It has become inevitable that, like individuals, now even businesses are being forced to make decisions about the internationally declared pandemic, coronavirus disease (COVID-19). I know that it’s all you’ve been hearing about lately, but I believe that not enough practical, business advice is breaking through the media. As a marketing business owner myself, I have had to present myself with the question: “will this impact my business?” – to which the answer is unequivocally yes. This is because it has already and will continue to impact us through our clients of varying industries, some more than others, over the coming months. I’d offer that all businesses need to consider that they will face some challenge in this crisis, and to be prepared. I am no expert on infectious diseases, however, I have done my utmost to separate the facts from hysteria and misinformation. I do not want to belittle the real health and safety concerns presented by the disease, merely consider the ancillary impact to businesses and the economy as I believe the former is being well and truly covered by those much more qualified. With all this being said, allow me to judiciously unpack how this crisis may impact your business from a marketing perspective and what you can do to bunker down and weather the storm.
The Current And Foreseeable Effects Of The Virus To Businesses
In case you have been living under a rock, there have been some pretty massive ramifications outside of health & safety that have surfaced due to the disease. Here are some of the major, most obvious problems that will impact businesses specifically:
At the time of writing I’ve got two staff members off under precautionary, self-isolation advice. We are lucky that we are remote work enabled, and so it’s business as usual (mostly, although I don’t get to see my team’s beautiful faces). Although most shutdowns are pre-emptive, where actual infections have taken place there are more serious quarantine measures in place.
Industries impacted: all in-person, mid-large companies. Any workplaces where quarantines are in place. Places with high customer turnover (e.g. Hospitality)
Public Gathering Restrictions
Events are being postponed or cancelled all over the world. Some international recommendations are to avoid gatherings of over just 50 people. Basically, the more people, the higher the risk.
Industries impacted: Event organisers (e.g. festivals, sports, corporate, education), all businesses or individuals who attend or host events
We are only seeing the beginning of both international and even domestic travel restrictions, with countries like Italy and the US closing-up their borders. This limits access for distance meetings and events (if the event wasn’t already postponed due to the above).
Scott Morrison has declared some pretty tight, but necessary restrictions to people who have recently returned from overseas, with a 14-day self-isolation restriction. People will face fines for breaking this curfew.
Industries impacted: Travel and tourism, any business that requires travelling staff
Manufacturing & Supply Problems
With China, the origin of COVID-19, being the world’s largest manufacturer for many of the world’s essential and non-essential products, we are seeing a huge supply issue in the face of the demand. People are frantically buying up essentials, which is putting even more pressure on already slowed-down supply chains. Domestic manufactures are struggling to keep up.
Industries impacted: Retail, supply + service businesses
Outside of toilet paper or canned food merchants, retail and service sectors are also beginning to feel the groans as people hold tightly to their resources.
Industries impacted: All businesses
Economy Crash And Fear Of Recession
Possibly the biggest, or at least the most broadly felt problem to the business world. It is a combination of all of the above factors, leading to national and international plummeting of stocks and the greater economy.
With a general perception of fear and uncertainty, prices and stocks are dropping rapidly as people abandon ship. This causes slowdowns across the board as money is held up elsewhere and financials in general become uncertain.
Industries impacted: Absolutely everyone
Don’t Panic, Strategise
Although I’ve probably just put you in a doomsday-ish attitude, know that the world will come out the other side. Some businesses are hurting more than others, but I believe that every business can put in place strategies to minimise the negative impact and even find some opportunity in all the bad news. First, one item I’ve got to put out there:
Marketing Is Not Evil.
Huh? That sounds like something that someone selling snake oil might say, but hear me out. As marketers we understand the stigma attached to marketing. Pushing luxury cars in someone’s face at the time of a crisis might seem like bad taste, but it’s all about how you do it. We would offer that marketers and businesses should be considerate to these issues, but everyone should also recognise that cars still need to be sold (yes, even the used car salesman is doing a necessary job).
Regardless of the pandemic, the days of aggressive, disingenuous marketing tactics are dwindling. Marketing is merely about telling people about your business. At a time like this it’s a way of saying “hey don’t forget about us, we haven’t forgotten about you”. Now is an opportunity to be empathetic, compassionate, patient, supportive and positive – you can show people these traits with marketing. Of course, make sure they are a true representation of you and your business first.
Marketing To Survive The Winter
At the end of the day, this is actually one of the most important times to be marketing your product or service. You might need to get creative in how you do it, but do it nonetheless as it may be the difference between you making it through or not. You’ve got to fuel the fire to last the cold Winter (surely there is a Game of Thrones reference here), even if it means going out and getting new timber.
We’re not suggesting that you don’t look after yourself and your business, this is your number one priority, however, don’t simply turn off the marketing tap either. Marketing is an essential business engine; you may even say that this is especially true at the moment. Keep the sales pipeline as full as reasonably possible through your marketing efforts. Run a promotion, tell a story, interact with your customers – don’t let people forget you. Keep cashflow up. People may be operating conservatively, financially speaking, but when the world resumes you want to be geared to pick up where you left off
Marketing Is An Opportunity
This is where we must tread carefully– there is actually opportunity to be had. The unfortunate truth is that many businesses will drop their marketing efforts to save on expenses. You might decide that some level of a marketing spend reduction is necessary – that’s absolutely fine, assuming you’ve considered the ramifications. This does mean that the market is currently much less saturated. Less businesses are advertising, and the budgets are lighter. You may find cutting through the noise that much easier presently. Supplant your business as a survivor and make some headway during this economic downturn. This is about playing the best hand with what you were dealt. The caveat is that we suggest that you do so respectfully, authentically and ethically.
Bonus: Fortify Your Brand
Why not take the time to be more communicative with your existing and would-be customers? Now is the time to show your support, to tell people that you’re still doing business or how it might be impacted. Consider what type of brand you are and strengthen your messaging to reinforce this. People will remember the businesses who band together, who don’t shy away from the fear and uncertainty currently present in the market.
We know that everyone is feeling like they’ve already heard enough about COVID-19, but we’ve still got a few months ahead of us, according to experts.
There Is Additional Help Out There For Businesses
If you had not already heard, Australian businesses have access to an economic stimulus package. Here are the details:
An ATO account credited bonus equal to 50% (up to $25k) of the PAYG withholdings declared on the March to June 2020 Business Activity Statements.
If you have any questions regarding the stimulus package, your accountant or the ATO is the best party to contact.
I also want to say that we understand that this is going to be a difficult time for many. If you’re feeling the stress that comes with the uncertainty ahead, and if you have any marketing or business-related questions, then I’d be happily to personally do my best to answer them for you. If I can find a way to help free of charge, point you in the right direction, give advice or act as a soundboard, then please give me a call. I promise that this isn’t just me being lonely because I’ll be stuck at home this week. Take care of yourself, your staff and your business – you will make it through this!
* I understand that this is a sensitive topic and that we have a vested interest in marketing services. You’ll have to take my word that I strive to put out this sort of information out in a genuine attempt to help businesses. I truly believe that what we do works, and regardless if whether that’s through us, internally or through another provider, I’m just happy if people get some value. We are a humble business just like yours – if work comes back our way then that’s simply a bonus.