For the purposes of this article, COVID-19 won’t mean COrona VIrus Disease of 2019. As I work to encourage my circle – albeit small – in maintaining some level of drive and hope during this time, let’s operate under this phrase: 19 ways to Continue Operating Vigilantly, Innovatively, and Deliberately.
What prompted this article…
I recently launched a quick survey on Instagram and Facebook to help substantiate some of my observations of despair or drive in attitudes throughout this pandemic. I won’t tout some major scientific sample group, yet I learned something pretty telling through they survey results – coupled with calls from clients wondering about halting, adjusting, or pressing forward with marketing.
The choices in the survey shared via Facebook and Instagram stories regarding their strategy during the pandemic were:
Hunker Down & Hope vs. Buckle Up & Ride
56% voted: Hunker Down & Hope
44% voted: Buckle Up & Ride
Having a confirmed sense of more people in a holding pattern of uncertainty than in a driving pattern during all this, I wanted to share a list of some observations of businesses and people who are actually doing more right now in the face of the pandemic to take their businesses and those around them to a higher level, rather than becoming a victim of the global panic.
1. Closed Doors…? Open New Ones!
So many businesses closed their store fronts, making something I’ve been saying for over a decade even more relevant than ever before: Customers come to you less through your front doors and more through Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and social media.” A client of mine with a storefront that was closed due to state requirements has been forced to rely solely on online sales. They are offering discounts and free shipping or at store pickup to continue generating revenue. Restaurants have closed their dining areas, but are creating co-ops or partnering with UberEats/GrubHub/etc. or using their own wait staff to deliver for free. On the way home from the store (as the designated shopper the other day), I noticed a sign in front of Texas Roadhouse advertising “Ready to Cook Steaks” for sale.
2. Identify, Discuss, and Solve (IDS™)
If you’re not familiar with EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), now might be a great time to have your work-from-home management team study up on it while also practicing IDS. Regardless of where you’re running your business during the pandemic, never stop looking at areas you can improve and elevate your business operations. Right now, businesses are being forced to realize what’s absolutely essential to operate and create adaptive ways to function during social distancing restrictions. (NOTE: If you want to know more about EOS, I can connect you with an expert.)
A stronger approach to managing your business during a time like this can only prove incredibly beneficial as we transition to the new normal.
Look to the industry you already serve and find ways to better serve your customers as their needs have evolved. The IT team at LabStats, an Idaho Falls-based company providing services to higher education institutions throughout the world, literally built a remote access solution in the matter of days. Granted, it’s being continuously improved. So far, this has helped nearly 200 universities/colleges (in just a few weeks) provide students and staff access to computers sitting in now abandoned labs everywhere. The dashboard shows students which computers are available in which lab, so they can locate a computer with the software they need to continue their course work from home.
Reading Suggestion: Outsmart Your Instincts – This book helps businesses create an environment that encourages and inspires the problem solving and thinking that leads to innovation.
4. Creative Empathy
Some services, such as, Vtiger, Hubspot, and VidAngel are offering discounted or free access for the time being. Several car insurance companies are refunding portions of premiums due to lowered risk with more people staying home and off the roads. Other marketing campaigns are “social discance” promoting, like Netflix’s recent spoiler campaign. YouTube pushed the #WithMe campaign, sharing some our DIY during Quarantine experiments/experiences. Find how you can best connect with and be there for your customer base at this time.
Consider for a moment that everything you knew before this year about your customers’ needs could be changed dramatically, then work your way through how it impacts your relationship and ability to serve them. What messages will re-assure them and express understanding?
5. Sell Less. Connect More.
This should be a rule outside of just this pandemic, though it bears extra weight at this time. At this moment, K-12, college, unemployed adults, and work-from-home adults are online at an increased rate. Despite what the hope of every business owner may be, they aren’t online more to purchase more, rather consume information and connect. They don’t want to be sold to, and even if you are running digital ads (which you should be!), you can’t make every post as blatant as Donkey in Shrek shouting, “Pick me!”
Make your posts about educating and providing confidence and hope to your target audience. Consider – if you have a decent following – posting Instagram/Facebook surveys. Share successes of your customers and their experiences. If you’re an accountant or an attorney, for example, redistribute state or federal information that will benefit your audience. In home care? Share how family members can keep their loved ones safe.
Great Advice: "Don't Create. Document."
Brandon Clifford, HomeWell - VP of Franchise Development
Many businesses focus too much on creating marketing content, when documenting and sharing their successes will be more successful.
… or GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts / Meet or Microsoft Teams, etc. While 2020 may not have all the advances in technology predicted by my 7th grade science teacher (or Back to the Future – flying cars?!), we are fortunate to be in a time when social distancing doesn’t also condemn us to socially detaching. From what I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, every meeting can be successfully handled in a virtual space. You just need a camera and a microphone, which – if your computer isn’t equipped with – your smart phone likely has.
