Firstly, hi, how are you? I know it’s been a while but at these really troubled and strange times, I hope you are all safe and keeping well.
I haven’t blogged on here for ages. For those of you that also read my other blog over at Oh-Samantha then you will already know that I spent half of last year recovering from a serious illness and then I started a dating business that was doing well until……….. lockdown. So I figured I needed to get my blogging mojo back into force and get helping some of you with all your business marketing needs in these really tough times.
As much as I’m getting fed up of hearing the word unprecedented, we truly are in those times. Nobody has a guide book for this. Nobody knows when it will end, or how it will end for that matter. And when it comes to business, the truth is, most of us are just winging it at the moment and none of us really know the absolute right way to deal with any of it. All any of us can do is apply some logic, a sprinkling of good practice and a lot of sheer determination to get through this with some sort of business and income at the end.
I’ve had days in the past few weeks when my phone hasn’t stopped with clients, old and new, wondering what the hell to do. So here are a few tips to help you all out during the Covid crisis, and the first one is……
I know that’s easier said than done. But certainly don’t panic post all over social media. Much of this is out of your control. If your business is subject to closure orders then no matter how much hypothesising you do, you can’t open. It’s that simple and it’s out of your control. So focus on what you can control.
I’ve seen a lot of business owners posting all over social media about how worried they are about their businesses. Then in the next post trying to sell gift vouchers. That’s some serious level of mixed messaging going on. You might as well be asking Joe public to drop you £50 to pay the gas bill and call it quits. By putting it out there in the public domain that you are worried and don’t know if you’ll open again, why would someone buy a voucher to spend in a business the owner doesn’t even think will be there in 6 months time?
Try not to overly outwardly project how worried and panicked you are, especially on social media. It won’t fill your customers with confidence and people quickly switch off to a constant stream of negative messaging. That conversation is best kept private to your nearest and dearest.
And If You Are Open
Don’t be embarrassed to keep on trading. I saw someone post on Twitter the other week about how they thought brands should stop tweeting and promoting during this time, backed up by another who felt that they should stop all automated tweets because Boris was in the hospital. Neither of these people is a business owner and are currently being paid to sit at home doing nothing. Well for them. I rolled my eyes and sat on my fingers to stop myself from telling them to cop on to themselves.
It’s vital, virus or no virus, that some businesses continue to trade and that the economy continues to turn in some way. We can’t suddenly have no business going on. If the economy collapses completely then we will end up with a worthless currency and queueing to buy a loaf of bread for £100.
But If you are still open for business then count your blessings and do whatever you can to keep it that way. If you have a service or product that’s in demand at the moment then chances are customers will seek you out anyway. You probably don’t want to go around shouting about how business is booming during the lockdown, but at the same time, don’t feel embarrassed to say you are open for business.
But, a word of caution. If your business requires you to be out and about for any reason, and it’s non-essential, then seriously consider if you should still be open. In the long run, I don’t think it will create good PR for your business. Online-based businesses like my own can safely operate whilst never leaving the house. Any form of home maintenance business needs some serious consideration as to whether you continue or not unless it’s essential.
Whether you are open for business or not, this is not the time to start pumping out way more social media posts than you usually would. Or sending out more newsletters than normal. I’ve seen some business owners who currently aren’t open, clearly concentrating on keeping their business social media active. Great. Or maybe not. It’s great that they are working to keep their audience engaged but it’s mostly rubbish that they are posting. Sharing endless memes and news items to your business page isn’t going to help your reach. You’re more likely to get unfollowed. Keep whatever you post relevant to your business and your audience.
Likewise, stop asking, begging, for every man and his dog to like your Facebook page and then asking that they invite everyone they know. In the long run, it’ll do you more harm than good. You’ll end up with loads of followers that aren’t one bit interested in your business and will never engage with your posts. It messes with the algorithms and ensures that sooner or later nobody will be seeing your posts. Again, keep it relevant to those who have a genuine interest in your business.
Can you offer a product or service that can really help out others at the moment? Great examples being the likes of BrewDog who have switched to sanitiser. My daughter who usually just makes wax melts is also now doing soap (ok so I’m making it for her to stock given I’m still licensed to do it). And in my own business, I’m helping more businesses go digital so they can continue to trade. My dating business has also gone online for members to meet virtually. Can you make a small change in your business to help others out right now?
I’ve noticed a marked decrease in the amount of good business content being published. This is not the time to abandon your previous content creation strategy! It’s the time to be upping your game. Can you do video, podcast, blog posts, images?
Say for example you’re a hair or beauty salon. You could be making videos giving tips for doing hair or nails at home. A bit of self-maintenance. You aren’t going to lose future business because you’ve made a video about doing your own nails. People will still want a professional to do them post lockdown. Same with hair. Videos about hair colourants or doing a beachy wave.
Restaurants. Are you completely closed and not doing takeaways? Again, videos about great simple meals to prepare. Perhaps a menu favourite. Cocktails! You can’t lose business when you aren’t even open and it will keep your customers engaged. Post recipes on your business website.
Gyms. Create private groups for members to do live classes or even create free classes to encourage membership sign-ups in the future. Or just to help keep the nation healthy, Joe Wicks style.
And if your business isn’t digital then now really is the time to get that sorted. Life and business are going to change post lockdown and I predict that that way many businesses work will change dramatically. This will be a digital revolution so get ready for it.
Just a note to check your insurance before you make any business changes. I know the government said they would allow pubs and restaurants to pivot to takeaways, but does your insurance cover you for it? And by switching to takeaway are you risking the grants you may be entitled to? Check the small print before you make any changes.
Sell, Sell, Sell
Actually don’t. Marketing or even PR isn’t about pumping out endless sales messages. As much as we all love to grab a bargain, people still don’t like to be sold to. You still have to apply the know, like and trust mechanics to your marketing. But money is going to be tight for many now. We are going into a deep recession. People will be spending their money a lot more wisely. Adjust your message accordingly and apply the want versus need tests to whatever it is you’re selling. Serve, don’t sell.
At some point, hopefully in the not too distant future, lockdown will end, and businesses can try to get back to normal. But it won’t be normal. We have the threat of a second wave of the virus and any business would be foolish not to prepare for that. Look now at what you could have done differently before lockdown. How could you have adapted your business to be more resilient to a lockdown? What can you do to ensure a second wave doesn’t finish off your business? Please don’t just think that you will be able to open your doors and crack on. It just won’t work like that.
More people than ever are going to switch to online shopping and services. Even though as humans we are social creatures, social distancing will make us all question what we do a lot more in the future. Are people going to have the confidence to engage in activities that involve them being in cramped or confined spaces? What happens to those who may still have to self-isolate? How can you include them?
What about your workforce? Can they work more from home? Flexible working? Do your business systems need updating to be more contactless and digital? These are all things to examine and prepare for during lockdown so that you can really hit the ground running on post lockdown day one.
How you reshape your business can become a marketing and PR tool to use. If you become a more flexible, home working employer, shout about it. A gym creating online members areas, that’s a marketing point. Pubs that Facebook Live their weekly quiz so those still isolating can join in. There’s your PR point.
Future marketing is also about creating goodwill.
You Will Survive
Every single business is going to have to adapt in some way. I fear those that don’t or don’t do it quickly enough, won’t survive. This recession was always going to happen this year. It was predictable. What nobody predicted was that it would come hand in hand with a deadly virus and completely and utterly turn all our worlds upside down. But your business can survive if you are ready to adapt and change.
You can do this!