When the going gets tough...marketing your business in times of crisis

The last few weeks have been a blur. As much as I was stalking every epidemiologist I could on Twitter, I still can’t believe the savagery of the last week to our lives and our economy.

And it’s only just begun.

Juggling decisions on kids and school, pleading with my parents to practice social distancing, helping clients pivot all their messaging all at once, worrying about friends' businesses, worrying about my community… we all have a lot on our plates. For many of us, the emotional swings are both physically and mentally draining.  

It’s hard at this moment to think about strategy (or much else for that matter), but it’s important to have contingencies and ways forward for your business.

Now, while it might sound like it, this is not an “end of days” post. The world has far from stopped. A lot of professional service businesses will be needed now more than ever (can you imagine how busy accountants are going to be!).

The reality for most of my clients is that their doors are wide open, they are “business as usual” and even if that doesn’t mean in their own office, they are planning on making sure they can work through whatever downturn is thrown at us. There will be no shortage of people needing professional help, we just need to make sure we are there to provide it.

I know that has been our reality this last month. Working around the clock at times to help our clients start to get the right messaging out to their respective markets.

While the next few months are likely to be difficult, whatever occurs a new normal will arise.

Whether you are a direct-to-consumer practice being tested, or a disputes practitioner predicting the work to pile up, a lot of how people have been getting their work is going to change for the next year.

If you rely on any of these things you have to pivot quickly:

  • One to one personal meetings
  • Sporting, cultural and other client events
  • Client presentations
  • Networking events
  • Billboards and outdoor advertising
  • Cinema advertising
  • Physical promotional collateral like umbrella’s
  • Ads in physical publications

The list goes on but they are some of the more prevalent in professional services.

What will replace it in the next 6 months is your online presence.

That nice suit you wear and amazing restaurant that seals the deal? That needs to be the quality of your branding and messaging.

Adapting in the next 6 months will see a lot of us become “digital-first, second and third” with the focus of our business development and marketing. It will require finally committing to that podcast, that video series, or that Facebook ad campaign so you can build the trust you ordinarily did in person.

That might be bad news if you are a great closer in person… let’s hope we exit this fast enough so that those of us who much prefer the one to one can still do it (me, big time!), but either way there are going to be things we simply can’t do in larger groups.

So while this might be far from ideal, the good news is that you and your firm can do still take steps forward with your BD and marketing even in this difficult environment.  

You can bring value and communicate with your clients online.  You can build trust and relationships. You can solve your client’s problems and engage with them even if it is not in person.

For a lot of firms, this is going to be a really shit time. I get it. I have worked my backside off for three years and am fearful as well. I’ve seen a number of my friends' businesses shutter and shed plenty of tears for them this week… and it’s only just begun.

The thing is though, in professional services we have the tools and technology available to keep on helping our clients navigate whatever situations they find themselves in. We also have the distribution channels of LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to engage with them and our referral base. If you’ve got a client list, you have your own platform, if you don’t, it’s time to build one fast.

So what are the upsides?

The following are a few key points which I am going to write on further in the coming week:

While we all work more from home, we’ll all be more engaged online.

This is a huge opportunity if you do it right for your long term relationships. More people engaged online means more opportunity to build trust with your online brand.

People will want to be engaged with things beyond coronavirus talk.

I have Covid-19 fatigue...And it’s just been a few weeks. When we are all locked away we are going to want to hear about other things to keep our minds off it.

This is a perfect time to “document, not create”. Tell your firm's story, show how life has been turned upside down but you are resilient and there for your clients.

Talking about legal work, recruitment or whatever profession you fall in is going to feel really hollow. Show people what you and your team are doing to make a difference to your clients. How you are doing it, and the fury of friends that join you at the home office.

People trust people.

There is help at hand for your firm or business. We have been pivoting clients messaging swiftly and can help you if you need it.

Remember that there are lots of people who are good at this and can help you.

If you already have a great online presence you need to double down on it.

Got great branding and a solid footprint? Leverage it. Talk to your clients and community. Get active. Empirical studies of advertising show that brands who retreat in these times come out of them a lot worse. Check this out.https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradadgate/2019/09/05/when-a-recession-comes-dont-stop-advertising/#2e16ea504608

Don’t be that business that mistakes withdrawals when you need to move forward.

Be safe everyone.