The global COVID-19 health crisis will affect virtually every business. The depth of that effect and whether it is primarily negative or positive, depends on each businesses ability to adapt to the ever-changing predicament. Here are some tips experts advise to mitigate damage and set a course to survive and thrive.
Review and revise business plans
For starters, if your company has been operating without a business plan, now is the time to change that. Business plans are a critical tool toward profitability even if you don’t need one to secure financing. Visit SCORE to learn how to make one if your business doesn’t haven’t one yet. For those that do, they should be reviewed and revised annually and/or when facing challenging business conditions like these. Determine whether your competition has changed. Look at revenue streams and projections to see if you are on course. For example, perhaps, your online sales goals need to be increased and in-person sales levels decreased. Examine expenses and look for areas to streamline or cut. Determine whether or not your marketing plan still makes sense given where people currently are and how they are best being reached.
The key to survival in difficult economic conditions is to diversify revenue streams. Look at the industries that are still working at full or near capacity and determine if you have a product that will suit their needs. Maybe that means catering or creating a line of employee rewards using your products. Add options for people to pay in advance, buy gift cards, or give your products or services to someone worthy who may need or appreciate them. If your business serves mostly a specific demographic or industry, look at alternatives. Can a product that was created for business groups now be adapted to serve consumers? Do you have a service that is geared toward adults that might now be altered to teach or entertain children? Look at what you currently sell and challenge yourself and your team to find new applications of existing products and services or new offerings to serve audiences with money to spend.
Enhance online presence
From a marketing perspective, you always want to be where people are. Primarily right now, and likely for a while, where they are is online, so a digital presence has never been more important. Update your website to make sales a high priority or seek out an online market(s) to sell from if your website is not yet equipped to process orders. Be very active on social media. It is crucial to stay front of mind with customers and you can do so by being vibrant in places where they are spending their free time like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. If your business is not yet on those platforms, now is a good time to learn more and start. Take a class, hire an expert, or if your budget does not permit that, find a member of your team or personal network who is active, and may be willing to help you ramp up.
Expand how you inform and update customers
Communicating with customers is critical at this time, but make sure the information you are sending is relevant. People are getting COVID communication fatigue so don’t update them on all the ways your business has changed unless it has a potentially direct impact on them. Take the time to show that you care how they are doing. Offer links of advice on your website to help them deal with the many aspects of this crisis. If you have expertise or entertainment that you can provide, go for it. Do a livestream concert or cooking demonstration through a social media platform. Create tips on gardening, landscaping or using services like Zoom or Facetime. Highlight your expertise and willingness to be of service now and they will remember you when they are ready to buy.
Tighten connections with employees.
Whether your workers are essential, and therefore still in the workplace; telecommuting during the shutdown; or have been temporarily laid off, it is an important time to try to tighten those relationships. Provide proper safety equipment and appreciation to frontline workers. Schedule one-on-one time with telecommuters and provide them with tips and tools for being productive in their new home office environment. Ask for feedback on what is working and what is not. Listen, and adapt. Be understanding and supportive to those struggling to deal with new technology or isolation. Schedule an occasional team call or video conference that is not about business, but about them. Find ways to boost morale. Be transparent about company situations. Send your team resources for anything that could help them during this difficult time. Encourage professional learning during downtime. Stay engaged.
In many ways an economic crisis of this level means returning to fundamentals. Put your start-up thinking cap on and re-evaluate what your core business is, who your customers are and can be, and how you can best serve them, while maintaining low operating costs. Creative solutions and innovation that can last for decades is born in times like these.