers.
Reacquaint yourself with the needs of the market
Market research is always important. But it’s especially important at times when the market is in a state of flux. In this lockdown period, the rule book has been well and truly thrown out the window. You can expect consumer demand to be different. But while consumer confidence may be at an all time low, that doesn’t mean that your customers no longer care about your products or services. You just need to change your offerings to be more appropriate and appealing under their current circumstances.
In many cases, a simple change in marketing copy may be all that it takes to respond to the needs of your market. A more authoritative, reassuring and helpful tone of voice can make all the difference between an ad that’s wildly successful and an ad that gets ignored by your customers.
Your customers are craving stability, reassurance and comfort. They want to feel as though at least some parts of their world haven’t been completely up ended. If you can give them the reassurance that they need, you have the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customers and reinforce their trust in your brand.
Talk to your customers
Not sure how best to cater to your customers changing needs? Here’s a novel idea… ask them! Communication has always been the key to success in business. And it might just be more important now than ever before. Your customers need to be reminded that they can still trust your brand. But they’re unlikely to feel that way if their attempts to engage you on social media go unnoticed or you take a week to respond to their emails.
Now’s the perfect time to keep a steady line of communication with your customers. Ask them open questions on social media and respond to any questions they ask you in a timely manner. Be sure to maintain a positive, helpful and conciliatory tone even if your customers are venting their frustrations at you through social platforms. Prospective customers will see that you’re doing everything you can to manage and repair the situation.
Another way in which you can engage your customers is through your content marketing efforts. If you weren’t previously creating online content such as blog posts, videos, “how to” guides and infographics, now is the perfect time to start. Content marketing can build consumer trust in your brand by showcasing your knowledge, expertise and experience. It even improves your Search Engine Optimization by making your website bigger and encouraging visitors to spend more time on page and move from one post to another. All of these behaviors are signals to search engine crawlers that your website is an authoritative and trustworthy resource.
When creating content marketing materials, it’s important to have a strategy. If you don’t know what you’re going to post and when, it’s a lot harder to be consistent with your output. You also need to ensure that everything you write or say is designed to benefit the audience- your customers. It needs to help them address concerns and pain points or be of practical use to them. It also needs to be entertaining and engaging while still rich in useful information.
If your content isn’t designed with the needs of your audience in mind, it can come across as self-congratulatory and they’ll have very little reason to return to it.
Consider staggering return dates for your team
Your employees will no doubt have had to grapple with some productivity hurdles while working remnotely under lockdown. While there are studies that show remote employees can be more productive at home, the data on which these assertions were made far precedes the current lockdown. If all the participants were sharing their networks with YouTube loving kids, working out of a makeshift home office set up in the spare room and living in a near-constant state of stress and anxiety, the results may have been markedly different.
Still, while some employees may be itching for the chance to return to the workplace, there may be some who have adjusted really well to their new working paradigm. They may find it mich easier to manage their time and achieve work / life balance from home. If this is the case, you might want to consider staggering employee returns, allowing team members to stay at home for longer if they choose to.
This will help to make social distancing measures easier. And, depending on when you plan to reopen your workplace, it’s likely that social distancing will be the new status quo for some time. Furthermore, it may mean that you get more productivity from your employees while enjoying fewer overhead costs.
Fewer employees on-site means fewer computers being used, fewer toilet flushes, fewer cups of coffee and less paper towels being used. Furthermore, if you have fewer employees on-site, you’re likely producing less business waste and necessitating fewer carbon emissions through travel. Anything you can do to reduce your business’ environmental footprint is always a win. You can show your commitment to your Corporate Social Responsibility while also saving money!
Show your commitment to operating ethically
Speaking of Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s arguably more important than ever to show that your business has a heart. A strong ethical stance has long been a high priority for many consumers, especially those of the millennial generation. Over 70% of millennial consumers are prepared to pay more for brands that are committed to ethical and sustainable practices. With the world in a state of crisis, your customers and prospects want to know that you have a heart. That you are committed to more than the bottom line.
In the current crisis, some businesses have been shamed for failing to do right by their staff or even profiteering from the crisis. Show your customers that you’re looking after your employees and finding ways to operate more sustainably and ethically, even in these uncertain times. Show that you aren’t resting on your laurels but are committed to doing well while doing good. This is a great opportunity to be one of the good guys while your customers’ eyes are fixed firmly on you.
We’re not saying that the road ahead isn’t fraught with challenges and obstacles. But with the right mindset and proactive planning you can turn the crisis to your advantage and start a new chapter in the success story of your business.