(This is how we beat this thing)
So it’s come to this: we’re in lockdown.
You. Me. All of us — the whole country.
But lockdown doesn’t mean paralysis.
It means taking care of each other: Family. Friends. Flatmates. Neighbours. Workmates. Staff.
It means looking after the now. And it means using the time to prepare for what happens afterwards; especially when you’ve still got a business to run.
Physical Isolation is not Social Isolation
While you’re in lockdown, it’s essential for your mental and physical wellbeing to remain active.
Say hello to the neighbours, but keep your distance. Make sure you’re on Neighbourly, and offer help where you can for those who need it.
If you’re working from home, try to keep regular hours. Stay in close touch with your co-workers, so that (despite all this) none of us is feeling too isolated. Use Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Skype (or just check in regularly via phone).
You’ll feel much better if you include some exercise in your day — it’s okay to go for a walk or take a run.
Don’t just binge on Netflix. Put spare time into upskilling, whether that’s completing an online course (many are free or inexpensive), reading a book, or catching up on webinars.
Taking Care of Business
For business owners and team leaders, this is a time for connecting with and supporting your stay-at-home workforce. If you’ve had to take the painful step of letting staff go, reach out to them too to make sure they have the resources they need to get through this.
This is the time for leadership. It’s also the time for strategic planning, so that your company not only survives but comes out of this stronger, better positioned to provide your customers what they want.
Act now to reduce costs where you can to survive, by all means, but try to look beyond the near term. Focus first on cost-savings that will also benefit your business in the future.
The brutal reality is that, even with government assistance available, some businesses will not survive this. But there are steps you can take now and in the coming weeks to increase the odds of your coming out the other side stronger than before.
True, we’ve not been through a pandemic before, and no-one can be sure what lies ahead. But businesses have survived recession, and we can learn from the steps they took.
Get to Know Your Customer (Again)
This is not a marketing opportunity, nor should it be business as usual.
Right now your customers don’t want to hear from you if all you are doing is trying to sell them stuff as though this whole Covid-19 nightmare had yet to happen.
Like all of us, they’re feeling fragile. They want comfort and assurance, not to be followed round the Internet with a two-for-the-price-of-one discount on stuff they really don’t need right now.
That doesn’t mean you should stop all your marketing and let your business die on the vine. Give your company a better chance of surviving this — do more to find out what your customers need from you now and step up to help.
Keep in touch with customers in your email database — we’re all in this together, and they can do with some words of comfort and will appreciate any offers of help.
If your business is still in demand and fulfilment is not an issue, it may still be worth your while to continue with (or even start) search advertising. Search can be highly effective, but best of all it need not be disruptive: your ads are only shown when people express an interest in your products or services.
This is also a time to focus on those things in your marketing plan that you’ve always wanted to get done but been too busy to take care of, until now.
The website you’ve wanted to fix.
The SEO work to make sure people can find your website when they search for something other than your brand name.
Prioritise, and work through your list.
Here’s Your Homework
During the lockdown, most of us will be interacting online much more often than before, with real world interaction at a minimum. So it goes without saying that businesses that don’t yet have a website should think about getting one.
But even if you don’t have a website, there are still things you can do to improve your onsite presence.
Your Google My Business page is a de facto storefront, so too your Facebook business page. Now’s a good time to dial them up to 11.
People are feeling worried and anxious, so make sure your messaging is mindful of that. Communicate what you’re doing in the current circumstances, and make sure the information you’ve provided is always up-to-date.
Anticipate and answer any likely questions people may have: How can they contact you? What is your cancellation or return policy? Will orders still be shipped, and when might they arrive? When will out-of-stock items become available?
Stay on top of any new questions too. Answer customers’ questions honestly, and quickly, even if you are only acknowledging the question before you can provide a more detailed response.
With people stuck at home and all but essential services closed for business, your company website also needs to do its job. And if you know your website sucks, now is the time to be making the changes needed to improve it. Even if you’re not sure things need changing (or don’t know what changes to make), this is a good time to conduct some online testing to see where things can be improved.
The things you do now — or don’t do — will have impact. Your employees will be thankful for your guidance; your customers for your being there, for listening, and helping.
Take care. Offer to help. Be your best, and we will survive this.
Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.