Even with the crisis swirling, innovation can lead firms to prosper in previously unseen ways.
Traci McMillan Beach
| 7:00 a.m. April 10, 2020
Almost every business is feeling a ripple effect due to the uncertainty around COVID-19. Many executives are being forced to make tough decisions, including what to do with their current staff as business activity slows or comes to a halt.
Some businesses will have no choice but to move forward with layoffs or furloughs. Others might seek solutions to maintain staff, even if it means moving people to part-time or making salary cuts. If you are in this position, think about creatively redeploying your resources. Consider some of the following:
1. Invest in online marketing and remote sales.
If you’ve traditionally relied on conferences, networking, cold-calling, out-of-home advertising or other channels that are disappearing for the time being, it’s time to rethink your entire marketing and sales approach, from lead generation through customer acquisition. A few ideas:
Bring your marketing and sales personnel together, and ask them to brainstorm ideas to generate more projects. You might be surprised by the ideas from lower-level employees who don’t normally have a seat at the table;
Task field sales reps or marketing personnel with emailing personalized videos to customers and prospects;
Ask sales reps to pick up the phone and simply ask: “How are you doing? How can we help?” People are craving human-to-human connections right now, and you can gain a lot of trust by leading with empathy;
You’ve heard content is king. Use this opportunity and your experienced resources from marketing, sales or customer service to build out a library of information. Develop lists of frequently asked questions, customers’ key challenges or prospects’ objections to your product or service. Turn the answers into videos or blog posts, and leverage the content for your website, email newsletters and social media channels; and
If you’ve traditionally spent money on trade shows and have marketing dollars to spend, consider reallocating that spend to digital ads, which might be cheaper while some competitors are tightening their wallets.
2. Work on tabled projects.
All businesses have projects that get pushed to the back burner. Oftentimes these projects are deprioritized due to a lack of extra resources. Some resorts, for example, are using the time they are closed to do deep cleans and maintenance projects that were put off. Other companies might use the time to increase prospect databases or digitize their assets to be more effective and efficient. Making headway on these tabled projects will put you in a better position for when business activity inevitably returns.
3. Pivot to a new offering or vertical.
If the livelihood of your business is threatened due to the nature of your product or service, sit down, and take a serious look at the skillsets of your team or the business functions your company excels at. There might be an opportunity to repackage something you were doing for yourself and sell it. Target it to industries that are more recession-proof or that might be looking to grow during this uncertain time. For example, a virtual reality rental company that lost all demand for its services overnight needed to make changes fast. Leaders brainstormed and researched anti-fragile businesses. Their team excelled at process design and automation. Within two weeks, they executed a full company shift to start selling that consulting service to other companies who will need to scale in the near-term.
4. Focus on innovation.
If your bottom line can stomach it, this can be the time to invest in innovation. Spanx Founder Sara Blakely recently posted about Isaac Newton completing his early work in calculus, optic theory and gravity while being forced to stay home during the spread of the Great Plague of London in 1665.
Solicit ideas from your full team, invest in research and development, and ask all levels of employees to evaluate and lead change with you. Continue to consider the challenges your customers are facing and how you are uniquely positioned to help them.
As author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis said: “Bad news: A lot can change 30 days. Good news: A lot can change in 30 days.” Although it’s anyone’s guess how long it takes to get through the COVID-19 impacts, business owners and executives have a unique opportunity to rise to the situation. Use this time to creatively adjust your business, along with the roles of your staff, in order to improve your business and that of your customers. Meeting this challenge head on and adapting to meet the difficulties ahead will help set you up for success now and in the future.
Traci McMillan Beach's company, Craft Impact, partners with C-Level execs to build communication strategies that engage top talent and customers during organizational change. To discuss how communications can boost retention and operational excellence at your evolving business, email [email protected]