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How You Can Pivot Your Business to Endure COVID-19.

How to Survive when Facing a Global Pandemic using digital technologies.

How You Can Pivot Your Business to Endure COVID-19.

Over the next twelve months the Global Economy will face some of its toughest challenges. Irish SME’s have to pivot their business approach and growth strategies to survive the economic impact of the Coronavirus. This will ultimately lead to the dawn of a new digital era for Irish companies, so how can they pivot their businesses to endure the impact of COVID-19?

For the time being face-to-face meetings are off. In industry sectors that are not digitally native this is having a massive impact on how they operate, generate new business and indeed hold on to existing clients. It’s also quite common for these industries not to invest large amounts in digital experiences and more advanced customer relationship technologies.

For small Irish companies this is even more detrimental as new business was very much generated through ‘word of mouth’ or referrals. With social distancing seen as a vital prevention technique to curb the spread of the Coronavirus all non-essential Irish businesses have for now closed. The question looms though…how  will they survive without their traditional business growth channels?

The Impact of COVID-19.

Consumer Behaviour.

The introduction of strict Government & HSE regulations on the Irish Hospitality sector amidst the COVID-19 outbreak has shifted demand in Irish consumer behaviour. ‘Eating in’ is now the NEW ‘eating out’. The Irish hospitality sector is one of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic with over 120,000 plus being made unemployed either temporarily or permanently. Most Irish restaurants have closed completely but some have shown the will to be innovative and operate in a different way to meet changes in consumer demand, one example is Bujo Burger Joint, Sandymount using a Smartphone Video Chat Service so customers can place orders for takeaway at their door without entering.

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This morning we fully expected to close BuJo for the foreseeable future and say goodbye to our friends & colleagues for who knows how long. After having seemingly exhausted every way to stay open safely in the face of this God awful situation over the last few days, we had finally run out of road. . At the 11th hour though, (literally – we open at noon), our heroic BuJo crew led by our fearless leader @catasooto found a ray of light. We stuck one of our smartphones on our front window; placed another smartphone at our counter and connected them via an always-on @whatsapp video call and all of a sudden we had a sort of virtual portal. . It provided the social distance, (no guests allowed on the premises); a contactless pick-up service, (we simply delivered our guests order to them or their car), and a sprinkle of BuJo hospitality with our front of house team on the screen to take orders all St. Patrick’s Day from our very loyal friends & neighbours in Sandymount. It wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but we are still, barely, open for at least one more day. If you know of any local restaurant or in fact any business that has or is soon to run out of road please share this…

A post shared by BuJo Burger Joint (@bujoburgerjoint) on

Other restaurants have utilised the likes of the popular food delivery app ‘Just Eat’, which recently launched a €1m support package to help distressed restaurants across Ireland. New restaurant groups to the App include Boojum, Elephant & Castle, Gourmet Food Parlour and Tribeca in Ranelagh all offering food delivery, which they never did before. In more recent news Deliveroo announced its suspending all on-boarding fees to assist Irish restaurants provide delivery services, it’s been highly successful with over one hundred restaurants signing up in the last month alone.

 The New Working Office.

As we ‘socially distance’ ourselves in an attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, working remotely from our homes has become the new office space. It has now converted some of our living areas to work-stations. We’ve read plenty recently on how this impacts on individuals who have never worked remotely before. It’s not the same working from home as it is in an office. Some Irish businesses that are less digitally native will find this period of adjustment even more difficult. Working off cloud systems and using online video communication software will be alien to some, developing more stress across the organisation. It’s never been more important for Irish companies to reach out and ask for help on how they can convert and leverage digital communication technologies to help them operate during the crisis.

Team Communication & Collaboration.

Working in teams effectively takes good communication, not being able to work within the same location does have its barriers. However, there have been huge advances over the last ten years in making the modern office more connected on a remote level. Hence this area of the software manufacturing industry being worth over $8 billion in 2019.

In more digitally native industry sectors these communication technologies are ubiquitous and form an important part of a company’s I.T. communication mix. Software like Slack and Zoom have great potential in helping develop a structured communication strategy both internally and externally. There are other communication software packages offered by Microsoft and Google in the way of Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, Both operate on smartphones through mobile Apps as well making it a lot more flexible to use. Finally with regards to outbound operational communications, the absence of face-to-face meetings and legal agreement signoff, Irish companies need to consider the use of electronic signature software like Docusign allowing them to move legal agreements forward under compliant conditions.

Business Networking.

There have already been some significant shifts in Irish Business Networking through virtual meetups, webinars and conferences. These types of business networking models will now become more vital for Ireland’s commercial communities to embrace. There are two main factors driving these changes, firstly it’s highly cost effective, due to the fact there are no travel expenses for sales representatives all networking is done virtually even remotely. The second is an obvious one as virtual connectivity preserves the rule of ‘social distancing’ keeping all parties safe and distant. Other advantages are that they allow freedom of movement for visitors to focus on who they want to connect with during a live event.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a social selling tool allowing you to reach out and connect with high value business leads. With advanced search capabilities over your freemium LinkedIn account, LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows it’s users to filter a search by seniority level, allowing them to zone in on the most important individuals and key decision makers within an organisation. From this an approach lead nurturing process can be developed to warm the business lead with relevant marketing collateral.

