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Sales and Marketing During and After the Coronavirus Crisis

In my last article I discussed strategies for businesses during the Coronavirus crisis: the gazelle and the hedgehog strategies. When the gazelle senses danger it raises its head, looks around, and runs forward. At times it will change direction, but will always continue moving and keep its head up. 

Contrastingly, when the hedgehog senses danger it curls up. Head in and thorns out. It can't see what's happening around it, but hopes its thorns will provide protection.

If, during this current crisis, you choose the hedgehog strategy – this article probably isn't for you.

If however you choose the gazelle strategy, you need to get as much influence as possible over your company's future, its survival and success. 

That isn't a simple task in these uncertain times when we are dependent on previously unknown forces, and so we must move from concern about the future to influencing it.

From Concern to Influence

Dealing with uncertainty, personal anxiety, and concerns about the company's future, can paralyze us. Therefore, before we look ahead for the days after the crisis and our sales in the future, I want to look at the gap between our ability to influence that future, and our concerns regarding it. 

Two years ago I published an article called How to Move from Concern to Influence, or How to Take Responsibility for Results. Below is a summary of that article. 

We are often concerned about things we have no control over. For example, the weather or the spread of Covid-19. 

We can influence the things we have control over. For example, the things we do, or don't do. We can influence our company's sales. 

Our goal is to move things from the domain of concern, to that of influence. To be proactive. To find a way to deal with concerns. 

For example, if rain is expected tomorrow, and I of curse can't prevent it, I will try to find a way to deal with the rain's effects. 

We can strive to do the same regarding the Coronavirus. We can't stop the pandemic. But we need to find business opportunities and to think how to move our business forwards in the new conditions.

The Day After

I think that before we discuss ways to sell during the crisis, it'll be easier to think about "the day after" the crisis, when things will be familiar again, to a degree. From there we can go backwards, until we reach tomorrow morning. 

"The day after" will look a lot like what we've known before, so it's easier to plan for it. 

If we look east, to Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and even China, we can hope and even assume that we'll go back to pre-virus business in a month or two. In any case, it's likely that we'll soon go back to our old habits. 

As far as it's possible to predict:

  • Consumers will quickly regain the "need" or habit of buying. After all, shopping has resumed even during quarantining. Despite imagining horrible scenarios, in a few months we'll look back and see that, while dramatic, this period wasn't very long.
  • Shopping will likely be done mostly online. Previous online shopping trends will gain momentum.
  • Consumers will have less money. It seems the economic crisis will continue after Covid-19. Recovery will be slow.

Note: closed borders mean people will spend their vacations locally, and so will shop locally. In other words, more buying power will stay during the summer, which usually would have spent summer vacation abroad.

How to Act in Light of the Above

  • If the shopping lust returns to previous levels, and shopping will happen mostly online, you need to have an accessible and easy website for customers to use – or a similar solution.
    A surprisingly large number of companies in this day and age don’t have a website, or have one which isn't accessible or doesn’t allow purchasing.
  • Online shopping was a relatively minor phenomenon until recently. Now it seems that post-Coronavirus this will become a large section of sales. So any solution for online shopping should happen quickly. Especially now that consumers have gotten used to it.
  • A quick and inexpensive solution is a landing page. Such platforms can include built-in payment options and cost only a few thousand dollars.
  • If your landing page doesn't include payment options, you need to have a call center, or at least someone who answers the phone number you list online.

The Same is True for B2B Companies 

The above was written with retailers in mind, but surprisingly it's also true for companies selling to business (B2B). More and more purchasing representatives switched to online shopping for materials, components, and parts. This trend will grow now that many companies are working from home. 

Additionally, it's important to remember that those representatives are also private consumers. The personal habits they have outside of work often continue during work hours. That's another reason they could move to online shopping, and you want to be there when they do.

If you're not there then they won't find you, and you'll disappear.

Build Your Image as a Public-Minded Company

Food and Pharma companies put out full page ads telling us how much they work for us and care about our health. They know what they're doing. Their goal is that we'll remember them well after the crisis. We'll remember they cared about us.

McDonald's announced they'll close all their locations due to Covid-19, but will keep 5 locations working to supply medical teams and paramedics with free food. 

