by Merilyn Pereira Editor, Ziff Davis B2B
The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is still only starting to show in businesses and on the economy worldwide. We looked at two recent surveys to understand the challenges business leaders and small business owners are facing and how to mitigate these challenges.
Although most of us have been social distancing for less than a fortnight, businesses have started feeling the heat, with a drop in sales and revenue. That translates to leadership and C-suite professionals having to deal with the struggles of managing teams working remotely, maintaining business as usual, and also finding ways to keep business goals and revenue from going into a downward spiral.
With rapid changes in the situation worldwide, it’s anybody’s guess how the coronavirus situation will shape up. While we deal with our spiraling emotions, work, and stress in these uncertain times, we also have to focus on the results we need to achieve.
The Impact on C-Suite Leaders
Textio’s CEO, Kieran Snyder, put together a survey in 72 hours of over 250 business executives on how they are leading in the time of COVID-19 and market decline. About half of the participants are part of the C-suite, and just over half are from the technology industry. Some interesting patterns came through. The findings are listed here:
- 90% are being more mindful about what and how they communicate with their teams
- 47% said supporting their current team is their top priority, while 30% said understanding the impact on revenue is theirs
- 80% have invested in productivity tools, and 65% are looking for ways to stay connected
- A little under 30% said evolving their core business is a priority
- The majority are looking to their teams and families for support
- 44% have some anxiety that their business might not survive the year
This goes to show that most leaders are focusing on their teams and supporting them with the technology required to work effectively from home. A substantial percentage of leaders are also taking the time to assess the impact on revenue and evolve their business to adapt to the changing landscape.
How can marketing leaders work differently to ensure their teams are feeling supported and included while working remotely? Kieran Snyder said exclusively to MarTech Advisor, “When we’re all in different physical locations, we’re writing more than ever. Whether you use email, Slack, other tools, or some combination, a lot of collaboration that might have previously happened in person has moved to writing. Even for thoughtful communicators, this creates challenges for both collaboration and belonging.
Written communication lets you be more intentional about who you’re inviting to the conversation. One thing I’ve been doing: Just as you’d try to make sure that quieter teammates have a chance to speak up in meetings, I ask explicitly for their input in Slack or email too.
“It can feel intimidating to weigh in on large threads or channels, especially if you step away from the computer for a few minutes and come back to find that a thread has exploded. I make sure to explicitly solicit input from those on the periphery of the conversation so their voices can be heard.”
The Impact on Small Business Owners
Another interesting survey was commissioned by Bellwethr. In it, 400 U.S. small business owners were asked about the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on their businesses between March 17 and 19, 2020. The respondents include owners of online and offline retail stores, software businesses, non-profits and charities, restaurants and food trucks, consultants, agencies, etc.
The findings of the impact of coronavirus on these businesses are as follows:
- 55% have already seen a negative impact of the coronavirus on their business
- 50% have modified their marketing plans
- 37% felt prepared for a crisis such as this pandemic
- 77% reported a decrease in sales and revenue
- 92% believe the coronavirus will have a greater impact in the coming months
- Over 48% have kept hiring on hold
- 67% are making more of an effort to retain customers
- Over 43% are working remotely
- 71% have reduced marketing budgets and ad spend
Small businesses, especially those without an e-commerce platform, are definitely the most vulnerable right now. As the pandemic continues to disrupt everyday lives and prolong social distancing, business owners remain uncertain as to how long it will take to resume business as usual and if they can ever completely recover.
Customer Retention is the Way Forward
Speaking exclusively to MarTech Advisor about the impact of coronavirus on businesses and what brands can do differently in light of changing trends and social distancing, Matt Moody, CEO and Founder of Bellwethr, said,
With everything changing so quickly due to the current environment, brands need to focus on three things: First, focus on what you know and who you know. It’s cheaper to keep your existing customers. Second, Understand the changing needs and behaviors of existing customers (e.g. How are existing customers behaving now?). Set up more diagnostics and feedback tools. And third, use the data available to identify potential growth opportunities with existing customers. There are likely new opportunities for brands to better serve their existing customers, delivering even greater value.
3 Ways to Retain Your Customers During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Here are three things marketers can try while social distancing and working remotely:
- Communicate: Your customers are panicking and are unsure whether you’re open to business; reach out to them. Let them know if you’re working and delivering products or about the measures you’re taking for your customers’ and employees’ wellbeing. Wish them well and send them tips to do the same. Regular updates can show you care and are there for them.
- Engage: Create light content they can consume from their homes, to entertain them in uncertain times, and to stay top of mind. This way, they remember to come back to you when the pandemic has ended. Be mindful of the message you’re sending and make the best of the resources you have at hand.
- Listen: Hear customers out – keep channels of communication such as emails or feedback forms open, to understand what your customers need, their changing behavior and wants, and how you can help them during this pandemic.
Kieran Snyder concluded her study saying, “The situation we’re in highlights what has always been true, which is that the best we have is learning by invention. And right now, we have the chance to invent things of real, durable meaning. When we get through this, we will be unstoppable.”
The impact of COVID-19 will be felt by all, small and big businesses. Marketing leaders need to stay the course and adapt to the new normal that is evolving. Keep experimenting and modifying your marketing plan to find what works right now. Meanwhile, stay virtually close to your teams and customers, and when this is over, they will know they can count on you and will be loyal in return.
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