With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not business as usual.
The pandemic has negatively affected everyone at a personal and professional level. Economists agree that the COVID-19 economic impact is unprecedented. Faced with the ugly marauding virus, you have two choices:
- Cower in terror and resign yourself to fate and wait to pick up the pieces of whatever is left of your company after things have stabilized.
- Roll up your sleeves, fight back, restrategize, and pivot your business for growth so you not only survive but thrive during these challenging times.
I reached out to 24 business owners and marketers to hear their best advice and strategies on how to survive the storm and emerge out of it bigger and stronger. These are not armchair critics but tried-and-tested business owners who are out in the business trenches working and winning every day.
Pick whichever tips resonate and get to work.
COVID-19 Economic Response Plan For Agile Companies: 24 Business Owners Weigh In
When responding to a complex challenge like the Coronavirus disease, it’s important to hear from multiple voices. There are no simple cookie-cutter solutions. While each business must find its own path, you need principles to chart the course.
That’s where these veteran B2B and B2C experts come in.
Let’s hear their smart advice.
#1. Enstine Muki
Serial Entrepreneur at EnstineMuki
“Inform your clients of the decisions taken internally for improved service quality.”
“The beginning of 2020 has been challenging to everyone all over the world. COVID-19 is a big threat to people and businesses. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Governments have come up with measures to try to stop the virus from spreading. Some of these measures; social distancing, travel restrictions, self-quarantine, etc, have negative impacts on offline and online businesses. But we don’t have to shut down. Here are a few tips to keep moving:
- Take internal measures to protect your employees. Invest in required online collaboration tools to allow them work from home. Talking with Devesh of WPKube, he’s put up a structure that allows his staff to successfully run his business from the comfort of their homes.
- Inform your clients of the decisions taken internally for improved service quality during these challenging moments.
- Offer discounts, free services and other special considerations to new and existing customers.
- Some businesses have not been paying attention to emails from existing clients and customers. I think that’s a quick way to push them to the hands of competitors. This is rather the moment to improve and reinforce your customer service department so your customers don’t feel any gap.
- Ensure guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Governments are closely followed.
- You may consider lay-offs, short-time working, restricting recruitment, deferring the start date for anything new, etc ”
#2. Adam Connell
Founder of Blogging Wizard
“You can pivot to helping clients in different sectors or roll out additional services.”
“As COVID-19 continues to damage the health of people and businesses, think of the big picture and consider how your business can position itself to help people through this crisis. As a result, you’ll also help get your business through this crisis.
Dyson is best known as a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners. They have switched gears and developed a ventilator to help the NHS here in the UK.
And we’re seeing restaurants pivot to becoming delivery companies.
If you run live events, you can switch to running virtual summits in the meantime.
Or, if you run an agency, you can pivot to helping clients in different sectors or roll out additional services to help businesses cope with transitioning their business from offline to online.
And, if you’re a musician, you can start streaming live shows via Facebook Live. One particularly nice twist on this approach that I spotted was Frank Turner, a musician from the UK, performing via Facebook Live, to raise funds to help local venues.”
#3. Chad Hill
CMO of Hill & Ponton Law
“Use this opportunity to market your business while competition is low.”
1. Market, market, market. Use this opportunity to market your business while competition is low.
2. Remote efficiency. Utilize online collaboration tools like Monday.com, Google Docs, Zoom, and the like to keep things running despite social distancing.
3. Encourage health, both physical and mental. Remind employees to exercise at home and host online video hangouts to mitigate the consequences of isolation, including burnout.”
#4. Sue-Ann Bubacz
Content Creator Write Mix for Business
“Out of constraints comes creativity, out of chaos comes growth, out of fears comes love.”
“Staying positive is much easier said than accomplished especially at a time like this.
But it’s possible.
One thing decades in business has given me is an attitude to succeed. And so the obvious answer to COVID is to keep going. Do the best you can in your unique circumstances.
Out of constraints comes creativity, out of chaos comes growth. Out of fears comes love. So, please continue your bravery dear business owner, freelancer, and Solopreneur of all makes.
For some business types that means pivoting to serve in new ways. For some, it means a time for re-grouping and revitalizing assets for the near future. For some, it means new services or products for what’s needed and relevant right now and for beyond, too.
Whatever the case for you, the answer is to try, do your best, and most importantly, to keep moving. Inertia is a killer more than any epidemic for a business. Or dare I say, for a business person.
It’s not about merely staying positive but about moving forward with positive actions. It’s about allowing yourself to create with abandon for a better tomorrow even if you can’t see it now.
#5. Lisa Sicard
Founder and CEO of Inspire To Thrive
“One major shift is to communicate with your clients or customers more often.”
