We came into 2020 ready with our meticulous brand-plans, methods and money-making mindsets, but now what?
I won’t even start this article off with the ‘C-virus’ word. By the time 2020 is over, we would have all heard it too much.
Jarring the words “social distancing”, “uncertain times” and “It’s getting real out here” with our grief from government mandated lockdowns, and reports of sickness and loss of life- it's become more than our delicate minds can process. If the rapid spread of Covid-19 has taught us anything, as business professionals and brand owners, it’s that we’re gleefully and woefully unprepared for the impact of world affairs beyond our control.
And as for those schemes of commitments, engagements, meetings, and business opportunities that have all been postponed, delayed or cancelled altogether- many brands have been left scrambling for opportunities and fighting for clarity, as we ward off our anxieties from the fears of the unknown.
Our New Normal (for now)
This is our 9/11, Katrina, and 2008 recession wrapped up in one, and many businesses are graveling over losses that feel irrecoverable.
As devastated as we are, is there optimism for us moving forward amidst our home lock-ins and fear of the unknown? Can there be some beauty and good opportunity in knowing that we're all in this together? That those years of strategic investments, game-plans, and hours of planning sessions you’ve put into building your brand will not go to waste?
But while social distancing, mask wearing and cancelled events may help protect our health, there isn't a blueprint in-sight that's been laid out to help protect the intricacies of our brand-building efforts. Adaptability is one thing, timing for survival while doing so is another.
Despite the uproar of disruptions, the possibilities to scale your brand in this year of ‘social distancing’ will be endless. And in the midst of staying safe and doing our part to flatten curves and stop the spread of viruses, there's plenty of hope that we can still build on and prosper in the midst of a pandemic.
Here’s your chance to not only flatten the curve of Covid-19, but also raise the curve of your gains and take back the possibility of 2020 being one of your greatest years. By being open to a different route, there’s a lot of hope in this year of disruption.
Let’s have a look at what we can do....
1.) Adapt now...for the long-term
The past months have required many of us to check out of our feelings and put true leadership skills to test. The calendar disruptions, travel cancellations and non-stop news surrounding a pandemic can really wear you down. From the attention-grabbing fear tactics brought on by the media, to an entire inbox flooded by panic and fear of an unexpected doomsday, I've grown determined not to let this year’s drama to settle into my game plans.
As concerned as I was, I've made every attempt to be patient and pivot- not panic. Because of Covid-19, I knew early on that conferences would have to go digital, that the tones of marketing campaigns would shift from vagarious to empathetic, and that B2B services would have to transform in order to support our client's needs for sustainability.
As I took my time and watched things pan out, my concerns eventually turned to confidence and I realized that with each passing day, this season would too eventually pass. That, despite the fears, this season would persist through adaptation and not cessation. That each week would require us to pivot differently, and adaptation would become a part of my daily routine. Particularly recognizing the emotional toll that I needed to overcome daily to motivate myself to even work at all. Pivoting would eventually become a lot easier, but in the meantime, I’d need to adjust my expectations and get comfortable changing things without notice.
Adaptations never hurt anyone. They only enhance our capabilities and bring more of a rational blueprint to our expectations. Think about the invention of car insurance. You hate having to pay for it until one-day you need it, but you’re so thankful someone had a need for it in the past, to prevent society from going without it in the future.
Readiness for adaptation will equip you with the perseverance to keep your brand moving should disruptions happen in the future.
To get into the mindset of adaptation, ask yourself these questions:
How can my products and messaging align with what people need right now?
What complimentary or lower-priced solution can I offer to my customers?
How can I provide expertise or an intellectual viewpoint to calm the mass hysteria, empower or uplift? How can this viewpoint help me to sustain my influence over my consumers?
How can I partner with other businesses to tag-team a consumer need?
What type of resource or free product can I give away to my valued customers during this time as a way to comfort their fears?
2.) Be Careful What You Take In
We’ve heard it before: Energy grows where attention flows. And while we must all stay up to date on the latest news for our own safety, tuning in too much can lead to lack of motivation, depression and ultimately counter-productivity. Mainstream news can equal lots of doom and gloom, so choose your sources wisely.
Send your conspiracy theory friends to voicemail when they call.
Nobody needs that end of the world energy right now (or ever for that matter). We’ve all got businesses and game plans to walk out.
