50 ways to make your business stronger during a pandemic

In my blog post talking about Marketing in a Recession, when the economy goes into a recession or is in the middle of a massive change like the current pandemic, it is an incredibly difficult time for many. The aim of this blog is to give you specific tactics and thoughts on how to make your business stronger during this time. 

But there are play books to help businesses during a recession. The smart businesses not only keep a focus on medium range goals, but they focus on the things they already do well like solving their customer’s problems. During times of uncertainty, your business can stand out from not just your competition, but also the market in general by being a shining light.

To help you do this you need to be smart, leverage your relationships and resources and work together not only with your staff but also business partners and customers.

So while this isn’t a definitive list, here’s a list of all the things we would look to do in an economic recession (or pandemic) to make your business stronger during the recession and grow quickly during the recovery.

Tap into people’s concerns (and solve them)

When people couldn’t be sure they could feed their families, Kraft used their trusted brand to highlight how cheap and cheerful Mac & Cheese was as a great family meal. If people are in self-isolation, how do you address home delivery, loneliness and cleanliness?

One of the key challenges during a recession and pandemic for retail businesses is getting people into your store. 

Given we’re in a pandemic, a key thing is to make sure your retail store is welcoming:

  • Tell the community all staff have paid sick leave (so no sick staff in your showroom)
  • Hand Sanitiser is available at the entrance or on reception
  • Use fragrances to make the store enticing
  • Have boxes of tissues readily available
  • Offer to provide in-home visits, consultations or deliveries (then entice them in)
  • Offer to open the store early for vulnerable customers so they have the place to themselves

Find ways to continue to bring people into your retail store if that is where you convert most people. If your product or service is more about convenience (like many Direct to consumer brands) then focus on delivering that better than you have before.

Other ways that you can help alleviate people’s concerns include:

  • Waive delivery fees for vulnerable customers
  • Reserve product for past customers to pick up when they can
  • Provide payment options that give them the flexibility 
  • Be confident, honest and helpful and you’ll make people feel at ease.

Stay consistent with your messaging

When sales start to decline, companies shouldn’t panic and alter a brand’s fundamental proposition or positioning. For instance, marketers catering to upper-income consumers may be tempted to move focus on price. This could confuse and alienate loyal customers; it could also provoke stiff resistance from competitors whose operations are geared to a low-cost strategy and who have intimate knowledge of cost-conscious customers.

Use messaging that reinforce your current position but that still talk to an emotional or functional lever that will motivate consumers. These can include:

  • Buy fewer, better things because “a diamond is forever”
  • Create a meal that you know the family we love (don’t risk it on
  • Interest free loans to get “the car you deserve”
  • Promote getting “a warm and healthy home” from buying your product now
  • “Get the home you deserve” with….

Support Local Businesses

  • Remind consumers to support local businesses. Yes you can buy all your groceries from Coles/Woolworths/Aldi but remind them to support local cafés, takeaways or restaurants when they can.
  • Work with other businesses to create unique solutions. An events company may create mini-hampers so people can share meals with others virtually.
  • Support each other. This is going to be a challenging time and to have the support of people who are going through the same challenges will be invaluable as you all try to be successful in the recession and in the recovery period.

Tell people what you’re doing to help

  • How are you helping charities or customers during this hard time?
  • Use your social media channels to tell followers what you’re doing to help or how you’re being a responsible business
  • Highlight the client work you are doing so you look successful at a time when people need reassurance
  • Confirm that you’re supporting your staff as much as you can 

Show customers you understand and care

  • Provide easy interest free payments
  • Provide payment plans to stop cancelations
  • Actively follow up with customers who are postponing work and find a way to keep them. Use any incentive you can. ie, Frequent Flyer points, extra service, etc.
  • Give stock that you can’t turn into money to those in need
  • Offer to open the store early for customers to have the place to themselves
  • Gimmicks are less effective with reliability, safety, value for money and performance being good motivators.
  • Business Owners and Leaders will spend more time with key customers, key suppliers and employees making sure they all feel supported, making them more likely to support you.

