I'm sure by now you are aware that we are in the midst of a time of crisis and people are freaking out and panicking. Schools are closing, restaurants are closing, business is generally slowing down. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but that doesn't mean you have to panic. What it does mean is you need to get busy.
Today, I want to talk about three things that every business should do during a time of crisis.
Not Our First Rodeo
Now, this is not my first time of crisis. Back in the 1990's, I owned a recording studio and it was booming. Business was great. Then it came to a complete halt. What happened? Well, my landlord, in his infinite wisdom, was doing some work on the outside of the building and they broke a pipe, which happened to be a sewage pipe that drained raw sewage into the basement. My offices were on the first floor, but my entire business – where I made money – two recording studios and one booth, were in the basement. It literally shut us down. I had to learn to adapt.
We've had other crises recently. Think about Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 housing crisis, and 9/11. During 9/11, I remember my father was stuck in Canada. He was coming back from a vacation in Ireland and they diverted to Canada because they wouldn't let any planes land in America. Whether you were affected directly by those or you knew somebody who was, we got through all those and we'll get through this one, too.
To get through, you have to do one of these three things:
How can we adapt in a time of crisis? Here in Illinois, all meetings have been cancelled and all restaurants have been shut down. I belong to networking groups and I had three meetings scheduled this week. I've connected with each one of the people who run the events and said, “Hey, I'm willing to facilitate an online meeting through Zoom. I've been using Zoom for years and love it.” Maybe you could learn how to facilitate and use online meetings better. There's a way for you to do that, too.
You can get Zoom for free if you go to brianloves.info/zoom. There you can sign up for a free account where you can hold meetings up to 40 minutes long and I believe you can have up to a hundred people in there. Over the next week or so, I'm going to record a how to-video on how to use it if you've never used it before.
Do me a favor and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a link to the video. You can use your camera to have virtual face to face meetings, but you can also show slides, screens, whatever gives you the ability to still communicate with people and hold the meetings that you would normally do face-to-face. You just have to bring your own coffee.
The other thing I suggest that you do in a time of crisis is innovate. One of my friends and I were having a conversation. His name is Jeff Herring. He's been on the show before and he said, “Hey, have you ever heard of a guy named Andy Andrews?” And I said, “No.” And he talked about the bike assembly story. In his book, Andy Andrews talks about this situation where this car dealership was having a bad year. It was around Christmas time and rather than just sit there and mope and fret, what they decided to do was take out ads in the newspaper and on the radio. They said, “Hey, if you have any toys that you want assembled for Christmas, bring them in. We'll assemble them for you for free.”
So they got Christmas cookies and coffee and nobody was allowed to tip anybody. They moved all the tools out of the back and brought them to the front of the dealership.
People would drop off their toys, they would assemble them and they could either stay and watch or go shopping and then come and pick it up. It made for a great Christmas. Now, granted they didn't sell any cars, but what did happen is they built up so much goodwill that when people were ready to buy cars, they didn't go looking for the lowest price or haggle over a hundred dollars. They remembered that sense of gratitude of getting their toys assembled for them, for their kids that Christmas, and when the market started to get back to normal, they were the first place that people were going and they were selling cars in droves. It's kind of a pay it forward mentality.
What else can you do in your business to innovate? Can you look to sell things differently? Is there a way you can you provide your services to a different group? Can your products be repurposed? You have to start thinking about how you can innovate within your business to keep it relevant today and continue making money.
The last piece of this puzzle during a time of crisis is communicate. This is a fatal flaw that I've already seen start to happen. Customers will come and say, “Hey, you know what? We're not selling as much, so we're going to scale back on all our marketing. It's time to stop doing some of the things that we did. We're going to go minimalistic because we're not selling as much.” Well, here in lies the problem.
This crisis is probably going to be about two to three months. If you wait two to three months, that's when your business is going to start picking up and then you're going to wait maybe a couple more months after you've started to make more money to start marketing. That means what's happening now is going to start to wither away and it's going to take you months to scale back up.
I understand the desire to save money, but the key thing is you're in a fight mindsets. Do not think that by cutting everything out, people are not going to forget about you. They will. Even if you have to scale back, you should still continue to market. Stay top of mind. Be like that car dealership. Do something that will keep you top of mind during the down period so when people start to ramp back up, you are the first choice. You're the company that they're thinking about.
Make A Plan
Maybe you have to innovate. Maybe you're not creating a ton of original content, but instead you go back through what you already have and either repost it or update it. Modify it a little bit. Scale back on the big stuff, but don't give up on the little stuff. That's the thing that's going to make the biggest difference.
Let me repeat those three things that you need to do. Number one, you need to adapt. You need to learn some new skills. Maybe think about spending time to clean up your marketing list or clean up your email list or do something to better position yourself when business kicks back into high gear.
The next thing you have to do is innovate. Try to figure out how you can maybe repackage what you're doing, sell it to a different market, sell it in different quantities or sizes, something that will get people to realize that you're still in business.
Finally, don't give up on the marketing. Make sure you're still getting your messages out there and staying top of mind with your audience.
Back when that crappy thing happened to my business, what did we do? We moved all the duplication upstairs and we started duping tapes like mad. It was a part of our business that was a small part but we were able to scale it to keep the business alive long enough for the clean-up to be completed. We did our best to innovate.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about the best ways to keep your business alive during times of crisis. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?
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