There's a lot of advice on how to work remotely, keep yourself in shape and busy during the 'Stay At Home Orders.' This is not that kind of article! Instead, we are addressing 2 things:
What you should be doing for your business NOW and why.
What to do AFTER business re-opens because IT WILL re-open.
NOW: Prepare Your Business for Longer Period of Downturn
(Don't mean to open up with a downer but I have to because it translates to what we do after we re-open.)
The first thing you should be doing is preparing your business for a longer period of downtime than you may be expecting. The word recession and depression have been bounced around. Make no mistake we are in a recession, but the government doesn't call it that until several consecutive "down cycles" occur - meaning, they call it a recession AFTER the repeated downcycle. Anyone with eyeballs can see that this is a recession, but it's not one anyone saw coming. It's truly unique. This is a recession caused by a health crisis which has now quickly becoming a financial crisis.
Estimates from several sources say that recovery will take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, depending on the size of your business, type and location. I'm going for somewhere between - 6 months and that assumes no more unforeseen hiccups (like weather). I survived the 2008 recession and I don't expect this to take as long.
I say all of this because I strongly recommend you get prepared, get information and get assistance. If you can get financial assistance (whether personal, government, grant or loan etc.) do it! You can always pay it back if you don't use it. Better to be prepared and not need it. You are not alone in this.
Where to Look for Assistance:
First - All government assistance is described here in this master link of debt relief programs - https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
Second - Check out your local government, state's and city's or county's website, as they will have additional information and resources and programs.
Third - Contact your loan providers, credit card companies and banks to find out what they are doing. Each one of them is doing their own form of assistance. You can take advantage of these but only if you CALL AND ASK. Some are doing it outright but many require that you call and ask and meet certain criteria. For example, I bank with USAA and they are deferring car loan payments for 2 months and credit card payments for 3 months but only if you call and ask. The only criteria is that your accounts are current (no late payments).
Go ahead and request financial assistance. Have it as a backup! Try to keep as much cash as you have on hand by reducing what you have to pay out.
Now, Let's Talk About your Business and Marketing
While you're getting financial help, there are some things you can be doing other than watching Netflix or walking your dogs 5x a day:
Update, update, update
Update your website - I see many businesses with out of date website content. Many have been wanting to add features to their sites or simply update the content but never had time. Well, you do now. You can add online gift cards, update photography or galleries, update your website pages, add chat, add reviews, create custom contact forms, etc. Many website designers are still trucking right along (Heck, we've created and published 5 websites in the last 2 weeks of this event) and can definitely work from home and probably doing so at reduced rates.
Update your social media profiles - often people set them up but never complete them. They have many features that are there to help boost your page. At the least, change out your cover photos and profile pictures. Fill in those missing blanks.
If you have special programs - Such as project management software, point of sale special systems, etc., that you never really learned how to fully use, now is the time to hunt and find those free videos. We suggest taking a 1/2-hour or 1-hour a day to learn. It will improve your brain and state of mind and business and give you a break from all the bad news.
Keep Your Feed Active - Continue to Market
This does not mean advertise or promote your business with ads unless you feel it is appropriate and the messaging is appropriate. This means don't let your social media feeds go quiet. Tell your customers what you're doing, what you're going through. Share tips, ideas, features, or share about other businesses that need help. People want to hear from you and all of that work you did to build your online engagement does not need to go to waste.
What should you say?
In all cases - Be positive. Be mindful. Be respectful. Be helpful. Be real. Everyone's situation and take on today's events are different and unique. You don't know what each person is going through in their own personal lives or business.
Start Thinking about AFTER and Planning
We, at Marketing Outpost, have been spending our last few weeks working with our clients updating their websites, so customers know what is going on. We've done lots of email newsletters, social media postings, blog writing and for those clients with existing campaigns that could go on, we've continued to work on those. Things have now settled down a bit.
Businesses are starting to think about AFTER:
What do we do after we re-open?
What can we expect?
How long will it take to return to "normal," if there is such a thing?
What will our customers want?
Will our customer base change their habits and in so doing, change how they interact with us?
Do we change anything about our own services or product offerings?
Do we change anything about the way we do business?
If you were able to move your business to a virtual setting, will you keep it that way? Was that successful?
Here's our advice and keep in mind, these are based on what we know now:
Expect Conservative Purchasing Behavior
People will be in some stage of recovery. They've had a huge financial hit to their cash on hand and any kind of credit that existed. They will be a bit more conservative about their purchases and activities for a period of time.
If you rely on tourists, consumers will be a bit more reluctant about international travel and probably domestic travel and definitely, cruise travel. We do expect people to get out and about locally and even taking day trips for a change of scenery after being cooped up.
Don't expect a 100% return to normal when businesses re-open. It will be gradual and will be different depending on your area and your business. I would expect a sudden rush for about a week or two of people getting out, eating out just because they've been cooped up but then, it will quiet down as people re-adjust.
Everyone will be back to marketing and promoting in their own ways - paid ads or free social media. The market will be saturated with advertising.
Lessons Learned: Changes Coming
Many people (I'm one of them) see this as a lesson to learn from for myself and my business. It has revealed both strengths and weaknesses and revealed opportunities and threats. It's a SWOT analysis in the making. Take notes! I am definitely a person that takes stock after any event and figures out how to ensure I don't repeat those mistakes. I've also learned I'm stronger than I thought I was and so has Jenn, who recently joined Marketing Outpost. I've learned all kinds of things about her and they are all good. It has made our new relationship even stronger.
This means people will be seeking to make changes. What kind?
If they did not like the high density, urban life they were living, they now have the added impetus to change that.
If they didn't like someone they were working with or for or felt mistreated by, they will be more inclined to change that now.
If they had inefficient or expensive processes before, chances are they will be seeking ways to change that now.
If they had unnecessary baggage, they will probably get rid of it now. s could be cost overruns, too many staff, expensive supply chain processes, etc.
If their rents were too high (residential or commercial), they will now be forced or looking to make changes and possibly moving.
Working remotely is now in due to forced adoption of these technologies. Many businesses learned to work remotely during all of this and figured out they can trust their team and employees and also probably have unused office space they can dedicate to other activities or simply not use at all and save on rent. If your business went to a remote model, will you keep it? Did your customers like it?
Believe it or not, there will be an opportunity from this crisis. Think of your target customer and what will they want from you - it may be different now. Be mindful of that and adjust your business.
If you're a smaller boutique business, you have an opportunity as your larger competitors are now too expensive. As a smaller business it is easier to change your service or product offerings, reduce expenses by changing vendors and streamline your processes for more efficiency.
If you're in the restaurant or retail business, consider new products and services to adjust for changing consumer purchasing. Many restaurants started offering frozen, prepared or family style meal takeaway meal options during these last few weeks. I would expect that this will continue to be popular. I, for one, will be doing more bulk shopping and reducing my footprint to the grocery each week.
Though we will return to "normal" it will be a new normal. Think about this in your business and plan accordingly.
Start Simple and Build
When business re-opens, keep it simple and build. Don't expect people to run hogwild to your business. There will be readjustment period.
Create incentives and specials to encourage your customers.
Be prepared to share across all social platforms and your website.
Be ready to let your customers know you are back open and to what degree. If you made changes that you plan to make permanent, let them know.
In the end, we will all come out of this knowing more about ourselves and our businesses and that's progress. The day of rebuilding and reopening is close, so how are you going to be prepared? Not sure where to start?
Re-open with Confidence - Sign up for your 1 hour free strategy session and let's discuss your plans and ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.