by Greg Schwartz, Contributor at Entrepreneur
COVID-19 is upending companies large and small, but here’s how you can limit the damage.
The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the global economy. Air travel is being hit hard, sports leagues and big events are being canceled, countries are putting up travel restrictions to try to keep the virus outside their borders, and public health officials and hospitals are bracing for the worst. In times of crisis, it can be hard to stay calm and be optimistic. Fortunately, for entrepreneurs and business leaders, staying calm under pressure is part of the job description.
By taking proactive steps now, you can put your business in a more secure position to stay strong and recover faster once the crisis subsides. In fact, China, the country where the virus first emerged, is already showing signs of economic recovery. Here are a few key strategies and insights to help your business recover from coronavirus.
Think about how coronavirus affects customers
Depending on what industry you’re in, your customers might be having some specific new pain points related to coronavirus. Think strategically about how the pandemic is affecting your customers, what is keeping them up at night and how you can help. Then you can adjust your sales pitch and design your marketing around how to address these specific challenges and worries. For example, are your customers….
- Worried about supply-chain disruptions?
- Worried about how to manage employees in an environment where everyone might need to work from home?
- Worried about travel restrictions?
- Struggling with general market uncertainty and slowdown in demand?
- Wondering how to manage their cash flow?
- Facing a shortage of key inventory or supplies driven by consumers panic-buying and stocking up?
All of these business challenges can be exacerbated by a crisis like coronavirus. Your job as a business owner is to figure out how to re-position your products and services to be helpful and address the specific pain points that your customers are confronting now.
For example, if you sell video-conferencing solutions, this is an ideal opportunity for you to offer additional support and consulting to help your customers figure out how to adapt their remote workflows. If you are in the logistics business, now is a good time to reach out to your customers with possible solutions to navigate the latest issues affecting the global supply chain.
Embrace new sales channels
Even as more of the country goes into lockdown, people still are going to want and need to buy things, creating opportunities to serve your market via alternative sales channels. For example, if coronavirus is cutting down on foot traffic to your retail business, look to expand your e-commerce offerings. Restaurants in China have seen a decrease in in-store customers, so they’re selling takeaway meals instead.
Can you boost your online-marketing efforts and e-commerce sales? Can you create more conversations on social media and LinkedIn instead of in-person sales meetings? Many B2B companies are already well-positioned for this, especially if they sell software or other digital services and solutions. Business is still going on, but more of it might need to happen online.
Work on long-term investments in your business
Especially if you’re in B2B sales, the coronavirus might be an opportunity to make some longer-term investments in your business. Especially if you’re seeing a short-term slowdown, this is the time to re-evaluate your operations, platforms and processes and do some long-term strategic planning.
If you have a few big prospects in the pipeline, now is a good occasion to put more energy into lead management and nurturing of those longer-term opportunities. Keep checking in with your leads, reassure them if needed, and let them know that you are planning for contingencies and you’re ready to help.
This unprecedented situation is obviously driving a lot of cancellations for things like airline reservations, concert tickets and business conferences, but bigger-ticket B2B sales may not be as severely affected, unless the crisis goes on for so long that it causes companies to cut back on their spending and investment. Keep nurturing your business leads with the long view in mind, even if the short-term headlines are crazy and the situation feels uncertain.
Prepare for pent-up demand
Another lesson from Chinese businesses is that the post-coronavirus economic recovery might be faster than we expect. If you cut back too far today, you might not be positioned to capitalize on the post-crisis recovery. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the public-health aspects of this crisis; everyone needs to take precautions to stay healthy and reduce the spread of the virus. But I do believe that companies can put some good steps in place today to be positioned for bigger success tomorrow. There are always challenges and crises affecting our businesses. We can adapt and embrace the opportunities and bounce back stronger, even from a major crisis like coronavirus.