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The coronavirus outbreak has thrown us all for quite a loop. What could have been an exciting and prosperous year has quickly turned into overwhelming feelings of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety.
With major corporations in the travel and retail sectors letting go of workers and the media reporting a picture of doom and gloom, CEOs and owners are hitting the panic button. I get it. As a leader in your business, you are facing big decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Should you lay off staff? When should you pull back on expenses? There are tons of questions looming around the relentless mystery of when things will get back to normal.
If anything is for certain, it’s that this pandemic won’t last forever. It’s important that we look at past recessions to gain some perspective and remember how businesses managed to forge ahead beyond the storms they were in. We’ll eventually arrive at a new normal, which will be a climate where businesses will change the way they go to market, become more agile, and discover innovative ways to deliver a better employee and customer experience.
Related: Innovation Prevails During Times of Crisis
Here are some lessons I learned from past crises that I think will help most businesses navigate through this storm and come out on the other side.
Don’t Pull Back On Marketing
In times like this, the common thought is to pull back on your marketing spend. But cutting costs doesn’t mean you’ll flourish. In fact, companies that cut spending have the lowest probability of getting ahead of their competition once things improve. Why is that? Well, marketing channels, like paid advertising, rely on demand. Right now, you can connect with prospects in a more cost-effective way and ensure your lead sources don’t dry up, setting you back once things return to “normal.”
With networking events canceled and face-to-face meetings and trade shows out of the picture, turn to other avenues to reach customers and to grow your business. Video platforms can be used to facilitate sales calls, increase marketing-focused tactics — think webinars — and offer tutorials for your products. Don’t forget tried-and-true marketing strategies, like email marketing, which has enabled companies to stay engaged with prospects and customers at scale.
Marketing is all about reaching your audience where they are. With most people under order to stay at home, people are turning to social media sites for entertainment and distraction. Use this to your advantage and invest in some digital advertising on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies that stay aggressive during the pandemic and invest in these marketing channels will grow the fastest as the economy roars back.
Invest in Employees
When faced with a pandemic that threatens everyone’s health and livelihood, businesses are forced to put employees first. This means enforcing new work policies that ensure the safety of every employee, like working from home and flextime.
You’ll never regret investing in your employees. You rely on them to help keep your business running, and you’ve spent a lot of time with them, building strong and meaningful relationships. You need to show them just how much you care about them. Offering them the ability to continue their work in a way that contributes to the well-being of everyone is an invaluable gift.
Make sure that while your employees work remotely, they have all the tools needed to enable communication and remote meetings. This not only helps them do their jobs with ease while under different circumstances, but it will also ensure they continue to deliver a great customer experience to your clients.
Related: The Complete Toolkit for Leading Remote Workers
Become More Agile
This new normal means that the old rules no longer apply. Businesses are realizing that in order to adapt to outside circumstances and demands, they have to become more agile. For example, restaurants have become food pantries, automotive plants have become ventilator suppliers, and The Gap is now making scrubs and masks for frontline workers.
One silver lining to difficult times like these is that companies have a more clear understanding of what the real need is. Instead of selling, they focus on helping. Assisting others with weathering the storm requires an immense amount of flexibility.
Once the pandemic is over, the companies that will thrive will be the ones that can see the problems customers are facing every day and create real-time solutions that best impact them.
Related: How Agile Leaders Help Organizations Thrive
Double Down on Innovation
In the aftermath of 9/11, businesses and the economy were struggling heavily. However, as a lot of companies decided to downsize, Steve Jobs steered Apple down a completely different path by doubling down on innovation with the iPhone and tablets. Similarly, out of the ashes of the 2008 recession, innovative tech startup companies, like Slack, Airbnb, Uber, and Groupon were birthed. All of these companies were inspired, in some way, by what the recession did to the market.
Economic downturns have given entrepreneurs the opportunity to create new products and services that have shaped the way we work and live today. Take this time to take some risks and think differently about your product and what it means for the bigger picture.
Use this time to talk to your customers and identify their biggest struggles. As competitors pull back on product research and development, it is a great time to launch new solutions aimed at helping your customers when situations take a sudden shift.
Related: COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation
Rethink the Customer Experience
Needless to say, your customers are being thrown a ton of curveballs. Their needs are shifting, and with that, their experience with your brand will have to shift as well. Instead of providing them with the same touchpoints that you used to, incorporate more empathy and understanding for what they may be dealing with. If you have a lot of small business clients, chances are they’re hurting the most, so you’ll want to address that head-on and see how you can be of more assistance.
This could mean that you offer them a discount on their package, or that you adjust their payment plan so they can offer you payment at a later date. Or, maybe schedule time to talk one-on-one with your customers to help them with their business challenges. Whatever you decide to offer, think about how this can have a larger impact on your relationship with them, and ultimately move their customer experience in a positive, beneficial direction.
Although it may be hard, try not to hit the panic button just yet. While uncertainty may be at an all-time high, one thing I know for sure is that this too shall pass. If we take into consideration the lessons learned above, we can come through this and prosper.