Developing Your COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan
MARKETING: 8 Minute Read
What will it take to recover from this crisis now that our traditional assumptions about marketing and growing our businesses have been rendered irrelevant?
That is the question of our time, isn't it?
Amid all the chaos and all the incoming advice we hear, it’s hard to know exactly what business leaders should do today to prepare for the coming 12-18 months of economic uncertainty while we await a vaccine.
“It’s going to be brutal. There’s no way to sugarcoat it at all. And when we get to the other side, companies are going to be operating differently” -Mark Cuban, April 2020
I know the challenges may seem insurmountable, but as Louis Pasteur, the French microbiologist and pioneer of the "Germ theory of disease", is often quoted as saying, "Fortune favors the prepared mind."
That means it’s time to set up a plan for you to win against this “silent enemy.”
To get you started, I’ve laid out a COVID-19 post-lockdown Business Recovery Plan for you below to prepare you for the “Next Normal.”
Please read the plan carefully and then if you’d like to hear more, register for my COVID-19 Business Recovery Webinar, or schedule a complimentary 30-minute strategy call with me to map out a customized plan for you.
What I’m Hearing
Over the past weeks I've spoken with multiple business owners from around the US to learn their concerns about restarting their businesses post-COVID-19; plus I've read through hundreds of small business owner posts and comments on Alignable.com to see what small business owners are currently thinking and concerned about.
Here are the main anxieties I hear everyone dealing with:
Your cash flow that abruptly came to a halt and you’re wondering if it’s ever coming back
Refunding previously booked product orders/services/events if your customers are scared to move forward
The uncertainty of customers willing to return due to the economic uncertainties they face
Bringing back your employees using a Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan/grant and hoping you have enough business flow to keep them productive and your overhead manageable
Taking appropriate precautions to protect yourself, your employees and your customers, while also booking enough business to be profitable.
While these concerns are all warranted, there’s always a way to turn things around so let’s continue…
After compiling and reviewing the results of my simple research, here are my own predictions for the post-COVID-19 economy and business environment:
Demand for Goods and Services
While the demand for goods and services will remain weak during the Phase 1 opening up of
various state economies, there should be an initial rebound of return business as hard goods businesses replenish inventories and consumers return to buying services they've been without during the lock-downs.
Whether your business is a product manufacturing operation, professional service or an entertainment oriented business (such as a restaurant, bar or event oriented business) an initial uptick in business during May and June coupled with the federal government's PPP loans/grants could be just enough to keep you going this summer.
As the economies open up, consumers that have been stuck at home will want to get back to the hair salons and gyms so they can look good and feel great again. Bars and restaurants may see a return of their dine-in patrons but don’t count on a return to previous dine-in levels anytime soon.
But then what? What will happen this fall? Will your product or service demand return as before? I believe that will take some time. Just like it did in the 2001 and 2008 Recessions.
The demand for your products and services is still there by all accounts; however, we just don’t know how many consumers will be afraid, or unable, to spend money in the coming year so we’re going to have to think and operate differently which I’ll get to shortly.
Sadly, some of the worst hit market segments and businesses that were underfunded simply will not survive this horrendous downturn.
Of those that do survive, many will drop their prices to attract customers; further, commoditizing their industries.
That’s why it will be more important than ever to differentiate your business and brand as a high value, best-in-class, business.
Don't be shy about showing off your credentials, accomplishments/awards, before/after photos or customer success stories so customers can see why you are a better choice than your competition.
New Safety Guidelines May Limit You
During the Phase 1 reopening of the economy you still won't be able to have a crowded reception area or retail space so you won’t be able to serve as many customers or clients as before.
What will that mean for your Phase 1 reopening revenues?
One possible option would be to extend your open hours to make up for your constrained capacity; however, that will increase your overhead so do the math before deciding.
Acquiring New Customers, Clients or Patients
When your business reopens you won’t be able to spend as freely on advertising and marketing to attract new customers unless you’re getting a great return on your marketing investment.
That means no more general advertising. You'll need to laser focus on specific target customers with specific marketing messages to assure them that it's safe to return and do business with you.
That being said, my bottom-line marketing advice to you is: “If you can’t track the results, don’t spend the money.”
Online and Remote Business Operations
For those businesses who've embraced online business, online product sales and remote service consultations have proven to be successful and will become mainstream business models because customers, clients and patients will demand it.
Put together a plan to operate an online business model that is just as customer focused as your brick-n-mortar business.
Your Business Recovery Plan
Ok, that’s enough bad news. Like everything else in life, it’s your choice how you will react to this situation. If you keep a resiliency mindset and be smart about your restart strategy, you’ll overcome this challenge just like you have other challenges in your life.
Don’t allow anyone else’s fears to be installed in you. I implore you to think logically and NOT emotionally at this time, using the strategies below to restart your business:
Strategy #1: Prioritize Until It Hurts.
Now is the time to adopt quality over quantity in your products and services offerings. I know it’s often hard and hurts to say NO to a customer but now’s the time to jettison those accounts that suck up all your time, energy and profit servicing them.
Focus on marketing the products and services you can do in-house at the lowest cost, with the highest gross margins that give you the most profit, using the least amount of resources and drop everything else for now.
AND, review which referral/endorsement sources give you the most revenue (not the most leads) but the most paid customers.
ALSO, keep in touch with your current customers. The customers who already know, like and trust you are always your best opportunities so stay focused on them via email, text and social media.
Give them reasons to like, share or comment on your content so other prospective customers, like them, will choose you as well.
