Alexa, the AVP of Marketing and Communications at Marist College, is an award-winning digital marketer, optimizing marketing for SMBs.
No one could have predicted what Covid-19 would mean for us, how it would change our working lives and how we would have to come up with new ways to keep businesses going, growing and thriving. The pandemic has been (and continues to be) a very difficult time for many, but one thing is for sure: It has taught us lessons about marketing and business that we can continue to use to make our businesses stronger than ever before.
Here are six lessons I’ve learned that we can all use to ensure our businesses are ready for anything.
Lesson 1: Have The Right Talent On Hand
Have a pool of talented professionals ready at all times. Complacency or a narrow vision for what your team should be can lead to catastrophe when a crisis actually strikes. If you’re hesitant to assign responsibility and trust that something will get done, you hired the wrong people. It’s difficult to let people go or admit you were wrong about who you hired, but it’s often a reality we need to face in order to grow.
If you have great people but they aren’t experienced enough to take on more responsibility, train them. It will create loyalty, team spirit and a strong team for the future. If you don’t have the cash flow to hire your A-team, then seek out freelancers and contractors you can turn to who are willing to be an extended part of your team.
Lesson 2: Have A Defined Workflow
Systems work. In fact, these predetermined systems are the only way huge corporations are able to work, and the only way you’ll be able to grow significantly, too.
In my business, and I expect in yours, too, we experienced dramatic changes when the pandemic sent the world into lockdown. It’s easy to panic in this situation, but it is really worth investing the time to build a solid workflow for all aspects of an operation, including meetings, check-ins, productivity timelines and more. Preparing your workflow before you start isn’t time lost, but actually, time saved in the long term.
In difficult situations, it will give you and your team, and anyone who needs to step in, a predetermined track to follow. This is invaluable at any time, but especially when you need to collaborate remotely. When we’re working remotely, we can’t guarantee that the person we need to talk to will respond immediately.
Lesson 3: Communicate An Opportunity, Not An Obstacle
Remote collaboration creates pitfalls due to a lack of communicative immediacy. You must be more explicit and direct when working remotely, even when you are using real-time chat programs like Slack. Make sure everyone is explicit in what they say, and if there are simple instructions you find yourself giving more than once, put them in a workflow app or even a simple Google doc so you can share it next time.
When it comes to communicating with clients and customers, avoid reiterating the problems the pandemic is causing you. Remember, they are living this, too, so try to bring light and excitement to your team and clients when possible. Look at these new challenges as an opportunity to discover new ways of serving your customers.
Lesson 4: Communication May Change, But It Never Goes Away
Just because the pandemic brought the majority of physical engagement to a halt didn’t mean that we weren’t interacting with one another. It just meant that we had to find alternative ways to do so, namely social media and videoconferencing platforms.
You should always look for ways to connect with your clients and customers wherever they gather — online or off. There’s no excuse for radio silence, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Remember that if you’re not showing up, you can’t expect clients to.
Lesson 5: People Put More Trust In Those Who Are Transparent
While we’ve just touched on how we should be a voice of optimism, that doesn’t mean you should lie about the struggles you’re having. People connect to other real people. Don’t be afraid to share real information about how your business has changed, especially if it may affect people, help them or simply help them to connect with you.
Especially during this time, update your homepage and social media consistently to offer the best information. Even if you feel you have little to say, at least have a notice saying you are business as usual. If you avoid mentioning it at all, customers may assume you are inactive.
Connecting and communicating with your audience this way may feel pointless, but creating a bond with customers so they trust you is one of the absolute best things you can do for your business to help you succeed in good times and bad.
Lesson 6: Don’t Let Failure Be An Option
Blaming uncontrollable circumstances for subpar results is always convenient and gives you an excuse to give up. If you are in an industry that is only needed when groups of people can be together, you need to be able to adapt and reinvent your business so that you can carry on.
This could mean creating new products or services to cover a new or different need, changing the way in which you manufacture or provide services, finding other means of selling your products, or coming up with creative ways to sell when people are trying to save money, such as offering clever promotions.
Business is never easy, but it’s even more challenging in times like these. An unfaltering determination and commitment to serve your audience, clients and customers will help you get through anything. That determination has allowed my company to grow and create something we are all proud of, and thanks to our clear communication to our customers, we have been immensely successful. If you can carry these six lessons with you long after the pandemic is over and we have all embraced the new normal, you’ll likely find success.