Can you move to a virtual model?

  •  If your business hosts events with customers, prospects, or partners, consider switching to virtual meetings for the time being. There are many free tools to organise virtual meetings.  
  •  If you would normally visit homes, consider having your first consultation via a video call. This enables you to see the home, manage any health concerns while building a rapport & giving them the information they need without entering their homes.
  • How can you help people in self-isolation? Home delivery of products, emailing digital catalogues or providing courses via tablet could all be helpful options that create revenue.

Be creative with generating income

  • Sell your staff’s time to other businesses to help them (and you). Passionberry is offering 1-2 of our marketers to a couple of food clients who are busy preparing campaigns with limited staff who are sick.
  • Sell Gift Vouchers to businesses/people who can get $200 of value for $100 paid now. Buy a voucher to enjoy a unique event experience in 3 months’ time. The opportunity is to bring a purchase forward so they benefit from a discount while you have the money sitting in your account now when you need it.
  • Repackage your existing product or service into something that best meets their current problems or needs. Do you have an unused event space that can be turned into a virtual recording studio? When you visit a customer, what can you bring with you that may exceed expectations?
  • Would free delivery of fresh food to those in self-isolation not only help with sales now but also create a longer lasting bond and loyalty after the pandemic ends?
  • Focus on the items you sell more of during a recession and make your product range tighter and more efficient.
  • If you do have to cut the price on products or services, try to be more price aggressive with smaller pack sizes as this will drive custom without impacting long term sales (via pantry stocking).

Look after your staff

  • Tell them what the plans are for the business. Get their support and ask for their flexibility.
  • Show you care and try and be flexible with their needs. Consider making it easy for them to get to the doctors, to work from home or have fresh fruit and vitamins available.
  • Make sure ‘backroom staff’ have the ability to work from home
  • Keep the showroom as clean and sanitised as possible.
  • Organise for your entire team to get flu shots. Means there is one less opportunity to have staff off sick leading to less issues for you (staffing levels) and them (unpaid sick leave) in the future.

 Manage Working Capital

  • In uncertain times, no one wants to tie up working capital in excess inventories. Early-buy allowances, extended financing and generous return policies motivate consumers to buy but also distributors you use to stock and sell your products.
  • Feel free to discount those lines that have been more difficult to move as you should prioritise cashflow over value of assets.

Negotiate better terms with media partners

  • As less people advertise to cut costs, there will be greater opportunities to get more air time at better rates to make your business stand out.
  • Also look at the formats you use. For example, you can look at moving from 30 sec to shorter 15 sec TV ads. Outdoor advertising should be more available and you may find more direct advertising may help as well.
  • Look the timing of campaigns and move booked campaigns to better time periods when a recovery may be starting to take place OR you have a compelling messgae to share like a sales promotion. 

Work on longer term opportunities

There will be times when you won’t be 100% busy so look to try and get those important projects started and finished while you have some ‘spare time’, especially the ones that will grow your business in the long term. Projects like:

  • Increasing Google Reviews
  • Build your partnerships with other businesses
  • Implement that new system that will make you more efficient
  • Improve those ‘back of house’ processes the team have been wanting to change
  • Review your costs and see what you can remove long term. This is on the items you don’t usually get to change like insurance, software costs, credit cards, etc.

Take the opportunity to harness the collective knowledge of the entire staff to identify the best opportunities to help make the business stronger and work together to prioritise those and get everyone involved in making it happen.

Focus on what you can control

There are a lot of things you can do to keep the business on solid footing and focused on being positive. Ultimately the messaging in the media will make it difficult for people to be positive or they will feel like they are at the mercy of fate. Successful businesses focus on what they can control and on how they can best meet their customer’s needs. 

This will not be an easy time so if you ever need to talk about how you can best take advantage of the current economic conditions and keep your business strong, please contact Passionberry for a free strategic consultation. 

We’re happy to help!