29 April 2020 - Richard Lawton

Adapting Your Business to a Pandemic

The current global Covid-19 health crisis is bringing forth a period of radical change. As a former stockbroker, I advised clients on how to protect and grow their wealth through the crisis of 9/11 and the crash of 2007/2008 and the ensuing recession.

Generally the advice goes – “you’ve got to zig when everybody else zags”. Or as Warren Buffet famously put it “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful”. Let’s talk about how that applies when adapting your business to a pandemic.

As opaque as that advice above may sound, it’s also true for your business in a pandemic. It’s to be expected that confidence in the future may be at a low. It’s normal to feel panicked about business prospects and some financial uncertainty. 

The best thing business owners can do is to try to remain calm and fully empathetic to society’s current needs. Your business needs to reflect and consider what it can do to support your audience in their isolation. The interests, needs, and wants of your client base may have altered as people have to stay at home. 

Empathy is a word I’m going to use throughout this because that’s exactly what is needed to engage with the public right now. Businesses that can thoughtfully and considerately connect with their audiences are going to be the ones that reach the other side of the crisis. Perhaps leaner but certainly stronger. 

There’s a lot to be learned from the industries that are flourishing in what many perceive as a desert.

Which industries are succeeding & what can my business learn?

You can be certain that there are industries that are thriving in this climate. Some, like supermarkets and home entertainment, will naturally succeed due to society’s isolated state. Others have successfully pivoted and transitioned their business to include online sales or a strong digital remote offering.

By embracing digital transformation, businesses can adopt the winning strategies currently being employed by the e-commerce and online learning sectors. If your business isn’t selling online yet, it’s very much time to make that move. We’ve already helped a number of our clients make the move to a fully digital offering and they are not only surviving but prospering. In some cases, this is aided by competitors pausing spend.

There are many obvious industries that are succeeding such as e-commerce in general and unfortunately job websites as the crisis creates unemployment. With job websites though, supply vs. demand may be an issue.

Below are just a few of the industries that are enjoying solid revenues online during the health crisis.

Online fitness classes & home workout equipment

Reviewing offerings from individual coaches, influencers, and fitness apps to bricks and mortar yoga and pilates studios gives you an insight into what is working. The fitness businesses that have smartly pivoted to an online offering are booming. With all gyms and fitness studios closing their doors, the bored and listless communities at home need to stay in shape.

This is being reflected in e-commerce purchases of home exercise equipment and traffic, signups and downloads of apps and online classes. Traditional gym and fitness studio owners are creating online training programs and classes. These will provide them with an income stream during the Covid-19 health crisis, beyond it, and in case of any further isolation requirements.

The home fitness sector is booming

Casual wear

As many people are workinng from home and casual wear becomes the new norm, e-commerce sales in this sector are booming. Again, it’s online sales that are facilitating this and those businesses with a strong and friction-free e-commerce process are the businesses leading the charge. Sorry, Penneys.

Personal & professional development

Naturally many people are taking this opportunity to invest their time wisely with a course in either personal or professional development. Businesses that can adapt their offering by sharing their knowledge base in the form of an online course can quickly tap into the growing demand. More on this later.

Meditation apps & online courses 

Again this industry easily relates to a community that is home-based and probably trying to cope with the anxieties this situation is creating for them. Meditation has become increasingly more popular over the last decade as it helps it’s practitioners become more resilient to stress

At The Friday Agency, we’re big fans too. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Brain.FM are the types of resources that can help people to stay calm during what is a sometimes stressful situation. One Meditation App’s (The Daily Shifts) CEO, Doug Cartwright, is taking advantage of unprecedented low advertising costs and increased interest in the space. He’s doubled his advertising spend and seen up to “a 2,000% increase in downloads”.

The number of industries that are succeeding in this climate is extensive so to list them all would be a herculean task. Read more here if you want to learn about which industries are excelling.

Where are the opportunities in a crisis

Where are the opportunities in the Covid-19 pandemic?

There are many bad practitioners online who are trying to unethically take advantage of this crisis by marketing crucial items such as protective equipment and household essentials. But there are also many ethical ways your business can benefit. Irish retailer lobby group Retail Excellence is reporting online demand increases between 350 and 500%.

Embrace digital transformation & migrate store customers online

You’ve built a successful business that receives customers at your locations. If you have yet to create a solid digital product or service offering, you know you need one. You can both mitigate current revenue losses and establish another healthy income stream for your business ongoing. 

The consumer market has been steadily moving towards home shopping and online services for decades now. Just look at Amazon, your customers want convenience. Unfortunately, this is not the last pandemic that we will see.

Advertising costs are incredibly low – make the most of your budget

I started this piece by quoting Warren Buffet and this is where his advice best applies. Advertising costs are lower than we’ve seen in some years, as many businesses cut all marketing spend. We’re seeing that lower competition for advertising inventory is delivering some of the lowest cost online sales and low costs per leads/users for our clients. Some of our clients are seeing over 40x times return on their ad spend.

Intelligent advertisers are making hay while social media platforms have some of the highest user engagement they’ve seen. People are at home and on their phones or various devices. Forbes reports on a survey of social media influencers (who are right on the pulse of social media engagement levels) from Influence Central, found that Facebook and Instagram use is up 36%, Pinterest use is up 37% and overall blog platform engagement is up 34%.

With so many users online to advertise to and less competition, now is the time to reach communities with empathetic messaging. Companies should focus less on immediate revenues, while certainly achievable, now is a time to prioritise growing your reach and audiences. Marketing with considerate and genuinely helpful, informative, or funny messaging (we all need a distraction right now), will place your business in a very strong position for recovery.

