Fighting COVID-19 with Connection, Creativity and Community. We've got to think differently.
¨COVID-19 ... an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus¨ (Source: World Health Organization) is causing upheavals in the economy across the planet. In an age of globalisation and trade networks that are inextricably interconnected, no one is spared the domino effect of what is happening. Being interconnected has helped to increase wealth and opportunities and it has also made everyone more vulnerable.
COVID-19 is changing the way people work, live and interact with one another. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says, ¨... everybody in the country, at a minimum, should be following the fundamental guidelines. Elderly, stay out of society in self isolation. Don't go to work if you don't have to .... No bars, no restaurants, no nothing. Only essential services.¨ (Source: Sciencemag.org)
This means that any contact with family and friends, being able to work, getting entertainment and even having access to some essential services are going online.
Digital Transformation is making its presence felt right now.
Australia is also battling the COVID-19 and is in fact, still reeling from the aftermath of other natural catastrophes. Droughts, bush fires and floods have really battered the country. COVID-19 is the last thing Australia needs. Local businesses are suffering.
It is human to need time to let this sudden change in our lives sink in. There are things businesses can do to be proactive and look at what they can realistically do to help with damage control, adapt to the situation and find a way to keep moving on. We love what Pai Skincare is doing to adapt their business and be socially proactive. They addressed the national shortage of hand sanitising gel and gave away their first batch 100% free to local nurseries, local schools, local elderly people in their community, supermarket workers amongst others. Watch how they do it here.
In times like this, local businesses need to band together as a community to move forward. Let's stay open, ready and available to ride out these tough times together with innovative and creative solutions.
We are so proud of so many of our clients at Vermilion Pinstripes. They also have been incredibly creative in managing the difficult situation brought about by COVID-19. Many businesses require the physical presence of people to operate. With the need for physical distancing and adhering to the recommended two-person limit for gatherings, businesses are moving their physical location to a digital one. This allows them to continue offering services and create new ones while helping customers stay safe and abide by quarantine rules.
We may need to be physically separate, but we can be socially connected.
Dr. Maria Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist says, ¨...we want people to still remain connected ... find ways through the Internet and through different social media to remain connected because your mental health going through this is just as important as your
physical health.¨ (Source: iflscience.com)
- My Body My Pilates is providing pilates coaching online.
- Movement Labs is considering expanding their online options and capabilities e.g. selling products online, coaching online.
- My Blue Tea is providing a Buy-and-Drop-at-Your-Door service and is currently running a "Stay at Home Recipes" campaign where subscribers get free product samples to try out recipes.
The situation is making business owners more innovative and creative. There are three Cs that businesses can focus on during this COVID-19 situation - Connection, Creativity and Community.
Many people who are critical about social media and social networks are now immensely grateful for its existence. It is helping people connect at a time when everyone is physically isolated. Even more so, this is a time when connection is essential to help people cope with the stress and fear. Considering the people in the most severely affected areas are not able to leave their homes and the Internet is the only thing that connects them with the rest of the planet, social networks then become a very powerful way to reach out to your customers. As a business, you may not be able to receive customers in your shop, but you can still connect with them digitally. Take a look at all the different digital channels you are already using to connect with your customers.
At this time, communicate, inform and update your customers and your employees. Attach videos and voice messages in emails. They will appreciate your guidance.
Relook at your brand messages and offers. A great time to make improvements and enhance your call to action. Brief your employees on how they should be talking to customers. A great time to demonstrate your brand's purpose.
If you are selling products or standard services, create a Facebook shop and connect that with your online shop for an easy shopping experience. It's the best time to embark on the right tools to deliver the most impact.
Audit your website and SEO and up the game on searchability.
Use Zoom for meetings and as a platform to deliver your services (take the example from My Body My Pilates).
Invest some time on business and professional development. Grow!
Our team are based around the globe so we are used to working remotely (sometimes with our four-legged colleagues), so we are used to tools like Slack and Trello for project management; HubSpot for sales marketing automation and content management; Zoom, Skype and What's App for communications etc. Yes, we're tool nerds ;) But that helps us with being open, connected, always ready and available.
