The coronavirus pandemic is impacting businesses from every industry. Nowhere is the ripple effect stronger than in events, retail, hospitality, and small to medium-sized business.
25% of small business owners report a negative impact from the coronavirus outbreak including slower sales (42%), supply chain disruption (39%), and sick employees (4%).
Major conferences and events hosted by large organizations including Mobile World Congress 2020, Facebook F8, Google I/O, and SXSW are cancelled for now—and the private sector is expected to follow suit.
Companies know the wake of the outbreak is no climate for business as usual. However, every business can adapt to the (temporary) changing times, operate daily within society’s best interests, and move forward with some semblance of normalcy.
Here are the top five things your business can (and should) do in an outbreak.
1. Minimize product inventory (unless you sell hand sanitizer).
Brands in the product industry—other than sellers of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, face masks, and quarantine supplies—can expect a dry period where demand takes a dive. Fundamental business strategy suggests that high supply in a low-demand market creates negative return. Until the dust from the coronavirus outbreak settles, shift your priorities towards minimizing inventory.
Taking a break from inventory frees up time, effort, and resources you can spend stocking up on another type of business asset: new leads. Build a well-stocked pipeline of sales prospects—now, rather than later—so you have a deeper pool of prospective clients to work with after the pandemic and over the long term.
Increasing supply with little demand is a cardinal mistake. However, the promise of new business is a type of inventory you can gather without limit.
2. Migrate client and team meetings to the virtual and video worlds.
Social distancing is good to help mitigate an outbreak—but bad for a small to medium-sized business.
As we cancel sporting events, close schools, and shut down restaurants, brick and mortars are scrambling as foot-traffic and in-store sales plunge. For SMBs that depend on regular meetings, society’s plan to stop or slow the spread of disease can also halt or hinder performance and productivity.
Responsible social distancing in the workplace doesn’t mean cancelling all meetings but rather collaborating and communicating through more creative means. Conference calls, Skype, and other business voice and video platforms give clients and teams the power to meet in a virtual space that feels almost as warm as a face-to-face meeting.
Embrace modern technology to continue business as usual. Your clients will appreciate the gesture—and your daily operation will keep powering forward.
3. Stay lean and mean.
Not every business can operate with employees working from home. However, remote work has grown 115 percent over the last 10 years, and more career fields than ever are adopting the work-from-home trend.
Staying lean and mean by sending employees home with a laptop creates middle ground where self-quarantine and uninterrupted business operation can work in tandem.
With more of your workforce handling the day-to-day from the home-office, you can protect more of your staff, customers, and clients in the regular office. If your business workflow doesn’t jive with remote access, consider minimizing potential virus exposure by alternating employee teams and shifts.
4. Focus more on digital (unless you are in food supply).
B2B companies allocate the largest chunk of their budgets—nearly 40 percent—to exhibitions and industry shows. In the wake of a 500% surge in cancellations and postponements of business events, marketing budgets are doubling down on digital as a main source of lead generation.
The first benefit is obvious: digital removes face-to-face interaction. Second, digital is measurable, which gives businesses a good picture of ROI.
Customers in self-quarantine can stay connected to your brand online. Many are on social media—now, more than ever—checking for updates on the coronavirus.
Start by increasing your posting frequency to show up in the news feed. Post about the virus or take people’s minds off the panic with light, positive content. Remind people to visit your website and offer coupons, discount, and deals to encourage online shopping.
Many executives also lack the time to update their corporate website. Businesses in home isolation with extra free time can focus on redefining their brand and marketing messages, resetting goals for marketing campaigns, and analyzing performance.
The fundamentals of a good quality web experience are critical in an emergency such as an outbreak. Focus on best practices including a smooth path to purchase, robust shopping experience, and ease of conversion.
Put the most emphasis in your digital assets including official media, short video, social media, news, and digital PR. Embrace content marketing as consumers get used to the format while quarantined at home. OOH advertising will suffer in the short term so minimize ad spend for media at cinemas, airports, and railways.
Most industries—aside from food supply—can focus on digital to gain a competitive edge over competitors who are slower to react, minimize risk to asset loss, improve overall web position, and maintain some level of normality during abnormal times.
5. Keep marketing and advertising.
Life will normalize again—and when it does, target audiences will remember the brands that kept marketing and advertising through the outbreak. Keep putting your name out there to maintain recall in the minds of consumers.
Treating your clients and customers well now—especially during this tough climate—will keep them loyal when normalcy returns.
Again, take advantage of digital. For example, serviced-based businesses such as restaurants or salons can sell gift cards online. Encourage customers to buy a gift card today and treat themselves when the outbreak slows and the self-quarantine period ends. Your business gets the cash today and your customers get to plan something fun and exciting for later.
Above all, stay positive as you keep powering forward. Calm the frazzled nerves among your employees, clients, customers, and everyone around your business. Your true colors will show through the outbreak and long after.
For part two of Didit’s coverage on marketing success during an outbreak, visit Position Your Business for Marketing Success in the Post-COVID Era.