This isn’t quite the ‘one year in’ post I was planning to write. But rather than look at what I’ve done in the last year, my first in business, I’m providing my thoughts on what businesses can do help get through this year.
In early March, I quietly celebrated one year of being a full-on freelancer (although these days I prefer ‘small business owner’). I left my job on 12 March 2019 and the year that followed was nothing short of amazing. I was successful and happy; I had flexibility, I was doing work that I love and I was getting in more of those toddler cuddles.
I was so optimistic for 2020. I was going to be brave in business and have my best year yet. And I know that others were feeling the same way. But the universe had different ideas and decided to make this year one we won’t forget for other, more distressing reasons.
In the last week, as time in my calendar has started to free up with client meetings postponed and projects put on hold, I started to consider just shutting up shop for a while and bunkering down with Mr 3.
But my sanity prevailed, and I realised that I’ve been through something similar. Certainly not a global health and economic issue of this magnitude; but in terms of weathering the storm of a downturn in business, I had some experience here.
Lessons from my early career
As the 2008 GFC was approaching, I was working for one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia. As visitation dropped, they were one of the first – if not the first – big organisations to let staff go. I was in PR at the time and, unfortunately for a young 20-something me, I was the first port of call for the ruthless media who wanted their story to be front page. The experience of managing that crisis while living and working through it was one that I have never forgotten.
Despite the scars I bear from that experience, an important lesson I learnt during that challenging time was, during a downturn, you shouldn’t stop marketing.
Throughout the GFC, our marketing efforts at the above-mentioned tourist attraction continued. I kept producing and pitching media stories to gain (free) publicity; the advertising team worked hard to adjust their approach, but never stopped advertising; events were scaled down but went ahead; and the sales team hustled like they’ve never hustled before. And it wasn’t fruitless. Certainly visitation was nothing like the crowds we were used to, but we remained out there in the public eye.
Marketing budgets can seem unnecessary when no-one is buying and are often an easy target to reduce costs when revenue drops. But the market will pick up again, and when it does, it can be harder to re-start your marketing efforts from standing still than if you just kept them moving, even slowly, throughout the downturn.
Don’t stop marketing
My advice to my clients and other small businesses at this time is to keep marketing. Don’t stop doing things that keep your name out there among your customer base. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money; keep posting on social media, keep sending your e-newsletters, and keep producing content for your website. All these activities are free or cheap and you can certainly do them from home.
Inform the public of what you’re doing to support your customers, staff and supply chain during this challenging time. Perhaps your business is changing direction to meet new and urgent needs, like Shane Warne, who’s turning his gin factory into a hand sanitiser production line (I kid you not). Or maybe you’re helping a certain demographic navigate the confusing government support packages. Or you’ve pivoted with the new rules and you’re serving take away meals when you never have before. Have you opened an online shop to continue providing access to your products despite not being able to see your customers in person?
Let your customers know. Just keep your communication relevant to the times and respectful of your audience.
If you have budget put aside, consider building that new website that you had planned for this year anyway. And keep up your advertising in industry or consumer publications and platforms. Those businesses rely on your business as well.
And when the dust settles and our ‘new normal’ emerges, you’ll be on the front foot because you’ve popped up in your customers’ newsfeed (between the overwhelming amount of coronavirus updates) and stayed top-of-mind.
Keep your momentum going
Everyone’s belt is about to get a whole lot tighter, that is for sure. But that doesn’t mean you need to stop your momentum altogether. Keep moving, even if it’s one small social media post at a time. It might not make a big difference to your bottom line now, but see out the next few weeks or months and you’ll be glad you stayed active.
If you’d like to talk to me about what your business can do to keep your marketing activities ticking over during the coming months, give me a call and let’s chat it through.