Since COVID-19, everything in my life has changed. I never thought I’d be working from home. Never thought I’d be discussing copy via Zoom while my teenage kids, in online classes next to me, request that I keep it down. Never thought I’d be required to come up with meal plans beyond pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches without the help of all our local restaurants. I’m not sure when I’ll be back in my office or when my kids will be back at school. Or if I’ll ever master a home-cooked meal. My pivot strategy post COVID? Focus on my sphere of influence (i.e., work, kids, all things local, and safety above all else), and not on my circle of concern (i.e., the unending stream of “what if’s” related to all things outside my sphere of influence).
Things have changed for Pens.com as well. We never thought we’d be pivoting design, production, and manufacturing functions drastically and within a matter of weeks, from backpacks to face masks, from beach towels to shoe covers, from stadium cups to hand sanitizer. And we’re preparing to pivot continuously as our customers (small businesses) slowly emerge post COVID-19—some slightly changed, some more so, and some completely re-imagined.
Pivot strategies in today’s environment are based on flexibility and we’re all learning and adapting together as we start to enter the post-quarantine world. Here are a few tips for a safe, successful transition:
Community is more important now than ever. In times of crisis we realize how critical those in our immediate circle are to both our economic health and our sense of well-being. Assume your customers want to support your business and are looking for ways to do so. If you’re not online, initiate a website and presence on any of the major social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Reddit. Let customers know when you’re opening, what you’re going to be selling, and how delivery will be different.
For tips on engaging customers online, check out our blog post Connecting with Customers on Social Media: 5 Business Tips during COVID-19.
Some aspects of business had already moved online before COVID-19, such as virtual home tours in real estate or healthcare consultations via video. On the other hand, your company may have been a strict brick and mortar but as you reopen you’ll notice some areas where online is a good alternative.
Prior to COVID-19 some gatherings were considered to be in-person only—things like craft classes, group therapy, group cooking classes, and more. People who may prefer the physical safety of their home still want the connection to a consistent group of people working toward a shared goal, and virtual classes can provide that connection.
Before COVID-19 your boutique may only have welcomed walk-in customers. Now you might consider offering a real-time, virtual show-and-tell event highlighting new offerings and fielding questions by customers. Your business may realize the advantage of a group dynamic that can translate to sales in an online setting.
Re-examine what you sell, to whom, and how you’re delivering. When the economic fall-out from COVID-19 first hit Pens.com, we took the opportunity to communicate more closely with our customers. We also learned how to move faster, pivot daily (sometimes hourly), and contribute outside established roles toward a common goal.
Look at approaches you may have resisted making within your business. Maybe your product offerings are due for a change. Maybe your customer demographic has shifted and you’ve delayed shifting with it. Maybe your technology’s out of date. Maybe getting your business online and expanding, from local foot traffic only to online traffic as well, is in order.
When the world shakes us all up, it’s a good time for businesses to pivot and touch ground again looking a little different.
Customers will expect and appreciate physical barriers you implement, like more room between tables at a restaurant, the wearing of masks or other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) by employees and customers, fewer customers in a store at one time, and demarcated spaces for keeping distance while standing in line.
In addition, plan for a more “concierge-style” service, where instead of encouraging employees to, say, look, touch, and try on clothing, test-drive cars, or play with makeup, you’re consulting with each customer one on one, leading them through the purchase process and helping them narrow down the number of items with which they’ll actually be interacting. If you’re a nail salon or hair salon, consider house calls. If you’re a car dealership, consider short-listing viable options via phone or video, and then delivering a short-listed car directly to the customer for a test drive.
Ironically, this more cautious approach tends to end up being more personal. It keeps everyone safer and has the added benefit of creating a more intimate customer experience. With emotional engagement comes loyalty, so plan for this approach to enhance your business, not detract from it.
As we pivot to re-engage our businesses and our customers, our entrepreneurial spirit is our best asset. Remember why you started your business. You identified something you enjoyed offering. You matched that with something people needed or wanted. You executed on a vision to deliver that product or service. We’ll all be tweaking our business model as we emerge to get the offerings and delivery methods right. Expect the recovery process to be just as slow and steady as the crisis was precipitous and dramatic. Use the time to tweak, adjust, and come out stronger.
As you implement your pivot strategy and/or tactics, let customers know you’re open, you’re protecting them, and you’re offering what they need. A few suggestions for open for business marketing products that help you connect with your customers in the coming post-quarantine chapter:
For more ideas, check out all our Health and Safety Custom Products. Some are customizable, some are blank, and all help to keep you and your customers safe.
For more tips on hitting the ground running and reconnecting with your customers post quarantine, check out these blog posts:
Here in my house, the family’s post COVID future looks to hold more oat milk, more “local”, and the shocking realization that the internet does in fact have an end and it looks a lot like a walk in the park.
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