A message for local small businesses struggling over what to do next.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you're staying safe and healthy and following the best advice of your local government and healthcare agencies in order to remain that way, especially if you're a service provider needed to deliver an essential service.
If you operate a small business in Burlington, Waterdown, or Dundas (or anywhere else, for that matter), you're probably thinking most about putting out fires:
- Can we continue operating?
- What measures do we need to take to protect our staff and customers?
- What about cash flow? Will our customers be able to pay us? Will we be able to pay our staff and our bills?
- What do we need to communicate and how should we say it?
- Should I stop marketing entirely, or ramp things up where I see opportunities?
There's been a lot of noise in my social media feeds and marketing network channels, and a lot of it is pretty awful. Lots of people, including some highly respected marketing gurus and lots of marketing service providers have been talking about "doubling down" and "profiting from chaos." To me, it smells like profiteering. I'm not impressed. Makes me a little angry actually.
Here are 6 things I recommend you focus on in the short term as we all weather this storm together:
Take a little time at the beginning and end of the day for quiet reflection: whether that's through prayer, meditation, or just quiet time relaxing and thinking about your happy place, it will help with your general sense of well-being.
2. Focus on the health, safety, and well-being of your staff and clients first.
Communicate clearly and often. Offer help if you can where people need it. Now is not the time to focus on short-term growth or creative new promotional programs. Do you have any automated advertising, email, blog or social media campaigns programs running now that need to be discontinued or changed?
3. Honour your values.
Reread your mission, vision, and values if you have them. If you don't, think deeply about them now.
- Why do you do what you do?
- Who have you been trying to help day after day?
- What problems have you been solving for them and how have those problems changed?
- Are there any special services you can offer either for free or at a discounted rate? Do something good for your customers now. It's the right thing to do, and they'll never forget it.
4. Communicate about the things you know and the ways you can contribute.
It's not wise to give advice about health if you're not a healthcare professional. How does this crisis impact what you do for your customers? Communicate about that. Let them know what they can expect from you in the coming weeks and months.
5. Put important things first.
I think we're all struggling with this one. Chances are you're working from home. Work-life balance has never been a bigger challenge. Between supporting your spouse and kids, connecting with family and friends, and keeping up with the latest news, emails, and blog posts (yes, I see the irony). Start with a simple to-do list and prioritize your tasks in this order:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent and not important
6. Thinking about future planning is important.
It's important, but not urgent. Once you've taken care of 1 to 5 above, you'll want to carve out some time to think about the impact today's events will have on your business tomorrow. There is a lot of uncertainty, but if you start thinking about the value you can provide clients both in the short and long term, and how you may have to shift your business (and marketing) strategy to adjust. And remember, this comes before the urgent but not important, like checking your news feed one more time.
One of my marketing mentors recently shared this lyric from the Bob Dylan song "Brownsville Girl":
"Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content." As a small business leader, don't be afraid to step into the fray with your staff and customers. Experiencing their pain with them will earn you well-deserved respect and admiration when coronavirus and COVID-19 are distant memories. It's also the right thing to do.
I want to leave you with this simple offer:
If you're a small business owner in the Burlington, Waterdown, or Dundas areas and you're struggling to prioritize and make decisions on a day-to-day basis, I'd be happy to help you gather your thoughts and prioritize where to invest your time in the short term, to help you over the long term.
Owner, Lift Communications