My advice: Create a routine for gathering industry related news all at one time. Make a private social media account reserved only for trusted-motivational platforms, news-sites, and profiles. The daily tips and insight that you receive from niche platforms like Entrepreneur, Success, Business Insider and Fast Company- to name a few- can provide you the worldly updates you need, while offering solutions and tips for coming out of this disruption with not only your brand still intact, but also your sanity.
“As a former tv news employee, I have witnessed the toxic information the news creates in our environment. We as brand leaders must help people remain positive, calm, be educated based on facts, and make decisions accordingly. Utilizing this ‘down’ time to prepare our strategies, regroup and carry on with our lives as best as we can. Activities that will make us heal faster and stay strong, and as it is said, this too shall pass.”
3.) Don't Cancel. Keep it small, do it solo, or go digital!
Keep it small? Go digital!?
.....but what about our annual conferences, music festivals and fashion shows that we rely on to grow our businesses, publicize our drops, and launch new products? All those intricate in-person encounters that keep our brands moving? As this year’s Galas, festivals, weddings and the like face disruption, 2020 will be a year of ‘social-distancing’ that many aren’t looking forward to. Or to clarify, won’t know how to handle.
Advertising will be at an all time low, content will take a hit, and throwback memories will be on the rise. But your tribe still needs to be inspired to keep them active and engaged with your brand. 'Non-essential' businesses like event halls, theaters, convention centers and stadiums that are key to keeping essential events in motion, are null and void through this Summer.
2020 will forever be remembered as the year of adaptation, but social distancing doesn’t mean a complete shutdown of life. We’re thankful for the virtual world, in addition to some new and innovative ways to stay seen while keeping our ‘distance.’
As we familiarize our new normal, we must meet our customers where they are.
Partnerships with platforms that create visibility are key. Producer Swizz Beats has created Verzuz TV, a live battle where two musicians go head-to-head in an Instagram Live battle, and according to Billboard, some artist's streams have tripled since the monthly battles started. Thuzio, a live events platform and membership community that dons in-person athlete appearances, has launched Thuzio Virtual Events to bring it's roster of iconic athletes directly to your clients, prospects, and employees through our morning Zoom meetings, video conferences, webinars and virtual team happy hours. Music artists like Erykah Badu are charging as low as $1 to join their live-at-home concert series, and doctors are doing drive-by visits and virtual check-ups using Microsoft Teams. Podcast production is forecasted to go up by 27%, as is social media engagement by 61%. As we mentioned, conferences are too going virtual and they're a proven method to cut down on overhead while safely allowing more guests, but for a fraction of the usual cost to attend.
While the digitization doesn’t supersede face-to-face interaction, our temporary-yet-effective engagements will still be well worth the venture. And as the world starts moving again, only time will tell where our social distance measures will be. For now, keep your newsletters pumping to redistribute your content, product news, and promotional specials to allow your consumers the option to revisit content on their own time. And if need be, keep the in-real-life guest-list to 10 ppl or less, and livestream to the rest.
Expert Tip: “Brands that go quiet during a crisis will risk looking out of touch— with the times & with their audience. Now is not the time to shy away, it’s the time to double down on what you believe & reassure your customers that you’re here for them through anything. Content that reflects a level of sincerity but also social-awareness is one of the best ways, if not the best way, to do exactly that.”
Senior Strategist, CBX
New York City
4.) Connect With Your Tribe
Together, you and your tribe can uplift one another and work through solutions. As we know, these past few months have been rough, but conversations with like-minded individuals have confirmed my fears, feelings and frustrations to all be valid. Anecdotes that've truly kept me sane.
Tribes keep you strengthened by motivation to make smart moves, offer an extra set of ears to run opportunities by, and rock us with enough harmony to shutdown fears of failure. Symbolic to counseling, most of my tribe calls end with a collaborative offering- opportunities that can help to keep each of our businesses alive and thriving. No one knows you better than your tribe- whether it be the need for an introduction, a second point-of-view, industry related feedback or simply just to vent. Mere insight of what others are going through is enough to evoke actionable ideas to spearhead the next steps in your future. Day-to-day regularities we may have become stripped of from having been quarantined for months.
Expert Tip: “Income diversification is so key now, so bring your sharpest minds together- advisors, employees, and partners to help brainstorm and come up with new ways to still make money in a remote based environment." Says Kibi Anderson, an LA based Business Development Executive (Red Table Talk, Bloomberg Media, ABC)
"For example, I have a good friend who runs a thriving catering business but she relies on big gatherings for her revenue. In these times, she going back to her roots by starting up a home delivery meal service to families again. She’s also contemplating getting more serious about launching a frozen food product that she would sell in Wholefoods or Ralph’s. This is the exact focus of my power of small circles framework that I speak about. These small circles can be the difference between being an idea and a great idea. At the end of the day as business leaders, you are problem solving so it’s always better to do that with help, than on your own.”
