We’re definitely living in uncertain times. As we draw close to flattening the curve in our communities, many of us are looking to the future and wondering how to regain momentum as we reopen our businesses.
The question is: If they reopen, will people come?
Online merchants that rely on internet orders may be experiencing an upsurge in business, especially if they ship products. Those of you who own brick-and-mortar shops and offices will need to reassure staff and customers alike that it’s safe to venture out and start doing business again.
There’s no doubt about one thing. People may be concerned about their health, but consumers and the companies they frequent are more than ready to get out of the house and get back to normal.
But, how can you do it in such a way that’s both safe and productive?
As their economy struggles to rebound, some Western companies are looking to China as a test model to see how, and how soon, to safely proceed with business as usual. Those areas where local leaders have announced plans for re-opening their economies are proceeding in phases, which makes this the time to plan your own reemergence.
I won’t kid you, though. We’re steering through uncharted territory, and many of us will have to put our agility and creativity to the test in order to bounce back from these unprecedented circumstances.
Our goal is to provide you with some time-tested methods of surviving a severe economic and business downturns and come back stronger than ever.
Put Staff and Customer Safety First
The main concern on everyone’s mind is containing the spread of this disease and keeping their families safe and healthy. This may not come without some financial challenges and prioritization.
* If your workforce is returning to a physical location, make sure that it is sanitized from top to bottom before you open your doors.
* Re-think office layouts and how you approach customer-to-customer and staff interactions. Our local post office has been able to remain open and serve the community by installing plastic sheeting across their customer service counter to act as a barrier. They also keep all access doors open so people won’t need to touch handles or push to get in and out.
* Supply chains and manufacturing are disrupted, and some links may be irrevocably broken. Investigate new ways of getting the materials you need for production and make allowances for unavoidable delays.
* If distance work is working for your company, consider sticking to this business model post-pandemic.
* When cash flow is an issue, consider bartering for B2B goods and services.
Let Your Audience Know You’re Ready for Business
It’s said that the right strategy will allow almost any business to stay viable regardless of market trends and economic downturns. Your success could hinge on the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
* Craft a marketing strategy that lets people know you’re open for business and what safeguards and procedures are in place for their benefit.
* Remember that transparency and authenticity are essential.
* Investigate new audience segments. Rethinking your audience allows you to tap into whole new markets.
For example, tech has traditionally been marketed to professionals and younger demographics. However, older people are learning the joys of video communications and other tech innovations during isolation. Consider that new market segments may value different aspects of your product than your traditional customers. Using the same example of technology, older customers value the sound and picture quality of a laptop or mobile device over speed and processing power.
Find Ways to Expand Services or Product Lines to Reflect Societal Changes
It may be necessary to reinvent yourself to adapt to the new realities of business during and after a major crisis. While many people are at somewhat of a standstill waiting for a return to society, you have the leisure of time to do some creative thinking and pre-planning.
Are there ways that your company can address new pain points? How can your product be adapted to the current environment or buyer’s journeys?
Like all solid business strategies, this will take planning and evidence-based decision making. Experts suggest using these four steps to re-evaluate how you can serve your customers and gain new ones:
1. Deconstruct your business. Examine every piece of your business to gain a deeper understanding of how it works and how it can be tweaked. Many enterprises use a tool like Business Model Canvas to help with this step.
2. Imagine how to reinvent your business using the results of your analysis. Involve friends, co-workers, and staff by brainstorming ideas. Leave nothing off the table. Choose the most viable for further development.
3. Test your ideas by getting feedback from customers. This is the same procedure most business owners and marketing professionals use when crafting any new campaign.
4. Prototype new products or services using smaller segments of your audience. Use feedback to alter your ideas before conducting a full launch. This is similar to A/B testing, where you use a control and experimental group that’s similar in size and demographic makeup. Use a large enough segment to make results relevant and test for several weeks before making major changes.
Consider that staff and customers still have a lot on their plates. Many are experiencing financial problems, kids are still out of school, and day cares may not reopen for some time. People are reoccupied with their own health concerns, and many are also coping with losing friends and loved ones. The lines of communication should remain open even if you’re not.
Keep all of these things in mind as you reopen your business, and remain flexible enough to pivot as situations warrant. Having gone through this once, we have more experience in how to deal with employee health issues, general confusion and fear, and the widespread financial crunch.
Check into any financial or other resources that are available from the federal government as well as on the state and local level. Pool resources, human and otherwise, with similar businesses in your community whenever possible and viable.
Whatever your industry or business model, your successful reentry depends upon solid marketing and PR. When you’re ready to get the word out to your customers that you’re open and ready to do business, talk to a marketing consultant to find out how.