What customers want and need in times of abundance can be very different from their wants and needs during and after a crisis. Given the widespread impact of sheltering-in-place, this is a good time to examine how your customers' needs may have changed. When everyone is back in business again, will you continue to operate as usual, or would it be more beneficial to reposition the products and services you offer in order to remain relevant to clients moving forward?
With a possible end to the shutdown in sight, this is a good time to examine your business inside and out to be ready for what comes next. For starters, what will you do to help employees and customers feel safe given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19? Here are some other factors to consider.
Products and Services
What do your customers need most right now with regard to your goods and services, and what will be their greatest need as they work to get their families and teams back on track? Determine how your existing offerings can meet their needs, if there are improvements that would make your offer more attractive, or if it is time to design an altogether new solution.
Sales and Marketing
Was your business doing as well as you would like prior to the pandemic? If you were generating fewer leads or converting fewer leads into customers than anticipated, chances are it is time to learn more about the people you are in business to serve and update your ideal customer profile.
The more you know about your ideal customer and how and why he or she makes decisions to buy, the more likely you are to craft a message that resonates directly with each potential client. Use the new messaging to update your website, capability statement, social media sites, proposals, and other collateral used when reaching out to your audience.
Find out what characteristics
of your customers have in common--are they of a certain age group, gender, geographic location, lifestyle, profession, income, or special interest group? A better understanding of customers will also help you determine exactly how and where to find leads in large numbers--face to face, and online. Some questions to ask past and current customers:
- What made you do business with us?
- What do you like about working with us, and what could we do to improve the experience?
- How do you view our company in comparison with our competitors?
- What professional, business and social organizations are you a member of?
- Who inspires you?
- What are your favorite sources of news and information?
- What publications do you subscribe to or read?
- Where do you connect on social media?
- What social media groups do you participate in?
The answers will help you decide exactly where you will spend your next advertising dollars, where to network, and how to keep new contacts engaged until they become paying customers.
If you have all the leads you need and are not converting at the best possible rate, an analysis of sales activities can help to reveal where in the process qualified prospects tend to lose interest. Examine what happens at every touchpoint in your sales funnel and determine how you can adjust to get better results. In addition, examine the relationship between marketing and sales departments to make sure sales and marketing activities are well aligned.
This is a good time to give past, current, and potential customers a sense that you are more concerned about them than your bottom line. The formula for accomplishing that goal will be different for every business. But be aware that unless you are offering face masks and hand sanitizer right now, this is not the best time to push sales.
Try building a better connection with your audience by first sending a message(s) letting them know their wellbeing matters to you, providing information and resources that can truly help them have a better experience as they work through the shutdown. People who feel you truly care will likely be more receptive to your next attempt to sell. When you
sell, make sure your offer is more heavily focused on how the customer will benefit from using the product or service than on your business.
Consider conducting a survey to find out how current customers are doing, how much value they feel you are providing, and what you can do to create an even better customer experience. Using the survey results to improve customer service can lead to greater customer satisfaction, retention, and more repeat business.
Are your employees deliriously happy or do you feel the team could use a boost in morale? A survey of your team members can reveal what actions you might take to increase employee satisfaction. There may be adjustments you can make to enhance employee training, benefits, collaboration, incentives, productivity, and communication. Investments in these areas can often amount to a great deal of savings by winning trust, reducing employee turnover, and enhancing your ability to build an experienced team that enthusiastically helps you achieve your business goals.
Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM) provides a robust variety of resources and tools designed to help businesses put best practices into place during the COVID crisis, and at all times.
Business Continuity Plan
Now that you have seen first-hand how a state of emergency can affect your business, it is time to take stock of how this crisis has affected your company. Consider what you handled well during this period, what did
go as you would hope, and what you can do in order to be better prepared next time around.
Did your company have enough reserves on hand to offset the impact of the health emergency? No doubt, there are adjustments you can make to be in a stronger financial position for any future crises. For example, you might be able to reduce overhead by taking more of your business online. If your company does not qualify for finances to help with recovery, meet with your banker and develop a strategy to qualify in the future.
Scalability & Sustainability
Perhaps businesses that do best during and after the crisis are those that have sound processes and built-in systems that allow them to function more efficiently, saving them time and money. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or have a large team, you can benefit from creating or improving clear, repeatable processes employees can follow and use automation to keep those processes flowing smoothly for sustainable growth. Put those frequent, repeatable tasks on autopilot with built-in reminders to ensure you don't miss tasks that require action from a team member.
There is a variety of customer relationship management (CRM) and project management tools on the market, all designed to help small businesses automate activities from sales to onboarding, program/product delivery, customer service, bookkeeping and more.
An investment of time to find and put the right systems in place can help your company accomplish more, saving time and money, allowing you to run farther, faster, and get your business back on track.