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Doing Business In a Pandemic? Here’s what you need to know

This isn’t a headline we ever thought we’d write, but now more than ever, Australian businesses need to embrace digital-readiness. In the coming months, businesses are going to rely more than ever on a robust digital strategy to stay competitive, or even make it through.

As the coronavirus continues, both Australia and the world are experiencing massive social and economic disruption. Consumer behaviours and demands are in flux, while face-to-face channels have almost completely evaporated, forcing radical changes to the way businesses operate.

According to the experts at Harvard Business School, these changes will rewrite the future of business – more strategic remote work, breaking down silos and helping people to help each other.

But many businesses are struggling, especially those who rely on those face-to-face channels to drive sales. What does business development look like in a crisis, when social distancing and avoiding non-essential travel spell the end of coffee catch-ups and foot traffic? You’ve worked hard in your business, and hard on your business for so long, and you may be worried what’s next.

Fortunately for many businesses, we live in a golden age of digital technology, with so much potential that has often been overlooked. Digital can open doors for businesses in many sectors, even those who’ve previously focused on doing sales, marketing and operations the “traditional” way. The power of digital to drive profits and build a stronger economy isn’t news; the Australian Government has been supporting businesses to go digital for many years, even forming a Small Business Digital Taskforce to spread the word that adopting and successfully implementing digital technologies can:

  • Save time that business owners can spend with family or reinvested in the business
  • Provide the flexibility and mobility to work ‘anywhere, anytime’
  • Increase revenue by reaching new customers and markets.

This all sounds promising, right? It gets better. PWC estimates that a whopping $49.2 billion of untapped economic potential could be released to the Australian economy if small businesses embrace mobile and internet technologies to transform their operations. (Read the report here, it’s mind-blowing!)

For many businesses, the push towards exploring new ways of doing things has been both unexpected and rushed. Going digital takes a strategic approach; but if done right, you’ll find that this change has become your new normal, leading to business done better in the future.
Businesses that go digital, and do it well, are likely to come up on top.

Companies – including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns. – Bernard Marr, Forbes

Here’s five effective tips that successful businesses are embracing digital to ride the waves of uncertainty, transforming their business practices in these difficult times in ways that will serve them well moving forward.

LinkedIn is the new coffee catchup.

Especially if you’re in the B2B space, effective content marketing is more important than ever. Normally, you’d usually be building relationships of trust in person – through networking events, introductions, trade shows and so on. Your LinkedIn may be sparse or non-existent.

The new normal is building your reputation, establishing yourself as a thought leader, and showing prospective clients why you’re the best at what you do. When used well, LinkedIn is a powerful tool to build networks, while serving as the face of your business.

And with other businesses in the same boat, the playing field is levelled. Prospective clients aren’t going for those coffee catch-ups with your competition; they’ll be checking out their LinkedIn, and yours. Make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Understand your customer, and their journey.

Digital marketing offers incredible power not only to reach new customers, but to understand what works and what doesn’t with which customers. For example, a restaurant offering a food delivery promotion can hyper-target certain customers within a certain radius at a certain time, appealing to people who are social distancing but still have the dinnertime munchies. Of course, “people” isn’t a target demographic, so effective digital advertising would narrow this down, with a very different strategy to reach urban professionals in their 20s compared to time-starved parents.

To maximise sales, and ROI on your efforts, you’d also do A/B testing and optimise your campaigns further to understand what is most effective, when and where, and with who. When you’ve got this down pat, you can see some serious wins!

Use the right tools.

Technology can be a powerful timesaver. Dealing with a lot of emails? Spending more time on admin than in the business? Suddenly delivering your service on video instead of face-to-face? With so many technology options available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed; but introducing technology just for technology’s sake can be an expensive mistake.

This is a great time to explore what digital tools will make life easier for you and your business. From CRMs to marketing automation, social media scheduling tools to SEO analysers, electronic direct mail to artificial intelligence… No two businesses are alike, and what works for you will depend on many factors. It’s important to do your research, or get expert advice – chat with us for a digital audit!

Get found.

Your digital presence matters now more than ever. Whether people are Googling to find a puppy school with online lessons, or on Pinterest looking for comfy furnishings to make their living room more hygge, you want to be found by high-quality leads looking for a product or service like yours; as well as finding your tribe, you want your tribe to find you.

Businesses across sectors and across the world are getting a digital facelift. It’s time to look at SEO, social and PR strategies that will keep you front-page and top-of-mind.

Share your story.

With people looking online more than ever, you have a chance to express yourself and your values like never before. This isn’t easy to achieve without digital – especially if you were relying on foot traffic, or even on an elevator pitch. But with digital, “marketing communications” becomes easier than ever – by the time someone’s found you online and come to your website or social media, they’re already at least a bit interested, and effective storytelling can close the deal.

Let’s take accounting, for example. There’s over a thousand accountants in Western Australia – how does a customer choose which one to go with? A marketing concept called “positioning” is a significant factor: creating an image for your product or service. While everyone lodges tax returns, the image of H&R Block is quite different from PWC, as are the markets they appeal to.

How about watches? Both a Rolex and a Baby-G tell time, but their branding couldn’t be more different.

It’s time to think about what you want your business to be known for, and what image you want to create online.

Stay connected.

This is a stressful time for employers and employees alike; as well as the looming threat of COVID-19, you’re likely worried about your business sustainability, and how you’re going to pay the mortgage or rent. Your people are too, and especially if they’re working from home, they may be feeling isolated and afraid.

Managing a remote team is a skill in itself. You need to maintain that sense being a team, and connection to each other. When you rarely see each other face-to-face anymore, it’s easy to think of the people you’ve worked with closely in the office as just another person sending emails to your inbox.

This is the time to reach out and provide leadership, to provide the right tools for communication and collaboration, to check in on how they’re feeling and make sure they know you’re weathering this storm together.

The digital world offers great tools to do that. In our office, we love Slack, Airtable and ActiveCollab, and we’ve been using these tools constantly even when we’re in the office! As lovers of all things digital, we’ve all adapted quickly to working remotely and online. But it’s important to understand that some of your people may be struggling with social distancing and working remotely – and sometimes, the best thing you can do is pick up the phone!

Want to know more? At Glide: The Digital ROI Agency, we’re passionate about helping businesses to succeed in our ever-changing world. Especially in this turbulent time, we’d love to help you explore how to harness the power of digital to carry on kicking business goals.

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