Whether you’re a small business, nonprofit, or freelancer, you’ve probably found yourself in one of 3 scenarios.
One, you’re still open and doing business, but your income has dropped significantly. This is mostly essential services or online businesses.
Or, you’re partially operational, but are barely staying afloat. Restaurants that are doing take-out only would fall in this category.
Finally, worst of all, your business is shut down completely and you can’t reopen until the quarantine is lifted. You’re bleeding money from payroll and expenses, but you have zero revenue coming in. Local shops and in-person services are among these.
Whatever your scenario may be, it’s easy to lose hope and just wait for this nightmare to be over. In doing so, you could easily slip into complacency. But this presents some unique opportunities for you. And I say “opportunities” very carefully, understanding that this is far from the ideal scenario.
But you don’t have to waste this time. You can take action now to help you make it, and when the quarantine lifts, come back thriving.
Be Honest, Transparent, and Authentic
Everyone knows that everyone is struggling. Your donors and customers understand that this is a difficult time for nonprofits and businesses as well. As people are open about their lives in quarantine, so should you.
Put your pre-scheduled marketing and perfect branding aside. Share about how this pandemic has affected your business and what you’re doing about it. Be honest about the struggles you have. Let people in on the day-to-day work (even if it’s from home) and what your contingency plans are for weathering this crisis. Share real photos instead of fancy graphics or idealized stock images.
This will help humanize your brand and empathize with your audience. People will have a greater desire to support you if they’re able to, and when this is over, they will be more ready to give you business because of a feeling of being on a shared journey with you.
Foster and Build an Online Community
We’re all spending our time online. In addition to looking for things to entertain us, we’re also looking for community. People want to connect with others online as a type of shared experience. The quarantine is the common factor for everyone, and it’s a starting point to go even deeper.
Create a Facebook group around an experience, activity, or interest related to your brand. Let it be an open forum where people can talk about that thing. It’s important that the group is not about your brand, nor should the posts be about your brand. But your brand can be in the name of the group, in the description, and mentioned here or there. You’re there to create a space for people to interact.
The people in your group will be your ideal supporters and advocates. When you create an active group that’s passionate about a certain thing, you’re more likely to have engaged members who will want to do business with you.
Start Making Videos
You know videos are engaging, but you’ve often had excuses for not making them. And they’re legitimate excuses. Videos take a long time to make. They’re expensive to produce. And it’s overwhelming to keep doing them consistently. It takes a lot to make a professional video.
But a lesson that we can learn from late night shows is that none of that matters anymore. All these shows went from live audiences with professional cameras and studio sets to being filmed on iPhones in the living rooms and garages of the comedian hosts. Sure, they still have big budgets and editing teams. But they’ve successfully transitioned to continuing their regular scheduled shows from home, some with their kids as part of it. It’s evidence that content is more important than production quality.
So pick a topic for your brand and start making videos from your home. Use your phone to record, and upload it directly from there. Don’t worry about editing. Just get used to filming and posting regularly. Each time, do one small thing to make it better, whether it’s lighting or using a tripod or improving your intro dialogue. The main point is that you don’t need perfect, you just need done. This quarantine has giving every brand the excuse to publish “low quality” videos, but with high quality content.
Ask for Support
If you’re struggling financially, which pretty much every business is, don’t be afraid to ask for support. If you’re still open for business, this means asking people to continue to buy from you. No one is going to see it as desperate or begging or low class. It’s reality, and if you have a good relationship with your audience, they’ll want to help you out.
If you’re a nonprofit, be honest about how donations have declined. Tell them the mission is important and still has to continue. Ask donors who have not been affected financially to step up and give above and beyond.
If you’re a business and can still operate under quarantine, give your best discounts ever. Remember that your customers are struggling financially too. So you’re helping them out by inviting them to help you out. Tell them that buying from you is essential if you’re going to still be around when the quarantine is over. If you have employees that depend on you, talk about what you’re doing to help your staff and share with customers how their purchases help people keep their jobs.
Pre-Sell an Opening Day
If you’re a business that can’t operate, like local shops, or can only operate partially, such as restaurants, try to pre-sell for opening day.
Pick a product or service that can’t be bought now, but can be available when the quarantine is lifted. Offer it for an extremely steep discount to make it worth it for people to buy early.
You do, however, need to be honest about it so it doesn’t look “sale-sy.” Tell people that your business is struggling, and you need income to stay afloat. Let them know that this is a way to keep your business afloat and a way for your customers to help. People want to help small businesses right now, so give them ways to do so.
Build a Crisis-Proof Plan
An economic crisis like this one happens every decade or so — at least in recent history. It’s hard to shield against them since we don’t know when they’ll come, what will cause them, and what exactly will be affected. But there are a few general principles that we can learn from this crisis that could help our brands be more resilient.
One is to diversify our income. It goes beyond simply adding more products or services, but finding other ways of doing business. Similarly, we need to secure recurring income through subscriptions. While this is built into online businesses, brick and mortars can still do this with some creativity.
When it comes to marketing, communication with your audience is vital, and even more so in a crisis. You need to be able to reach them, and have them actually want to listen to you. This requires building out strong communities on every communication channel and maintaining them. Brand affinity and loyalty will also be critical during a crisis. People need to like you enough to spend the limited money they have on you, and to go back to you when the crisis is over.
I’ll be covering more about a crisis-proof plan in a future story.
Whatever you do during this quarantine, the important thing to take away is to not do nothing. Do something. Don’t be paralyzed by fear. As difficult as this time may be and as close as you are to closing down permanently, don’t give up.
Fight for your brand. You’ve worked too hard to build it.
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