Well – here we are. We're nearing the end of week one of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 "physical distancing" campaign. Yes, I know, everyone says "social distancing", but, I think these days being social where we can is important, right?
As the reality of our situation settles in, each of us will eventually settle down and realize that we have to keep working and keep moving forward. But, in this environment, where should we focus our efforts? In this post, I've highlighted a few areas we can focus on right now while we weather the storm. And, I've tried to do it in order of importance.
ASAP: Amend Communications
This very first area your organization needs to focus on is your communications strategy with clients, customers, and partners. People need to hear from you now more than ever. Any communications are a reminder of normalcy, which people desperately need right now. I've been in touch with clients who are in B2C businesses that are heavily affected by this downturn, and my advice is to continue to communicate and engage. Focus on the positives, on the eventual resolution, and build rapport so that when the crisis does pass, you are top of mind. In some industries, this is really all you can do right now. Because folks are inundated with negative news – the market is freefalling, people are getting sick – focus on positives. Help people see other sides of the crisis and utilize your platform for good, not more worry and panic. Trust me – people will remember this.
While we're on that note, don't forget about communications in-house. Your co-workers and colleagues need to see and hear from you. Stay in contact, keep team morale high, and try to find distractions that can bring spirits higher. Otherwise, we're all just avatars and text messages. Stay close, people!
Finally, now is not the time to be overly aggressive and try to sell ANYTHING. Help. Offer a hand. Be there for a chat. I received a sales call earlier today and thought, "Are you kidding?". You are there to help if the people are looking for your help. Don't be in their face - we all have other things to focus on right now.
Next: Focus on Processes
As I had mentioned in my post last week, now its time to focus on all of your processes to ensure everything is running smoothly and efficiently, especially if you have now become a remotely operating company. Based on what I've read, I believe that this could be a long series of quarantine or mandated social-distancing campaigns. The data isn't encouraging. Even if this initial lock-down does slow the spread, we're looking at rounds of this type of behavior for the next 12-18 months until a vaccine or herd immunity is achieved. As such, the idea of this being temporary isn't realistic. This means we must adapt our processes so as to work this way for the time being. By now, my estimation is most people have already done this to a certain extent. If you haven't, it's time to accept the reality of the situation and formalize how this new work arrangement will proceed.
Spend whatever time it takes to hone your processes and get back to a full work schedule. Your business will depend on it. And, while we are on this topic, you will also need to evaluate your processes for any possible efficiencies. In a good economy, people work slower. They take their time, let things sit idle. Those days are over. It's all hands on deck right now, and that means you. The time to ponder your next steps are passed, it's time to put strategies into motion, and see what works and what doesn't. Iterate, iterate, iterate. That's how you will survive. If your process was tied up in red tape, deliberate, and ineffective, you will not have an easy go of it for the next 18 months.
Sales Down? Amending Offerings
I have been working with clients for the past two weeks to determine any areas of opportunity that may exist. The good news is, there often is something you can do. For some, that's transitioning physical offerings to virtual, digital environments. One company that conducts in-person training is now going virtual, as an example. We have some B2B suppliers discussing the possibility of going straight to the consumer - not only a good idea in this time of crisis but a possible long-term pivot to their strategy. Each case will require a custom solution and implementation, preferably quickly, to help ease the pain of recent events. As I said, the positive here is that in almost every circumstance, we found ways to make do, and you can too. Work with your agency, consultants, or other vendors to find areas of opportunities and get into action quickly. There are always possibilities that you can try to keep the wheels of your business in motion.
And, as I mentioned above, when speaking about process - the keyword here is "quickly." Your competitors are amending their offerings, too. Stay ahead of the curve. Tough times call for bold moves.
Free Time? Housekeeping!
Almost every company has those "if things slow down, I'll do this" approach to certain tasks. In my own case, I really am overdue to rebuild this site! Well, you may finally be able to do those things. I know that I have a laundry list of internal work I need to catch up on – and it will be nice to have some time to finally do it. Start to evaluate the projects you have held back, and if it's time to begin considering them.
I suspect that many companies will do this, particularly in these circumstances, because we are dealing with a crisis that has a foreseeable ending. We don't know when or how, but we know this will pass. The world will again restart with consumers eager to express their excitement of being released from quarantine by flooding the economy with, God willing, what they were unable to spend before. Now more than ever, we can prepare for this and get ahead of it, rather than trying to catch up later.
To make an analogy, there was a business consultant last week who conducted a webinar about managing tough times. He said, basically, don't make a mistake now that you'll be digging out of later, while everyone else is growing again. Remember – the world isn't ending. It's just on pause. And when other people pause, that's your time to advance. Use this time wisely.
Been Procrastinating? Get Focused on Compliance
Really, this shouldn't always be the last thing we take care of. I should put it higher above in this post! Companies have been holding off on achieving compliance for their websites and mobile applications for way too long. Trust me – the lawsuit threats and demand letters are only going to increase right now. If there is an easy buck to be had, people try it in a down economy, after all. So, now is the time to get those audits completed and remediate where necessary to achieve at the minimum a baseline of compliance. This baseline shows you have taken compliance seriously and put steps forward to improve your accessibility.
Compliance audits take time, and so does remediation. Chances are, by the time you are completed with these processes, the crisis will be on the tail end of its lifecycle, and it'll be one last thing for you to worry about. We've actually seen an uptick in requests over the past month for this service, so I suspect others are thinking the same. Now is the time for you to take it seriously as well.
In wrapping this post up, I want to impress upon you again that the rules from three weeks ago are gone. The landscape has changed. We can look at that one of two ways. First, we can hide in fear - but that isn't any fun. Or, we can focus, adapt, and execute. I know that in my business, I'm going to focus on the latter.