“You have to be flexible and ready to change quickly in 2020 with your business.
What I have seen in my own business is the different needs of clients. I’m helping more people to communicate via video and webinars. That was not something I had been doing 2 months ago!
One major shift is to communicate with your clients or customers more often. I now speak to most of my clients daily. Before this crisis it was once or twice a month.
Every blog or social media post I do for the Covid-19 crisis is closely scrutinized and checked, oftentimes with changes.
I’ve even lost a few accounts but gained others during this past 3 week period alone.
I have a few of my freelancers on alert if I need additional help. Many have helped me with testing on video chats.
That brings me to one more point: Communicate with those that do work for YOU. Let them know how long you can continue to keep them on or not.
Communication is of utmost importance throughout this pandemic crisis!”
#6- Nikola Roza
Founder of Nikola Roza- SEO for the Poor and Determined
“Find 20% of actions you need to take that will drive 80% of your results.”
“I have 3 quick tips to share:
#1- Accept things have changed
When you were making your business plan at the start of this year, I bet you didn’t factor in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now is the time to adapt and update your suddenly stale plan.
#2- Use the Pareto principle to your advantage
Namely, find 20% of actions you need to take that will drive 80% of your results. That’s the smart approach that won’t tax your resources but will keep you advancing steadily towards your goals.
#3- Just keep moving
Most businesses and your competitors are going to despair and hope for the storm to pass soon. If you just keep moving, even at a slower rate than you’d like, you will far overtake them by the time this crisis is over.
And it will be over at some point.”
#7. Jonas Sickler
Marketing Director of ReputationManagement.com
“Show empathy to others, and mention how your brand is helping.”
“Be patient. Your marketing efforts will be filtered through the optics of the current situation, so it’s critical that you re-evaluate your strategy.
As painful as it may feel to watch sales drop off a cliff, remember that it’s only temporary. Starting up a tone-deaf marketing campaign too soon could trigger customer backlash, causing an avalanche of social media attacks and a negative news cycle that corrodes your company’s online reputation for years.
What can you do?
#1. Evaluate your existing marketing campaigns and pause anything that might offend your audience.
#2. Leverage your social platforms and email lists to show empathy to others, and mention how your brand is helping. Are you donating money to food pantries or providing goods at no cost to charities? But don’t blast emails every day, and don’t leverage the situation for financial gain.
#3 Invest in a long-term marketing strategy. While your competitors are pulling back, you should create campaigns that you’ll be ready to launch with as soon as the time is right!”
#8. Alex Birkett
“Find the digital version of whatever offline work you were doing.”
“While your game plan will drastically differ depending on your industry, there are a few common points of advice.
First, cut superfluous marketing spend. Now’s not the time to acquire a user worth $1 for $3 in the pursuit of growth. Austerity isn’t a bad bet for most businesses now.
Second, it’s a great time to invest in longer term channels, particularly if you can shuffle your marketing budget in that direction. The world is noisy and uncertain now, so outbound tactics can probably be shifted to building out inbound assets, like your blog, and sales enablement materials.
The world will return to some semblance of normalcy eventually, and you want to have your pieces in place to hit the gas when that time comes.
Finally, the obvious one, is find the digital version of whatever offline work you were doing. Conferences become webinars and sales meetings become Zooms, but you can get creative as well. I’m seeing yoga studios and dance studios doing virtual classes, gyms offering private virtual home training, and many businesses creating online education products to span the gap until the real world opens again.”
#9. Krista Neher
“Act fast with a minimum viable product mindset to quickly launch new offerings.”
“No doubt this is a challenging time for businesses, but this is no time to sit back and wait, this is the time to thrive.
- Create your silver lining – Look for the upside of the opportunity that is being created. 75% of our revenue came from in-person training, so we are using this as an opportunity to grow our virtual offering. Act fast with a minimum viable product mindset to quickly launch new offerings and use data to see what works.
- Try new things – This is the time to try new things. We are using this as an opportunity to try things we normally wouldn’t have. When business is already at risk you can take more chances. Brainstorm ideas or re-examine things you previously discarded.
- Market more – People are spending more time online and are still buying. At the same time many big advertisers have pulled back. This creates a golden opportunity for businesses. The time to market is now – grow awareness and get your business in-front of people.”
#10 Stefan Debois
CEO and Founder of Survey Anyplace
“It’s important to keep up the good team spirit by organizing digital events.”
“Spark the team spirit to achieve a common goal
Our tip to overcome this crisis? We think it’s important to keep up the good team spirit by organizing digital events to spark the team spirit of the whole company.
