Smart business is looking at the outcome
As a young man of 20 (does that make me sound old?), I was a full-time driving instructor. One of the main things we had to teach our students was not to look too closely ahead. You see, most novice drivers in their first driving lessons would be looking at the road immediately in front of the car. This caused them not only to miss what was going on up ahead, but to veer constantly from side to side as they overcorrected for every bump in the road. We had to get them to look up, to see the horizon ahead of them. This smoothed out the movement and gave them a chance to see what was coming.
These are challenging times. Millions of small businesses around the world are currently shuttered. A great many might never reopen. Jobs are lost on every continent.
Employees are concerned about many things: their job prospects going forward, the safety and health of family members, whether they can pay next month’s bills, even their ability to buy needed groceries or to get urgent medical care should they suffer a serious health crisis. First and foremost, leaders must be putting them at ease to the best of our ability.
Employers too can get caught up in these issues. It can be easy to focus entirely on the current situation, missing the opportunities that lie ahead and overcorrecting.
While COVID-19 is devastating, it is a relatively short-term problem. There will be a vaccine. There may likely even be a treatment. People will eventually leave their homes and get back to normal life. Business will recover. In the great scope of issues like the Great Depression or the second World War, history is likely to show this as a minor bump in the road.
Some things will change permanently. Chances are good that Air travel will never return exactly to old habits, as people discover they don’t always need to spend days in transit for a face-to-face meeting when online meetings can be nearly as effective. Some ways of doing business will likewise find new paradigms. Within these realities are new growth opportunities.
As just one example, consider what will be one of the biggest business opportunities ahead. Around the Christmas season, there will be a worldwide baby boom unlike anything we’ve seen since the end of WWII. Related industries will experience unprecedented growth.
Around the Christmas season, there will be a worldwide baby boom unlike anything we’ve seen since the end of WWII.
When it comes to dealing with the current situation, there are also ways to use the new reality to improve our businesses. While in a video meeting with a client just the other day, he made an insightful comment. He said, “Our clients need what we offer more than they ever have before, but in a format that we are not yet equipped to provide.” All of their work had been done in person and, although they had loosely considered providing video-based approaches, it had never been a serious enough issue, because the need wasn’t there. Now that we are thrust into it, adaptation is vital.
Have you thought about how you can take advantage of these changes to improve your marketing communication? Your brand presence? Your website? Here are some possibilities you might consider:
As the world adapts very quickly to video as a significant part of communication, companies can transition one-to-one support or written documentation to more effective video-based documentation. Use video tutorials, rather than long, boring written ones.
If you are not yet utilizing video on your website, get started now. Sure, it takes a bit of investment to create a high quality video production (please don’t cheap out on this), but the ROI will be well worth it.
Video should be real and personable. Reflect the passion of your brand, the things that get your people and yourself excited. Show examples of your company’s attention to detail in manufacturing, or the extra steps you take in providing your service that your competitors might leave out.
Create an online meeting environment and set that up for your support staff so that clients can easily connect face-to-face with a real human being. Two weeks ago most of the world would not have been ready for this kind of support approach, preferring the standard typed “chat” option. Today, millions are preferring it to typing out their messages. I can direct you to high quality video production resources if you need help with this.
Video should be real and personable. Reflect the passion of your brand, the things that get your people and yourself excited.
With stores transitioning to curbside pickup and delivery services, there are opportunities to retain these systems long into the future. People will be more accustomed to placing an order and stopping by the store to have it brought out to the car. Restaurants like Tim Hortons have transitioned to free delivery during this time.
Likewise with services that are now delivering products that customers previously had to come in for. Already I was used to having my car insurance agency stop by to deliver my new insurance papers each year. That approach is now a reality for many other industries. There’s no reason to stop doing that when the pandemic ends. Depending on your business model, you might need to add a small charge, but consider keeping that option in place.
Another area that will create permanent change for many businesses is accepting online payments. After a couple of months of this as standard fare for people buying a large variety of products and services that previously required personal contact, chances are good that your business can benefit from having the option to purchase online.
If you offer services such as consulting that used to be billed, consider adding online payments to your website so that you don’t lose future revenue.
You may want to consider setting up a membership area that offers special benefits to members. This may or may not require a fee, depending on the structure of your business. Membership systems have become sophisticated and are surprisingly easy to set up with today’s tools. We can help you set up payment and membership systems to suit your unique needs.
If you haven’t been taking advantage of Email communication, it’s better to be late than never. Email is a remarkably effective way to communicate with your customers and prospects.
While there are barriers due to privacy laws, these will not restrict you from getting in touch within a reasonable time frame. Of course, your best option is to get subscribers to actually sign up for Email messages. That protects you from charges that you bypassed legal restrictions. In Canada, you can send Emails to anyone who gave you “implied” permission for up to 6 months after that permission was given, such as receiving their business card. You can also communicate with existing customers for up to two years after their last interaction with you. Use those time periods to establish messaging urging them to join the list so that you may continue to reach out to them with important notifications.
I’ve found that many companies don’t really understand proper etiquette for Email messaging. For example, I constantly get Emails, even from brands I like, that are a useless waste of my time. They give me no new information that I can benefit from. They are totally focused on selling me something, usually something I don’t need.
And then there’s the formatting. Some brands that should know better send Emails that are not optimized for mobile devices. Looking at those messages on my phone, all I see is an ocean of tiny text that’s impossible to read. Attempting to zoom in to make the text legible is useless as then I would have to scroll sideways and back again for every line of text. That’s not going to happen, folks! Vancouver Board of Trade, this is for you! Please, please make sure your messages are optimized properly for modern devices. As experts in digital design, we can structure a beautiful, responsive email template that reflects the essence of your brand.
These are just a few ways you can look to the horizon and see new opportunities to provide better service to your customers after this pandemic comes to an end.
Use the comment field below to let me know if you have seen other possibilities I didn’t mention.