So, here we are. Our world turned upside down in a matter of days, with most of us still reeling from the speed of the dramatic changes to our daily lives.
For most long-established businesses, the spectre of the 2008 recession still looms large. Over a decade later, the pain it caused is still fresh in our memories.
Although the current situation is utterly unique, we’ve noticed many similarities with the recession in the way businesses are reacting.
But don’t worry, this is not a depressing post!
As an agency that’s been there, seen the film, got the t-shirt and survived, our aim is simply to share a few observations and bits of advice picked up along the way.
The recession taught us to be resilient, enterprising, determined, adaptable and agile.
Here’s to us all emerging on the other side healthy, stronger and wiser.
1) And breath …
Whatever you do, don’t turn into Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. Running around like a headless chicken will not help. It’s bad for your own wellbeing and will have a negative impact on your colleagues, clients, customers and suppliers.
Similarly, wearing your concern on your sleeve for all to see or being a harbinger of doom and gloom is not helpful. Negativity breeds negativity. It, too, is highly contagious.
This is not said glibly or meant to be disrespectful to those most profoundly affected.
While we recognise that some sectors are having a far harder time than others, many businesses will emerge the other side in pretty much the same shape, especially with the financial support now available.
Of course, these are dire times for us all but try – no matter how hard it might be – to retain an element of positivity. We are all in the same boat. It will pass. Take things one day at a time. Keep a sense of perspective.
2) Use your time wisely
As a business owner, there are undoubtedly a whole raft of things you constantly put off during normal times – it could be drafting business plans, spring cleaning your premises (no, the irony isn’t lost on us), setting aside time to THINK about your business and any new products or services you could introduce.
Well, you’ve now got an ideal time to turn your attention to these things. Don’t emerge from this regretting the fact you didn’t put your time to better use.
You want your business to come out of this in better shape than before. It’s never been more important to be positive, self-assured and imaginative.
3) Necessity is the mother of invention
Linked to the above, take a long, hard look at short-term measures to get you through this. Just like restaurants, cafes and breweries have started promoting home delivery, is there anything your business can do to adapt?
Unleash your creativity, look for new opportunities to explore. Are there new packages of services you can offer? You never know, these might even have longer term viability.
This abrupt change of ‘modus operandi’ can be a real opportunity to change your business model. In this technological age, we can all engage with our various audiences and offer our products and services in different ways.
The CEO of Amazon didn’t get to be the wealthiest person who’s ever lived by selling things in traditional shops.
4) Don’t lose your marketing momentum
Hard-pressed FDs tend to have a checklist of targets for the red pencil when times get tough. Recruitment; training and development; memberships; subscriptions; and marketing are generally top of the list.
The calculator-wielding tribe seem impervious to the logical, self-evident, fact-based argument that businesses need marketing (in whatever of its many guises) to survive and thrive. Instead, they view it as a non-essential overhead that can be temporarily sacrificed.
Yes, there is an element of unashamed self-interest here but do everything in your power to demonstrate its value and long-term benefit to them.
If you’ve already got a strong brand presence or are building your profile, don’t waste the investment you’ve already made. Now is the time to continue marketing. You want your audience to remember you. Now is the time to remain strong and assured.
Take a leaf from Cadbury, which continued to actively promote its brand throughout World War II, when everything was rationed and people couldn’t actually buy its products.
They emerged as the ‘first name in chocolate’ – a brand still cemented in peoples’ psyche decades later.
Here’s some specific advice about how you can use the main marketing channels:
PR/Media Relations – contrary to what you might think, journalists are howling for stories that aren’t related to Covid-19. While your competitors might choose to batten down their hatches and keep a low profile, you could really steal a march here and keep your brand/expertise/product or service front of mind by submitting news stories, articles and commentary. Just on a practical note, certain trade publications plan their content months in advance so are looking for pieces that will appear after this situation has abated.
Social Media – a hugely important way to communicate during these times. Inevitably, your customers, staff and other stakeholders will be ‘on it’ more than usual so use it to keep your brand front of mind.
Your audience will probably have more questions than ever about your business and the ways you may be changing daily operations. Rather than just put out scheduled posts, now would be the time to invest in truly engaging with your individual customers and answering questions and comments to posts as they appear. This will help ensure they stay loyal and continue to trust your brand now and in the future.
The messages you put out now will stay with them and inform their buying choices in the future. Think about the type of content you can put out to keep them engaged.
A word of warning: don’t forget to check that any scheduled posts you have are still appropriate in the current climate.
PPC – many business and brands will have stopped their PPC activity completely. Result? A lower cost per click. If you operate in a particularly competitive sector, this is your opportunity to revisit your digital marketing strategy and get your name out there.
And remember, any concern you have about people not currently searching for your products or services is irrelevant. With PPC you only pay when people actually click through to your site. So … if no one is searching, you won’t pay anything anyway!
5) Keep staff morale up
For those of us who are able, the idea of sitting in pyjamas while working from home every day sounds great at first. Inevitably, there’s a honeymoon period when everyone adjusts to the new set-up, gets used to new tools and software, and shares funnies over group chats on Skype (please tell us that wasn’t just team RMS!).
However, we’re a strange species and once the novelty wears off, most of us will actually crave a sense of purpose, discipline and structure. Work is a pretty important driver for most people.
So, don’t forget to keep communicating with your colleagues. Set some ground rules about how you’ll communicate and manage workloads; schedule conversations; enjoy on-line chats.
If you don’t, your colleagues could become disengaged, morale will drop and a sense of ‘anomie’ might prevail …
One simple thing you can do to introduce a little light-heartedness into your colleagues’ lives is to run a weekly quiz, perhaps offering a weekly prize or a league table where the winner can be crowned and celebrated when the chaos abates.
Another idea … why not have a weekly virtual drinks session over Skype? A bit of fun amidst the gloom and doom.
Given the British aversion to public shows of emotion, with a screen or two and a few miles/weeks between you and your colleagues, this could be the time to get more engaged with certain individuals. Talk to people whose desks you normally walk past every day, team-build at a personal level and check that everyone’s coping. You could be building bonds that last a whole career.
6) Be kind
Crisis situations bring out the best and the worst in people. Fortunately, for every sharp-elbowed act of selfishness, there are numerous random acts of kindness.
Now, more than ever, it seems we should be heeding the words of legendary poet Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If there’s anything we can do to help you feel better during these times, please just ask.