From time to time, just like in “normal” times, it’s important to blow off some steam, and to connect with one another in a more informal way. Normally, team buildings are the first initiative you’ll think of.
But in these times, you’ll have to be more inventive: you’ll have to organize a digital event. This could be an afterwork drink, behind your screen instead of in the local bar 🙂 But you can also be more creative: play an online game together, get competitive! You can go for a pop quiz, a strategic game, a revealing quiz to get to know your colleagues better, a virtual game like the good old pictionary, … The list is long.
Of course, we are also engaging in regular video calls with our teams to stay on top of business. But we believe that being in this situation together results in higher productivity and loyalty, because you’re in this as a team, working for a common cause.”
#11 Chioma Iwunze
Chioma Iwunze, Content Marketing Strategist at Time Doctor.
“Manage your distributed teams and organize your work process using time tracking tools.”
“Your business will thrive and flourish against all odds if you adapt to the COVID-19-inspired realities, Listed below are strategies that have worked for many successful businesses:
- Organize Your Distributed Teams: Organizing a remote team requires a lot of work and expertise. Thankfully, there are time tracking and other collaboration tools that can boost your HR management efforts. With the right collaboration tools, you can manage distributed teams and organize your work processes.
- Invest In An Effective Time Management and Time Tracking Tool: You can streamline the organization process by using the right remote tools for remote workers. If your team members are in different time zones, they might have to work when you’re asleep or at odd hours of your day. In that case, a time tracking software will help you to keep track of how much time each team member spent working on specific projects and tasks. The best time tracking tools have features that allow you to generate timesheet reports to prepare your payroll and billing information.
Time tracking tools like Time Doctor Classic, Hubstaff, Clockify and TD 2, combine inbuilt screenshot monitoring and chat monitoring features. These features solve the problems of lack of accountability and transparency which are prevalent in remote work, Employee monitoring features help you keep track of employee activity and employee productivity during work hours.”
#12. Raul Galera
Partner Manager at CandyBar
“Work on your messaging to connect with your customers without falling into the over-sentimental approach.”
“The unknown magnitude of this current crisis makes it impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the future — not even one week ahead.
I personally don’t think there are any quick wins so I’d focus on three things:
1) Focus on your existing customers and retain them as much as possible, even leverage their own network for referrals.
2) Take this downtime to work on long-term strategies that will help your business after this is all over, such as SEO and
3) Work on your messaging to connect with your customers without falling into the over-sentimental (and somewhat forced) approach we’re seeing on TV every day — talk to your customers like you mean it.”
#13 Saul Colt
Founder of The Idea Integration Co.
“Trying to hard sell isn’t going to work in anyone’s favor right now.”
“Trying to hard sell isn’t going to work in anyone’s favor right now. Brands need to use a portion of advertising investment to be focused on building and maintaining a meaningful relationship with consumers rather than driving near term sales. Here is how to build that relationship.
Be Optimistic – never add to the misery, use optimism as a differentiator and show people how things could be at the end of this.
Use Humor – KFC saying they are Finger Washing Good is perfect. Why? Cause I thought of it but beyond that it speaks to the situation, doesn’t pretend things are ok but at the same time it will make people smile and probably share it with a friend making KFC seem more human through an inhumane situation. People with amplified voices have a responsibility to create a little happiness right now.
Create new and remind people of old memories – Similar to being optimistic you should offer comfort by reminding your customers of how you were before all this happened. Times you shared and remind them that you are looking forward to when they will return.
Finally and maybe the most important is to…
Include your customers in discussions and give them choices – in times like this, people want to be heard. Honestly it is the role of the brand to listen, they don’t have to do everything suggested but they will be far closer to getting things right the first time when they have a lot of information.”
#14. Pawel Lawrowski
Head of Growth at Tidio
“If you are in B2B, try offering custom plans to help existing customers.”
“B2B marketing during the coronavirus crisis is tricky. For example, we had to stop several of our most important automated email campaigns. They had been active for some time before the outbreak. But everything changed almost overnight. We started to pick up some mixed signals from our clients and it turned out that regular cross-selling discounts now seemed inappropriate.
How to make your marketing efforts effective when you can’t use marketing? You have to change your whole communication strategy. If your customers are struggling to keep afloat, focus on their problems. Redirect the efforts of your marketing team to help them overcome these obstacles.
Right now we are doing these things:
- Collecting feedback from our users.
- Creating content about protecting businesses during the crisis.
- Offering custom plans to help our existing customers.”
#15. Rithesh Raghavan
“Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Work From Home during Lockdown.”
“Let’s face it – the world has changed like never before. We all never anticipated that things would go wrong this way and hence never had a plan B. But we’re left with no other choice now.
