The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way we live, work, and do business. Thousands of companies went under, and more face financial hardships and an uncertain future.
It’s a tough environment for businesses struggling to survive in the midst of a global crisis. The good news is, there are ways to keep growing and ensure your business’s future health without compromising your values. Read on to learn dos and don’ts of doing business in the era of COVID-19.
Go the extra mile to support your team
Companies are under intense scrutiny over the way they behave in response to the pandemic. British pub chain JD Wetherspoon came under fire for delaying payments to staff until it received furlough money from the government, with CEO Tim Martin telling staff to get jobs in supermarkets. Meanwhile, billionaire Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin, sparked outrage by asking his team to take eight weeks unpaid leave.
On the flip side, companies like Airbnb, headed by Brian Chesky, who when implementing a necessary cost-cutting restructure laid out a strategy to support staff that had to be let go. This approach gained a lot of respect in the press, and understandably so.
Consumers will remember how companies responded to this crisis. The reputational damage to those that mistreat their people will be significant and long-lasting. Going the extra mile to support your team—whether by doing all you can to protect jobs or cutting additional slack for those in challenging personal circumstances—is not just the right thing to do. It will also repay you in the form of a reputational boost and increased staff and customer loyalty.
Focus on value
Now is the time to focus on the value you can give to your customers. If people are watching their spending, your sales might take a hit. But your customers are still watching, and if you offer them value now, they’ll remember you when they’re ready to purchase again.
Now is the time to up your social media presence and post relevant, engaging content. You should also take a look at your e-newsletter and see how you can improve it. What is valuable content? Industry news and views, tips and tricks, discussion starters, sales and discounts, and job openings in your industry are just some of the options you should consider.
How else can you provide value to your audience? Giving away an e-book or paper, or running a free webinar, costs almost nothing. Giving value before making a sales pitch is a core marketing principle, and it’s never more crucial than in times of crisis.
Move online where you can
This will naturally be easier for some businesses than others. If you run a software company or e-commerce firm, you probably carried out the bulk of your operations online anyway. But if you were previously a primarily face-to-face business, it’s time to think about ways to move your business online.
For retailers, this might look like setting up or expanding an e-commerce arm. For a gym owner or fitness instructor, you might switch to online classes. Those in the food and drink industry might consider running live online cooking classes, catering, or publishing recipe ebooks. Get creative and think outside the box. Whatever your business, stepping up your digital marketing efforts will be paramount.
Moving operations online where possible helps to keep cash flowing in, without putting staff at risk by physically reopening too soon. When investing in your digital marketing and SEO, you’ll need to undertake a balanced approach that reflects the uncertain economic climate we are facing. When managing an SEO campaign, identify an opportunity, test the conversion rate, and scale.
Be mindful in how you communicate
Times have changed, and your communications need to change with them. The most vital communication watchwords are intentional and adaptable.
Think about how a message will be received before you put it out. Seek feedback if you’re not sure. Your communications should not be endlessly bleak, but also must not make light of the crisis. Be transparent, offer hope and positivity without shying away from the current reality, and be prepared to respond to a rapidly changing situation.
Avoid capitalizing on the disaster
The expression “disaster capitalism,” coined by author and activist Naomi Klein, refers to the way unscrupulous businesses use times of crisis for their ends. But this is not the same thing as continuing to grow your business ethically.
Examples of unethical behavior in the face of a crisis include stockpiling and price gouging (artificially inflating prices on essential or hard-to-get items.) Those tactics might make a quick dollar now, but the long-term damage isn’t worth it.
COVID-19 doesn’t have to spell disaster for your business
These are challenging times, and many businesses are challenged. But as you’ve seen, there are ways to minimize long-term impact and even keep growing your business.
Take care of your people, increase the value you offer, think creatively about moving operations online, communicate intentionally, and do not capitalize on the disaster. With these principles in mind, you can survive and thrive in the post-COVID world we seem to be entering.
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimization expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation, and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC, and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.
Leaders typically prefer operating in predictable markets, relying on predictable data, generating predictable results, and overseeing consistently performing teams. They likely have plans, or at least considerations, for maneuvering through the stressful scenarios they’ve anticipated.