As coronavirus has quickly spread across world, so has fear and panic from not just health of our nation, but also the health of the economy. With businesses halting operations and people quarantined in their homes for a couple of weeks we want to touch on the questions many of us are asking; “what does this mean for businesses?” and “how should (or should I) continue business operations through COVID-19?”.
The first thing to remember is that consumers are going to have varying levels of concern over health and financial security. It is crucial in a time like this that your brand connects to people by respecting their caution, communicates the situation openly, and does what you can to continue providing products and services to your consumers. A bit of normalcy and understanding can go a long way to build trust. In your marketing communication, it is crucial that you address these concerns. This could be by offering roadside pickup, virtual meetings, or simply stating your staff is safe and healthy. If you and your competition are around the same price, but you are also using caution, consumers are more likely to use you.
As for your business internally, it is important to take an honest evaluation of the products and services you offer to consumers. Ask yourself, what do you offer that is a “need” and what do you offer that is a “want”? Even when people are bunkered in their homes they still need hot water. If the hot water heater breaks, they are still calling a plumber. Whereas if people are looking at their mauve carpet from the 80’s thinking it should be replaced, they may hold off another month or until the next paycheck because it is a want. During trying times like these, some products and services that used to be a “want” are now “needs” like food delivery, streaming services, entertainment at home for kids like games, house disinfecting and cleaning services, medical services, etc.
Think about how you can take your “need” products and services to market without your consumer leaving their home and how you can remain top of mind for the “want” product and services. Keep in mind that just because people are buying less of the “want” products and services, it doesn’t mean that they are not still shopping. Spring is around the corner and consumers are stuck in their homes giving them more time to think about remodeling and shopping online.
Sports has been cancelled, TV shows are showing re-runs, and you can’t go to the movies so where do you go for your on-screen entertainment? Now, more than ever, people are spending time on social media platforms, streaming video/OTT, YouTube, and online news and blogs. Digital campaigns on these platforms are skyrocketing and we are seeing more engagement. This is the time to be running that social media competition to get the followers, or introduce your brand to thousands of potential customers, or get the online sales clout you want. Even after people buy up all the toilet paper like it will become the new US currency, Charmin continues to advertise on Hulu because they realize the opportunity.
For small businesses, I know this can be especially tough. Again, I stress the open communication. Our culture (me included) has grown to appreciate small businesses and if you are able to continue operations I highly recommend over-communicating sympathy for the situation and plan for continued operations. You may need to adapt what you do by offering delivery or virtual services, but update your website, social media, and any business listings so that people know what to expect.
We will get through this together and there are opportunities for some along the way. Have open and clear communication with your customers and internally. Take this time to build trust for your brand and show your true colors.