Find Time to Communicate Through the Crisis
In March 2020, the entire world experienced sudden, dramatic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Never in modern times has such a large-scale shutdown taken place in the United States, let alone the entire world.
With so much uncertainty, if you are a small-business owner these can be very difficult times. Most small businesses in the U.S. rely on cash flow to stay open. In fact, according to the SBA, 48% of small businesses will not reopen if closed for more than 10 days. Consider that small business pays 47% of the payroll in the U.S., and you can see how important it is to keep our nation’s small businesses open.
Most businesses are currently dealing with a range of challenges – many of which have never been experienced before. The main challenge confronting businesses at this moment is one of communication. Organizational communication can be challenging during good times, so how you approach it during times like these can feel like even more work than normal if you don’t think strategically.
With all of these challenges we are facing, how do we know what move is the right move?
TAKE ACTION NOW
Regardless of what your business does, there are a few things that you can do to get the right perspective on this moment and give yourself a solid foundation to build on to connect and engage effectively through this unprecedented moment in history.
First and foremost, it is most important that you openly confront the immediate challenges and realize that we are all very much in this together. All of us. The businesses that contract and try to hide are the businesses that will be gone after the dust settles.
It is imperative that you face the conditions affecting your workforce, customers, technology and partnerships and find the best actions to weather this storm and come out of it ready for the new landscape we will inevitably emerge into.
The best way to connect and engage consistently with all your stakeholders is to develop a solid communication strategy to lean on during this crisis.
It is critical that you meet your own workforce with an open line of communication. For most of us, there is a lot of uncertainty about what work will look like in the future. As a business owner, employees look to you for leadership and guidance. Your tone sets the standard for your people, and the most important thing that you can do is speak from a place of authenticity and optimism.
None of us know what the future holds, but all of us can easily see all of the potential challenges in front of us. What is much more important is showing your people the opportunities that are also right there. Be the champion of your brand to your own people, and they will become your brand advocates to everyone else.
REACH OUT TO CUSTOMERS
Your customers are also interested in hearing from you. Before the crisis, so much noise existed around businesses that it was easy to feel like customers just wanted to ignore what most brands have to say. As quickly as conditions are changing day-to-day, this is no longer the case. Your customers want to hear from you. They want to know how you are dealing with things, adapting and preparing to come back from one of the most interesting periods in modern history.
Some great ways to reach your customers right now include:
Email – If you have an email list, a weekly email update that includes what is going on with your business, your employees, the community and the national/global situation is a great way to give some valuable information to your customers.
Social Media – We all know that we should be doing social media, but this is where the majority of businesses seem to struggle with consistent communication. With the current slowdown, make this a priority and you will see your engagement grow.
Digital Advertising – One of the most overlooked opportunities right now is digital advertising. Many underestimate the power of getting your business in front of customers when it doesn’t equate to a specified action like making a sale or attracting them into your business. The reality is that being the only brand in your industry that is being seen by everyone essentially living online can heavily influence future purchasing decisions.
LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TOOLS
Another fundamental piece of the communication puzzle that has become more important than ever is the technological infrastructure that powers your strategy.
Many businesses have never considered what tools could extend communication capabilities because for many of us business is done face to face and in our physical location. But with new concepts like social distancing or being forced to close, finding ways that you can connect with your audience by leveraging technology has become massively important and can set you apart from the competition.
Some great options include:
Zoom – This teleconferencing application allows you to hold webinars or group meetings to both present and engage with your audience remotely. It is easy to use and has free options.
Facebook Live – Facebook Live is a live-streaming option built right into Facebook that allows you to broadcast yourself live to your followers. It can be a great, informal way to check in and say hello to your audience.
Chatbots – Chatbots are a relatively new and incredibly underutilized platform to connect with your audience. In less time than it takes to train a new employee, you can set up an automation using a tool like ManyChat or Mobile Monkey to give your audience access to pre-programmed conversations that can update them on your business, hours, availability and more right through Facebook Messenger.
These automations also integrate easily and seamlessly into your website to offer a “live chat” customer service experience that actually frees up more of your time but still allows you to chat directly with customers if the conversation does need your attention.
A final piece of the communication puzzle, and one that is sometimes forgotten, is to connect with your partner brands. This can easily get lost in the shuffle with so many things vying for your attention right now.
All the usual channels work well here, but one often overlooked way to connect with partner brands is LinkedIn, which can be a great platform to connect, engage and serve your colleagues with content and more. Regular check-ins with vendors, referral partners and other businesses in the community can help create solidarity and ultimately speed up the recovery process when we start to see business come back online. Reach out, and be a leader in your industry!
SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES
In spite of all of the challenges, the current circumstances we are facing also represent a moment of unprecedented opportunity.
With everyone already having the conversation about what the “new normal” is going to look like, the reality is that we are all truly in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what this new world is going to be like. It is a rare moment in history to see the intersection of a new competitive landscape, new regulations and new consumer behaviors all coming together at this single juncture.
It may sound like an oversimplification, but communicating through this crisis can be the one thing that gets many businesses through this challenging time and accelerates the recovery that will inevitably follow.
At Kinetic, we are working hard to practice what we preach. We are connecting with clients, the community and our amazing (and remote) team to help do what we can to use this crisis to make our processes stronger.
We would love to connect with you, and we are here to help in any way we can. Don’t hesitate to reach out and find out what you can do to make 2020 a year that you overcame these challenges we are facing.