03.19.20

Local Business Ideas for Adapting to Coronavirus

Updated, April 2020

We’ve spent the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic adjusting our own workflows and even more time adjusting the crisis communications on behalf of our clients as well. It is a trying time, with some businesses—especially those serving consumers—unfortunately having to temporarily shut down. Please support your local businesses! Here are some ways we’re communicating through our clients during this adjustment period:

Keep the Brand on People’s Minds

If people aren’t seeing you in their daily routine out of their homes right now, it’s all the more reason to stay on your customers’ radar. From our own experience working from home and social distancing, I am looking for ways to make my home environment more comfortable and treat myself in small ways — I know that your customers are too.

If you have a closet of branded t-shirts, try to find a responsible way to give them away to your fans. Consider ways to incentivize customers to post about your brand on their social accounts. People are creating a LOT more social content from home, and activating your die-hard fans will create opportunities for touchpoints to keep you out there.

Brands are ultimately about trust: in quality, in a vibe, and in a connection. Your brand is a valuable asset right now, and something to focus on taking care of during this time. People will remain loyal to brands that they trust and stay in touch with while we’re all spending more time at home.

Read the Room

Now is a great time to check your scheduled posts, promotions, and other things to see if they are relevant. In our office, we call this putting on our “consumer” hat even as we are “makers.” That means paying attention to our own emotions about how we’re reacting to communications we’re receiving from others. Is this comforting me right now? Is it solving a legitimate problem for me? Is it providing me value? Filter your outgoing communications through this lens and only share things that are authentic and additive.

Gift Cards

This has been a popular concept shared on social media, and for good reason. It puts cash into businesses’ hands now, allows them to support their employees, and you get to spend it when we can all move about more freely. If you are not set up to sell gift cards online, figure it out now! We’ve seen clients add some incentives to gift card pricing, which sweetens the deal for everyone, and I think this is a smart strategy.

Don’t Exploit; Empathize

In keeping with thinking like a consumer rather than a maker, it’s important to not exploit your customers, period. What do I think is exploitative? Anything that involves trickery, fear, scarcity, or plays towards negative emotions.

That said, speaking to your audience's emotions is a good thing. I believe that the best branding and marketing isn't trying to trick anybody into anything, and genuine empathy is a part of that. Do you miss seeing your regular customers at your storefront? They probably miss seeing you, too. Can your brand provide a place for that kind of interaction?

'Returning to Normal' is Not an Option

I think there's too much attention being put on political leadership "reopening" the economy. The truth is there's no magic switch to turn the economy on or off. It's driven by market forces of supply and demand. Even if the economy "reopens," shoppers' behavior will be forever altered by this situation.

That means building the infrastructure needed to support a long-term investment in e-commerce, delivery, curbside service, in as many ways as you can get. Think of a requirement that someone walk through your door as a major source of friction, and what you can do to elminate that friction however you can.

If you host seminars, are you implementing online options? Are you shoring up your e-commerce, social selling, home delivery, or other convenience platforms? I believe that the best response to a challenging situation is creative generative energy, and we want to see everyone survive this time together.

How We're Handling Things

We've started every morning off with a group video call. I think it's important to maintain structure. We're also doing a group video happy hour on Friday afternoons.

Beyond that, we've relied on cloud tools for a long time so there's not a ton of disruption from a work standpoint. We're fortunate on that front. We've seen a lot of various angles through our clients. Most of what we've talked about here has been from the local business and consumer-facing perspective.

Nonprofits and organizations with non-consumer funding streams are shifting operations more from a communications and capacity standpoint - moving fundraisers online, redirecting where funds are allocated, things like that. This entire situation is a good lesson on the value of adaptation and agility, values we've long prized in our business.

If you’re a business or organization that needs help with crisis communications or adjusting brand strategy in light of coronavirus, let’s roll up our sleeves from a safe social distance and get to work.

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Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash