The pandemic has resulted in a whole new range of issues for entrepreneurs and business owners.
As if building a business wasn’t challenging enough, companies are now faced with overhauling their entire marketing strategy, rethinking how they communicate with staff and stakeholders, and cleaning like they’ve never cleaned before.
Here are some of the top strategies you need to consider in order to ensure your business is not only surviving, but thriving – both now – and once we finally find our way out of this global crisis.
Finding your professional protection equipment
Personal protection equipment might exist in the realm of the medical profession, but what about professional protection equipment? What are the tools and strategies you need to protect your business now, in order to survive into the future?
If you’re a business with a physical location or store front, you need to be communicating all the deep cleaning efforts you’re putting in, whether your hours have changed at all, and whether your product offering has been affected. You need to constantly be thinking: how can I further reassure my customer that our store is safe to visit? What more could I be doing?
Similar tactics should be used for online businesses, too. Communicate the steps you’re taking to ensure delivery hygiene safety, including if you offer contact-free delivery.
A customer ordering a product online from outside of their state, for example, might very well be concerned about that product being contaminated with COVID-19. Even if you know their worries are unfounded, that’s not an excuse to ignore their concerns.
Get closer despite professional distancing
Like it or not, professional distancing is a thing. The ways in which we communicate with clients and staff have altered drastically over the past six months, and business communications need to adapt to fit.
Leaders who are intentional in creating meaningful empathetic connections are the ones who will succeed during these challenging times. Check in with your clients and listen well. ‘How are you?’ isn’t always enough: create space for a more meaningful exchange that shows genuine care in your clients as individuals.
The same is true of your own staff, too. When people feel powerless in times of uncertainty, anxiety grows, so don’t leave room for unanswered questions. Answer any and all questions relating to the impact of the pandemic on your team’s job certainty and role requirements.
Even if you don’t have conclusive answers, giving updates to manage expectations and share possible outcomes (even if they are not all positive) has an empowering and stabilising effect.
Are you a super spreader?
This isn’t business as usual. A campaign or viral marketing stunt that might have worked like a dream before the pandemic might now be considered a serious health risk or even criminal act.
Take Krispy Kreme’s decision to hand out free donuts to anyone born between March 13 and July 13, as a treat for those whose birthdays had been hijacked by the pandemic.
The brand thought they’d taken every precaution, including a contactless drive-through process to ensure the company was adhering to social distancing guidelines.
But what started as a fun promotion turned into a serious health risk as crowds of people turned up, blocking roads and resulting in the riot police being called.
The story made international headlines, with a Daily Mail UK article splashing pictures of crowds of people packed outside a Sydney Krispy Kreme store. Aside from the obvious health risks, the campaign was ultimately a terrible PR move and put the health of the brand at risk too.
The best way to avoid this kind of disaster is to avoid these kinds of stunts entirely. But if your brand does find itself in hot water following an ill-advised move – or even if it becomes the source of a coronavirus cluster – the best option is to speak out openly, honestly, and with humility.
Silence is never the answer.
In the current climate, there are so many more opportunities for brands to fall short. And when a crisis does hit, the worn-out strategies of ignoring the media, your customers or shutting them down with short, cold statements rarely have the de-escalating effect intended. People would rather spin their own stories than not have one at all.
Reassurance over revenue
Now is not the time to be thinking dollar signs. Providing extra value is important, but not if it’s simply a badly disguised sales tactic wrapped up as a gift. Make sure your ‘added value’ isn’t simply clickbait or a chance to go in for the hard sell.
Saying, ‘call me for tips’ or ‘call me to discuss how we could help you’ is not-so-subtle code for ‘I want your money and will bait you with what seems helpful only to switch into sales mode.’
How about offering additional services free of charge? Be generous with your offers, because that’s the kind of person people want to do business with, and it’ll be remembered when the crisis has finally passed.
Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, a PR firm for SMEs and not-for-profits, that focuses on outcomes, not output – it’s pure and simple. Pure Public Relations offers media relations, issues management and communication services, and has a reputation for securing excellent coverage for topics that are not obviously newsworthy and an impressive track record for issues management.