Strategy To Shield The Impact Of C-19 On Your Business
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
87 is the number of C-19 / Coronavirus related emails I've received from businesses giving me updates on their preparedness for this unprecedented event. I don't mind receiving them, and some of them contain genuinely useful information. But the content of 90% of them is pretty much identical.
In this post, I want to give you a more detailed framework for how you can shield as much as possible against the economic impacts of this situation. This will be reflective of many of the things we're doing here at Visions Nspire, but I've also tried to generalise the advice to make it applicable to as many people as possible. Everyone's situation will be different, and I know that this post won't be applicable to all, but I hope it will help a few people to at least better frame their thoughts on how to tackle this problem.
Prepare your ‘C-19 Business Shield’ strategy
We all know by now that the virus is going to have a negative impact on the vast majority of businesses. Smaller to medium sized business will, as usual, feel the pain faster and harder than larger ones. But even larger businesses need to have more opportunities to shield due to the diversity of their resources, so a strategy for them is equally important.
How you would go about creating your own ‘C-19 Business Shield’ strategy should be quite similar to how you would any other strategy. You should follow a simple strategy Model that includes the Objectives (outcomes) you want to achieve, supported by the Projects (actions) you'll be implementing to get there and the KPIs (measures) that you're trying to positively impact.
You can do that as a chart, or in Word or you can make a start in good-old-fashioned Excel. Either way, do not make the mistake of keeping your ‘C-19 Business Shield’ plan to yourself. Involve as many people as possible, as soon as possible.
Focus Areas to shield your business against C-19
(A quick note, the situation is different for everyone.)
I've picked out 3 Focus Areas that I think are helpful in the preparation of your strategy:
· Right-size the business · Reposition your product · Redesign your marketing & sales funnels
I personally believe that the impacts of C-19 on the business world will be far longer lasting that most people currently assume but not necessarily in a bad way. A lot of the Projects that you'll probably implement as part of your C-19 Business Shield strategy are probably things you should have been doing anyway. A solid strategy now could actually move your business forward in the medium-long term rather than simply setting it back by the value of the sales you will likely lose over the next few months.
Here is a look at the Focus Areas that I think you should be planning around:
Focus Area 1 - Right-size the business
Let's not beat around the bush here, C-19 is going to suck. Sales will go down in line with market confidence, and you need to ensure that your cost structure is setup appropriately to offset this. This first Focus Area is about survival, and there are going to be some really difficult decisions to be made to setup your business to weather this storm. Worst of all, you cannot hesitate in making these decisions.
Here are some Objectives that you might want to implement in this Focus Area:
Customer-facing workforce that is proportionate to current demand
The Government just announced very generous measures to protect and retain your workforce, business rates outgoings, interest free loans, cash grants, universal credits, etc. – for thee you need to contact your local council, bank, business bodies.
Here are other ways to reduce costs without hurting your opportunities to grow:
Minimised investment in non-essential systems
Change annual subscriptions to monthly if renewing soon
Reduce office costs to minimum levels – Working-From-Home (WFH) where possible
There are lots of ways to save costs in your business. But don't forget that cost saving isn't the only thing you want to achieve. You also want to start thinking about setting your business up in the long run, even if that means spending more money. When it comes to survival immediate cash is not always the king!
The final goal when it comes to right-sizing involves ensuring that you've minimised the amount of receivables owed to you. After all, you won't be the only one trying to reduce costs, your customers might be too.
Significant improvement in accounts receivable
Create an accelerated process for collecting debts
Create an incentive program for early payments
Reinforce the value-proposition of product to all customers
Reduce outstanding debts
Focus Area 2 - Reposition your product
When cutting costs (Focus Area 1) there is a great risk that some of your products or services could fall into that ‘cutting’ category, unless you do something about it.
This will of course apply different to different businesses. Toilet-paper companies are sitting pretty at the moment as you've no-doubt read in the news, whereas leisure & tourism industries are shutting down compulsory.
So the question is, where does your product or service fall on the costs cutting scale?
