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Every guru out there, including me, is telling entrepreneurs, marketers and small business owners that they need to pivot in the face of the COVID-19 economic tailspin. We are living in a world where up is down, families are sheltering in place, and restaurants, schools and parks remain empty while birthday parties and baby showers have become drive-bys.
How the heck is your business supposed to survive this?
Whether you are a solopreneur consultant or a large corporate brand, the same advice applies: Your company must pivot to survive and, more importantly, thrive.
Here are five ways you can pivot your business to thrive in uncertain times.
1. Adopt a growth mindset.
Now is a great time to create stronger connections with your customers and find opportunities to grow. Show up, stay positive and continue to think about growth. Perhaps now is the time to shore up your marketing plans, audit operations, update your website, streamline back-end processes or develop a new offering. You likely have a list of tasks that will improve your business but are at the bottom of your to-do list because they don’t generate immediate revenue. What can you focus on and control to ensure that you are prepared and ready when activity picks back up?
It’s OK to sell right now. Companies and people still have problems and need solutions. Don’t let guilt dictate your choices as to how you show up for your customers. You have value to offer, so don’t feel bad about offering it. Instead, shift your thinking and consider how what you offer can help others — you should always market and sell with this “help first” mentality. There is nothing wrong with keeping your business viable so you can continue to serve and help.
2. Show up.
Now is not the time to hide away until all this blows over. The brands that show up right now are winning and will come out on the other side stronger than ever, with better brand goodwill and customer loyalty. Brands that have been reaching out to customers and the community such as Zoom Communications, Nike and Salesforce are already experiencing this halo effect.
Reach out to all your clients and customers and make your availability known. Find out how they are doing. Ask what they need. Keep your brand top-of-mind, but demonstrate that you are there for your community.
Continue to blog and send emails, but pivot your content to address where your customers are right now, what they need and how you relate to it. This might involve revising scheduled content or creating content that’s needed right now.
Recent research shows that younger buyers want to see brands helping their employees, customers and community. They are deciding against purchasing from companies they don’t see making a difference.
Continue your outbound efforts with a measured tone — don’t be tone-deaf. Acknowledge what is going on and offer soft support. Give your customers space to make decisions for themselves. No one feels in control right now, so offer options customers can act on in their own time.
Remind people how what you do adds value. Don’t message to sow fear, uncertainty or doubt. Focus on social media posts, content marketing and emails to build stronger connections with your customers.
By staying connected, you’ll better understand what’s going on and what your people need.
3. Meet your customers where they are.
Empathy is a powerful competitive advantage, especially in times like these. Strengthen your empathy muscle and adopt an empathetic mindset to see your customers in a different light. What is going on for them? How are they feeling? What could they use help with, and how can your offerings, skills and talents meet their needs?
Do this quick exercise: Write down 10-20 things your ideal customers or clients are thinking, feeling or needing right now. Consider context. See the world from their point of view. Now think about how you can address those needs, desires and emotional states with your content and offerings.
As for active selling: Yes, you can still offer value. While now is not the time to be aggressive or pushy — if there ever is a time for that — people are still buying. Many people are using this time to reset and address aspects of their lives or businesses that they’ve put off: home improvement projects, hobbies, CRM clean-up, content creation, self-care, reading, exercising and cooking. How can you speak to this prioritization right now?
Some enterprise B2B companies are adopting empathy to determine sales approaches to reach their customers. Upland Software, a SaaS work management company, determined its customers needed to proactively communicate with their employees and customers and quickly rolled out mobile solutions to help their customers stay connected. Software AG, a hybrid cloud software technology in the integration and IoT space, adapted its sales model to be more prescriptive, as many of its customers are asking channel partners for actionable advice.
Talk to your customers to understand what’s going on for them right now and what they need.
4. Help your brand adapt — but don’t change it.
Your brand is your essence. It’s who you are, who you serve, what value you offer and your voice. Your brand should be clear and consistent. But you should still adapt your brand’s offerings, content and messaging for the current moment.
You will continue to stand for what you stand for and serve the customers you always have. So use your existing brand voice to communicate logistical information with care and concern. Reconnect to your purpose and let that guide your communication efforts.
Related: 3 Big Ways Companies Are Pivoting
If your brand voice is usually comforting and reassuring, keep it up — but also offer practical tips and tactics to help people right now. If your brand voice is usually dynamic and edgy, continue to parlay that into positivity and action but temper it with care, compassion and concern. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
Your existing mission will guide your next steps in helping your customers and community. Zoom’s mission is to bring teams together. In fitting with their mission, they’ve offered K-12 schools free accounts to facilitate online learning. Squeeze In, a family-owned chain of cafés with locations in Northern California and Nevada, rallied customers to sponsor meals donated to first responders and essential workers.
5. Spin up new offers.
Get creative and be agile. Now is not the time to jump through a million hoops or deal with internal red-tape bureaucracy. There may be long-term culture issues that needs to be addressed — just not today.
Time is of the essence. How can you parlay existing offerings into something new, if only for this time of crisis?
Some companies shifted early on and are now reaping the rewards. Table Wine, a small wine shop in Pacifica, Calif., launched its ecommerce site and began offering free delivery for orders of six or more bottles of wine. Canlis, a fine-dining restaurant and Seattle institution, could have seen their business tank during the shut-down. Instead, they started offering family meals with free delivery, cocktail and wine kits and fun virtual activities such as bingo nights and live-streamed performances. They even offer curated boxes with ingredients from local farmers and regional agriculture purveyors. Max Traylor spun up a pay-what-you-can consultancy package for businesses seeking sales and marketing assistance.
Ask yourself: What assets are at your disposal to address one of the customer needs you’ve identified? Can you easily package a delivery option, workshop, digital product or membership group to address current customer needs? What can you deliver virtually? What offerings can you amp up promotion of right now?
Remember: Done is better than perfect.
Whatever you do, act.
Regardless of which course of action you take right now, it’s important to take it. Show up. Be visible. Reach out to your community. And genuinely offer value. Your customers and future customers are watching closely to see what you do next.