Current circumstances are “novel,” “unprecedented,” even “unchartered water.” These are the most popular catch phrases for every news article, video clip, blog post, and social media update coming across our news feeds. Trying to take in the constant stream of new information on COVID-19 feels like drinking out of a fire hose. Picture it. You’ll know exactly what I mean.
There is simply no industry, business, or job title that will not be impacted by the ripple effect this pandemic is having on our health, economy, and world. While some businesses may be faring better than others at this time, we are all still impacted. For some businesses, they are no longer allowed to operate as they used to, either shutting down completely, or greatly reducing staff and working remotely or under other means. And for businesses who are fortunate enough to conduct work virtually, still our clients and customers are impacted which changes the way they want and need to do business with us.
Over the last six weeks, I’ve been able to witness how my own clients and other fellow entrepreneurs have responded to the changes COVID-19 has demanded of our businesses and communities. And I’ve been blown away by their intelligence and resilience. Yes, we’re all still scared and anxious to varying degrees, but choosing to create a proactive (and positive) response will be the difference between the businesses who sink in this storm or those who craft a lifeboat – even a speedboat – and ride the waves until they’ve calmed. Here are the best business response strategies I’ve identified during COVID-19.
Respond with Hope
One response strategy for businesses has been to shift their outbound communications to that of a focus on hope. Coming across overly salesy or self-promotional right now will make you look out of touch and tone deaf. Any and all outreach you would typically have sent out needs to be looked at with fresh eyes. The advertisements and email campaigns you created and scheduled back in February should not be the same ones you’re running today. Aim to produce content that inspires, uplifts, or provides humor when appropriate.
Respond with Help
Can your business be of help right now? This is where you can really get creative. Maybe on the surface you might think, “Not really.” But mull this over a bit. I have clients who are shut down from working, but now have thousands of N95 masks they don’t currently need that they can donate to local hospitals. I have another client putting their tech skills to use to help churches better live stream their Sunday services. Others still have reduced or waived costs for certain services in an effort to help businesses in need.
Respond with Information
Another great response strategy is to respond with useful information, tips, advice, stories from which businesses and individuals might learn. And rather than just sharing articles and blog posts you might stumble across on the internet, make an effort to produce your own content! What you’re reading right now it my attempt to do just that. Speak to the industries you serve. What do they most need to know right now? Aim to impart wisdom that inspires action – or better yet – inspires them to reach out to you.
Respond with New Opportunities
It’s likely that COVID-19 has changed the way you’re doing business, maybe just right now or maybe forever. What does that mean to your clients? If you’ve shifted your business model, or have begun offering new services, your audience needs to know this. As I mentioned above, don’t come across salesy or overly promotional; aim to communicate that you care about your customers during this time and are making changes to improve how you serve them.
Respond with a Plan
What does life look like after COVID-19 has passed? This is the million dollar question we all want to have answered. While it is impossible to speculate what that will look like for our nation, and specifically our economy, your business should formulate a plan. If you are a business who is forced to close entirely, limit certain services, or only work virtually, what do your customers need to know about how things will look when you’re allowed to return to “business as usual?” Outline a plan, maybe it needs to have several variations, and issue a statement on this plan. Use all communication channels available to you including your website, email contact list, social media accounts, and anything else at your disposal. Reassure your customers that you’re here for them now, and will be here for them once everything subsides.
Keep in mind that the type of response you choose is critically important; however, stressing over achieving the “perfect” response should not be a reason to delay or forego a response altogether. Simply look to other businesses within your industry. They can provide direction and inspiration as to how to respond, but do make sure the message remains uniquely your own.
How has your business or industry been impacted by COVID-19? And what changes are you making to ensure the best outcome on the other side? Join on the conversation by leaving a comment below.