How to Survive as a Business in Hard Times (COVID-19)
In 2008, when the entire economy collapsed, the world seemed like it was doomed to years of financial ruin. Nobody felt any optimism or hope, and everyone was worried about how they would survive.
During that time, two new companies emerged that would become household names and change the way that business operated.
Airbnb started in 2008, and Uber began in 2009. Due to the economic uncertainty, both new companies began to innovate and reinvent the way that business operated and spawned the gig economy.
If it had not been for those incredibly challenging times, then perhaps we wouldn’t have a lot of the conveniences we enjoy today.
The Financial Impact of COVID-19
There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world by surprise. The lockdowns and mandatory business shutdowns have already seen over 3 million Americans file for unemployment. The stock market experienced its largest point plunge in history. The effects of these sweeping changes could be far-reaching. According to predictive reports from McKinsey Consulting:
“Large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures drive a sharp fall in consumer and business spending. Consumers stay home, businesses lose revenue and lay off workers, and unemployment levels rise sharply.”
This is scary news, and even the most optimistic person must acknowledge that times have changed.
Uncertainty Creates Innovation
Good times in business are not great for innovation. When the markets are booming, everyone can make money doing mediocre work. Prosperity breeds copycat companies, and there is little need for thinking outside the box.
It’s only when we are facing a crisis that business owners start to look at the fundamentals. It’s only when they have a lack of capital or are losing customers that they start to ask, ‘how can I turn this around?’.
As a marketing agency, we have a unique perspective on how businesses survive and thrive during tough times. We get to see behind the curtain and understand what each company is doing to navigate the uncertainty.
There is no doubt that some companies do better than others during a crisis. Some will fail, but others will thrive. It all comes down to how willing they are to innovate.
Here are the ways we’ve seen businesses innovate during these tough times:
Strengthening Relationships First
We’ve all received those annoying emails from corporations telling us how much they care and what they are doing during these ‘unprecedented times.’ But somehow, we don’t believe them, nor do we care.
That’s because an email from a company is impersonal. It’s not a relationship builder; it’s just a strategic message to cover their legal risks.
Real leaders are taking the time to call and set up video conferences one-to-one with their customers to better understand their needs and worries at this time. Even if a customer cannot afford to purchase from them in the short term, the relationship is bonded.
Examples of this are fitness instructors offering free live stream classes for people to stay healthy at home. And some educational companies are offering free homeschooling classes for parents to help keep their kids on track during the lockdown periods.
The real purpose of any sales or marketing efforts should be to build trust and long-term relationships. If the only thing you’re doing during this time is trying to sell at a discount or lock-in orders, your customers will lose their trust with you. They will see you as a commodity.
Offering Financing Opportunities
Many businesses we work with are aware that money is tight. In the past few weeks, over 3 million people have filed for unemployment in the US. For this reason, making big sales in the short term is no longer the goal for smart companies.
During this time, the entire focus has gone on to customer retention. The more reasons a customer or client has to stay with a business, the more likely they will stay.
Many businesses we work with are looking at ways to offer financing for customers in need. Rather than try to force sales, they are finding ways to provide the funding that can help ease the burden.
Some property owners are offering rent reductions for the next few months with the balance to be paid in the future. Other companies are offering interest-free terms for up to 90 days to allow people access to repairs, relocating, and remedial services.
If there is a way to offer to finance for products and services that are needed during this time, it can help with long-term customer retention.
Increasing Hygiene and Health Focus
One of the biggest fears with COVID-19 is the risk of infection through contact. While most people are staying at home to reduce the risk, some companies are finding ways to increase their hygiene and health focus.
Whether this is hiring additional cleaning teams, or offering sanitizers to customers, these actions help customers feel more confident visiting the locations to buy.
It might seem like an arbitrary step, but letting customers know that you are taking extra precautions for health and hygiene during this time can restore their confidence.
(Note: all businesses should refer to their local governments and legal advisors on the necessary precautions to take when it comes to sanitation.)
Providing New Essential Services
Essential services like phone, internet, electricity, groceries, gas are not going anywhere. Yet all other ‘non-essential’ services are seeing a massive downturn due to mandatory closures.
Some businesses have found ways to reinvent their services during these times. For example, some restaurants are selling high-demand produce and toilet paper direct to the public. Shipping companies are partnering with local businesses to get products and services delivered. Even some of the major airlines have pivoted their services to carrying cargo instead of passengers.
Every business can offer different services during these times. Looking at what parts of your business can provide essential services is a great way to innovate.
Perhaps there is a more convenient or safe way to allow customers to buy from you. Or a product that is in need right now that you can access and sell that can help those in need.
‘How Can We Help?’
It’s normal during an economic slump to think about how you are going to survive. The immediate needs are to protect what you have and try to get more for yourself.
Yet, the businesses that will survive and thrive during these times are those that offer to help. They look for people in need and find ways to solve problems for them.
Similar to companies like Uber and Airbnb in 2008, this is a time to find new innovative ways to serve those customers who need your help.
It all starts by thinking, ‘how can we help?’ and then offering your services to people in need. If you do this altruistically in difficult times, it will help your company, your community, and your country to rise again.
Need help reaching your customers during these difficult times? Brandastic is a digital marketing agency that helps businesses to contact and connect with their customers. We are here to help your business survive and thrive during this crisis. Reach out today to discover ways we can support you and help you innovate.