By Tom Hall
[Part 1 of this article can be found here]
Second, your customers. How are you going to keep in close touch? Offer to help them? Find new ways to serve them? Keep the relationships strong so that they will be there when the crisis passes?
Most restaurants have closed their dining rooms and switched to carry-out or delivery. That’s a great idea — it keeps operations going and lets some folks stay on payroll, which is really important. But it doesn’t work for every business; many have had to close, laying off or furloughing their workers.
If you are an essential business, you may be just as busy as you were before the virus hit — but if you aren’t busy or you’re not a vital industry, you’ll need a survival plan. Can you mimic the restaurant business and take your service to your customers rather than having them come to you? Can you create a portable company? Can you conduct most of your business online?
You’ll need to learn ASAP what your financial options are, and the best place to start is with your bank. They can help you with the myriad options available from the government (Small Business Administration and other departments) and other sources. A low-interest loan that covers your overhead for 90 days would be nice fit today because interest rates are very, very low.
How do you communicate with your customers? Just as with your employees, you should communicate clearly and often. Update them on any new service or delivery programs you develop. If you read an important financial article that can help them — remember they may need a loan as well — send it to them. Look for blogs, stories, reports, and analyses that might be helpful to them, and pass them along. Be careful not to bombard your stakeholders, though; everyone is getting tons of emails, so make sure yours are as succinct and relevant as possible.
The key idea here is: “How can I change my business model to fit this totally new and restrictive environment?”
Or: “How can I make money with my skill set if my business is closed by law?”
In any scenario communication will be a key element, whether with employees, bankers, customers, potential customers, suppliers, advisors…every audience that affects your success. Stay in touch. Be on the lookout for information that might be helpful to them — remember, they are uncertain of the future as well.
Apply Ruthless Focus to your marketing — ask yourself what messages you can get out to prospects that will clearly differentiate you from your competitors. What does your company do better than anybody else? What is your critical advantage? What new audiences can you present your organization to?
The internet allows for much more highly targeted audience identification then ever before. There are people out there who would be interested in doing business with you either now or in the future. You need to find and address them.
Remember, we are in a period of huge uncertainty—the more we communicate with our various audiences, the better.