Looking Back and Looking Forward: The Navigation of a Crisis for a Small Business
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Covid-19 has wiped out dreams, created a psychological nightmare, and torn a country apart, with individuals questioning what is the right, or wrong, thing to do. The result? Nobody has been untouched.
But, like any crisis, there are lessons to be learned. In the business world we had to rethink employee communications, crisis strategies, technology capabilities, messaging, external communications, new business strategies and business operations – all practically overnight. We had to have all-hands-on-deck and we had to take an honest look at what was in place, what was missing, and what we had, but was no longer relevant. We had to take a solid look at what happened and where we landed to fully understand how we could successfully ride the storm and move forward, with the least amount of destruction. But there can’t be any blinders on. It’s a time for truth. And it’s not always pretty to look at the holes and the lack of strategies that were in place. But it’s real. And now is the time to truly reflect and get the “house” in order if you have not done so.
The bottom line is that we must do two major things:
1. Reflect on our communication. What were we saying and how does that need to shift? What methods were we using and is that still relevant? Who was our audience and has this changed?
2. We need to generate more business to replace what has been lost. Things are not the same therefore our tactics should not be the same. It’s time to shift the mindset.
Here are the top suggestions to communicate better and, through marketing, to rebuild what was lost:
5 Ways to improve communication and marketing
1. Increase video
If there was ever a time to use video as part of your communication strategy, now is that time. The visual element doesn’t allow for sugar coating like the written word does. We can look at your eyes and see your body language. It’s all there. In a situation like this, that’s a positive because we need to see the human side. Use it to share your story. What has your business gone through? Be vulnerable. Take time to create a video calendar that isn’t about your products or services. Talk about how you felt. Talk about missing your customers. Talk about your amazing employees. Talk about what will be new and why you’re going down that road. People buy from companies because they have a need or because they believe in a brand – but they also purchase because they like you. Keep this in mind and remember to keep it real through the use of video.
2. Introduce repetition
You must be consistent in your message. If you don’t have one, create one. Then, share across all your channels, often. Use infographics, videos, blogs, newsletters, eBooks, and emails. But the message should be the same, just a different format. Share across your website, create content that gets published into third party outlets, and use as content for social. The point is consistency and frequency. You have a lot to say – now is the time to get your message out there.
3. Insist on the truth
This is not the time to sugar coat your communications. Your employees need to know the lay of the land and your clients and vendors need to know where they stand. If you fell hard, be honest, and share what you are doing to pick up the pieces. If you have found a way to diversify during these difficult times, let them know why things are changing and how they will be impacted. If things are going well, give them a sense of hope – which is so needed right now. This is not the time to sweep your communications under the rug or to minimize what is going on behind closed doors. Be transparent as respect builds loyalty.
4. Improve timeliness
Look at what you had in place. As we were hit by Covid-19, did it hold up? Was something missing? Were the right people informed? There must be a plan in place, for next time. It may not be a pandemic and it may not be this catastrophic, but there will be a next time that communication is imperative, and employees, clients and vendors want and need immediate information. Therefore, time is of the essence. Who will be impacted? How will they be impacted? How long will the changes last? Will there be new policies in effect? Don’t keep those that are invested waiting or you may lose those that mean the most to you.
5. Invest in creativity
Everybody always talks about this element. But few do it well, or at all. What do I mean by this? Simply, stop selling. Many may be thinking, “What is Doreen talking about?” I mean that your customer knows when you are selling something. That is why earned media works better than advertising – though both have their place. It is simply more credible. In a time of crisis, credibility is king. Find a way to get your brand out there and get your message across – with creative concepts. Some of my favorite ad campaigns never mentioned the product, until the end. As an example, a Renault Clio commercial kept me watching. It was relevant. It was emotional and it tied in social concepts that are real in our world today. We practically live in our cars – so, why not tie the commercial to real life? They did that and brought me into their sales funnel, without beating me down with their brand and without “selling.” Not everything has to stay the same. Nor should it.
5 tips from pros to generate business
1. Help your customers
Tolithia Kornweibel, Chief Marketing Officer at Gusto, said “Resist the temptation to preach about how much you care. Just do something to help your customers. In times of crisis, if your future customers spend one second with your marketing that isn’t giving them help or value, you’ve failed.”
2. Build a win-win deal
Justin Halldorson, Managing Partner at Shift Capital, said “People love to say 'just go buy Facebook ads' or 'get serious about social media,' but that simply doesn’t work in times like these. There are a ton of opportunities for joint-ventures and partnerships right now. Find a way to build a win-win deal where you both benefit. A lack of cash can be made up for with an abundance of creativity.”
3. Shift your strategy
Kevin Dinino, President of KCD PR, said “There are three things you can do to generate lost business: 1) Reevaluate your customers’ needs and desires post-COVID and adapt your services and products to address these critical elements. 2) If you are selling anything online, consider offering payment plans to reduce the immediate financial burden for your customers and create a reoccurring revenue stream for your business. 3. Take advantage of declining ad prices.”
Kevin Walker, SVP of Marketing at Issuu, said, “It’s likely other companies competing for your customers’ attention will reduce their marketing spend during an economic downturn. Now is the time to double down on your own marketing efforts and take advantage of a ‘quieter’ marketplace.”
5. Understand needs
Emily Pederson, Sr. Account Manager at Leighton Interactive, said “Retention is the new acquisition. Don’t forget about your loyal customers. While you may be hungry for new business, it’s extremely important to make sure you are servicing existing customers and making sure they are safe, happy, and healthy. Think about upsell opportunities when identifying what your customers need and work to identify ways you can be a guide during this post-pandemic world.”