The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The global economy is on pause, with entire industries halted. While things may start back up again in May or June, we probably won't see a return to "normal" until 2021.
Even if we get the green light to reopen our doors, we can expect consumer confidence to be very low. Customers and clients may be on reduced wages or dealing with slashed budgets. They may be worried about gathering and mingling, or they might have developed new habits and protocols for interacting with brands.
This means that businesses need to be strategic about re-entering the market.
Shutdown-Proof Your Business
The brands that are continuing to thrive throughout the national shutdown are the ones that have been nimble enough to adapt their business model. For example, bookstores are tapping into author and publisher networks to encourage virtual browsing and online shopping. Bars and restaurants are offering pick-up or delivery instead of dine-in experiences, or are selling gift cards and merch instead of booze and food.
If your main source of income has dried up, now's the time to consider pivoting or diversifying your income streams. What can you add to your offerings that will see you through the shutdown, and will make you "shutdown proof" if we face another wave of mandatory closures?
For some businesses, this may mean offering virtual consulting services or a line of branded products. For others, it may mean having enough money in the bank to cover expenses for a month or two. Others again may want to figure out how to minimize overheads and work with a skeleton staff if needed.
Ramp Up Slowly
Just like it did after the 1918 'flu, the economy will reopen, and the market will bounce back. But just how quickly remains to be seen. We expect there to be a degree of uncertainty as businesses and consumers try to adjust to their new normal. This may mean that they spend less, spend slowly, or spend differently.
On top of this, you may be working with less of a financial buffer than you're used to. Maybe you chewed through your savings trying to maintain your payroll or service your debts. Perhaps your clients were slow to pay, or your pipeline dried up during the shutdown.
Both of these factors mean that when life returns to normal, a "soft" opening or relaunch is almost certainly the way to go. Instead of going from 0 - 100, try the "lean startup" approach - ie, launching with the bare minimum.
A hotel may want to begin with a partial opening, and should probably skip booking large events. A restaurant may want to start with just a dinner service and an abbreviated menu - along with reduced seating. An art gallery may want to shorten its hours and open only on its most traditionally busy days.
Get The Word Out
According to FEMA, about 40% of businesses won't reopen after a disaster, and 25% will fail during the following year. For this reason, it's vital to get the word out. After all, there's not going to be one single "official" day on which all businesses reopen.
Before you re-hang your shingle, make sure that your customers, fans, and prospects are aware that you're planning to relaunch, and in what form. Keep them informed via email, newsletters, social media, and outreach campaigns. Invite them in with special offers, or - if it's appropriate - give them a call.
But be mindful that things have changed. A packed launch event probably isn't the way to go now. A physical mail-out may get discarded over safety concerns. Not everything that worked in the "before" will work now, and that's okay. Do what you can, and bit by bit, you'll regain traction - and business sustainability.
For help on developing a business model that will see you through the shutdown and position you to reopen with success, get in touch. The team at StellaPop may be social distancing, but we're still here for you!