The 2020 pandemic has created a difficult business climate for some entrepreneurs while others have prospered because of the pandemic.
Business Life and Death in the Time of Covid
It has been a strange game of winners and losers.
If you own a business that sells sports equipment -- such as bikes, running shoes and camping gear -- you are having your best year ever.
The pandemic lockdown has limited people's options for work-life balance. We can't go to a movie theater or a concert, for example. So, we take up biking, running or head to the campgrounds, to get in touch with nature perhaps, but mostly to get the heck out of the living quarters we've been stuck in for months.
Hence, the sports and outdoor equipment store is doing well. Best year ever.
Similarly, if you own property in Florida that you rent out in the winter to folks fleeing cold weather, you have a whole new crop of customers who might normally have toughed out the cold but who now have no desire to spend the upcoming winter months cooped up in lockdown mode. Business is booming for vacation rentals.
But most businesses are not so lucky. Restaurants are earning a fraction of what they used to. Salons are hurting. Theaters are still shut down. The list goes on and on.
For small-business marketers, it's possibly the toughest challenge they will ever face.
Marketing Advice for Pandemic-Afflicted Business Owners
The key to surviving this pandemic is to be thoughtful, nimble and creative.
In many cases, businesses are having to reinvent the fundamentals of what they do.
For restaurants that have never relied on online orders, delivery and carryout, the ability to pivot in that direction has literally been a do-or-die undertaking during this pandemic. This requires not only operational expertise but also marketing expertise.
Similarly, many other businesses have had to shut down certain offerings and venture into new territory that can bring in new revenue streams, to capitalize on opportunity but also, in some cases, just to survive.
Marketers must throw out the old playbook and recognize that they have to promote fundamentally different businesses. Seriously, just rip up your old marketing plan and start over.
Old marketing budgets and plans are now obsolete. Maybe you were the king of event marketing in the past. Well, that's not going to work well during a pandemic. Shift that marketing spend over to online demand generation channels and master that discipline. Hire new marketers with that expertise if you have to, or hire an agency. It's not really the time to be navigating a slow learning curve, as every second matters during a pandemic.
Think hard regarding how the dynamics of the pandemic might create new areas of focus for your marketing plan.
For example, you probably know that physical therapy businesses are not doing well in these challenging times. Lockdowns prevented customer visits in many cities and states, but beyond that people have avoided elective surgeries, such as hip replacements and knee surgeries, during the pandemic.
Nobody wants to risk going to a hospital, or even visit their doctor if it can be avoided. That's not good for physical therapy businesses.
Owners of physical therapy companies historically have gotten most of their business from doctor referrals, often prompted by those surgeries we mentioned. That marketing channel is not productive at the moment.
So what would you do in this situation?
A smart marketer for a physical therapy business might home in on all the new runners we mentioned above, the ones who are creating a boom year for the sporting goods store.
Get over to that running shoes store and get a partnership in place that allows you to promote your physical therapy business with signage and, perhaps, with free physical therapy assessments.
New runners are going to get injured. You need to be there to help them. It might not make up for all the business you've lost due to the dearth of physician and surgeon referrals, but it could be enough to keep the lights on.
Whatever your business, you can apply this type of creative thinking to find veins of opportunity that will help you avoid the worst-case scenario of having to close down your business.
Businesses will live and die based on how thoughtful, nimble and creative their marketing is.
This is a time when marketers can be heroes, or they can be goats. It's not a time to feel sorry for yourself or blame the politicians who are protecting people from the pandemic. It's a time for action.
If you haven't done it already, rip up your old pre-pandemic marketing plan and get busy writing a new one.
You may find that you learn a few new tricks that will make your business even more prosperous and resilient when better days arrive, which is only a matter of time.
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