5 Critical Steps to Make Your Business Work Online Through Tough Times

March 25, 2020

We are undoubtedly in a tough period at present. The world over, people are being advised to stay at home and businesses are having to learn -- trial by fire -- how to run remotely and keep operating while the world around them is on edge. It's intense. 

Already endless communications have gone out about how to work remotely, what tactics will get you ahead, and so on. While this is all important, the most critical piece of advice that any business can take on board right now is that this is an opportunity, although it may feel like a kick in the guts.

What we can learn from previous tough economic situations is that the businesses who were able to be agile and adapt their approach to understand and empathise with their clients in that time were the ones who stayed front of mind and won the bid for loyalty. 

What follows are five critical steps to make your business work online through tough times. At the core of each of these needs to be a focus on strengthening relationships - staff, customers and partners. 

1) Have a One Page Strategy to Get Through This Period of Uncertainty

In uncertain times, things can change quickly, so don't worry about creating the perfect document. Worry, instead, about making a coherent plan for how you can continue to deliver your services in alternative ways; online, via video call, with staff working from home, etc. 

Remember your staff, customers and partners. Plan how you will make sure staff feel safe and secure enough to keep focussed and think about what your customers are experiencing to strategise on how best to connect with them at this moment. 

Consider where your audience will be (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, e-mail, phone) and plan out how to communicate to them via these channels. 

Finally, with the above mapped out, make a to-do list or set out your key actions and priorities, share this with your colleagues and get to work. You can then review this weekly as things change.

2) Update Your Webpage

Your customers are going to be looking at your website to learn how you will be operating throughout this period. Have at least one page on your site dedicated to detailing how you will work with existing and new clients digitally. Let them know that it's business as usual, just with the following adjustments -- which could be that meetings or calls are now via phone, video ,social, managed live chat, (by Melu) etc. 

An infographic is a great way to explain the process without overwhelming your customers with written communication. They're going to have a lot of that. Your website is where you want to give assurance. 

Most importantly, do not let any website visitor bounce off without encouraging them to engage. Add a call to action where they can download a guide, enquire online or leave their mobile number to register a call to discuss further. 

3) Social Media

Here is where you really need to appeal to people in their present situation. Social media is where you can demonstrate that you're in touch with what your customers are feeling, and you're there to support them at this time. This is where many will fall. 

While you need to assure people that you're operating, as usual, you equally need to empathise that a lot of people are not. Don't avoid acknowledging the tough situation, showing that you are in touch with your audience, and their challenges will go a long way in building relationships. Transparency and up to date information are comforting. Use this.

Here are a few practical social tips: 

  • Update your social media banner to say something along the lines of: 'Business as usual - Online to help you.'
  • Ensure your team's LinkedIn profiles are professional with brand consistency 
  • Design social media posts to cover a few different tones. Some will want the comfort of learning what's happening in your industry as this situation unfolds, and others will just want to know that you're there and ready to serve them. 

4) Video Calls for Meetings and Events

Internal and external meetings, events and conferences, need not be cancelled. Move everything to video. We have seen businesses across the globe pivot in a flash to transform in-person conferences into online events. Everyone can do this. 

Tools like Zoom are fantastic for these large scale online events, and then you have myriad other options like Skype, Messenger and more for smaller video meetings.

5) Make Supporting Documents for Video Meetings and Events

As you adopt any new tools or practices, make supporting documents that can be saved on the cloud for staff, or as a resource for clients and customers, is going to help you and save you a hell of a lot of time that would have otherwise been spent fielding enquiries about what is happening.

Investing in your marketing material now, whether it's for internal or external use, will help you to be prepared as you bring your operation online. This could apply to events, training or general changes in processes. 

For example a good virtual seminar may need a branded digital invite, joining instructions, handouts, PowerPoint, virtual background, FAQ’s and seminar notes etc..

The next few months are bound to be challenging, but thankfully many of us have the online tools to keep our doors open and working as usual through this period. Now we just work on delivering and building relationships. 

Take care and I hope this was useful

Jon

© Ellard Outloud 2020