B2B Events & Tradeshows.

The chart below shows how budgets for face-to-face events will change as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Although this is based on the US market outlook for the rest of 2020, it should give some clear rationale for Irish businesses on where to invest their B2B Marketing budgets for Q3 and Q4 this year.

How B2B are spending Marketing Budgets

Courtesy of Marketing Charts.

Digital Marketing is the most powerful way to reach customers online.

Digital Marketing has become an ever growing business strategy reaching out to all industry sectors as a viable and cost effective approach to reaching customers online. With the onset of the Coronavirus Irish companies need to seriously consider new ways to reach their customers.

Digital Marketing is the key and this is why.

  • Digital Marketing is the most cost effective form of marketing.
  • Digital Marketing is the most measurable form of marketing.
  • Digital Marketing allows you to target your ideal customers.
  • Due to new business restrictions most buyers are now starting their customer journey online.
  • Digital Marketing allows you to connect with your customers on different devices like mobile.
  • Once launched a Digital Campaign can be easily adapted to meet new conditions and goals.
  • Digital Marketing allows your business to be more competitive.

 The best way to Plan and Set Goals.

One effective way of planning a Digital Marketing strategy is setting objectives and goals allowing you to easily track its performance.

Using the SMART acronym, it allows you to set boundaries in which you can track and manage your digital performance.

Specific – Include all stakeholders (clients, team members etc.) everyone should know what the objectives of the Digital Marketing Strategy should be and who is involved and their inputs.

Measurable – Establish what is meant by a goal and how it is met, for example if your digital marketing strategy is to increase sales how will they be measured by percentage of revenue value or even both.

Agree Upon – Most digital strategies will have team members with different skill sets and contributions. From the off ensure that all team members have an input and everyone understands what is expected in terms of strategy objectives.

Realistic – Think Big, but remember unreachable goals can make you look unreasonable and also too target focused. These will have an effect on team cohesion and the successful execution of your digital marketing strategy. Its best to breakdown targets into milestones allowing your team to celebrate once reached. Also analyse your resources do you have the capabilities of reaching these goals or do need specialist digital services to provide clear direction.

Time Target – Meeting deadlines are vitally important especially when launching a digital marketing campaign. When setting execution times ensure they are understood by everyone. Assess whether these deadlines are achievable? Have you provided enough time for your digital marketing strategy to reach its objectives?    

 

Tools and supports available to Irish Businesses.

  • Facebook Small Business Resource Hub: aimed at providing support to Irish Businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more details – Facebook Resource Hub

 

  • Local Enterprise Office Business Continuity Voucher: aimed at providing more financial support to small local businesses through the crisis. It covers any third party consultancy costs that would be incurred through business continuity planning and is geared to help protect jobs and sales across all Irish Industry sectors. Visit the site here – Local Enterprise Office

 

  • Enterprise Ireland Business Response – COVID-19: a comprehensive resource developed by Enterprise Ireland with information on pandemic support for small Irish Businesses, Click here for more details – Enterprise Ireland Business Response – COVID-19

 

Next steps to keep your business continuity and competitiveness in your industry sector. 

  • Identify where your current weaknesses are as an organisation, what are your resources and capabilities compared to your competitors?

 

  • Wherever your leads or traffic comes from, (bar the use of direct Social Commerce) most will land on your website so ensure that your tone of voice, website navigation and other user experiences allow the user to get what they need easily. Conduct a website audit to assess your current web platform performance compared with your own industry benchmarks.

 

  • Design an internal digital ecosystem that will capture metrics for you to measure and track your performance, allowing you to forecast business lead generation and sales volume.

 

  • Define your user personas and leverage the best communication channels to reach and engage with them. Use a communication mix that you know will create the most awareness for your brand, for example Podcasts, Blogs or Brand Artwork.

 

  • Define your Online Value Proposition (OVP) tell a compelling brand story to your online audience, highlight the benefits of your products or services. Try new ways to tell your brand story for example through video on social media channels. Remember to keep it simple and clear. If you’ve used hard copy brochures before consider using website landing pages as a means of showcasing your brand on a digital platform, provide downloadable marketing material to capture user information.

Other useful resources.

izest Marketing – Our Approach.
www.izestmarketing.com/our-strategic-approach/

izest Marketing Digital Marketing Strategy Services.
www.izestmarketing.com/digital-marketing-strategy/

10 reasons to outsource to a Digital Marketing Agency. 
www.izestmarketing.com/10-reasons-to-outsource-to-a-digital-marketing-agency/

Key Takeaways.

  • Think about investing in technologies to operate your business given the current conditions.
  • Leverage the Power of Digital Marketing to reach your customers online.
  • Look at the Supports that are available for your business.
  • Take the necessary steps to keep your business continuity and maintain your competitiveness.
  • Most of all don’t panic, we’re All In This Together!