Brainstorm all the creative ways you can maximise your digital presence. A dance studio does not have to hang up their dancing shoes and give up. Why not create live videos so customers can take a class at home? Encourage fun and creativity by asking your customers to share a little choreography of their own to a set music you have selected and even make it into a poll and get them to choose their favourite among those who submit entries.
Educational institutions can use this time for knowledge sharing and put up in-demand content online. Our bodies may be physically confined to a space but our minds are not. What a great opportunity to get some learning going and show your customers you are the leader in your field. If you offer health or beauty products, why not put up a demo of how to do some simple pampering at home with those products?
Gift certificates or vouchers are also a great way to keep customers connected to you after the crisis blows over, and mentally it is a way to assure people that this current situation is not permanent. This will pass and your business will still be there ready to receive customers.
Write more blogs to showcase your brand's stories. Storytelling is a warm, intimate way to connect with your customers. It keeps your brand, products and services "alive" and gives a sense of continuity during this period when time feels like it has temporarily stopped.
Support your Community
Australian qualifying families and pensioners will receive $750 as part of the government's handouts and are being encouraged to spend it on local businesses in Australia. The Micro Business forum (MBF) is asking for businesses to submit their offers so we can help promote them. During periods of crisis, what really motivates people to keep going and not give up is the solidarity from all sectors stepping in to support each other. It's just one wonderful example of coming together as a community.
At a difficult time like this, businesses need to bring out the human side in them. A little empathy, consideration and support can go a really long way during this time. A business can think about all the stakeholders involved and see what they can do to help relieve some stress. If an event has to be cancelled, offering refunds or credits can help. It is also a wise move as emotionally it connects your customers with you. They see you as a trusted, responsible entity that cares for them and this is key in keeping their loyalty to you. Our client, My Body My Pilates offered an extension of their customers' package to the end of 2020, and gave an additional option for customers who have to leave the country to receive a refund for what is left in their package.
Some businesses can take this opportunity to help uplift other businesses by offering free coaching to the community. Talk to businesses in your industry and crowd-source ideas. This is not the time to be competitive or isolated. Businesses need each other to survive tough periods and thrive.
The most important thing right now is to show that you care. Again, what better way to demonstrate your brand's purpose?
Show empathy, offer help, give value and engage with your customers and followers at this time.
Communicate with them over the phone, via emails and social media on how you will now operate.
At Vermilion Pinstripes, we have seen many businesses suffer difficult periods. Being "always ready" has helped us to keep going through any kind of unpredictability. This enables a business to be robust and flexible enough to keep going and not be displaced easily. As a modern business, you want to be prepared for changes, whether they are serious, unpredictable ones like natural catastrophes, or neverending technological advances, or a sudden change in industry trend because of customer whims or simply changes in compliance, laws or regulations.
COVID-19 has kicked all of us out of our comfort zones. It is a painful, costly and humbling lesson to learn, for political leaders, businesses and people. "Always ready" is a characteristic we need to implement into our businesses as soon as we are out of the difficult period. Right now, by connecting with our community and getting creative, businesses can come together to survive, and thrive in time to come.
We have helped numerous clients think differently and build business confidence: different smarter go-to-market sales strategies, different integrated modern marketing that helps clients sell without selling, different messaging that builds admirable brands. We believe we can help you too.
On Friday, 27 March at 11am, we were supposed to conduct a "Thrive with Modern Marketing" workshop in Melbourne. Due to COVID-19, it was tweaked to a webinar, to give you the knowledge and confidence to invest your shrinking budgets into top marketing actions that keep you in the game, as market conditions continue to change.
We will be sharing a summary of the webinar's content soon.
Meanwhile, here's a Free workplace communications template for simple and effective workplace communications during COVID-19.
The purpose of Vermilion Pinstripes is to build business confidence by creating brand experiences that people love using modern marketing techniques.