Posted on Mar 24, 2020
As COVID-19 spreads across the world, businesses, especially small ones have already started feeling the economic tremors it has ensued. Problems along supply chains including lost avenues for profit are making the situation alarming for businesses.
Originated from Wuhan, China, the outbreak has spread to disrupt global supply chains and financial markets.
The pandemic continues to grow exponentially and is expected to last weeks or even months. This blog will guide you into taking the right measures for your business:
Impact of Coronavirus on Businesses
The impact on businesses in the affected regions is already hurting global economic growth for 2020.
At the time of this post, in Ottawa, we’re seeing the city’s renowned Bridgehead coffee shops closing their doors as Starbucks also reduces their services strictly to Grab and Go. City services such as the Ottawa Public Library and beloved restaurants like Beckta Dining & Wine and OCCO Kitchen are also closing their doors.
Other businesses are able to fight back and help the community like Almonte’s Dairy Distillery, which has transformed its operations to produce hand sanitizer, instead of vodka, also known as Vodkow.
With new regulations beginning tonight, March 24th, in Ontario asking for non-essential businesses to close, it brings many to another level of difficulty trying to sustain their business in the long run
Unfortunately, for many local businesses, the impact is devastating. As owners, you do not want to leave your employees empty-handed however, you feel restrained in your capacities as you also have a family to keep safe and healthy.
Thankfully, government aid has been removing some strain off business owners’ shoulders. Within days of announcing his aid package, Justin Trudeau said that over 500,000 people applied for employment insurance in Canada over the course of the week. During the same week last year, only 27,000 people had applied.
However, as this storyline unfolds you can take proactive steps to ensure the good health of your business alongside your own. This will ensure your business is resilient to get off the right foot once the pandemic is behind us.
How Businesses Should Fight the COVID-19 Crisis
Now that the coronavirus crisis has reached a censorious phase and public health experts are acting proactively to slow the spread, businesses should also act smart to lessen the economic impacts of this threatening disease. Though your major priority should emphasize on slowing the coronavirus, businesses can take proactive steps to manage the situation.
To fight the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, businesses need to prepare themselves as soon as possible. Here are a few steps that every business should follow to prepare themselves for this emergency situation.
Seek Information Regularly
Only a few weeks ago, it seemed that the outbreak was only confined to China. However, in reality, the picture is changing on a regular basis and at an astounding speed.
Today, when the epicentres of COVID-19 have expanded worldwide, economies need to be transparent to fight back. If a country in a deeper stage of the outbreak sees their government impose restrictions, you can assume that similar restrictions may arrive shortly in your country.
In Italy, all sporting events were cancelled on March 9th, and it only took two days to see similar actions in North America with the domino effect we witnessed after the NBA suspended the remainder of the season. Since then, most sports leagues have halted with only a few continuing behind closed doors.
Being well informed of a situation can lessen its impact on your business as you may prepare for something that isn’t as unforeseen.
Filter for the Most Valuable Information
To keep a business updated and lower the risk of economic downfall, keep away from hypes. In today’s age, when everyone is using different communication channels, it becomes very tough to distinguish between facts and speculations.
While absorbing the information from different sources, companies must be analytical and ensure the information is taken from reliable sources.
“A riot broke out in Novi Sanzhary, Ukraine due to a social media rumour that the COVID-19 virus is going to bring death to the region. People started evacuating the province and that caused violent clashes with police. The incident injured many police officials along with the commoners.”
The above excerpt is an example of misinformation that often circulates online. This can severely hamper certain companies if they spread incorrect information. In today’s tech-savvy world where consumers have easy access to information, companies need to be extra cautious. A wrong piece of information or fake news might destroy the reputation of a brand. Amid this crisis, it is part of corporate social responsibility to make the audience aware of correct information.
One tip is to avoid reacting to posts on social media that come from unreliable sources that simply seek page views. In all, this will help strengthen your administrative and operational process, as well as ensure you only consider correct information.
Now that you’ve gathered reliable information to make the best decisions for your business, it’s time to keep your employees informed. In this emergency situation, it becomes very essential for the leaders to pass on the updated information about the COVID-19 crisis to their employees. Regular updates from employers not only act as an awareness initiative but also encourage employees to give their best to overcome the crisis.
Companies must also consider reaching out to their consumers about the impacts of the emergency regulations. Update your Google My Business and social media platforms as you make decisions, such as reducing business hours or closing your doors completely. If you have the capacity to do so, include a banner at the top of your website’s homepage or even create a COVID-19 landing page that includes important information about your current operations.
