As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe claiming lives and disrupting everyday living, businesses are severely affected. In such trying times, what can you do to ensure that your business survives through it all and live to see the dawn?
What seems like an optimistic start to the new year has been abruptly cut short with the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, which has since spread across the whole world to become a global pandemic.
Public life as it is has been severely disrupted, with increasingly more countries across the globe implementing travel restrictions and heightened social distancing measures.
Major exhibitions, conferences and events all over the world have been either canceled or postponed, while regular communal activities have also been suspended.
It is as if we are all now living right in the middle of an apocalyptic video game gone horribly bad.
Businesses are feeling the crunch
The world economy as a result is badly affected, with tourism numbers in almost every country nose-diving since the outbreak, stock markets plunging to new lows not seen since more than a decade ago.
As people largely avoid being out in the open, the overall retail scene in most economies are feeling extreme strain, with businesses big and small struggling to keep afloat. Some have even gone under since.
If you’re a business owner, you are probably familiar with the above situation as you could be very well experiencing it right now.
Opportunity lies behind every adversity
While it can sometimes be hard to see through to the fog, there is always hope that something good will come out of it.
It is the same with the coronavirus situation. As they always said, what can’t kill you makes you stronger.
The question now then, is how.
Adopt a digital strategy to beat the coronavirus
Even before this outbreak, the world has decidedly moved towards being increasingly more digitalised.
More and more people are spending their time and attention online than anywhere else.
Now, with the virus pandemic forcing everyone to stay indoors most of the time, what do you think that they’ll be doing with the spare time that they now have on hand when back at home?
They’re going to be spending even more time online, that’s what!
So if you haven’t been paying attention to having a clear digital strategy for your business outside the odd Facebook post every now and then, now is the best time to think deep about it.
If you have been implementing some form of digital marketing before the virus outbreak, it is also a good time now to review what can be done to further enhance your visibility to your target customer audience.
Ensure business continuity with remote working arrangements
The best digital strategy in the world will do you no good if your operational capabilities are crippled.
In this crucial period, it is important that your business can still properly function even when certain personnel on your team has been infected and needs to be quarantined or isolated from the rest.
A simple way to ensure continuity is to arrange for your team to work from home and communicate remotely via internet communications.
While the remote working culture has been promoted by various business communities and even government agencies for a number of years now, there is still a majority of companies that have yet to try it out.
Now, the severity of the coronavirus situation compels all businesses to look into remote working arrangements with serious intent.
Luckily, the advent of internet communications technology has made it very easy and convenient to set up remote working systems and procedures.
Nowadays, everyone is just a group chat away from one another and email on the go is pretty much already a business norm.
It doesn’t take more than putting in place a couple of additional communication software to have an entire remote work operation set up.
Double down on digital marketing
If you have not been putting much focus on digital marketing prior to the coronavirus outbreak, then the time is now or never.
Your customers are likelier to be spending more time online now that they are avoiding being outdoors and engaging in lesser face-to-face interactions.
If you are in a consumer-facing business and your customers are not showing up at your storefront, then you have no choice but to show up on their internet feeds.
Put on more content on social media
If you are a B2C business, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are the best places to be on.
Chances are that you already have some form of presence on these networks but only managing a few posts and pictures here and there whenever you’re free.
Now is the time to put out more content and share more about your business and the products or services that it provides.
Invest time and effort into creating video content as that is the format that most people on social media platforms gravitate towards right now.
The cool thing about video content is that all you need to create videos is just your own smartphone. These days, audiences are more interested in the actual content that is shared rather than its presentation.
In fact, the raw, unpolished quality of your smartphone-taken videos actually lends more authenticity to your brand and your message, and that will more likely increase the affinity that your target audience has with your brand and business.
Get connected with your prospects on LinkedIn
If you are in a B2B business, chances are that the global travel restrictions have put a serious dent in your business development schedule.
In the B2B space, it is admittedly much harder to wrap up deals if you can’t travel to meet your prospects.
