Historically, there have always been unforeseen challenges that businesses have had to face in the form of recession. The GFC of '07, The Asian Financial Crisis of '98 and many years prior to that, Black Tuesday of '87. But there are always opportunities...
Recessions have and always will be a part of our economic history. And, while we can't predict what the exact impacts of COVID-19 will be, what we do know is this: what is here now, won't be here forever.
That's why it's so important to put the right steps in place now, to ensure the continuity of your business in the future.
Recently, I read a brilliant analogy by Bain & Company, which summarises exactly the position that myself and the team at Hype & Dexter are taking right now:
"Think of a recession as a sharp curve on an auto racetrack—the best place to pass competitors, but requiring more skill than straightaways. The best drivers apply the brakes just ahead of the curve (they take out excess costs), turn hard toward the apex of the curve (identify the short list of projects that will form the next business model), and accelerate hard out of the curve (spend and hire before markets have rebounded)"
The game is all about refining your machine and setting yourself up for that big, inevitable acceleration that's coming. Here are three simple and actionable things that'd I'd recommend doing now, to set yourself up to not only survive but thrive, when the COVID-19 dust has settled.
1. Look After Your Internal Staff
The very first thing I'd suggest doing is looking at how you can support your internal team. That means making sure they're set up to succeed in the new-age digital workplace, have the support systems around them that are going to see them through this tough patch, and communicate openly and honestly with every single staff member so that no one is left in the dark.
In practice, that looks like:
- Making sure that everyone has the tools they need to set themselves up in home offices. Headsets, screens, internet connections - any tools they need to operate at a fully functional capacity at home. If they're without anything, do your very best to provide it for them.
- In the same vein, we're also really proactive about having systems and structures in place (like CRM, Project Management Systems and Internal Communication Tools) that help to keep everyone engaged & productive as a team and prevent siloed information. More about this in our recent working from home blog, if you're interested.
- Treat people like adults, be honest and transparent. I can't say this one enough. Right now, people are worried about job security and how they're going to pay their bills. As a leader, it's your job to provide that security, and if that's not possible, to be upfront about the situation so that your staff don't make any ill-informed decisions.
- Meet regularly for company-wide updates. We're living in a time where people are waiting for any and every piece of information that might give them some certainty. Make sure you book in at least weekly meetings to check-in with everyone - at the very least, you'll forge an important connection between your remote workers.
- Always offer an open dialogue. I always try to make sure that our staff know that a chat with me is just a txt away, and I'm always available to answer questions.
Your people are the key to accelerating at the end of this, and to do that, it's going to take a lot of honest conversations and over-communication.
2. Treat Your Current Customers Like Gold
Right now, your current customers are going to be the difference between successfully navigating your way through COVID-19 and staying afloat, or letting your ship sink. You've already built a reputation with them - now's the time to show that you genuinely care and your willingness to go above and beyond.
One of the most important questions you should be asking is whether you've touched based with all of your current customers to enable you to flex to exactly what they need and make the best of the situation we're in.
- Call customers and check in with where they're at and the new challenges they're facing (Nick O'Neill has written an excellent blog on how to treat your customers with empathy, which I'd recommend giving a read).
- Nurture your relationships and put extra effort into pivoting where you need to. Sometimes this will require bending a little where you usually wouldn't, but right now, it's more important that your customers are happy.
- Prioritise any work that has been left due to BAU - if there's something you've been putting off or you would have liked to do for a client, now's the time to get it done.
- Check in with your customers on when they're able to pay. It's much better to be realistic and transparent about when invoices will be paid while everyone is struggling, than to have expectations that wont be met. Take down a schedule and talk to your bank about your options to resolve any cashflow issues.
3. Don't Assume that People Aren't Buying
The idea here, is to identify where there are still opportunities, pivot your current products and services where possible, and to market for growth on the other side.
There's a huge misconception (for some industries) that people simply aren't buying right now, when in fact that's not the case. Some countries (like Australia) are actually still trading reasonably well and in New Zealand there are industries that will thrive or at least maintain during the coming months. The key is that you invest the time to assess those opportunities and then take action to engage with them, if you don't you leave the door open for your competitors.
Pivot Where Possible
If you can, it's important to adapt and change the way that you're working, and the things that you're selling. For us, that looks like a wider-breadth of retainer scope and more flexibility for our clients to do what they need to with their allocated scope. Simple things like connecting Zoom to HubSpot and creating a workflow off the back of finished Zoom calls has allowed some customers to keep thier sales activity high are more impactful than thier competitors. For other businesses, that might mean changing products entirely. Every week, we're checking in to make sure that we understand our clients situation, and that we're tailoring our services to their needs.
Market for Growth
Even if you're unable to sell in the way that you traditionally would, it's really important to make sure that you're growing your database and adding value to prospects with relevant, useful content, and taking advantage of the historically low PPM & PPC costs right now.
Beyond that, now is the time to refine your businesses technology and processes to get them in the best position possible, ready to accelerate when the market turns. That means setting up campaigns, putting the right systems in place and creating a strong enough voice to be noticed in the conversation that happens post COVID-19.
When it comes to your customers, be proactive, rather than reactive.
How Can We Help?
Regardless of whether you're currently working with us, would like to in future, or are just looking for some advise to improve what you currently have in place we are here to support and make sure you have what you need during this period so that you come out the other side in good shape.
Just get in touch for a chat about what we can do.