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  • Outta sight, Outta mind – How marketing during a crisis is a sensitive thing

  • Top 5 Business Tips in today’s COVID-19 environment

    People become overly judgmental and hyper sensitive when faced with high levels of stress as well as a crisis. That’s totally understandable. Very often their reactions are hard to fathom and one should recognize the signs and respect the personal space of individuals facing such situations.

    When these situations become societal in nature, sensitivity to unnatural behaviour is even more crucial. And this is the situation facing the world today, with COVID-19. We are all unsure of what tomorrow will bring. With people being asked to stay at home, work from home, and generally stay away from others, we tend to revert to our basic needs, is indicated in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as the Physiological and Safety needs. People’s state of mind transforms largely into these states and anyone trying to continue to market their products and services in the face of this transformation should realize that it is not “business as usual”. People will receive and evaluate the messages that are sent out in a very different way than they would normally do.

    Top of mind awareness

    So, maintaining top of mind awareness in people’s minds is key. If you “disappear” during this crisis it will be tough to re-engage when things return to normal. But, be very sensitive. So, how do you keep yourself present in people’s minds without creating a negative reaction that could affect you long after the crisis has passed (see my suggestions in the list below)?

    And so, in the light of “practicing what I preach”, I have asked some colleagues to share their Top 5 Business Tips in today’s COVID-19 environment, and they appear in the list below. Every few days I’ll add to this list, so keep coming back to see what people are suggesting. Each of them presents ideas from their own personal perspective, so take the advice in the spirit in which it is presented. Not everything will be 100% applicable. Hopefully you will get some value from more than one of these tips.

    If you would like to add your ideas to this list, please feel free to complete the form below with your contribution and I will add them to this blog.

    Top 5 Business Ideas list

    To get the ball rolling, here are my (Neville Pokroy – Mastermind Solutions) tips:

    1. Do not be seen as someone trying to take advantage of a bad situation – this will affect your long-term credibility and trustworthiness.
    2. Be a promoter of community and support – offer things of value because it is the right thing to do, not because it will “get me something in return”. Find things you can give to your community because it is valuable to them.
    3. Actively provide valuable information that can position you as a knowledgeable and reliable resource. Quote respected sources if need be, not “something I saw on social media”.
    4. Check on your neighbours, friends, clients and even prospects to be “present”, even though you cannot always be there physically – just knowing that someone is thinking of them may be what they need at that moment in time.
    5. Try to find something new, of value, to share. Ask colleagues and friends to participate in the spirit of goodwill and true neighbourliness.

    Eli Palachi from Crowe Soberman offered the following advice:

    1. Manage cash flows – push for cash receipts and reduce spending
    2. Speak with your banker about the various loan programs available
    3. Don’t spend too much time looking at statistics and analysis – you must make decisions quickly as the impact on our economy and lives is moving at lightening speed
    4. Enjoy your family time – make sure you take time out to rest (we are mostly working from home and that can become a 24 hour a day assignment – take breaks)
    5. Try to do things differently, adapt and evolve – now is the time.

    James Phillipson from Mastermind Solutions suggested:

    1. The crisis is still evolving and so is the business environment – try to minimise decisions that cannot be changed as things evolve;
    2. Have a cash flow forecast and update it regularly – it will be wrong! However, it enables you to make choices and respond quickly by seeing the options that may not be top of mind;
    3. Cut costs wherever you can but try to maintain some flexibility to deal with change;
    4. Look for new sources of income that were not so interesting before – they may make a significant difference and the environment has changed
    5. Nothing is inviolate if it helps you or your business to survive – be creative and innovative.

    Hanan Duchon, CIM®, Portfolio Manager & Investment Advisor, TD Wealth suggests the following:

    1. Create a workplace for yourself if you have not done so already.
    2. Dress down but still dress the part. It will keep you focused on the task at hand.
    3. Follow a schedule as if you were in the office. Take scheduled breaks and lunch. In addition, go outside for some fresh air and vitamin D.
    4. Log off at the end of the day and recharge your batteries. Tomorrow is another day!
    5. Weekends are the opportunity to recharge and spend time with our loved ones. We want to avoid the temptation to work 24/7 given that we have remote access. This is not anyone’s expectation.