Live events? Goo with a webinar. Even before the mayhem struck the globe, I know of several digital summits that have taken place. Each drawing in great presenters and audiences that didn’t have to travel to consume or share highly sought after content. The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce quickly replaced their Out of the Box Luncheons with a YouTube Live “LinchIn”. They’ve hosted presenters on the recently signed CARE Act, debates between candidates running for office, an interview with Brad Little, Governor of Idaho, and are maintaining dialogue with business owners in East Idaho.
Headlines like the following have given me more home in our “greedy” capitalist society as businesses continue rising to the occasion to give back:
Airbnb to help provide emergency housing to 100,000 front-line responders
Chic-Fil-A delivers 350 free meals to hospital workers at PeaceHealth Southwest
Melaleuca keeping employee’s fridges stocked during COVID-19
Facebook donates 720,000 face masks to health workers
Colgate coordinates with WHO to make 250 million soap bars available to donate to authorities lacking supplies to fight COVID-19
Zoom makes video conference software free for all affected K-12 schools in China, Japan, Italy, and the U.S.
Beyond businesses, it’s been refreshing to see neighbors watching out for neighbors more actively and people in a position to do so that are giving more through churches and community services groups.
Each of these listed items is a form of adaption to some degree. Adapting is not the “Hunker Down & Hope” some are resorting to as a result of forced social distancing measures, rather the “Buckle Up & Ride” approach. Some of the most impressive adaptions hitting the news are:
Several alcoholic beverage companies converting portions of distillery use to producing hand sanitizer
Companies like My Pillow, ExxonMobil, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles adjusting to allow capacity for mask production
Ford and GE Healthcare dedicating lines to produce more ventilators designed by Airon Corp.
In one of the meeting Simon Sinek held with his employees via Zoom, he recited myriad examples from our history when change forced some businesses under because they wouldn’t adapt. He posed the questions: “How will we do what we’re doing in a different world?” “How are we going to get through this?” (Hunker Down & Hope) vs. “How are we going to change to get through this?” (Buckle Up & Ride) He sums up the art of adaption with the term: infinite mindset.
What are the various contingencies you have in place for your business? I know a leader if a small, but highly successful business who tested positive for COVID-19. In a moment, this CEO went from full speed and high energy, to bed-ridden and fighting for their life. Are your continuity plans adequate should key members of your leadership become ill or pass on as a result of the pandemic – or other reasons? Now would be ideal to workshop scenarios with your leadership team and ensure steps are in place for employees and the company to continue moving forward.
10. Maintain Accountability
Work-from-home only works if work is getting done. Depending on your business type and local/state/federal orders, review how it relates to your workforce. Determine where individuals in your team can continue working while being effective and accommodating the combination of their personal needs/concerns and government limitations. Whether the role is one that continues at the place of business or needs to be converted to an at-home job, it’s critical to maintain expectations of completion. With certain variables in constant flux, you’ll want to communicate often to reset and adjust expectations as needed.
11. Seize Opportunities
I am in no way advocating for the criminal level of “opportunism” being cracked down on by those who’ve hoarded high demand products only to gouge consumers. Yet, for medium and small businesses, there are certainly opportunities available and more to come.
Don’t just blast ads all over the internet in a “spray n’ pray” approach. Go beyond the paid search and leverage the increased online traffic with display ads. Get campaigns built out to appear in front of:
Your target audience – take everything you know about your customers to develop a solid profile of who a potential customer could be.
People who’ve been to your website – with many businesses closing the stores and offices, you don’t want to earn the website traffic once and then lose the visitor. Retargeting can draw visitors back by showing ads as they visit other websites.
Affinity-based target audiences – If an aspect of your ideal audience includes other potential online behavior, they could be prime targets for your ads. Simple example: If someone is searching for homes and you’re a mortgage broker, you can target them with your ads to help develop brand familiarity and trust before they start their home loan searches.
Areas to explore in developing and deploying display ads are: Google Display Ads/AdWords, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
Also, go beyond just the ads. Share posts on social media pages that relate with your audience. (See #5)
13. Sacrifice Together
Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments made the news before by reducing his own income to ensure a minimum of $70,000 salary for his employees in 2015. Now, the Seattle-based company is drawing attention with their unique response to a recent 55% drop in revenue. Continued revenue drops due to a steep decline in purchases through companies they’re contracted with forced Price to consider either bankruptcy or laying off 20% of his employees. This didn’t sit well with him, so he turned to his employees for solutions.
Price and his COO, Tammi Kroll, met with small groups of employees and discovered everyone was willing to sacrifice a portion of their income to help each other as well as the company make it through the pandemic. While the amounts each volunteered to reduce from their pay differed, every employee took a reduction.
Whatever the sacrifice, if you and your employees commit to it together, it’ll be one of the strongest bonding experiences your company could possibly experience.
14. Confidence and Optimism
At almost every turn, the messages online from businesses and in the news regarding the pandemic are generally not filled with optimism. Some brands miss the mark entirely when it comes to confidence and optimism by coming off completely insensitive to what their customers may be going through. The best method of instilling confidence and optimism in your customers isn’t through well-produced commercials, rather diligently continuing to go above and beyond in services/products you provide. Be there, as opposed to asking them to be there for you. If you aren’t able to deliver expectations, no other messaging your marketing team comes up with has the potential to succeed.
