As of today, 23rd March 2020, we have all woken up to a very new reality in Australia. As we follow suit with the rest of the world, and we enter lockdown to prevent and contain the extreme impacts COVID-19 is having on our population and health care system. I can imagine a lot of business owners, freelancers and sole traders alike opened their laptops and peered into their phone screens with dread at the prospect of losing all their work overnight. I know I sure did, and I had every right to be. Over the last week, I have lost all my future work prospects, and while I understand the reason behind every decision made by my clients, it does not make the pill any easier to swallow.
Now I'm working very hard to not feel like a complete failure in this situation and nor, should you. Right now, know that countries, businesses, and governments alike were not at all prepared for a global pandemic of this scale to occur; don't beat your self up for not factoring Coronavirus into your early planning.
Once you have moved through believing the new reality that we have woken up too, and trust me, you will get through it very quickly once you do. You might start to wonder what the fuck should you do now!
Don't worry, we are all in this together, and I have put together a quick 8 point plan you can action now to keep your business afloat in these challenging times. Some of these points seem very obvious, but in your moments of panic, that I'm sure you will experience in the next week, obvious or logical will not be your first emotional touchpoint.
Okay, so this point seems to be very obvious, breathing is essential to living! I get your point, but I'm referencing the moment of calm you need to find in the shit storm we are all in.
Before you jump onto your emails or answer the million missed calls you are receiving, firstly take 10 mins to sit down and collect yourself. Meditate, do breathing exercises, do yoga, listen to trap music, do whatever makes you feel calm and do it often. Every time you feel like throwing your self off a balcony, pause and work through your designated relaxation practice. Actioning effort when you are calm will allow you to make rational decisions that help your situation, rather than performing from a place of panic.
2. Audit all your current business activity
Once you're breathing normally, it's time to really assess how fucked you are. It sounds grim, but it is the reality. You need to do a top-level assessment of your business.
Don't get stuck in the solutions; just map out the ins and outs of your business pre mass panic and lockdown. Draw a line in the sand and then work on solutions.
3. Pull all media campaigns from before the lockdown, immediately
No matter how wholesome, funny, or useful you think your media campaigns are, they now hold little to no relevance to your customer in the current climate. For example, if your gym is running sponsored ads for an upcoming 12-week challenge, when you shut the doors to your gym today. It's not a great look too panicked and confused customers. They're already in a state of confusion, and random advertising that does not have any relevancy to them right now will only be frustrating and come across as ultimately tone deaf.
It only takes a few moments to turn off these campaigns, and it also saves you money, so do it now. I'm not advising you to stop all promotions or advertising altogether. You will need these tactics to survive in the new digital heavy time we are entering. However, as mentioned previously, you need to draw a line in the sand and make decisions about your brand from that line.
4. Understand the new rules of the game and how it affects your business
If you turn on the news, the bombardment of grim stats, alarming reports, and guidelines will quickly put you in a confused state. It's best to ignore the advice of mass media news outlets or your cousin Barry who is forcing unwanted business advice down your throat. Go directly to the source. Below are links to the ATO COVID-19 information page and other helpful resources:
Understand your position and authority in this crisis and act accordingly; after all your customers will look to you for guidance, you need to lead by example. Right now need to put the safety of the nation above your bottom line. Don't be a dick and rebel against a government doing its best to avoid a massive break down of our society.
5. Research if you can benefit from stimulus packages and government support
If you are affected by the new enforcements taking effect today, you may be eligible for support from the government, individually and as a business. Below is a link to the Treasury page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) support.
Understanding what support you can receive will allow you to make consolidated decisions moving forward and will also help you understand your cash flow over the next month.
6. Pervert your business and revenue streams to the new reality
So once you have meditated, assessed your business, understand what action you need to take, stopped all activity pre-lockdown, and you might have support on the way. Now it is time to take action, while most of us will not exactly thrive in the coming months, we can at least survive.
Australia and the world's economy has not stopped completely, and just as in times of war, some businesses still manage to keep the lights on, which means money is flowing. It's your job to pivot your business to tap into any future potential cash flow.
As everyone is indoors and under lockdown, they are at home, possibly bored, and probably online. If you have not already transitioned into online sales and service, now is the time to do it. Realistically you need to invest in digital channels because they are the only means of producing income right now. Brainstorm ways you can connect products or services to these locked-down customers. If you're a gym owner, offer paid online classes. If you're a cafe owner, start selling your beans online and quickly jump onto home delivery services. Or, if you're a retail store owner, you need to bulk up e-commerce activity immediately. Your customer touchpoints just transitioned almost entirely online overnight; you need to prepare for that customer behavior shift. NOW! And I mean right now, start by contacting an agency and digital marketing services to get your business suited up for the digital influx. You can even reach out to our digital partners at Noisin digital for digital marketing and e-commerce services, call here and email here.
Beyond your sales, you need to look internally, how will your supply chain be affected, do you actively have access to supplies for your product or service. If your product line has completely stopped, you might need to transition into service-based products instead.
For example, if your an owner of a dine-in restaurant and don't have any available products to sell, you can push to leverage your brand authority and staff skills instead. Put together a pasta-making class, film it with your chef, provide resources, and then ship those services through digital channels to the bored customer at home. You need to think about how you can get your business into the house for your customers. Think about how to bring the brand experience to the home.
7. Put together your brand message and stick to it
Creating new revenue solutions and pivoting your business is all great, but you will also need to change your brand messaging and promotions drastically. There is a 'time' pre lockdown announcements and a 'time' post, and if your brand continues on your same messaging as before the lockdown, it's in danger of becoming outdated and soulless. You can't just keep with the same aggressive or cheerful messaging. It's completely tone deaf. Bring your teams together, have an honest conversation, and collectively decide how to message any new activity and your brand message as a whole.
When offering new service and products, explain why the change in business has accrued. Obviously, everyone will know why, but not acknowledging the elephant in the room is not a smart business move. Your customers will appreciate the communication and be open to the benefits of your services and/or products.
8. Stay connected with your customers
If you have not already put out a statement, address COVID-19's effect on the world and your business, you need to do so immediately. I know we are all sick of reading another message from the CEO, but your loyal customers will expect it and look to your message for guidance, these are the customers who will stick with you through this tough time. Community changes and how things evolve, even if mistakes occur, no customer is expecting perfection right now. Not to mention that a personal connection is really needed to help bring people together in some very dark times.