The Coronavirus outbreak has made us all adjust to a new way of life. There is an air of uncertainty around what the future holds for nearly everyone. Some businesses have been forced to temporarily close, workers around the country have been put on furlough and keyworkers are experiencing higher levels of risk to their own health. Although this situation is worrying for a variety of reasons, we must keep in mind that we will return to a level of normality in the future.
Naturally, given the pressures owners are under, a lot of the actions businesses are taking are reactive rather than proactive. New guidelines and procedures released by the government haven’t given any of us a lot of time to plan for the next set of measures or understand how they might impact us. In fact, until they’re announced, we’re having to predict what they could be.
As we enter our third week under social restrictions and come to terms with what this will mean for our businesses, the best thing we can start to do is plan for how our businesses can recover when restrictions are lifted. This can seem daunting, with many not knowing where to start. Although we don’t know what the future will hold, we’ve put together a few points to consider for your business that may help to provide some food for thought.
Although it’s not nice, there will be a number of businesses who close down due to the Coronavirus outbreak. This will leave people without jobs and incomes, looking for work in an increasingly competitive job market. If your business is able to weather the storm, you may find that you are able to pick up some of your competitor’s work, resulting in you needing more staff. By planning your potential recruitment needs early, you’ll be able to take advantage of the bigger talent pool available to you whilst restoring someone to full or part-time work.
Be careful with this though, you’ll need to ensure that you do see an increase in work and also make sure any increases aren’t just a temporary spike. Recruiting based on sales figures during the outbreak or even shortly after may not be the best idea unless you have some indication that you’ve attracted repeat customers. There’s no point hiring people who won’t be needed in a couple of months time.
Adapting Your Business Processes
This one is mainly for businesses who aren’t able to operate as normal and, therefore, don’t have a pipeline of quotes or sales for when restrictions are lifted. Okay, so you can’t go to a site and measure up or your supplier is closed, so what can you do? Now is the time to start thinking outside of the box. Can customers give you rough measurements from their home so that you are able to provide them with an estimated quote? Can you provide any sort of online coaching or telephone advice services? Although you may not be able to make direct sales now, that doesn’t mean you can’t line them up for when you go back to work.
If you are open, and even seeing a boom in sales, you too may want to adapt your processes. With all the new orders you’re receiving, are you collecting (inline with GDPR) the data of your customers for a remarketing campaign later down the line? The opportunity to try something new and to turn a one-off customer into a repeat customer is now. You may even include new methods of delivery or collection that enable you to engage (whilst social distancing) on a more personal level with customers.
Although the Coronavirus has had a detrimental impact on the majority of businesses, it does present us with the chance to refresh our practices, processes and the methods we use to connect with our customers.
To market or not to market, that is the question. It’s a difficult decision to make. The best place to start is by conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis of reducing, maintaining or increasing your current marketing spend.
Although it can seem daunting, spending out on marketing at a time where you’re bringing in no work can be necessary, but it all comes down to the types of marketing you’re doing. If you invest heavily in PPC or social media ads, then turning them off whilst you’re receiving no income is probably a good idea, as they can be re-activated pretty swiftly. If, however, you rely on your Google rankings and SEO as your main source of customers then stopping your SEO investment could be extremely costly. After all, any visibility you lose over the coming weeks will be much harder to regain and leave you losing out when normal trading resumes.
If you’re one of the lucky business that is seeing a surge in demand, has high cash reserves and is picking up repeat custom as well as new custom, then increasing your marketing spend, or at least maintaining it, is the logical decision. This must be tempered though and be sustainable as demand starts to level off.
For off-line marketing, a lot of your new promotions are unlikely to get published and certainly unlikely to be distributed until after the lockdown. Your immediate reaction is likely to put a complete stop to spending in this area but there are reasons not to. Publications will be looking to get issues scheduled for when we return to our daily routines. By keeping your investment going and by negotiating with your off-line supplier, you may be able to get yourself a better position within their publication. Another thing to consider is the type of publication you have adverts in. Now could be the perfect time to invest in adverts in publications you wouldn’t normally consider, such as national newspapers, as they may be struggling to sell all off their ad space.
We’ve already touched on it, but what about online marketing? There are a number of variables to consider and these will differ from business to business. Take SEO for example. If you pause your SEO campaigns, nobody is working on your website. Will this be detrimental to your success? Maybe. If you stop spending on your SEO, you may see no change in your current position within the search results or you could find yourself in a new position with lower visibility than what you currently have. The one thing that you are highly unlikely to see, is a boost in your online positions. A lot will depend on what your competitors are doing. If they are continuing to invest and believe in the long term benefits better visibility on Google brings, then you may fall behind and have to invest more in the long term to get your positions back. If they don’t, a pause in your campaign could have little or no effect.
It’s a bit like being the number one athlete. If you train hard and win the gold medal, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win next time. If you stop training but your competitors keep working hard, you may find that in the next race you’re not the number one athlete.
When we return to normal, is your position in the Google search results going to play a big part in getting sales or not? If you rely on website enquiries for a good proportion of your sales, then keeping the online marketing is a necessity. If it brings in very little for you, you may decide to reduce your budget and invest in activities that have seen more success in driving sales. There’s no one size fits all approach here and it will be down to each individual business to decide on whether or not enquiries and sales from their website will be essential to recovery.
If you would like to discuss your online marketing, please feel free to give our team a no-obligation call on 01455 367 100.