Nevertheless, you could mitigate the situation by focusing your marketing and outreach efforts on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the largest professional community platform in the world today and it is very likely that if there’s someone that you want to do business with, that person has a LinkedIn profile and can be found in the network.
The cool thing about LinkedIn is that right now, organic reach still works.
So it is entirely possible to build a strong reach and awareness for your business simply by putting up valuable content and posting religiously onto the platform.
Again, video content works very well on LinkedIn when the videos are uploaded natively to the platform instead of being shared from an external source, e.g. YouTube.
Ignite your email marketing
It may be old school but it definitely still works.
Especially if you have an existing list of customers’ emails that you’ve built up over the years prior to the coronavirus situation, now is the best time to utilise them to stay in touch with your customers.
It is the most direct means of communication you have at your disposal to keep your customers updated of your business situation, the measures that you have put in place to ensure good hygiene including safety and tracing measures for both staff and customers alike.
In times like these, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to demonstrate full confidence and assurance that you are on top of things. And email marketing can be a very effective method of getting the message across.
Invest in SEO (search engine optimization)
SEO is basically the process of getting your website ranked on the first page of Google search whenever someone searches for keywords related to your business, or the products and services that you sell.
Since more than 97% of all search traffic never make it to the second page of Google and beyond, it has been long established that for a business to attract massive search traffic and therefore audience attention, it has to be showing up on Google’s first page.
Being on the first page of Google also has a psychological advantage in the minds of your target audience of your competitors.
This is because people tend to have more trust in the companies that appear first whenever they search for anything on Google.
So your business gets an instant credibility boost when it appears on Google’s first page.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, there is heightened sense of worry and anxiety in almost all aspects of life.
So being able to induce trustworthiness, authority and reliability in your target customer audience goes a long way in bringing continued patronage to your business.
While it is entirely possible to perform search engine optimization on your own, it can be quite a tedious endeavour.
Bring in the sales with ecommerce
It kind of defeats the purpose of going on digitisation if it ends with the customers still having to go through the conventional manual process of ordering and payment.
Especially during this period when minimal physical contact and face-to-face interaction is advised.
We have always advocated that ecommerce is the future of business. And right now, it seems more relevant and purposeful than ever.
With most people staying indoors, online ordering activities are only going to be on the rise.
In China, ecommerce activity spiked double-digits in the immediate weeks following lockdowns.
In Singapore, where we are based, online ordering of food has also risen drastically in volume.
It is increasingly becoming a norm to order anything over the internet. If your business hasn’t hopped onto the bandwagon, it is now or never.
Ecommerce may seem like a scary subject but it doesn’t have to be. Once you’ve got the core concepts and principles right, the subsequent required actions become clearer.
There is a wealth of information online that you can learn from with regards to enabling ecommerce capabilities for your business.
If you are in B2C, setting up an online store can literally be done within a day, by using user-friendly subscription-based platforms such as Shopify.
If you are in B2B and your workflows require a more customised approach to ecommerce, you may consider hiring an ecommerce agency to help you actualise your plans.
Start now, before it’s too late
As worrying as the current coronavirus situation may seem, one thing that we can look towards is that this pandemic, like so many before it in the history of human civilisation, shall too come to pass.
Already in Wuhan China, where the outbreak first started, the number of reported new infected cases has dropped to single digit in recent days.
The tide is starting to turn in some regions and we as a collective race will recover from this calamity just like how we have done countless times before.
Historically, when the world recovers from a bad situation such as this one, the global economy always returns with a loud, deafening roar.
Stock markets will climb to record heights as they always do after a bad turn, and the economies will always post double-digit growth to regain lost grounds.
The question you then need to ask yourself is:
Will your business be prepared and equipped to ride the upswing to break new grounds, or will it be a spectator while the rest of the market and your competitor move forward?
The real crisis is not how your business can survive this coronavirus outbreak period. It is how you make sure your business will rise once the dawn breaks and recovery beckons.