Keeping in touch with people also promotes good mental health. Being isolated from physical interactions with friends and family may cause some to get into a slump. Having communication with the outside world, including colleagues, helps get through social distancing.
Create a Communication Plan
To retain customers and maintain brand value even during this crisis, companies must pay extra heed to their audience. Initiatives to learn about their needs during an emergency is essential to see how they can help their community. It’s also useful for recurring customers to know how a business is reacting to the situation. Answering their questions like “Are you still open?”, or “Will you be still delivering?” are important to answer through different digital channels and maintain relationships with customers. The communication plan must focus on the health and safety of customers and employees rather than just outright branding.
As a brief overview, here are some points to keep in mind for making your communication smooth and successful even during this public crisis:
- Notify your communication team about the crisis.
- Split responsibilities to management and key executives.
- Anticipate the concerns of your consumers, stakeholders and investors.
- Be prepared with your answers.
- Speed up the communication process by utilizing different digital platforms.
- Do not forget to follow up with your audience.
Promote Remote Work
COVID-19 being a very contagious disease, spreads rapidly. So, if the business is somewhere in the region of an epicentre, companies must develop solutions to keep workers and customers safe. Apart from spreading awareness about the disease, businesses must also come up with remote working policies if possible. When organizations like the World Health Organization are asking people to practice social-distancing, remote or work from home is a very effective solution to avoid transmission.
Stabilize Your Supply-Chain
As mentioned earlier, most small businesses are hurt due to supply-chain disruption. To maintain the revenue flow even during this emergency, look for alternative financial sources like government programs developed specifically for this emergency. To control the situation effectively, communicate with suppliers regularly.
Also, try to diversify your suppliers. If you rely simply on a single supplier, you may be at risk if they need to close their doors during the pandemic. If a business fails to develop rapid solutions, they can make use of interim solutions to stabilize the supply chain, such as integrating outsourced tasks temporarily.
Be a Part of the Solution
It’s time to put aside your focus on profit and revenue. Businesses should practice good social responsibility during these rougher times. Some people will need to go without pay for a while and thin wallets will become common. It is an excellent corporate gesture to support the victims in the community, industry or supply chain. We often hear of social responsibility towards the community, however helping your fellow business people and partners can also have its benefits to society in the long run.
Digital Marketing to Help Businesses Overcome the Coronavirus Crisis
While regular washing of hands, social distancing, and other stringent practices are now in place to keep this disease at bay, businesses are looking for innovative solutions to stabilize the turmoil.
However, we are no longer in the ’90s, where businesses were required to cut their marketing budgets to fight a financial crisis. Digital marketing can be a great solution. Currently, one of the big advantages of this modern marketing technique is that a business owner does not have to interact with a customer in-person to promote and sell their service/product. While businesses are functioning remotely, digital marketers can still make use of their online tools to help the company overcome this rough patch.
When a crisis hits a market, it’s not enough to have a good communication strategy. Evaluate the present market scenario and predict market behaviour using different digital tools like Google Trends.
Here are a few steps you can take online to overcome some challenges:
- Content with new goals: Your content today should not have the same goals as it had previously. The goal is still to inform, but not in a “business as usual” manner. For example, a company can put up a blog describing the measures undertaken by its employees to keep the Coronavirus at bay or it can send newsletters elaborating the precautions being followed in the delivery of the product/service. This will show customers the length to which the company is going to ensure their safety. It will also demarcate the business as a responsible one.
- Inform changes in business operations: Update your hours of operation or other relevant company information on different directories. Lately, Google My Business has limited functionalities, but your hours of operations can still be updated. Most social media platforms also have areas where you can update business information, usually found in “About Us” sections. It helps your audience gather relevant information before they go out to visit you in-store if you are still open.
- Communicate changes online: Simply updating your business information is not enough. These changes need to be communicated. Your first method may be via social media forums and platforms. A company is likely to access not just one but several customers here. A relay of the preventive measures and other strategies taken can greatly help reassure customers. Calmness, like panic, is contagious. So, if the company spokesperson can effectively reassure one customer or a few customers, chances are that they will effectively spread it to others.
- Apply a Digital Marketing Mix: Using a mix of various channels can increase the odds of your content being read. Not everyone looks at their social media daily, but they might look on your website or use search engines to gather information. Alternatively, you can communicate directly by email marketing. Not only can it provide individual help and reassurance, but can also be used to provide discounts and other offers on essential goods. No matter the channel, revise your messages and ensure they are politically correct, as you do not want to seem as though you are profiting from the situation.
Alternative Communications Channels
The outbreak of COVID-19 infection has impacted virtually every business, especially those in the retail, hospitality and tourism industries. However, to fight the situation, these businesses must try to find alternative ways to maintain operations.
Digital marketers are now recommending online discussion tools and webinars to host events. With the advancement of technology, today we have ample video conference tools that can be used to communicate with customers effectively. A few of these you can use are:
- Facebook Messenger
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Meet
- Instagram Live
To flatten the curve of the infection, most event management firms have been cancelling or postponing events recently. Today, with a plethora of digital applications available, these organizers can consider running their event virtually. For example, the Dropkick Murphys’, an Irish punk rock band, decided to live stream a free concert on Saint-Patrick’s day which drew nearly 1.5 million views on Youtube. A great way to celebrate the bit of Irish we all have in us while practicing social distancing!
Alternatives of Paid Advertising
At this time of crisis, it is essential to reach out to your audience, informing them of your presence and reassuring them. So, businesses must invest in innovative marketing initiatives through different digital platforms. To tackle the financial crisis, it is completely alright to cut down on the paid advertising budget and look for alternative digital marketing tactics to retain the customer base.
With the slowdown in the economy and shutting down of physical marketplaces, businesses might get some extra time to implement and optimize their digital marketing tactics. Businesses can use SEO and inbound marketing to sustain operations throughout the emergency. Not sure where to begin? Take a look back at our blog about SEO which provides insight on simple tricks you can incorporate today.
In part, content marketing can play a great role in staying active online. It only costs you the time needed in creating and promoting the content.
Nonetheless, do consider consistency in quality and posting frequency. Ensure content published on websites or any social profiles is authentic, relevant and of great quality.
In such a situation, when social-distancing is necessary to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, businesses must rely on budget-friendly digital marketing techniques to reach out to their customers.
Reach Through Website
We all know the role a website plays in strengthening your digital marketing efforts. It not only reflects the value of a brand but also makes your digital marketing campaign effective. An updated website with easy navigation for users and relevant content brings value to clients especially during times of crisis.
Inform your audience about the scenario and come up with achievable solutions to meet their needs. Everyone appreciates good customer service, which may be difficult without a physical presence. Still and all, you can still provide good service through your website or other digital marketing mediums.
If you have one, update your FAQ section with relevant questions and answers to your products or services. This section should also contain a few questions about how the pandemic is affecting your business.
Make sure your website responds to your customers’ doubts quickly. Such approaches will not only satisfy your customers but also help you build a healthy relationship with them.
Lastly, if you’d like to brush up on the importance of having good website design, take a look at our previous blog about the benefits of good website design and development.
Utilize Email Marketing
Another way to reach out to your customers is through emails. During this financial emergency, when most businesses are cutting down their marketing budget, email marketing is an affordable medium to communicate with customers.
Today, when emails can be accessed right from a smartphone, consumers find it a convenient method to connect with businesses. So, if you want to notify your customers about the latest coronavirus updates, send them effective and informative emails that educate as well as engage your audience. Emails not only reach your audience directly and instantly but also gives you an opportunity to save on your budget.
If you’re interested in learning more about email marketing or just need a refresher, here is one of our previous blogs introducing the concept.
Utilizing Social Media Marketing
Good crisis management is all about developing an effective communication plan. Amid the COVID-19 scare, when each and every company is struggling to retain its market value, social media platforms can be used as tools to nurture customer relationships and draw goodwill. With over 2 billion people on different social media channels, their key role in marketing cannot be overstated.
The world is standing at a stage where the market situation is very uncertain. To survive this battle, marketers should make short-term digital marketing plans that can be quickly achieved. In a crisis, marketers must stop their businesses from falling into distress. Rather, they should encourage the whole team to focus on the positive and take steps composedly.
When social distancing, supply-chain disruptions, and low sales rates are all serious headaches for businesses, a few smart digital marketing strategies can help them combat the COVID-19 crisis effectively.
We are here to help
If you’re looking for some resources that can help you, myMarketing is ready to help you with insights and tips for what we do best – digital marketing. Please feel free to send us a private message on social media or an email at [email protected] if you want to strike up a conversation about adapting your digital marketing strategy to face the challenges brought by the pandemic.
From the whole team at myMarketing, we wish you, your family and friends all good health. Take care of one another at the best of your capacities. We’ll get through this together.