Strategy #2: Reaching Out to Your Best Customers
In the coming months you won’t know how many consumers, or businesses, will still be able to afford your products or services. We do know unemployment has hit an all-time high so that means you’ll want to “target market” more than ever before.
Obviously, business expenditures and consumer discretionary income will take a huge hit for the foreseeable future, so answer this question:
Who is most likely affected and least likely to be affected by this economic contraction?
You’ll need to laser focus on the businesses or consumers who have the financial wherewithal to not only weather the economic storm but also have the resources to move forward with planned business investments or consumer purchases.
Every marketing and advertising dollar will count so you’ll need to prioritize and focus on:
Current active customers, clients or patients who have given you money before.
Previous customers who know you but haven’t purchased for awhile
Those who came in, or called, for service estimates but didn’t book a paid session.
New customers who don’t know you yet, AND have the financial wherewithal to afford your services (target high-income zip codes, homeowners, professionals)
Strategy #3: Build or Refresh Your Brand
When an industry is saturated with a supply of providers you don’t want to compete on price. You need to compete on your brand reputation.
However, your brand is NOT just your website. It’s only one piece of the puzzle of “brand YOU.” It’s the personality of your business and a promise to your customers.
Your brand relays your values, what you want customers to feel when they interact with you, your employees and your business processes (think online ordering experience)
As Jeff Bezos of Amazon says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Your brand = Trust + Safety + Helping others so here’s what you can do:
Safety: Make YouTube videos, checklists, statements talking about all the precautions you have put into place to protect your employees and customers from the virus.
Trust: Differentiate your business with your experience, skills and offerings that others can’t compare to when it comes to choosing the best provider.
Helping others: Show how you have a generous heart with pro-bono efforts and giving back to your community.
Now’s the time to refresh your brand image and messaging, if necessary, to position you for the “Next Normal.” If you haven’t updated your website in the last year, now’s the time to do it.
Strategy #4: Digital and Social Media Marketing
The whole world just went digital so please adapt to it so you don’t get left behind.
BUT, be sensitive with your messaging since digital marketing during COVID-19, depending on your product or service, could be touchy and could hurt your brand if there’s online blow-back towards something you say on Facebook or Twitter.
Remember, your #1 objective with digital marketing, right now, is to build your brand awareness and loyalty along with your email list – NOT to market and sell your services.
You can do that by following the 3 E’s:
Empathy: The goal is to enter the conversation your customers are already having in their heads that you need to address such as showing your concern for your customers and employees more than promoting your products or services that could hurt your brand if you look greedy and insensitive.
Educate: You still have a huge population stuck on home and online all day looking around for answers to their questions. Do Q&A or “how to” videos or offer a free online coaching session, etc. during this time.
Entertain: Get attention and stand out by showing different facets of yourself so prospective customers get to know you better. Examples include you in the kitchen cooking for the family, how you stay fit, show off your dog tricks, etc.
Social Media Advertising
Here’s a surprise (NOT), Social Media is not free. You think you’re posting and reaching your customers but, in reality, only 5-10% of them are actually seeing your content.
Just like you had to pay for ads in newspapers, radio and TV, you’ll have to pay for social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. That’s just the reality.
Pick one social media channel where your target customers hang out and then start thinking about how you plan to use that one social media channel as part of your restart plan. Don’t try to manage and advertise on more than one channel.
One way to engage with prospective customers is to use surveys to ask three simple questions that will allow you to get a feel for where consumers’ or business buyers’ mindsets are at with things like:
What do you miss the most about having access to our products or services?
Will you wait or come back now during the Phase 1 reopening?
What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Surveys work great if you have a way to get your survey in front of customers. One way would be to use a free SurveyMonkey.com link presented to customers through social media channels or direct email blasts.
Strategy #5: Leverage Co-Marketing Partnerships
Co-Marketing Partnerships are where two or
more businesses share advertising and marketing
expenses by collaborating to help each other
achieve more sales.
Search online and you will find articles, agencies,
and job adverts on co-marketing under an array
of titles such as partnership marketing,
joint venture marketing, endorsement marketing
and merchant marketing.
It’s where a primary brand has the ideal product or service to compliment a secondary brand (or vice versa) who has the same target customer.
Co-Marketing Partnerships are a great, no-cost/low-cost, marketing strategy that is simple to understand and is a perfect way for two or more financially strapped business to help each other generate business during this challenging time.
If you’d like to learn how to implement a co-marketing strategy, you can register for my short online (and free) Co-Marketing Partnerships That Sell Mini Course.
The ideas presented above can
“keep you in the game” so you’re in great
shape to thrive when the dust settles.
But it’s up to you if you’re going to execute
these resiliency strategies or sit back and
wait for things to get better on their own
My team and I are happy to do the work for you if you don’t want to do it yourself, but please get it done. Your future depends on it.
I hope this was helpful to you and I look forward to your feedback.
Founder, Chain Reactions Marketing®
Creator, The Endorsement Partner Formula™
P.S. It’s difficult to think clearly when you are emotionally charged with fear: How can I bring in revenues? Can I afford to bring my employees back? Will the customers return? and so on.
Everyone needs support from someone who is exclusively in their corner.
That’s why it’s helpful to speak to someone who has perspective and distance who can objectively help you think through things, so you come up with a practical plan of action to get you through to the other side.
I’d like to be that someone for you.
Feel free to email me at JW@ChainReactionsMarketing.com or click below to schedule an online day/time we can chat. Stay Safe!
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