Here's a few strategies that you can implement:
Marketing strategy that takes into account C-19
Determine current perception of your product/service
Decide on which elements can be repositioned as 'necessity'
Implement revised marketing in all key channels
Maintain website / foot traffic 100%
I've seen some great examples of this recently. For some businesses like remote working tools such as Skype and Zoom - it's a piece of cake. But I've also been impressed by the revised marketing I've seen from a local sports-massage studio (Get your body in prime condition to tackle the hurdles of the days we now live in), Uber-Eats (Don't stockpile, just order-in) and others.
Be careful not to just focus on new customers though, you've got existing customers that you also need to persuade of your value in these difficult times:
Current customers maintain interest and use of your product / service
Send customer communications describing how product helps in current situation
Offer extensions / bonus features to help them even more
Offer targeted support on how to use your product in most effectives way
Maintain customer usage levels at 65%
You're going to have to go above and beyond in ensuring that customers remain engaged in your product / service. That might mean accepting lower margins and giving away features or extras that would normally be reserved for higher paying customers. Not only do these kinds of projects help you to retain customers, they also help your fellow businesses and people to get through this difficult time. Here at Visions Nspire Business Academy, we are offering free weekly business training to help them plan their own C-19 strategies.
Focus Area 3 - Redesign your marketing and sales funnels
Our world will be changed by this event. Some businesses will fail, some will survive but may never be the same. Others will survive, consolidate and then flourish - perhaps even stronger than they did before. One of the biggest changes that I think will never be reversed is the accelerated shift to digital interactions that this virus has forced us into. That covers everything from how people shop (online delivery networks will be strengthened and will likely remain that way), the way people interact with healthcare (doctors are now webcam-doctors, and that will probably also continue even after the virus situation abates).
The way that your future buyers and customers interact with your business will never be the same again. For some businesses, that's not a major shift. Business consulting and training providers like Visions Nspire Business Academy are already almost entirely online businesses, with face-to-face interactions mostly limited to conferences and high-value accounts. But for some businesses, the shock of this change to faceless interaction will be massive. Physical commerce as always comes to mind, but this change will also affect entertainment (streaming services up, cinemas down), consulting services (old-school accountants have started embracing Zoom).
How are you positioned for this change? Here are some strategies you might want to consider:
Rapidly accelerate adopting of digital marketing
Benchmark your current digital marketing KPIs
Identify best-practices in digital marketing for your industry
Hire a digital marketing expert – it pays in the long run
Increase digital marketing leads by 50%
Even if you think you're in a good spot regarding digital marketing, remember that your competitors will all be massively raising their game in this regard too.
We talked about reducing costs, but this is one area where additional investment is almost certainly prudent. If in doubt, start by hiring an expert in this space, even in a temporary capacity to help you get started. Digital marketing is just one piece of the equation though. How about:
A digital-first sales strategy proportionate with the times
Equip sales teams with tools, materials and content to succeed
Adjust pricing to accommodate businesses / people with cash-flow issues
Implement sales strategies to businesses / people who are less impacted
Maintain sales volumes at 80%
You need to get creative in how you sell your product, and accept that your customers won't be willing / able to shell out a huge amount of money upfront. Flexibility in your business model could be the difference between survival and failure.
The next 6 months will be hard for everyone - but could also be the best thing that ever happens to your business
I want to finish on a note of genuine positivity. As the Founder of Visions Nspire Business Academy, I've been through the same emotional rollercoaster as almost everyone else has over the past few weeks. There have been times when I was complacent, and times when I was naive.
But right now, I'm feeling only two things regarding this situation. Resolute, and... positive.
You may well wonder how I can say that right now, at the same time as outlining the measures above - some of which are drastic, all of which are hard. But the thing is, so much of the strategy I've suggested above, is stuff that we (and maybe you) should have been doing ages ago anyway! The virus has taken away any excuses, any ambiguity and any room for delay. We (and you) have to make our business stronger, whatever that entails. And when this situation starts to normalise, I can't wait to unveil the new Visions Nspire Battle-weary Programme, but hopefully still smiling.
Dedicated To Your Success!