What can your business teach others?

An unfortunate side effect of the current health crisis is that a lot of people may find themselves looking for a new job. That means there’s going to be a huge demand for courses that can teach crucial skills in your industry.

Considering creating an online course for your audiences is a smart move in the long run too. The global e-learning market was worth $107 Billion in 2015, it’s forecasted to grow to $157.7 Billion by 2025. Empowering your audience to succeed with a good quality online course that shares your industry knowledge can provide a much needed and stable income stream.

The opportunities are there for all to take advantage of. Thankfully in this fully digital age, we can communicate with each other more easily than ever before. Businesses must be inventive. For example, consider:

  • Creating online classes
  • Selling your service or product online
  • Host Webinars or live sessions on social media
  • All the ways you can communicate with your audience during this time and make their lives a little bit better
 Understanding what your audience needs

Understanding your audience’s needs

There’s quite a number of ways to understand your audience’s needs and what your business might be able to do to improve their lives at home. Your digital agency should be able to guide your brand on consumer demand. 

Here are just a few approaches that can be taken:

Google Trends

We’re constantly reviewing Google Trends to help us to better understand the needs of clients’ audiences and the general population. It’s simple to use and it will help you gauge the interest and demand demonstrated in search volumes around any topic. Just put in your keywords or phrase and hit go. 

If you want to learn more about the potential Google Trends has to help you in this crisis, take a look at this article about how the Coronavirus has changed search.

Webinars & live sessions

It sounds simple but reaching out with a personal approach right now and talking to your customers is very powerful. It can be both hugely beneficial during the crisis in helping you to understand what might help them and in the long run as customers will remember any goodwill shown to them. 

Nearly every social media platform offers a free live facility where you can discuss what your business is considering offering and get feedback in real-time. See the options below for more details on how to get the best out of live streaming on:

Surveys

There’s endless software available to every business owner to survey your customers and get their feedback about what might help them in their current isolated state. There are many free and excellent options. From Survey Monkey, to Google Forms and Google Survey, it needn’t cost you anything.

Making your marketing more empathetic

Making your marketing more empathetic

Adapting your marketing to the current climate requires you to read the room correctly and engage with empathy and understanding of your customers’ situations. In most cases, it will reflect your own experiences of spending more time at home. 

Consider those and the restrictions being placed on people’s movements and actions. Being tone-deaf to the realities of consumers day to day lives currently could cost your business. It’s time for brands to convey their business’s humour, generosity, and humility.

While adapting your marketing messaging to the crisis, this needn’t happen across the board on all your marketing activities. Many campaigns that were created before this crisis occurred are still shown to be performing and connecting. There are exceptions out there! If your messaging revolves around the past, E.g. Ancestry.com, then really nothing needs to change.

Instead businesses should try to adjust a portion of your marketing communications to connect with the human stories that are playing out daily.

What do consumers want to see from brands?

Shareablee, the social media intelligence provider, asked 1,500 Americans

“Are brands responding appropriately to the Covid-19 outbreak on social media?”

60% of consumers thought that brands are. The really interesting feedback came from their multiple-choice options on the type of content people want to see during this crisis:

  • 64% of those consumers want to see “content about news / public service announcements (handwashing, current infection rates, etc.)”
  • 56% wanted “content about the ‘new normal’ (work from home, homeschooling, etc.)”
  • 52% opted for “content about supporting the community (donations, acts of kindness, etc.)”
  • 46% chose “content about optimism (better time ahead, feel-good stories, etc.).”

It should be obvious to any business that your marketing needs to connect with your audience and your audience is at home and on the couch. All you have to do is look at the types of content running during the ad breaks on TV currently. You’ll see every major brand has introduced the new normal into their communications and so should you.

Who’s got their marketing messages right?

See two excellent examples of brands successfully pivoting to the new normal in their marketing message below. Bear in mind the Guinness ad ran just before pubs closed.

Guinness – St Patrick’s Day

Colgate – Smile Strong

Both maintained their brand message, exhibited satisfied users, and put their product in front of their audiences while relaying a strong message of community. They demonstrate that by bringing empathy into your messaging you can connect as well as before the Covid-19 crisis if not more so.

What to avoid in your marketing

If your content features people behaving in an unrestricted fashion and not social distancing, e.g. attending a party or a club, you’re not going to connect with anyone’s current reality. Keep your messaging respectful, understanding, and empathetic.

Most of these recommendations below could be applied at any moment in recent history but especially now you should try to avoid:

  • Directly focusing on price or promotions (any hard selling activity)
  • Ads that focus on too much on the product over the people
  • Aggressive ads that are directly disparaging of a competitor’s offering
  • Ads that indulge anyone’s vanity or self-image

However, this doesn’t mean your marketing should become bland and disappear into a sea of content featuring unshaven dads and mothers in tracksuits. You still need to create either unique, inspiring, educational, or funny content that stops your users’ endless scrolling and gets you those valuable click-throughs. That’s where having some top-performing creative talent comes in.

Need help during the crisis

Need help?

As your communications may change frequently during this crisis, the need for expert guidance becomes ever more crucial. As does the financial means to get your message out there. Your digital agency should be advising you on every financial marketing support and grant available

If you need help to understand how your business can – and should – be pivoting to both survive and prosper beyond this emergency, then get in touch. We can move quickly to ensure your business adapts to this crisis.