A downturn is no time for downtime, at least when it comes to your business. Even though you may be out of the office, by following these 5 tips you can help your company succeed, now and in the future:
1. Double down on marketing
In today’s world, marketing is a necessity, as vital to your business as the products you make or the services you sell. “A number of studies going back nearly one-century point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that maintained or grew their ad spending increased sales and market share during the recession and afterward” said a 2019 Forbes article titled “When A Recession Comes, Don’t Stop Advertising.” Even big brands can’t afford to skimp. McDonald’s cut its marketing budget during the 1990-91 recession and then saw sales plummet 28% after competitors grabbed a big chunk of the burger chain’s market share. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which both increased their advertising dollars, saw their sales soar a whopping 40% and 61%, respectively.
“Successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a recession; they adapt them.” That advice from a 2008 article in Harvard Business Review seems tailor-made for our current situation. Today, companies have to figure out how to reach their customers in a new virtual world; how to offer services or products via new delivery options or apps; how to create online storefronts that will please their loyal customers and entice new ones; how to ensure safety for customers wishing to access physical products or spaces—the list goes on, and the options and opportunities are as varied as the businesses that exist. With so many options, it’s important to implement the strategies that suit your business—and your customer.
2. Beef up your business processes
“Business as usual” doesn’t apply these days. Why not take the opportunity to learn from the changes you’ve had to make?
- Clarify remote working rules, roles, and routines. You can no longer measure an employee’s performance based on time and attendance. Instead, establish clear work productivity standards for individuals and consider creating company-wide policies (e.g. all customer emails are answered by the end of the day). Set a clear chain of command and/or communication. HR Provider Insperity suggests you reserve certain days for meetings, and regularly schedule catch-up calls with remote employees, in part to keep them engaged.
- Evaluate your customer analysis strategy. How well do you know your customers and their behavior, both online and offline? How do you organize your customer data? How do you analyze it, and how often? A world of information is available to you. Now is the time to make sure you are capturing, reviewing, and using that data.
- Utilize online collaboration tools. Collaboration works. Participants in a Stanford study who worked collaboratively attended to their task 64% longer than those who worked by themselves. The collaborators also reported less fatigue, more engagement, and a higher success rate. At Globe Runner, we use Asana as our primary project management system: organizing projects across diverse teams, and simplifying collaboration with team members spread across various time zones.
- Improve your internal communications. When we moved to remote work, we realized quickly that strong communication was foundational to our success. We’ve used Asana for years, but found that we now needed to add a lot more detail into each task in order to reduce the number of clarifying questions. So for complex tasks, we started using loom.com, a simple video recording service that allows us to quickly and easily explain the work and properly delegate it to the appropriate team member. By adding a short Loom video and a brief text description to Asana, we’ve reduced the amount of back and forth in the Globe Runner virtual office and increased our overall efficiency.
3. Improve your technology
We rely on technology more than ever, so it’s a good time to analyze what’s working well, what needs improvement, and what’s needed to fill the gaps.
- Review your existing tech. Some issues have probably become apparent. That server in your office is not doing you much good right now. Other systems may not work as well with a scattered, remote team. For instance, we thought our VoIP phone System was a great choice—until we tried to plug phones into our various home units. It took ten business days. When you do put out fires, do so with intention. A day of research can save you and your employees from daily frustration with a product that doesn’t fit your business.
- Once you’ve resolved any major issues, review your not-so-obvious (but just as important) tech areas, like backup. Make certain your system conducts regular automatic backups, and that you and the appropriate members of your team know how to access those backups. Don’t forget to verify their integrity, too.
- Update software, if it’s not done manually. Consider upgrading to newer versions.
- Optimize programs with add-ons and extensions. Choose from a wealth of tools from email filing programs to cloud sharing and storage platforms. The list is endless, and sure to include at least one tool that will increase your business’s efficiency.
- Find tools to facilitate business online. The tasks you used to do in person now have to happen virtually. At Globe Runner, we utilize Zoom for meetings, PandaDoc to develop and digitally sign proposals, and Google Drive to create documents collaboratively.
Speaking of meetings, make sure that all team members can access the technology before your online meeting, and that any pre-meeting work has been completed. Create agendas with clear meeting objectives and expected outcomes, and distribute them before the meeting. Afterward, send out meeting notes with any tasks or deadlines called out.
If your business typically offers services or products in physical spaces, brainstorm ways to move those online. Offer virtual consulting or classes. Turn buying goods into an event with an online auction. If your product is typically distributed to venues that have been closed during the quarantine, you may want to consider pivoting your business to fulfill a current need, like the distilleries now producing hand sanitizer.
- Explore productivity tools. We’ve mentioned Asana, and if you take our suggestion to explore add-ons and extensions, you’ll find more great options there. You can see even more at PCMag’s list of top apps for 2020.
4. Over-communicate in trying times
In tough times, people need reassurance and clarity. Your customers need to know if you’re still able to serve them, and how you’re modifying your service operations to keep them safe. Your employees need to thoroughly understand their responsibilities, and how any changes will affect them. But if we don’t know what the future holds, how can we offer the sense of security they need? Communicate. The best way to maintain business relationships is reaching out to your team and customers on a regular basis. A few tips:
- Make sure your message is consistent. All of your team members need to know how to respond to questions.
- Provide good information. Offer tips, inspiration, and industry news. Give people a reason to read your email/ blog post/white paper, and to read the next one you send.
- Remember to focus on the receiver. Whether you’re speaking to a customer or an employee, remember that what people want to know is the answer to their questions or the solution to their problems. When relaying your business news in an email, talk about how you can help them. During a phone call, ask how they are doing, how their company is doing, and if there’s anything more you can do for them.
- Rethink social media (at least for now). At the beginning of March, social media engagement was down, but has risen dramatically since stay-at-home orders were issued. Facebook reported that “in the US and UK, Gen Z, Gen X and baby boomers all say they’re spending more time checking social media due to concerns around COVID-19 (27%, 29% and 15% more, respectively).” An April 7th New York Times article noted that Facebook’s overall usage was up by 27%, and You Tube’s by 15.3%. What’s App, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also experiencing higher engagement levels.
- Don’t forget your website. Let site visitors know how you’re conducting business right now: how they can access your services or products, what alternatives you may be offering during this time, and how they can contact you. Encourage them to reach out with any questions, problems, or even ideas. It’s a good time to refresh your site, too. Your website is now your main line of communication to your customers. Make sure it offers pertinent information in a well-designed package.
5. Work with an experienced digital marketing agency
A good digital marketing agency can help you understand your customers, format a solid online strategy, and reach your goals. Look for a team with a deep bench – with the knowledge and experience to recognize, anticipate, and pivot with the new ideas, like those needed right now in this changing market. Globe Runner is an Inc. 5000 company with over ten years of experience with expert marketing professionals and customers who rave about us. We’d love to be your digital marketing agency. Contact us today.