One of the best commercials I can think of that owned the change, but still delivered a message of confidence and optimism was this St. Patrick’s Day ad from Guinness:
Three best parts for me were:
The comment: “We’ve learned we’re pretty tough when we stick together.”
The question: “So, what do you really need for some St. Patty’s cheer?”
The commitment: “As for us? We signed a 9,000 year leas on our brewery a while back, so we’re not goin’ anywhere.”
15. Seek Out the Positive
One way to remain optimistic and confident yourself is to balance what information you’re taking in. Social media (our primary outlet for the time being) can be quite toxic – filled with debate and constant alarm about the pandemic. Certainly, you want to remain informed and educated about the situation, but social distancing time can be far more bearable if you seek out some positive and entertaining messages.
I didn’t thing it was possible for me to like John Krasisnski any more than I have the last 15 years – appreciating his ability to entertain us in various roles. Now, with his quarantine-time launch of Some Good News, I’m seeing and appreciating who John is on a whole other level.
With his second episode ranking #3 for a stint on trending for YouTube, John has made millions laugh and cry and become inspired by the best thing we have going for us right now: our humanity. Now five episodes in, SomeGoodNews has captured 2.16M Subscribers and 10 total videos combined have well over 45M views!
Several thought leaders can also be looked to for positive outlook and insights. Contribute to this positive as you receive it in ways that make most sense for you and your company.
16. Recognize Greatness
In several companies and communities around us, there are people who are going above and beyond. If your business hasn’t already developed a habit of recognizing employees for being the essence of your core values, start now. Attitudes even during rough times like these can improve immensely when an employee feel valued for their work.
17. Patient Persistence
Again, going back to my survey question about Hunker Down vs. Buckle Up. We could allow the frustrations and challenges we’re facing right now to rattle us, leading to being either voluntarily stuck (like an ostrich with their head in the sand) or become vocally aggravated like a driver stuck in rush hour making it miserable for everyone else. Sometimes I’ll jokingly respond to the question of how my day is with, “Can’t complain… I’ve tried, but it didn’t help.”
Those choosing the Buckle Up & Ride option take the ups and downs in life. They may do so with a smile on their face, a stunned expression, or (if they’re my daughter on a roller coaster) scream in fear the entire ride… But they are moving forward.
Patiently persisting means you continue striving for improvement in everything. You don’t take things out on everyone around you, rather find ways to pull through situations and bring others through with you.
While the advent of social media and other technology has enabled us to remain connected, it’s unfortunately magnified the negativity and ungratefulness of many in our society. I often wonder if several voices in the news and online never watched the scene in Bambi with Thumper saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
Rather than putting on recently earned “expert hats” on everything from grocery store inventory management to when schools should/shouldn’t be re-opened to restaurant drive-thru/takeout procedures to which types of jobs are/aren’t essential… Please, for the love of humanity, start saying, “Thanks.” or “Thank you!” or “Sure appreciate all you’re doing.”
This pandemic has created an upheaval for almost everyone we’ll com in “social-distanced”, limited contact with. Thank the scrambling stock boy/girl for their efforts to keep up. Thank members of your school board for taking the time to consider everything and do their best to make a decision for the safety of our kids. Thank your kids’ teachers for the incredible adjustments they made in short time to even make continued education in some form a possibility this year. Thank the doctors and nurses who are working to restore health and save lives.
19. Of Course: Hygiene and Health Safety, Please!
There’s less potential for Continue if you and your employees don’t re-commit to holding up the most basic and common-sense health and sanitary standards. Somewhere between our current extreme precautions and employees/patrons leaving bathrooms without washing hands before COVID-19 diligence is where you need to educate your employees and family members to continue practicing good hygiene. Review your policies and practices regarding personal hygiene and health safety, then determine which areas could be improved on in either practice or expectations.
Inform your customers how you’re striving to meet and/or exceed expectations being set by local, state, and federal governments. If needed, train your employees how to properly handle products, materials, or anything else customers might also handle. While your place of business may be closed to public or even employees, it’s a great time to bring in a cleaning company for a deeper clean than the usual carpet cleaning.
"Capitalism didn't get us here. A virus did."
- Mark Cuban
Earlier this month, I read a post with Mark Cuban stating we’ll see the best in capitalism as a result through this pandemic. “That’s when capitalism shines,” he stated while discussing how times like this produce incredible results that will continue benefiting us. We are extremely fortunate to live in a time and (for most of us) a place we can evolve and continue developing our jobs as Simon Sinek mentioned to his employees.
The key is simply the mindset we have going into and through this disruption, and how we continue evolving and improving once things calm down. We can learn quite a bit about people and businesses – and ourselves – when challenges like this face us; just as we can when we either relax or continue our drive for better when not facing a global pandemic.