    Jan G. van der Hoop of Fit First Technologies has taken a slightly different approach to this challenge:

    1. Never waste a perfectly good recession. There are millions of very talented, dedicated and loyal people either sitting on the sidelines, unsure what their future holds – or worrying they soon may be. There’s no better opportunity to trade up, ever.
    2. Whether you are in Canada or the US, the government safety net that has been extended to small and medium-sized employers, applies to new hires as well. So you actually have an incentive to trade up, with public dollars absorbing a good part of the risk.
    3. If you do plan to seize this opportunity to strengthen your existing team, or to engage in a little ‘weed and feed’, or trading up… be wary. There haven’t been this many people on the sidelines, facing as much of an existential threat to personal safety, in more than a decade. Out of desperation, many will be willing to lie, cheat and steal – say or do virtually anything – to get a secure job, especially one with benefits. It is imperative that you screen all applicants thoroughly, not just education and experience from the résumé, but take a close look under the hood, using a high quality behavioral assessment. We can point you to the right ones to consider.
    4. Second only to a quality assessment, in terms of collecting objective and reliable information about candidates, is a good, rigorous reference check. You will learn more from a previous manager (if you ask the right questions) than you ever will from a resume and an interview, regardless how skilled an interviewer you are. Problem is, this step is skipped 90% of the time because it’s time consuming. Try www.referencegetter.com – it’s free, it’s completed online and it takes literally no time… and you can add your favorite questions. My fave as a closer is ‘is there anything else you think I should know…?’
    5. Prepare for the rebound. Things are not going back to the way they were. Business will be done differently on the other side of this. More people will work from home, permanently. People will not converge the way they did. They won’t travel, commute or take mass transit in the way they did, at least not for a long time. People will consume and spend differently. All of these things have implications to almost every aspect of your business… NOW is your golden opportunity to think through how you could shift, change, restructure, re-staff… to be ready for when things turn around. Which they surely will, in surprising, scary and uneven ways. Fasten your seatbelt.

    Brent Kobayashi from Kobayashi/Zeitguys has an interesting perspective:

    1. Gratitude first, Decisions second: Take some time to get in a headspace that supports good decision making. To do this, figure out what works for you. It can be meditating, going for a walk, working out, even taking some time to actually feel the emotions (think of a kid getting out a good cry – we adults aren’t really that different). Then look at what you can be grateful for. ONLY THEN look at the challenges and decisions you need to make. In my experience, you will find your brain thinks differently, more creatively, and will come up with better answers.
    2. Communicate & stay active: There has been no other time in history when so many people have so much attention to give. Communicate regularly, show that you are still a going concern. Start and stay with compassion & connection (See Neville’s tips above – bang on). This is a time for most to be giving and investing in brand growth (a brand is what people think of you).
    3. Use your network to grow your network: There is a lot of attention online. AND there is a lot to consume online. Put a small boost on your posts so your clients & past clients will see it. If you have a sizeable enough client list, use it to create a Facebook Custom Audience, or LinkedIn Matched Audiences. If your content is relevant, your clients are the people who are more likely to be ones to engage & share, increasing your reach. At minimum, it will keep you top of mind with existing clients.
    4. One big ask: There is one big ask most small businesses should be going for: Online Reviews. It’s a simple ask “Hey, we could use some help – if you have time, please leave us a review on…” List everywhere you have a presence. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Houzz, Homestars – everywhere. For LinkedIn, my favourite tactic for a people/service based business is to link directly to my employees with this message “If any of our team particularly impressed you during their involvement with your project, it would be great for their careers to have a LinkedIn recommendation”. Not only is it a great boost for your employee, you get more proof of your awesome team when you are going for new contracts.
    5. Get creative: Everyone is recommending you increase your online presence. Yes, do that – AND, get creative. Think about having some fun, showing your personality & the personality of your team. Does it fit your brand? How can it fit your brand? I recommend everyone start playing with Tik Tok – there is a huge amount of creativity on that platform right now. Tik Tok will give you some ideas on how to create engaging content for other platforms.