First, we must admit this is a masterstroke. Marketing-wise as well. It was reported on the news and the company got an excellent reputation – "they care about us". They gained a lot of points for "the day after". 

Without dismissing their good intentions, I assume the cost of this decision isn't higher than taking out full page ads in the newspapers. 

Now, think what you can do to show solidarity with your clients or consumers. And if you're a small company, have a few meetings to brainstorm ideas which will both benefit you, and show solidarity.

Discover New Opportunities

Not all companies are experiencing a reduction in sales. Sales of food, masks and gloves, cleaners and disinfectants – are all increasing. 

Of course there are products and services which were in demand before the crisis and aren’t so now, and those sales are down. 

I suggest the following:

  1. Abilities. Pick a team of representatives from all fields in your company (sales, manufacturing, logistics, engineering, etc.) and map your abilities.
  2. Needs. A different team should map all needs in the market currently. Let your imagination run wild and don’t limit yourself to your existing products.
    Note: both teams should have different participants, to promote creativity. But of course, if you’re a small company, one team can be enough.
  3. Now look at both lists, and match possible needs to your abilities. Of course, certain abilities can answer several needs.
    Take care not to fall victim to the negation trap. Look at the lists with an open mind and don’t immediately dismiss needs as unanswerable.
  4. Once you've matched needs and abilities, try to estimate the market's size, existing competitors, and what advantages you have over them.
    You can be more in-depth and use the Lean Canvas model.
    Remember, the market will recover slowly, and global mobility will also be slow in the upcoming months. Take that into account when you analyze the market.
  5. Prioritize the opportunities you've identified and create a work plan to actualize them.
    It's possible that without you've noticed, the current crisis has opened a new market for your company.

An Example – Finding New Opportunities for a Travel Agency

I assume that without flights and with closed borders, many travel agencies have closed. Let's challenge ourselves to find new opportunities for them. 

Mapping abilities (with the help of a friend with many years' experience in the field): 

Able to sell to an individual consumer over the phone or face-to-face. 

Good customer relations, listening skills, and communication. 

Able to form a personal and trustful connection. 

Intelligent, knowledge of geography, foreign languages (at least English).

Experience with communicating globally, with colleagues, institutions, etc. 

Knowledge of regulations in the field. 

Experience working online, including internet searches. 

Note: my experience shows that most people in Israel will avoid communicating with unfamiliar people in English, especially verbally (and the same is true for all foreign languages). 

Even those who know how to book a hotel online, will avoid doing the same even in slightly different fields (like with attractions, car rentals, etc.).

Mapping needs (this part I did on my own, and I missed the ability to brain storm with others):

Locating components, parts, medications, globally.

Locating suppliers globally, comparing prices and quality.

Locating specific people globally – either ones you've lost touch with, or ones you've never met.

Locating second-hand equipment or machines. 

Summarizing the example: without a doubt, mapping global and local needs with a group of six or seven people would have resulted in more options. 

The next stage, in this hypothetical, would have been for the agency's manager to lead a process matching abilities with needs, and choosing a new development direction. In that way, instead of closing the business indefinitely, maybe for good – a new opportunity could arise.

Summary and Recommendations

Covid-19 caused a sharp economic decline, almost a standstill. Many people sit at home, due to quarantining, school closures, and closed business and lay-offs or furloughs. 

Some companies are still working, and the question hovering over them is – are they getting orders. 

Except for companies in foods, medical supplies, and maybe a few other fields, many need to reinvent themselves to survive in the current market. 

One of the major changes we're seeing is a more massive move to online shopping. Today, because of quarantining, tomorrow because it will become a habit. 

Is your company ready for this change?

In my experience, many companies don’t have a website, or don’t allow online purchases, or don't show up in google searches. 

Building an online marketing and sales platform is the first thing you should do. The second is to think about solidarity. Many of your clients are anxious. If you can show solidarity with them, show that their important to you and you care about them, they'll remember it later. 

The third thing to do is rethink your products or services. If you don’t have sales, find new opportunities. I presented a way to map your abilities and new opportunities, and how to pivot to a new direction. A direction which can generate sales during this pandemic, and maybe in the future too.

Most importantly, be proactive; don’t sit around waiting for a miracle.

My team and I work with several companies, and see a wide picture. So, if you're interested in our professional help in dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, the best way to do so is to contact me through my website here.

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