Any trial that a business has to go through is difficult. Some are worse than others, but the underlying solution that we have to get to as business owners is how we are going to respond to the challenge before us.
Even for the most seasoned business leaders, that can be a scary challenge. You have a family to feed, you have employees who have families that you are responsible for that you support with their paycheck. Fortunately, home services businesses have been deemed “necessary businesses,” so the impact of the Coronavirus is less than what it has been for other types of businesses.
That being said, there are still many home services providers across many different states that have been affected terribly by the pandemic. One of the first things that business owners do is they look to cut costs everywhere in an attempt to get their actual operating expenses down to just payroll. We need to think smarter about that decision, though. There is no argument that you have to get lean in these times, but I would suggest you get lean in the right places.
Here are 8 strategies for how you can respond smartly to the impact of the novel coronavirus on your business.
1. Identify where the drop-off is
Let’s face it — intuitively, we know that there are dozens of factors that affect your ability to do and grow your business. In a time like this, you don’t want to make the wrong decision. Look at the data to determine where you are missing out on business opportunities. Is your current customer base cancelling their maintenance agreements? Are your new acquisitions down? You saw your leads were down, but from which source? Paid search leads? Organic leads? Yelp leads? Referral leads? Having a system in place for tracking this data is essential so you can make smart decisions during the COVID-19 crisis.
2. Identify where your customers are RIGHT NOW
When a crisis like this hits, your behavior changes. When you are sitting in a boat, cruising on the ocean, and you fall off the boat, your behavior changes. It has to. You are responding to the circumstances, surroundings, and situation in front of you. Your customers are doing the same. They are searching differently. Their needs are different. They are sitting at home, scrolling on Facebook and increasing the traffic on Facebook by more than 50%! Do you know where your customers are right now? Start there before you make a cut.
3. Pivot, don’t panic
Panic produces emotional decision-making, which can be irrational, and have unintended consequences. Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, once said, “Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” Fear is what is happening right now, and you as a leader don't have the privilege to react with it. Your people need you. Your customers need you. Your business needs you. This is the opportunity to not panic and make a fear-based decision with your marketing spend.
For example, rather than completely cut your marketing budget (the budget that typically keeps your phone ringing with new jobs each month), you should identify ways to pivot those dollars so you can use them more effectively for your business based on your current needs. This may involve shifting those dollars from one type of marketing channel to another so you can get in front of your customers where they are at now. This can also help you take advantage of most cost-effective digital marketing when money is tight for your business.
4. Focus on building up your brand
When business gets slow due to seasonality, it is a common practice amongst the best brands we work with to move those marketing dollars to efforts that focus on keeping the business’ brand top-of-mind for their consumers. Then, when the busy season picks up again, which it always will, they come back better than before because they have so much brand equity with their ideal customers.
I find many times that businesses that fail to grow year over year often have the poorest off-season plan. This time we are in right now is exactly a time that we need to focus on building our brand because this season, too, will end, and you will be set up that much better for dominating the “on” season!
5. Get creative with financial options
Facebook uncovered that one of the top concerns of people they surveyed during this time was that they were concerned about financial planning and the current state of their finances. This is a very real opportunity to put together solutions that not only help your business in the short term, but also build up your pipeline for the long run.
Help customers now with their top concern by getting creative with maintenance plans, gift card-type of solutions for people to pay now for work happening later, and creative work with your payment plans. People sense when your motives are a bit too opportunistic, so now is a perfect time to double down on your authenticity with your customers.
6. Keep your hands clean
A, B, C, D, E, F, G… Everyone is doing the 20-second hand washing count, and if you haven’t put out a social post, newsletter, or blog about what your business is doing to double down on their sanitation efforts to protect employees and customers, you are three weeks behind schedule. The second highest concern people are having right now is cleanliness and sanitation. Make sure that you are not only carrying out these practices consistently, but that your customers know about, see, and experience your team engaging in these practices. From booties to face masks, take precautions to ease the fear of doing business right now with your business.
7. Get social
We already heard that Facebook has seen a surge of traffic from people browsing now that they are sitting at home. Now is the time to connect with your audience on social media. Put together blog posts two to three times per week and pivot some of your marketing dollars to boost the spend of those posts. The cost to get visibility on social is cheap still, and now is a better time than ever to double down on this effort.
8. Become a video producer
Ok, maybe you won’t be the next Spike Lee, but with everyone on Facebook, Instagram, and even YouTube (the second largest search engine on the web), you need to be getting video content out there. Let me repeat, you NEED to get video content out there. More than 500 million hours of videos are consumed on YouTube each day, and that number has no doubt increased with the coronavirus pandemic. More people today consume video content than written content. Focus on how-to videos—create something unique like a music video about your trade, go on YouTube and start typing “how to fix” and let Google’s autofill do the rest. Use those as topics for your videos, and start small. Make a video showing clients why you are washing your trucks every day. Do one video per week. Get comfortable with it, then do more. This is a dynamite time for producing video content for your business.
Change your mindset and your strategy
In times of a crisis, it is easy to be crippled by fear, but don’t let that stop you from making a massive impact right now. With a smart strategy that puts you in the driver seat of how to respond rather than react to the surrounding circumstances, you can mitigate the impact this virus is having on your business. Be the light and solution that your business and your customers need you to be right now.
Stay tuned as well on our COVID-19 resource page for more trends, tips, and insights on how businesses can tackle the current landscape. Buckle down, friends — things are about to get better.