- Accept the ‘New Normal’ and adapt to it.
Being a software company with a team size of 100+, the first thing we did was to organize ourselves to deliver our existing projects smoothly even while working remotely. Below are some pointers, based on it:
~ Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Work From Home during Lockdown
~ Introduce collaboration tools like ‘Zoom’, ‘Slack’, Meet’, ‘Skype’ etc for internal meetings
~ Implement a more rigorous reporting structure to ensure full productivity
- Stay Positive
It’s true that COVID-19 has affected almost all sectors, but thinking from a positive viewpoint, there are many sectors that are thriving even in this crisis – for eg. Pharmacies, Medical Equipments, Grocery stores, Teleworking Softwares, Food delivery apps, Online Education, Gaming Companies and much more. So there is always business in some way or the other – only thing is that you have to find out the right niche at the right time.
Many businesses who pivoted to tackle this situation are also seeing some good success – for eg. Educational Institutions, Training Centers, Gyms, etc which moved into online classes.
- Market Wisely
If you’re spending ads on various mediums, I think it’s best to cut short all and invest only in Digital Marketing. In our experience, we’re seeing 50% lower ad costs in many industries in Google and Facebook Ads. Apart from this, the conversion rate is also on a higher side currently.”
#16. Jack Wang
CEO of Amazing Beauty Hair
“If you’re capable of doing so, shift to a work-from-home setup.”
“If you’re capable of doing so, shift to a work-from-home setup. This way, you can operate through a lockdown, especially if you’re part of the “non-essential” business category. At the same time, you’re taking care of your employees.
If you think about it, it is a win-win situation for both parties. Employers will get their office overhead costs like electricity and other resources. On the flip side, employees will get to enjoy more time with their families at home, and at the same time, they’re alleviated from the stresses of the daily morning commute. Overall, you’ll also be doing the world a favor by minimizing pollution and carbon footprint.”
#17. Matt Scott
Owner of Baltimore Pest Pros
“Apart from your employees, your loyal customers are your most valuable resource in this time.”
“Apart from your employees, your loyal customers are your most valuable resource in this time of a global crisis. Your business is likely shut down, and you won’t be able to expand your client base any further.
My suggestion: Take care of these loyal clients and invest in them more. Strengthen your relationship with them and build more trust. Make them see the value of what you can offer and remind them that they will realize their goals and achieve growth when they choose to work with you.
Planning to attract new clients? Save that for after the pandemic.”
#18. Adam Hempenstall
Founder and CEO at Better Proposals
“Focus on retention strategies and stopping the bleeding.”
“The best tactic you can use is trying to retain as many customers as possible because in our business, churn is inevitable. We see customers leaving us left and right and while focusing on growing is good, retention is an even better strategy.
Right now, we are extending our free trial period from 14 days to a full month. Moreover, we are giving everyone who’s already a paying customer a free month of using our app. Right now, your main focus should be on stopping the bleeding rather than trying to win new business. We are not pivoting, we’re just doubling down on what we know works well and pushing through this thing.”
#19. Moss Clement
Founder of Moss Media
“Make yourself readily available to employees through video conferencing.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies to work from home in an effort to survive Covid-19 and thrive going forward. While there are challenges involved when transitioning from an in-office environment to working remotely from home, the following tips will help your company survive:
- The first for me is to ensure the safety of every employee because, without your workforce (your assets), your business is bound to suffer. So, offer safety measures to protect your assets.
- Make yourself readily available to employees through video conferencing. Knowing that you are always available will trigger their desire to follow your lead and work at the same pace and improve productivity. Employees will also be willing to share their thoughts via visual platforms on how to move your company forward during Covid-19 and beyond.
- Increase your sales offer. This step is essential because almost everyone is at home. Your target market is on the internet 24/7 searching for items and the latest news on coronavirus. So, offer help to boost publicity and brand awareness, and increase your sales offer.”
#20. Nonyerem Ibiam
Founder and Managing Editor of Law Truly
“Invest in interactive tools and fast connectivity tools.”
“The global pandemic COVID-19 has brought remote work to the front burner of global business.
Businesses who can adapt are thriving, while those who can’t are downgrading.
To fully take advantage of remote work during this period of COVID-19, business owners should do the following.
- Invest in Interactive Tools.
Since the workforce of most businesses is going to be working remotely, it is going to affect the firms’ team spirit, which is necessary for high productivity.
Businesses must have channels for their staff to communicate. Tools like Basecamp, Instagantt, Troop Messenger, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, Krisp, etc., are all great for remote work.
- Invest in Fast Connectivity Tools.
