The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought fear and uncertainty for both customers and businesses. The right way forward has never been less clear. For some types of businesses, this is not easy to grapple with or plan for, and it’s a question on how to even keep the lights on. Businesses that were in the process of expanding or that are highly-leveraged are especially wary of the future.
B2B businesses are also affected, in a particularly outsized way.
Such businesses rely on trade shows and exhibitions for generating leads. Events of every sort including these have been postponed or canceled altogether. Because of this, many B2B decision-makers are considering strategies that can bring back this business.
Though it is not just B2B that’s struggling. It’s everyone. Getting new business is going to be a matter of effective marketing since many nonessential businesses are working from home. Companies can stay in operation and become stronger through this uncertainty. However, it will be a matter of strategy – what you do in the next month or two will determine how the rest of 2020 will treat your company.
Talking to customers and clients about COVID-19
Think about your own e-mail inbox and Facebook feed. We are all well aware of what’s going on and have seen the guidelines on handwashing. You don’t want to make a post or send an email that just gets lost in the shuffle. Worse, it could seem disingenuous unless you have something novel to say. It can be detrimental to your image if it appears you’re just trying to make a crisis about yourself.
This doesn’t mean ignore it entirely. Address how the pandemic will be affecting your business, in particular, if it inhibits your ability to operate. If you want to include consistent posts about the topic, share how you’re helping slow the spread in your own workplace. Alternatively, discuss what contributions you are making to serve your local community. This is the best time to be sincere, anything else will hurt you rather than help.
Increasing revenue vs. cutting expenses
Should you be looking to acquire new clients and customers, or streamline your business to outlast COVID-19?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, this question should be very carefully considered. The first instinct for many businesses is to reduce their expenses. It makes the balance sheet look better, lowers liabilities, and gives a bit of breathing room. But this is not the best move for every business.
Remember that your expenses aren’t unnecessary, they are components of your current business. When you start cutting expenses, it is a contractionary move – it will make it that much harder to recover once things settle down. What might seem like “cutting the fat” today will be essential a few months from now. This isn’t saying one way is always right or always wrong. No reduction in one’s liabilities should be done out of fear or impulse, however.
Consider the following. Many of your competitors are dealing with the same issues, and many marketing channels are charging less for advertising. So consider expanding your revenue streams first. If you get a head start in acquiring clients now, it will help to sustain you down the line. You had to put capital on the line when you first started your business, and this is maybe a comparable scenario.
Making live events into Live events
If you’re like many businesses, your staff is working from home, meeting through Zoom, and using Slack or BandCamp to manage projects. So if you are managing employees using online software, why not host events for your customers the same way?
Customers who want to attend your events will be disappointed when they are postponed. B2B clients don’t want to miss out on the opportunities to network, either. The cancellation may have been out of your control, but you can still adapt.
In case you aren’t aware, Facebook and LinkedIn both have live streaming capabilities. Both platforms favor live content, even more than video content, and will put it towards the top of news feeds. You may not be able to meet at a physical venue, but you can still communicate and hold events online.
For example, if you were planning on hosting a Bingo fundraiser, you can still stream to users at home who paid and have their Bingo cards. A professional stream may even see an increase in participation since no one has to leave home.
For B2B businesses, your main clients are still likely working, just at home. Hosting a webinar is a great idea for targeting professionals like these. Giving them useful content during a time when content demand is at an all-time high is smart. Offering opportunities to connect to the hosts is even smarter – another way to network, while still social distancing.
Build a digital marketing strategy
If you are looking to sustain or increase your revenue, or just want to communicate with current customers, think digital.
Many businesses don’t have a robust digital presence as it stands today. Even today, many companies have a website they aren’t sure converts customers well or social media that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. Yet over the past few weeks, there have been companies seeking to update websites and launch social media campaigns. SEO, digital advertising, and organic social interaction allow businesses to reach new audiences. Now more than ever is the time to seek out those audiences.
On average, half of a business’s marketing budget is spent on events. So with many events canceled, you can certainly redirect that budget towards acquisition in new channels. Lowered competition on such platforms means that your budget can be much lower to enter or even dominate an online space.
Like we said earlier, this is a time where it isn’t enough to just follow what others are doing. Be prudent and practical, but also be proactive. Reacting to a situation is never enough, or always the right move. In this case, it could benefit you to expand rather than contract.