As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact more communities across the US and other countries, business owners are especially concerned about how they will continue to operate with a sudden decrease in sales, personnel, materials, or all three.
In order to keep your business moving ahead in these uncertain times, consider these key questions:
- Where are your sources of income, and how much will they impacted in the coming weeks?
- How can you adjust your services or product delivery to overcome the barriers?
- What is the best way to respond to customers’ concerns?
- Who is more likely to need your services as a result of these events?
- Where are the opportunities to pivot your business?
1. Multiple Sources of Income
All of us business owners have tried (and failed) at many things before we finally see success.
In order to keep a healthy cashflow, it’s very important to diversify where you’re getting sales by creating a variety of purchasing pathways.
A few ideas for these include offering a niche specialty, virtual services, a referral program, an online course, writing a book, or providing exclusive concierge services.
Consider these questions:
Which methods were generating regular sales prior to this point?
How are your income streams changing due to the COVID-19 epidemic?
What behavior shifts are you predicting in the coming weeks?
- customer purchasing shifts,
- delivery methods,
- product availability, or
- innovative problems your company could solve?
2. Overcome Marketing Barriers
Our current crisis is resulting in gaps for business owners — including a loss of personnel (with employees or contractors who are ill, unavailable, or unable to report to work due to home-bound restrictions).
They also face shifts in buyer behavior due to the quarantines, closures, lack of childcare options, and resource needs. Because of restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease, physical retail locations have to adjust by providing takeout or delivery options. Entire industries that rely on face-to-face contact and physical touch (such as healing professions) are forced to stop providing services, and may need to delay their services for several weeks.
But there are still ways for companies to provide value to their customers by thinking outside the box.
Consider the 7 P’s and the 7 C’s of Marketing.
The 7 P’s of Marketing
Also known as Booms and Bitner’s Extended 7 P’s, these are organization-facing—which means they are internal mechanisms that you control as the business owner:
- Physical Environment
The 7 C’s of Marketing
These are customer-facing, which means they are things your buyers will notice right away:
- Convenience/Ease of buying
Think about your delivery methods; can you offer virtual services? Could you provide digital products that take the place of physical ones?
Perhaps you could create a special offer that includes exclusive services. Or sell gift certificates that include a gift with purchase, extra value, or more access.
One thing I do NOT recommend is slashing your prices. Do not offer a “50% off” special; this will only cheapen your customer’s perception of the value you offer, and it will also diminish the potential for additional cashflow. A better approach is to increase the value by including additional add-on services or other benefits, while increasing your rate to a level that is still affordable to customers but also feels like a reasonable investment that will relieve a big problem. Consider value-based pricing, which I explain here.
3. Responding to Concerns of Current Customers
The COVID-19 crisis is forcing all of us to take a break from our normal routines. Many of us are worried about loved ones and friends who are sick or at high risk of exposure.
We have the opportunity to re-examine what is most important to us, what really matters, and how we want to spend our time. As a business owner, you can take the time to evaluate your business strategically.
- Where are customers in most need right now?
- How can your services or products help them as their needs change?
I recommend creating several lines of communication with your current customers and supporters. A lot of companies are NOT taking the extra step to inform their customers about how they are responding—I’ve noticed several doctors’ offices, dentists, and other healthcare providers that simply ignore their social media and website platforms, and who only respond to questions on a case-by-case basis.
A much better approach is to communicate as much and as widely as possible.
- Send an e-mail to everyone on your mailing list with information about how you are responding to the current situation.
- Share updates on all of your social media platforms.
- Update your website’s front page with a link to a post with more information.
- Create new content — offer your professional opinion that adds value to your current and potential customers.
4. Decide Who Needs You
If you are a parent and your kids have been home with you, you may be working from home AND managing kids’ schooling-at-home… possibly for the next several weeks. You are facing the challenge of balancing your work requirements and kids’ needs.
I know how difficult it is to keep a business running when everything seems to be going against you. A great tool that can give clarity on how to balance everything is the Decision-Making Matrix:
Tasks with a highest degree of benefit and a lot of potential value need to have immediate priority. Everything else can come secondary or be put on the back-burner.
I also encourage you to identify who is your Ideal Customer, and focus all of your energy on serving their needs—rather than spreading your time, resources, and energy too thin on doing everything that you’re asked to do.
5. Pivoting Your Business
This situation is a great time to evaluate what your buyers actually want.
- Which problems are they trying to fix right now?
- What are their most crucial needs?
- How can your business respond to solve that problem?
This could mean putting some projects on “pause” and developing new services or products that are in high demand. Maybe your customers are in desperate need of a service that your competitors are not offering—and which you could provide to fill that need.
Take a step back and consider innovative ways to solve problems that your competitors may not see. Perhaps it’s time to pivot your business—which means identifying a high-yield, profitable area of growth that has not been an area of focus. While I never suggest taking advantage of people (especially vulnerable people during a crisis, as Multi-Level Marketing companies and reps are unfortunately doing), there ways to solve problems with legitimate solutions. This is your chance to make that happen.
I also recommend that you involve your employees in making these decisions. Your staff are the best source of innovative new ideas… and they also have a lot to say if you let them talk!
For instructions on how to do this, check out “Employee For a Day”: How to Start.
If you are interested in discussing your business challenges with a professional strategist, find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.