Remote work is data-driven and needs fast internet speed. Without fast internet tools, your employees will find it difficult to share or exchange information and data. The internet speed an employee needs should be determined by what he or she is working on.”
#21 Sharon Hurley Hall
Freelance B2B Writer at SharonHH.com
“Be human. Be helpful. Keep marketing but be mindful.”
“First of all, reject the notion of business as usual. As one of my friends says, this is now “business unusual”, and it’s likely to be that way for some time. Here’s how I’m approaching it.
Reach out to old clients and check in with them. I haven’t been trying to sell my services, just to recognize that we’re all going through something unprecedented, and to make sure they and the people they care about are OK. But the result has been a couple of emails appreciating the contact and reaching out with promises of new work.
You know your business, clients and customers. Ask if you can help. Be on your usual channels, but focus on helping people in whatever way you can. A good example of this is John Espirian on LinkedIn. You can build up a lot of goodwill, and keep yourself top of mind when people are ready to get back to work.
Keep Marketing, But Be Mindful
It’s still important to keep your name out there, but make sure you’re not being tone-deaf. Go back to anything you’ve scheduled and see if it needs to be put on hold. Maybe you’ve got an older resource that’s perfect to help people in an unsettling time. This is the time to put it out there.
Identify New Opportunities
Like many others, you’ll have seen long term clients and contracts evaporate, but there are always new opportunities. Think about whose business is booming right now, and you’ll know where to offer your services.”.
#22 Joyce Qian
Head of Strategy & Growth of ContactPigeon
“Communicate coherently (both internally and externally) and allocate resources towards eCommerce & disruption.”
“We daily work closely with major EU & US retailers in order to face this crisis together. So far the most effective tactics for any business in order to survive this challenging time is a mix of coherent communication (internal & external), allocation of resources towards eCommerce & disruption, mostly in logistics due to the supply shortage. The top 3 tactics we could highlight are:
- A brand should keep its customers updated about any actions taken to protect its employees and its customers. Hygiene fear has a huge negative impact on eCommerce revenue, especially during this period, so this is really important.
- Allocate your resources to eCommerce: Convert some of your physical store stuff to support your eCommerce department. This will save you tons of resources since they “already know the job” so it will cost less for you to train them. This is also beneficial for your teamwork as well since the whole company learns “how eCommerce works” so it will make the day after the crisis easier and your skills as a team much better. Plus, some employees will find it really interesting to get involved in eCommerce and learn new skills.
- Give more motives to your customers to buy from you: If free shipping is not an option for you, you can either add a gift to every order or/and extend the free return period.”
#23. Fernando Angulo
Head of Communications at SEMrush Inc
“This is the key moment for a brand to show much more solidarity with its users than before.”
“The coronavirus is a total catastrophe for many industries and the final damage has yet to be accounted for. This is the key moment for a brand to show much more solidarity with its users than before. The most reactive have even come to open their products/services for free or have opened themselves to donations, and unprecedented discounts because they perceive the social and economic impact that this situation will cause in the very near and imminent future.
Concerns about the spread and potential impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is forcing all organizations and industries to respond to increased online communications and social media activity.
The basic rules to keep in mind for businesses these days are:
- Not to be passive.
- Answer with empathy any comments and questions related to COVID-19.
- Be flexible with collaborators, partners and maintain confidentiality.
- Publish educational, informative and inclusive content to show that you are not on the sidelines of this situation.”
#24. Addisson Shaw
Editor @ Better Buys
“Create brand loyalty with all of your existing customers by the way you handle this crisis.”
“In these troubled times, it’s all about support and communication. Not only supporting your customers through this pandemic but also supporting your team and employees in any way you can.
This is a time where you can really capitalize and create brand loyalty with all of your existing customers by the way you handle this crisis. Whether you’re giving out free upgrades for your software, discounting existing plans, or working through your clients’ specific needs — they won’t ever forget how you handled the situation and took care of them.
And the same goes for your employees. By supporting your team throughout this crisis you’ll create a loyal workforce that will make your business their own, they’ll have a vested interest and work that much harder.
Remember, support and communication is key throughout crisis management. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
COVID-19 Economic Outlook: It’s Not All Doom and Gloom
No doubt, across the globe COVID-19 has been extremely damaging to businesses.
And while it’s tough, we can get through this.
Use these tips to dig in, fight, and market sensitively.
Now, exactly how you pivot your business depends on your unique set of circumstances. Your niche, resources at your disposal, the skill set of your team, and more all count.
But one thing is certain. We must have courage.
Only then, will we be able to think smart, spot opportunities, stand our ground, and push on until we find joy and success amidst (or after) the anguish.
Cheer up, friend. We will beat this.