Like waking up from an anesthetic slumber, many of us are just thankful our business is still in one piece. As the feeling returns to all limbs, we’re noticing the sluggish response of our sales and marketing efforts while we wince at the increasing pain of the hole where our cash reserves used to be.
The PPP is a good drug, and certainly dulls the soreness. But, if we ask a surgeon if sitting in a lazyboy for eight straight weeks after knee surgery is a good idea, she’ll say “sure, if you never want to walk again!” And so it goes for business.
Companies practicing a pure “wait and see” strategy right now won’t be limber enough to bounce back in the new recession economy we’re entering. The big reason – our competitors aren’t watching Netflix, and we have a race to run.
What’s the doctor say?
The doctor says here’s your plan, stick to it and change your lifestyle. So kinda’ like surgery recovery, a proper business bounce back takes three things: planning, discipline and innovation.
On the marketing side of things, put a pin in your slash and burn instincts for now. Yeah, there are some cuts to make, but your comms budget isn’t your biggest line item anyway, and the creation of new relationships and business will be key to recovery. Some of your customers might not be coming back. Most companies have figured out a re-tuned plan for operations under social distancing requirements, but how are you going to sustain the work? Some key questions to ask:
- The annual trade show that landed 30% of your new business is canceled – what are you doing to discover and cultivate new relationships?
- Does your core brand messaging resonate among high-stress health concerns or in a recession market?
- What new problems are people experiencing that you’re already positioned to solve but just aren’t talking about? New markets?
- Competitors are already collapsing and/or selling assets – if you don’t have capital to buy their business, do you have a communications strategy ready to go that will reach their retreating customers?
Become a disciple to your plan, and keep it moving forward every day. Remain flexible to opportunities, but beware that rushing things could lead to injury. There are likely to be a number of false starts in the pandemic recovery.
We’re counseling clients to focus first on foundational communications. Messaging and web content updates, email marketing, thought leadership and other high-value, low-cost marketing activity will help to maintain existing relationships and raise your profile for referrals.
Talk to your clients – check in on them and let them know that’s all your doing. Find out what their barriers are, and then find ways to show them through storytelling how you can help!
Note: It’s important to remember that you’re a manufacturer / professional service firm / restaurant / etc. You’re NOT an emergency COVID response expert. There are enough people telling that story, and audiences are becoming numb to it as the basics become less valuable every day.
Back to our knee metaphor, if you can’t bend over or lift items over five pounds without blowing out your surgery site, then you need to figure out new ways of doing things, get help, or leverage technology to meet the challenges of your new reality.
For marketers, social distancing means no trade shows, big events or other close-proximity sales activities for much of 2020. The low-hanging fruit is video chat, webinars, ads, retargeting and other digital substitutes. But, when everyone’s doing these, you’ll be looking for a way to stand out again.
The companies that figure out how to innovate around these barriers are going to reach customers first. And, it’s going to look very different depending on the product. We’re hoping this could reignite a wave of innovation around 3D tours, AR/VR, high-quality video or maybe even a reinvigoration of dynamic printed materials!
Even better than innovation in storytelling is the quality of the stories themselves. Your company is already working to overcome operational barriers. Share these stories to re-engage dormant customers and pull business from competitors who are playing “wait and see.”
It’s time to sit up and take that first step
Inherently, our recession recovery relies on the success of our clients. So as you start to plan for your own way forward, think first of your clients. How might you become an indispensable part of their comeback story? How will you ensure they know that?
Oh yeah, and let us know if we can help.