As a marketing consultant to the travel industry, coronavirus has hit my client base particularly hard. Some are completely shut down due to quarantines, others are suffering from loss of revenue due to cancellations and re-booking of trips into the future. And now this problem is spreading to other industries, restaurants, spas, medical offices are all being affected.
Some of the problems I hear about are things like:
- Customers aren't coming in or are cancelling services and contracts
- They can't pay all of their bills
- Cash reserves are being depleted
We have no idea how long this will last, or how deep the cuts will get. There will probably be a recession. My travel industry colleagues are preparing for a two to three-month interruption, at a minimum. So what should you do right now to protect your business? I'm not an expert, but I do have some ideas and have been advising my clients to do the following.
Step 1 - Assess Your Financial Situation
First thing you need to do is look at your numbers.
How much cash do you have on hand, right now?
How long will your cash last if the current slowdown persists? Do you have 3 months, or 6 months?
Look at your expenses. What can you cut? What payments and monthly recurring fees can you delay or reduce? Can you reduce staff hours or pay? How much time will that buy you? Now is the time to cut out the fat and keep the essentials.
Review your contractual obligations and determine whether there are any exceptions that would allow you to cancel, delay, or reduce performance under the circumstances. If not, ask vendors for leniency. Are they willing pause services temporarily or reduce the monthly payment for services? Some will, some won't, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
If you have customers who are in danger of defaulting on their contracts with you, consider what you can do for them to relax penalties and help during the crisis. They'll remember this in the future when it comes time for the recovery spending. Now is not the time to put your foot down and refuse to accommodate reasonable requests for leniency. For example, I advised my travel client to allow customers to cancel their bookings in exchange for a credit towards future travel. This gave customers flexibility, saved the booking for next year, and accommodated the current situation.
Step 2 - Assess Your Business Strategy
Maybe you can't sell a vacation right now, or have people book a spa appointment, but is there a way you can deliver something online or virtually that will help your customers during this time? Can you offer them trip planning for the future? Can you sell them a package for future massages? While some of your potential clients are also suffering, there are others who are able to and want to help you. What can you offer them?
If you're lucky enough to offer something that can be delivered virtually, like personal training, fitness coaching, etc..., nows the time to start offering that to your client list.
It's time to get creative and figure out how you can best help. Even if you're unable to monetize, at the very least you can use this build good will and maintain your relationships with your customers.
Step 3 - Refine Your Marketing Message
I'm not going to be opportunistic and tell you not to turn off marketing. But I will tell you not to stop marketing, even if you decide to do it yourself to save money. Your clients still need to hear from you during this time.
Some marketers are touting that advertising online is cheap right now and that you shouldn't turn off your ads, and that you should keep trying to sell stuff. I disagree. I don't think you should turn off all of your marketing, but put yourself in your client's shoes and see if the message you're putting out there sounds creepy or opportunistic.
What is the message of your brand? If you're able to still operate safely, you can say that. But if you can't, you should be honest with your customers. They'll respect you for it.
Here's what I suggest you do:
- Turn off all automatic email workflows and pre-scheduled social media posts. What seemed appropriate two weeks ago probably is not okay now. And with things changing so quickly, it's risky to schedule anything in advance.
- Figure out what your messaging should be based on your brand and what's going up in your industry
- Stay in touch with your customers during this time. They need to hear from you, but not because you're trying to sell them something. Be human and ask them how they're doing. Ask how you can help them. They may have a great idea for you.
- Empathy is key during these times. Don't make it all about you. This is affecting everyone.
If you're an optimist like me, who believes this crisis will pass, you will want to make decisions that are in the best interests of your customers to protect the long-term health of your business.
Step 4 - Take Care of Yourself
Like the airline safety videos say, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Make sure you stay in touch with your support network, eat right, exercise and rest.
If you need help with any of this, book a complimentary strategy call with me using the button below.