The initial lockdown, the first one any of us has experienced, is coming to an end. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
We’re all adjusting, and the businesses we’re part of are also pivoting for the changes that lie ahead.
Let me start this piece optimistically. There is new business out there.
I know, because everyone I speak to appears to be pitching in some shape or form. Yes, the size of opportunities varies, but they are out there.
The mood in our country is shifting. The initial shock of lockdown, where everyone thought it was Christmas and ate their body weight in chocolate, has dissipated.
We are getting a bit used to our new world and at the same time, there are signs of our old world returning, from people going back to work, to our favourite cafes reopening, even if it is just for a takeaway.
There’s also at least some clarity now which makes financial planning possible for both our business and that of potential clients.
That means there is the opportunity to get new business in, market your businesses and get yourselves ready.
Now is not the time to go quiet
It’s pretty widely accepted these days that when it comes to recessions, investing in marketing is often the key to surviving and even thriving. This applies to SMEs as much as it does to any big brand.
So it’s definitely not the time to cut everything and go silent. Put on your war face and go into battle every day. Talk to your contacts and make some new ones.
Reach out to relevant media outlets with news or, if more appropriate, keep a flow of stories running on your LinkedIn account.
And be curious about LinkedIn – you never know when a simple comment or share might coincide with some budget becoming available and you being top of mind.
This crisis comes with a great need for sensitivity, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean successes should not be celebrated.
In fact, I think it’s the opposite – good news should be shared. If you’ve got a win, let people know! It’s cheering and it sends out the message that you’re healthy, you’re stable, you’re working.
In general, it’s a good chance to get your online presence right. What do you stand for? The answer will guide what you talk about, from what your business is doing to reflecting your values.
Make a positive contribution
Something else that research has shown is that the way brands do business in a crisis is remembered by their customers. How you behaved in this ‘war’ will set out how you’re going to do in the future.
Goodwill goes so far. You know that the cafe near you which provided meals for frontline workers during the worst days of the crisis will be getting your custom when we can go back to eating out.
So what acts of goodwill could you do right now? Would it be possible to make use of any fall in overheads to over lower rates to someone you really want to work with, for example?
Is there some advice you could provide for free for someone who needs it, or some research you could share with the industry? If so, my advice is to do it.
Make working from home sustainable for you
When lockdown started, we went into crisis mode. That’s passed, and for many people it’s a long-term, possibly permanent change in their working lives.
Build in boundaries and look after your mental health. Just because you’re now in your workplace for 24 hours a day, seven days a week doesn’t mean you’re working those hours.
Have some structure and be aware of looking after your mental health – if that means you take longer to get back to someone than you used to, so be it.
It doesn’t mean you’re less professional, it’s a reflection that things have changed.
With physical distancing still in place, the video call is going nowhere. The novelty has gone from these interactions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t focus on upping your video call game.
Find the platform you like most and suggest that to anyone you’re talking to face to face. But be au fait with all the platforms, so you can be flexible.
Adopting a ritual of spraying on perfume before a call helps me get in touch with my confident work persona. For you it could be putting on a jacket or some lipstick. Anything that makes you feel like yourself is worth doing.
At the same time, I’ve realised I’m not bothered at all by anyone’s real life suddenly popping up on screen. A barking dog, a teenager demanding snacks, a window that could do with a clean – who cares?
So don’t worry that you’re not delivering perfection – we’re all in the same situation and it’s great that we get to see each other as real people. If you wanted to try and make your workspace look more professional, you could consider looking for office desk partitions to limit your distractions and to help you feel like you’re in the actual office. This could help some people to keep up their hard work away from the office.
Who is the real enemy?
Finally, I think it’s a great time to reconsider the nature of competition. Yes, we might be pitching against each for a piece of business but the wider picture is that our industry is facing a really, really tough time in the next few years.
So while you’re fighting to win that account, let’s take some pride in our sector and be generous about our rivals. Love something your competitor has done?
Tell people. Admire others in your area? Celebrate them.
After all, there’s no point in winning that proverbial battle only to discover that the war is lost.
Having to deal with so many changes in such a short amount of time has been challenging. But we’ve done it, we’ve adapted and we’re getting through it.
That’s something worth reminding yourself of as we face up to a period that is going to be challenging.