Business Development in an Age of Uncertainty and Coronavirus
Written by Leigh Ebrom
Now that COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has gained a foothold in the United States, you’re probably discussing your business continuity plan. This plan likely includes telecommuting options, office disinfection, and other contingencies. However, as numerous trade shows and conferences get postponed or canceled, it’s also time to consider new ways to build and nurture your business’ relationships.
Today’s world is a complicated, confusing place, even before we knew about the novel coronavirus. At LaFleur, we believe that you don’t need to panic, but it’s always good to be prepared.
In this article, we’ll discuss some practical strategies you can use to make sure your business development operations can thrive in the face of uncertainty.
Global Pandemics Typically Cause a Temporary Economic Downturn
Historically, global pandemics and other health crises have hurt the economy, at least in the short term. This economic suppression effect generally happens because of market uncertainty, supply chain issues, and decreased productivity. COVID-19 is no different; we’re seeing remarkable market volatility, and many businesses are cutting back on travel and face-to-face meetings.
However, once an illness becomes contained or controlled, we almost always see a dramatic rebound in demand. People feel anxious to get back to their normal life and regain any losses their businesses suffered during the outbreak.
While we don’t know a lot about the coronavirus’ trajectory, we can safely assume that once our doctors and researchers identify treatment options and promote effective public health strategies, life will settle down and we can get back to business.
Business Development and Coronavirus: It’s Time to Go Digital
As of March 4, 2020, at least 440 trade shows and conferences had been canceled or postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to The Wall Street Journal. SXSW even canceled its popular annual conference and festival in Austin, Texas due to pressure from public health officials. Instead, organizers say they’re planning a virtual “online experience” for this year.
If you’ve been slow to embrace digital workspaces and online marketing, now is the time. These platforms and tactics may be essential to your operations if your team cannot get to the office.
Make Sure the Tools Your Team Needs Are on the Cloud
In China, many workers had to telecommute for one to two months (many in Wuhan and Hubei are still working remotely). While we don’t know whether your team will get stuck at home for that long, you’ll want to give them the tools they need in case the worst happens.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can your team securely access all of their files and tools off-site?
- Does everyone know how to use your digital workspaces?
- Can you reroute business phones and messaging from your physical location to mobile phones and other electronic devices?
- Do you have standard communication channels that encourage off-site discourse and information sharing (like Slack)?
- How would you delegate tasks if key stakeholders on your team were unable to work?
For example, at LaFleur, all of our files and core applications are available on the cloud. Our team can securely access them anywhere and from any device. We also use password management tools that allow us to share login data instantly with other team members, and our office phones can be easily forwarded to our team members’ mobile phones. Just as importantly, we’re continually working together on Slack. These tools give us remarkable agility and should help us maintain relatively normal operations even in the worst-case scenarios.
If you want to start building cloud or digital workspaces for your business and you aren’t sure where to start, we highly recommend Virtual Systems. From telecommuting and bring-your-own-device solutions to backup and disaster recovery, they serve as our go-to IT experts.
RELATED: 6 Steps to Better Video Marketing
Embrace Videoconferencing and Make Time for Small Talk
You may already have an account with a videoconferencing service like Zoom or GoToMeeting. During a pandemic, these services can become a vital lifeline that lets you maintain communication with your team and clients. If you already have a videoconferencing account, ask yourself if you have enough licenses to accommodate your entire team; it may be wise to add a few seats to your account. You should also make sure that your employees have devices with working cameras and microphones at home.
A lot of organizations are building up their videoconferencing capabilities in preparation for COVID-19. In fact, my child’s school already has plans in place that will let teachers work remotely with their students and allow students to collaborate online through video.
Many people complain that video conferencing isn’t the same as a face-to-face meeting, and there’s truth to that. However, I know people who have built robust and meaningful relationships with colleagues around the world, including some they’ve never met in person.
Think about how your face-to-face meetings typically occur:
- You sit down, make small talk, and get to know them
- You get to business, sharing information and discussing your needs or goals
- You wrap up your meeting with goodbyes and more pleasant small talk
Those bookends of chatter are just as important as the “real” work. They are where you get to know your lead or customer and build up rapport. If you’re skipping those times in your video conferences, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Because it’s easy for people to hang up immediately after a video conference ends, we suggest allotting some time for casual conversation at the beginning. Don’t jump immediately to the matter at hand. Instead, ease your way into the meeting by incorporating a virtual watercooler session.
Re-evaluate Your Lead Nurturing Techniques
A powerful CRM (customer relationship management) and email automation platform can supplement your in-person lead nurturing. For example, if you’re unable to attend a conference or tradeshow due to travel limitations and health concerns, you can use webinars, drip campaigns, and videos to share your announcements and releases with your leads and customers.
Your webinars and videos don’t need high production values. We’ve had clients use the camera on a newer smartphone to stream or record videos for press conferences and YouTube. While a professional camera will provide better results, it’s surprising how effective even a no-frills webinar or video can be.
Use This Time to Review Your Marketing and Development Strategies
If you’re experiencing a business lull, now is a great time to prepare for an influx of leads once the market stabilizes and the coronavirus becomes controlled. If you’ve been holding off on a website refresh or improvements, take this time to strengthen your digital marketing resources.
This process typically starts with a comprehensive audit that examines how your current website and ad campaigns are performing. Then, your marketing partner will suggest ways you can attract more traffic and generate more leads, often by using a mixture of compelling design, well-written content, and targeted paid advertising.
LaFleur: Your Agile and Forward-Looking Digital Marketing Partner
At LaFleur, we design and implement practical and effective marketing strategies, even during uncertain times. If your business needs help reaching leads and clients, we can help you identify cost-effective solutions such as email and ad campaigns, webinars, website updates, and videos. To learn more, we’d love to chat with you on the phone or during a video conference.
Eaton, C. Elliott, R., & Findell, E. (2020, March 4). Coronavirus is devastating the conference circuit. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-is-devastating-the-conference-circuit-11583317802
Knight, D. (2020, March 6). SXSW 2020 already planning to reschedule after cancellation, working on ‘virtual,’ ‘online experience.’ KVUE. Retrieved from https://www.kvue.com/article/entertainment/events/sxsw/sxsw-cancelled-festival-working-to-reschedule/269-081f5cc8-a6f7-4951-9ee1-154a71613b9e