“Being creative, positive and innovative during this time could not just help your business see through this challenging period, but actually help you break through to new sections of the market and improve your brand image for many months or years to come.”
As the world slowly comes to terms with this new health crisis, and more become infected or have to be isolated at home – the impact is not just felt by those who are sick. Businesses are already starting to feel the impact of this global health event, with consumers changing their buying behaviour, staying home and spending less. Those who have already been hit hard, include the travel, events, retail industries and more.
As more health professionals also speak up on the subject, it is becoming clear that Coronavirus will likely be with us for months – not weeks. It is possible we will be dealing this this for the next 4 – 7 months at least. This is scary news for many business owners who are already taking a hit from reduced footfall, sales or having supply chain problems.
But that is enough doom and gloom, what can you do to help your business survive and even possibly thrive during this challenging time?
Be a valuable and positive resource for customers and your community during this difficult time.
Many people are anxious, and rightly so. People feel confused, unsure and are looking for reassurance and a sense of normality. You may not be able to (and probably shouldn’t) offer medical advice but there are things your brand can do to help your customers feel more at ease, regardless of the products or services you offer. You can help by creating positive and reassuring content that can help them feel a sense of normality.
For example, if you own a cafe create a hand cleansing station right at the entrance to encourage people to cleanse their hands before coming inside and also on leaving. Put up helpful (but not anxiety inducing) signs to encourage social distancing and proper hand washing in bathrooms. Make it clear you are doing everything you can to help customers continue with their usual daily activities safely.
If you sell electronics or phone accessories, produce a guide on how to properly clean and disinfect phones, ipads and other often touched gadgets. Then suggest the right products to also help protect screens from damage.
Are you an interior designer? Offer tips on how customers can make their homes feel more comfortable if they are going to be stuck indoors for extended periods.
Sell gym equipment? Create a campaign based on staying fit without needing to visit the gym, and offer advice, content and products based around exercising safely and effectively at home.
There are many, many ways you can still offer value even if you or your customers are limited in certain activities. Being creative, positive and innovative during this time could not just help your business see through this challenging period, but actually help you break through to new sections of the market and improve your brand image for many months or years to come.
Implement new or improved, safe delivery options as soon as possible.
In many areas online shopping is surging as people order more from home. If you own a brick and mortar store and don’t currently offer delivery – offering delivery could potentially make the difference if large portions of your customer base do end up stuck at home for several weeks or more. Consider how you can offer an effective delivery option for your customers while also keeping yourself and others safe and prevent the spread of germs.
One good option is to leave deliveries at the door or in a safe place chosen by your customer to minimise close contact. If you already offer delivery, think about what you could do to improve or bolster your offering by improving shipping and handling times or offering next day delivery if possible.
Consider reducing your pricing for certain delivery methods or even offer it for free for a short time. Even outside of a crisis – offering free shipping can help boost your sales.
Make it clear to customers what you are doing about Coronavirus.
If you haven’t already, it can help to keep your customers calm and up to date if you send out an email blast or memo explaining the measures or changes you are putting in place. For example, if you or your team are working from home, restricting opening hours, making changes to services on offer or even closing down for a short time… make sure to communicate this clearly and calmly to potential customers. But remember to keep content positive in nature if you can so as not to incite more panic. Keep updates concise and calm.
Consider running a special (but carefully considered) promotion to boost sales.
Slashing prices in the wrong way could incite panic buying with certain products, or encourage large groups of people into your store which could cause more harm than good. So if you want to boost sales think about how you can offer a great deal in the right way. Don’t just think about the practical needs of your customers but also their emotions and concerns. Could you consider a sale or promotion on essential or daily use style products to help consumers feel a little more at ease? Or perhaps an offer on something that can brighten their day or provide entertainment at home.
Carefully consider digital marketing campaigns and spend – but don’t panic.
It is likely that consumer buying behaviour both online and offline will continue to change, and for this reason results might drop or be less predictable. Unfortunately there is little you or your marketing team can do to change this, as major events naturally influence consumer behaviour and buying habits. However, you can be smart by monitoring your current marketing campaigns carefully, and reconsidering large planned marketing investments or new product launches.
At the same time, don’t panic and switch off all of your marketing campaigns. You will save some money in the short term, but it could damage your business, and your bottom line. Discuss what is best for you with your marketing team or account managers to make sure you are monitoring your spend and results properly.
Do not, I repeat, do not utilise fear as a marketing tactic.
We’ve all seen it already, companies and individuals trying to utilise the fear surrounding this virus to encourage bulk and panic buying. Not only is this going to damage your brand image and lose you customers, it’s unethical. Consumers do not respond well when businesses make obvious moves to take advantage of their fears and hardship. Instead, think about how you can help your customers in a positive way that won’t leave others short or in need.
Help employees feel more at ease by clarifying sick leave and creating a coronavirus action plan.
We can’t forget about the backbone of your business – your employees! Make sure you offer clear information on sick leave and put a plan in place for if you or if a member of your team do become infected. Taking the time to have this information ready and available can help avoid panic, and keep employees feeling calmer. For example, make sure that any employees who report symptoms of the virus are sent home as quickly as possible, but in a calm and organised fashion – then make sure their work area is properly cleaned to protect others as much as possible.
Plan and prepare for how you or your employees may need to work remotely.
Remote working and how to remain organised and efficient is really a whole topic in it’s own right. But there are easy things you can do to make sure you are ready if you do need to work from home. Make sure you have a clutter free space that you can set up and work in for extended periods, preferably in a dedicated room. Make sure you and your team are versed in at least basic conferencing tools like Google Hangouts or Skype. Also, get to know valuable team working tools like the Google Suite (Google docs, sheets etc) Slack, and others.
Get to know what support the government is offering businesses so you can make use of it if needed.
The government have provided coronavirus business advice but also financial support for businesses in need during this time. Make sure you know what is available so that you can utilise these important offerings if you experience financial issues because of the virus.
So to summarise all of this advice:
- Create helpful, reassuring content for your market to help them through this tough time.
- Ramp up your delivery options to deliver products to consumers at home.
- Make it clear to customers what you are doing about Coronavirus (in a positive way).
- Consider running a carefully considered promotion to boost sales of select products.
- Carefully consider digital marketing campaigns and spend – but don’t panic.
- Do not in any way utilise fear as a marketing tactic.
- Help employees feel more at ease by clarifying sick leave and creating a coronavirus action plan.
- Plan and prepare for how you or your employees may need to work remotely.
- Get to know what support the government is offering businesses so you can make use of it if needed.
This global health issue will unfortunately be with us for months. So it is important that we all play our part as both businesses and individuals to protect ourselves, our communities, and the economy. Remember to stay calm, and follow all of the government provided health advice for both individuals and businesses in your country.
Further helpful links on Coronavirus for both individuals and business in the UK: