The shared experience of the pandemic impacted every small business differently. Let’s see how two companies, from vastly different sectors, dealt with the crisis and overcame lockdown obstacles amid an unprecedented and unexpected event.
What were the toughest COVID-19 induced challenges your company faced?
Online Marketing Gurus: As a digital business, we were in a good position to transition operations fully online when lockdown measures began. But like every business, we still encountered the scariest challenge: uncertainty. And on the business front, uncertainty most directly impacts cash flow. Truth is, the biggest challenge has proved the need to pivot often and drastically at every turn, and in some ways this has proved an opportunity. Despite the big question mark over the future, we’re still finding ways to plan strategically for the growth of the teams and the business. Plus, during a period where events and other face-to-face interaction isn’t possible, digital marketing proves a really valuable growth channel for us and our clients.
Engage4Insights: Once the lockdown started, many businesses of course, like ours, had to close doors. Business owners were completely preoccupied with ‘survive’ issues – finances, staff, applying for subsidies and so on. Which left very little head space for people to think about preparing to ‘thrive’ post-lockdown – for example managing customer relationships, and creating strategies for pivoting the business if needed. These are things that many business consultants, like us, advocated as opportunities, but understandably in the shock of the moment were not always heard.
What worked or didn’t work for your company to survive the lockdown?
Online Marketing Gurus: It’s important to remember that even during tough times, there are still opportunities to be found. This period has forced us to challenge the status quo — what’s necessary? What really works? Through having these conversations and exploring the data to back it up, hopefully this leads businesses to make more evidence-based decisions for years to come.
Engage4Insights: We found our Engage2Innovate podcast worked really well during this time. We’ve increased listenership because of what we’ve just mentioned, as the human connection, delivering thoughtful advice from a range of experts. Including running a think-tank episode with a panel. We’ve been having enjoyable, stimulating chats in LinkedIn comments with a sense of community around an issue. Simply sharing, being kind and helpful, not hypey and hard-sell, is resonating – which is also our personal belief.
As restrictions ease, what has been the biggest takeaway your company learned for future-proofing?
Online Marketing Gurus: Give back. During this period of uncertainty, we’re blown away by the spirit of generosity in the business community. We’ve all had to make tough decisions and ask the difficult questions. Ultimately, giving back wherever possible is what’s going to help us all come out stronger. As a team we’ve hatched a few ways of giving back. From starting the Marketing Hotline (free C-suite marketing advice, on the house) to launching a handful of freebies for our clients and subscribers, we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback so far.
Engage4Insights: Risk management needs to be taken more seriously, because it’s not only about the ongoing effects of COVID-19, but potential threats such as other pandemics, climate change, geo-political shakeups, and trade wars. For customers, whether B2C or B2B, there’s a greatly heightened need for trust, safety, and a sense of supportive community. Having the EQ to understand what people are experiencing is essential in the long-term, for a business to build into their product/services offering and communications.
Contributing editors: Andrew Raso, CEO & Co-Founder, Online Marketing Gurus - Digital Marketing Judy Celmins, Business Director, Engage4Insights - Business Consulting