Strategy and Business Development Executive
Los Angeles, CA.
5.) Leverage The Moment
Do not feel guilty about keeping things moving. Guilt is not for the current climate. It’s an inner-culprit used to deter your potential and downplay ambition.
Without sounding too erratic or insensitive, there’s always a way to take advantage of our dilemmas and flip them in our favor. The lemons to lemonade analogy. From pro bono service offerings, to slashing prices and offering giveaways, free shipping and even rewarding their customers with charitable dollars to donate to their favorite charities on the frontline of tackling the Coronavirus, brands are shifting the consumer-brand relationship from one that is strictly transaction-based to one that is values-based.
While it may not seem wise to offer such a lowball return-on-investment during talk of a recession (this could also lower your brand’s value proposition), the upside can ultimately have a positive affect on your long-term business strategy. Even companies without an obligation to advertise are using this time to expand their customer base and win consumers through empathy and shared values.
Think long term. Now’s your time to connect and win hearts in an impactful way. This is the perfect time to test out new products without having to manage the intricacies of P&L. This is the perfect time to show compassion to your customers!
Special offerings can also help your keep services moving and provide some quick cash flow to stay afloat in the months ahead. Level out the playing field by giving people a chance to experience your product that normally wouldn’t.
Key points here are to be precautious, but to keep life moving. Do not shut your business plans down. Don't just stand still, and don’t feel guilty about keeping life moving. You were put on this earth to walk out your destiny, and no matter what condition the world may be in, your business still deserves to thrive and reach its goals. Look at this as your lifeline to keep things moving in addition to pausing and reflecting, but also preparing for your future.
Expert Tip: “The biggest thing that brands have to do- that truly makes any brand special- is to be able to communicate and connect with their customer base. To not be tone death to what their customer’s needs are. People need to be reminded what the good things are in life, and I think that’s a brand’s job to do. In the age of scaling during a pandemic? Think immediacy, don’t be tone deaf, listen to what your community needs and create that environment. As a brand you just have to be able to pivot."
CEO & Co-founder, Kreyol Essence
6.) Get The Heavy Lifting Done
In this era of social distancing, downtime can be a beautiful thing.
Honor this downtime with a deep-dive into that work and much needed planning you’ve been neglecting.
Accept that this disruption has slowed us to a PACE that was necessary. The same PACE that some of the greatest poets, inventors, artists and change-makers had the privilege to operate from, with solitude. A pace that gifts us with time daily to actually sit back and produce the desires of our hearts, and reach our destinies without being so bogged down by constant obligation.
This shutdown is giving us an era to scale in ways we NEVER would have made time for. For those that sped into 2020 without the proper gear and game-plans. This setback is a set-up for all the things you’ve ever wanted and dreamed of. Without being disturbed for a few seasons, just look at how many ideas and concepts we'll continue to lay the groundwork for. Given the pace our world was moving, without this time of disruption, we would’ve crashed and burned our objectives before 2020 was even over. Please, use this new time wisely.
Give yourself space to be patient and detach from the outcome. Move things forward, but detach- meaning be open to the process, have faith, keep pushing and let your goals naturally manifest.....as they often do when we least expect. Lay the groundwork and respect the silver lining so that when the clouds clear, your proactiveness will have propelled you ahead.
For a lot of us, this is our second chance to get 2020 right.
Expert Tip: "If you run your own company and find that you have a lot less business than you're used to, try using this time to get done those ‘deep work projects’ that were always on the back burner. The ones you've been meaning to get to but never seem to have enough time for. This likely includes passive income projects and intellectual property such as eCourses or book writing. With uncertainty about whether or not our current business models will continue to work, following new income streams may be essential for your business survival. You should be making time to work on the 'CEO' projects that help you develop your business. This could include new service offerings brainstorming, marketing plans and implementation, SEO improvement plan, etc. Although motivation may be hard to find right now, try carving out small portions of your day at your peak performance time (eliminating as many distractions as possible and set a timer) to get to these extremely important projects.”
Wishing you continued safety, success, and sanity during this time of global crisis and disruption.
Hang in there!
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