In the last month, our office, like many others, had to make an abrupt shift to working online. We already had the foundation of an excellent work-from-home policy in place, and many of our team members already had the basics of what they needed. So, with a bit of help from our tech-savvy friends at TWT Group, we had our entire staff ready to work-from-home with minimal headaches. Of course, we are a company that thrives on everyday interactions and collaboration, so overcoming the sudden distance isn’t always easy (even if it is more comfortable to work in sweatpants). We decided to check in on how everyone is doing.
William Joseph Communications was founded in 2002, so we remember a decade ago when we saw the effects of a big downturn as it happened all around us. As a marketing agency, we are constantly watching trends change, and the lessons we picked up through some of the economy’s toughest times were valuable ones. That’s why we’re confident in saying that we can help lead businesses through times like this.
The first step is one of the most important: it’s all about communication. Prioritize this so that you can stay in touch with your employees, clients, customers, or anyone else that needs to be contacted. The flurry of emails sent out in the last few weeks about COVID-19 prevention are a great example of companies taking initiative on this. Even if the message is simple – like a closure announcement, or an update on your business’s plans for the next month – it goes a long way toward easing people’s minds.
This is true for your staff, too. Many workers are uncertain and feeling unsure about their futures, so it’s also important to communicate with them regularly, and stay connected. The shift to a remote workplace was very sudden and probably difficult for a lot of people – so as much as you can, keep your office culture and engagement going. This will boost morale and maintain those personal relationships that are an unseen benefit of working with others.
Even here at WJ, we’ve taken that to heart. We have weekly video-chat lunches to catch up, and email each other updates on our latest home-repair DIY success. Some of our new pet coworkers have gained honourary job titles and staff photos, and a few of our team play online games or use Netflix Party to wind down after a stressful day. If you’re able to, show your staff some much-needed appreciation, too – like the grocery stores that are now giving their front-line workers raises. Whatever works best for your group, embrace it!
Another aspect of that shift means that your traditional methods of marketing will probably have to change, too. Current events will make some of your best-laid plans irrelevant – but that’s okay, and expected. Pivot your focus to something else that works for you in this situation. Think of the breweries like Annex Ales that are making hand sanitizer, and getting plenty of free word-of-mouth in the process (an unintended side effect, but it works). Or, less drastically, you can redirect some of your marketing budget toward reduced costs of online ad placements, because of reduced competition for those spaces.
This kind of flexibility is set to become the “new normal” for a lot of places. So make sure that, whatever you decide, you communicate to your network about what your new processes are. If you have a dedicated customer base, they’ll definitely want to hear when or how they can support your business again. Consider running a campaign that just gets the word out, and as things return to normal over the next few weeks and months, that prominence will ensure you’re at the front of people’s minds.
One thing to remember, though, is to ensure your messaging is clear, authentic, and empathetic. You will be reaching a lot of people across a wide area, and being respectful of the difficulty a lot of them are currently facing is key to a good response. Take the time to craft a strong, personalized brand message, as opposed to copying and pasting the relevant parts of something else. It takes a bit longer, but that will place you as a genuinely customer-focused business that puts people over profits.
“It’s not the winning that teaches you how to be resilient. It’s the setback. It’s the loss.” Beth Brooke
And lastly – don’t be afraid to innovate, and take the chance on something new! In 2009, during the last big economic slowdown, Amazon released a new device called a Kindle that became the season’s huge success. And in the heart of the Great Depression, a lagging cereal company named Kellogg’s increased its marketing and product development, against all popular advise. This lead to the creation of mascots that are still around and beloved today, and an untouchable majority of the business in its market.
The lesson? Hard times don’t always have to be. Innovative, driven, perceptive thinkers ready to take a new approach can create opportunities where others see none. That’s why we always advise our clients to stay the course when it comes to marketing in a bumpy patch – because this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about having a plan for the long, long run, not just the next few weeks.
When you’re ready to set your plan in motion, we’ll be here to help. We’re experts at helping you find your business’s why, which lets you solidify what you do and who you do it for. And once you know that, the only limits are those you put on yourself.