Covid-19: How Your Business Should Respond To Coronavirus Pandemic
Covid-19: How Your Business Should Respond To Coronavirus Pandemic
Covid-19: How Your Business Should Respond To Coronavirus Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has now reached a critical phase and governments and health systems alike are acting to contain its spread. Nigeria has recorded more than 45 cases and the government is shutting its borders to high-risk states, closing schools and the NYSC camps and urging people to refrain from large gatherings in confined spaces.

The main emphasis is (as should be) on containing the spread of the virus. However, there are economic implications for many businesses and decision makers are deciding how to react to unfolding events. Beyond sending vague emails to consumers and having extended boardroom meetings, it is worth highlighting key recommendations for businesses owners and brand custodians in responding and adapting to the crisis.

The first step is to stop with the “hard-sell” marketing. A global pandemic is the time for businesses to show their human and empathetic side. Continuing “business as usual” posts, offering discounts and pushing value propositions is not what your business needs right now. The effect of a business continuing as usual with regular lifestyle posts and hard sell marketing messages on social media or hosting events that bring large crowds together is that the business can very easily be perceived as insensitive or worse– desperate.

This is the time to think of the steps you can take to support people: members of staff, consumers and other companies that find themselves in difficult situations. Restaurants are offering free or heavily discounted meals to medical practitioners, online educational sites are giving information at no cost, artists are hosting live concerts on instagram and food delivery companies are launching contactless delivery.

Next is to figure out where the opportunity lies. While it might be tempting to tighten the reins of your marketing and operational budget amid concerns about the crisis, halting all operations and spending could have an even more crippling impact on your business. Instead, remember that every crisis presents an opportunity waiting to be tapped and you can dig deep and ask yourself “what need did not exist before that now does as a result of this situation?”

We have seen great initiatives from companies such as Netflix who at this time have partnered with Google Chrome to launch the Netflix party, allowing millions of people who are self-isolating experience a sense of community by watching movies remotely with friends. This feature, that not only synchronises video playback but also adds group chats, has gone viral, earned a lot of free media for Netflix and will no doubt increase its market share in the mid to long term.

As more people are likely to need loans within this period, financial organisations can see the opportunity to increase focus on “distance banking” by urging people to use digital channels while simultaneously gathering goodwill with retail customers by speeding up the request to acceptance time for loans.

Insurance companies can respond by adding COVID-19-related coverage to their products. Airlines can deploy medical air ambulances helping to move medical personnel, equipment and resources to areas in need. Chain supermarkets can improve loyalty by working hand-in-hand with transportation companies to encourage online grocery shopping and get 24-hour deliveries made. Restaurants can stay top of mind by encouraging people to marry their fingers with some soap rather than reach into their mouths. Boutique business owners like photographers and make up artists can take advantage of the increasing number of people working from home, who desire to maintain productivity and host masterclasses on WhatsApp and other social media channels.

Another important thing for businesses is to proactively provide clarity and security for employees. As crisis situations like this are unforeseen and difficult to predict, management’s disposition at a time like this should be assuring. Protecting employees by limiting their contact with external parties and where possible, allowing the employees to work from home reinforces that the organisation cares about more than just being profitable and in the long term results in more loyal and productive employees. There are also several remote communication channels that can help  coordinate employees and partners.

It is also a good time for the business to take a step back and evaluate the impact the crisis could have on targets and where necessary, make some reviews. This helps provide clarity and support for your employees and removes the risk of putting them under undue pressure. A social media manager in your organisation for example who has engagement and reach targets can have these targets downwardly reviewed in light of the current realities.

Additionally, businesses should be mindful of using the crisis as an opportunity to take swipes at competition. While we all love a good advertising war between two competing brands, this period calls for heightened empathy and while you might think there’s a good opportunity to go viral by taking a hit at competition, remember not to kick people when they’re down. The resulting backlash could be swift and the impact on your brand and business longstanding.

Finally, while the depth and duration of the impact of this crisis on the economy and individual sectors is difficult to forecast, the China case study reveals that it’s smart to start recovery planning ahead of time. This could mean recalibrating your product line or rebalancing your product portfolio to increase focus on health-related products and changing your channel strategy to be digitally-led.

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus crisis is a short-term one and no one questions if it will pass or not. What businesses need to do is reposition themselves, learn and apply lessons from other sectors and countries and adapt to the opportunities the fast changes around them present.

By Terver Bendega

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