I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”⸺J.R.R. Tolkien
It is amazing to see just how many things can change in two or three short months. In the pressure to adapt to what many are calling “the new normal,” many citizens and business owners are only just starting to feel the full weight of this concept.
On Tuesday, May 5th, California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press briefing which announced that small business owners would be allowed the opportunity to reopen “for curbside pickup” exclusively. Many businesses have started to make good headway in their respective recovery plans by adapting to the needs of their communities. Despite such efforts, it is becoming clear that many family-owned restaurants, venues, and shops simply will not recover from the economic losses caused by COVID-19.
You may be wondering…
- Will this move to “reopen California” be enough to save your business?
- Is it too late to rebuild what you lost during this worldwide economic shutdown?
Even with many new policies being written, discussed, and put into place by local governments, the fact is that many businesses have already been forced to permanently close because they could not adapt to life during the shutdown. If you want your business to survive 2020, we have to acknowledge that it won’t be quite so easy to “get back to normal.” What would “normal” even look like in the wake of COVID-19?
What Exactly Is the New Normal? How Long Can We Expect It to Last?
Even with retail shops being allowed to open all over the country, it is not yet safe to hold large public events. This eliminates every other form of business from the equation. From concerts, festivals, shopping malls, schools, fine dining, and just about any gatherings over 10 people. As unsettling as that prospect might sound, these attempts to “flatten the curve” are not being made in vain. As many mothers and professors have been known to say: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
So, let’s take a quick look at history!
A little over 100 years ago, the 1918 “Spanish” flu pandemic took the known world by force. In only one year, this virus quickly spread and evolved to become one of the deadliest plagues in history. Long before the days of modern medicine, as even the most trained doctors would not know what a virus was for another 20 years, the people of the world were not prepared for the fallout that was to come.
The 1918 flu infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—roughly one-third of the planet’s population at the time—and killed an estimated 20-50 million people, which included 675,000 Americans. There were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat those affected by the 1918 flu, citizens were ordered to wear masks at all times, schools, theaters, restaurants, and other places of business were closed indefinitely, and bodies were piling up in makeshift morgues all over the world before the virus eventually died off. All this occurred in only one year, with the need for economic recovery lasting years after that.
As of today, our current statistics for those affected by the coronavirus appear far less grim. The human race as a whole has made so many advancements in the last 100 years, but this is partly due to the lessons learned from the 1918 pandemic. The stay-at-home order, in addition to the use of modern medicine, have helped many citizens around the world to remain healthy and safe despite the contagiousness of COVID-19. But even with that silver lining, it is important to note that this virus has only been present in the world since December 2019. It has only been present in the United States since February 2020. That’s only 3-5 months of combined exposure.
With the medical community working night and day to study, treat, and keep up with this worldwide health crisis, it is only fair for the rest of society to react accordingly. We have no idea how long this way of life is going to last, and it is not wise to rush back to “normal” when history has already advised us against it. We must be prepared to move forward. To show compassion for the shared suffering of our community, while also allowing your business to respectfully continue your pursuit of the American dream.
So, what do we do next?
Back to the Drawing Board
There is no easy way out of a global health crisis. As a business owner, you will now be fully aware of just how much your business has been affected by our nation’s reaction to the coronavirus. Using all the data you have collected over the last three months, it is very likely that your business did not reach the goals initially set for this quarter and Two Trees can absolutely help your business adapt to these limitations. If you have not already taken steps to realign your digital marketing strategies by now, you will need to appeal toward any limitations caused by COVID-19 immediately.
So, how exactly do we get out of this predicament?
Step 1: Streamline Your Websites and Social Media Platforms
Many businesses have a functioning website, but it may not be as user-friendly as you think. With millions of Americans turning to their mobile devices for communication and entertainment, online shopping opportunities have skyrocketed as many search for online deals, delivery, and options for “curbside pickup.” Most web-users will decide whether to purchase from you within seconds of viewing your website, so the optimization of your website can literally make or break your business.
Whether it be navigation, mobile load time, or shopping cart functionality, nearly every website can use an upgrade! This is the perfect opportunity to redesign your media platforms so the common user won’t be confused or otherwise turned off by your brand. Efficient and visually appealing advertising is key to digital marketing, and you will absolutely need to make use of this if you want your business to survive the 2020 pandemic.
Step 2: Stay Connected With Your Audience
In the midst of COVID-19, there should be one thing on your mind in particular: Addressing your current customer’s concerns.
- Are they worried about personal safety upon entering your store?
- Are they in need of supplies not currently stocked on your shelves?
- Are they concerned about your employees’ access to safety supplies and sick leave?
- Have any regulars stopped patronizing your business in the last few months? If so, why?
It is essential to keep the needs of your customers in mind while moving forward with essential safety precautions. Just like the need to keep your website streamlined and “user-friendly,” it is just as important to remain active on social media so your regulars can see what you are doing to optimize your business during lockdown. Surveys, contests, raffles, online polls are excellent ways to engage with your customers. Social media stories (such as those available on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram) are another, and can be a wonderful way to create daily engagements with your audience in a way that reads as playful, informative, and encouraging. This is the perfect time to get your customers to think of your products in new ways, and perhaps even to try services they may never have considered before.
Start with the technology you already have! Optimize your current use of it and discuss strategies with your marketing team. The survival of your business will depend heavily on how well you can use technology to engage with your customers.
Step 3: Take Steps to Optimize Your Comeback Plan
This is where the real work continues! Once your company has reached a point of self-sustainability, it will be crucial to adapt your current plan to the times. Whether that be in the following weeks, months, or even the next year, you will need to be ready to cater to a larger demand of customers once larger crowds are allowed to patronize your business.
Ads are just the beginning. Once that click brings a customer to your website, you have literally seconds to get them hooked. If you do not know how to do this, talk to your marketing team! From geotargeting to third-party audience data integrations, there are so many different ways to gather much-needed data and use that to your advantage. With the right digital marketing plan in place, you will no longer have to feel quite so lost. You will be free to monitor and create an efficiently streamlined digital experience for all of your current and potential customers.
With the global pandemic throwing the mother of all wrenches into your hard work, it can be difficult to see a silver lining in all this. The truth is, no one really knows just how devastating COVID-19 will prove to be. That is to be discovered in the next many months as the coronavirus continues to affect millions throughout the world. Yet in spite of these many necessary public health precautions, it is important to acknowledge that a silver lining does exist. With more time on your hands to focus on marketing and business optimization, this is the perfect time to recreate your business.
Identify what you can and cannot realistically do. Update your business plan and essential services. Optimize your websites and use of social media! This is the perfect time to work with your marketing team to assess the needs of your business and your community. Develop new marketing tactics and to devise plans to have on standby. If you do this, you will be ready to take action. You will be ready to make use of the most reliable form of digital advertising for your business.
There is no time like the present. Stay focused and reach out to your community. The sooner you take these steps to optimize your business, the sooner you will be able to make the best of the time that is given to you.
If your business could use a marketing strategy realignment, we can help! Contact us to get started.