Once they get past the health-concerns and medical response, leaders are beginning to wrestle with the immediate and short-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on their organizations. Protecting, closing, canceling and postponing is just the first step. Beyond the first, somewhat shocking and challenging parts of the process, it’s critical to get a handle on ways that you can approach the large scale changes that are occurring in and around your business or nonprofit.
Whether you are still in operation, closed for the duration, operating with restrictions, or just closed for a while, here are some of the changes that you’ll need to consider:
- Has your primary method of closing sales been disrupted?
- If you rely upon in-person meetings, tours or open-houses to close business, how will you adapt?
- What has the crisis done to your growth curve and income predictions?
- How will you be able to tell when the crisis begins to avert and the new normal begins to emerge? How long will we stay in “crisis mode?”
- What changes do you need to prepare for new behaviors or requirements following the crisis?
- What is your post-crisis tolerance for a decreased enrollment, census or growth curve?
- How will consumer behaviors shift for the long-term and how can you position for those changes?
Helpful Insights About the Process
While there are many unknowns, important clues to answer these questions come from the ability to view the whole process through a consumer behavior lens. Nielson (well-known for their ratings and research) has suggested a 6-step process about how to view this from a consumer behavior approach. This process is informative for a number of reasons. Its accuracy is already being demonstrated because it can be viewed in the other countries that are ahead of our infection curve. While we have to be concerned with our organizational “staying power” along the way, getting our sites set on positioning our organizations for the new normal is a positive and helpful focus.
When you look at the way that consumers are behaving, you can see that in the United States, as of March 18th, we are clearly passing the Pantry Prep and Quarantined Life Prep Phases, with the 5th Step (Restricted Life) beginning to emerge. Different parts of the country and different groups are responding at various speeds based upon local factors.
The Consumer Behavior Phases and Your Business
Since your organization exists to meet the needs of your customers, understanding what is in their minds and hearts is vital to serving them well. You need to know how you can be prepared to serve them, and new customers, in the days ahead. Getting some perspective on the whole process can prepare you for ways that you can serve them right now based upon your resources, and how you need to be prepared to serve them in the future.
Two Examples of Customer Experiences During the Shutdown
As we enter the Restricted Living Phase, many private schools have closed for at least 2 weeks and some for 4, with many colleges out for the year. Understanding the experience of the families that you serve and the ones you’d like to serve in the future can inform the ways that you can serve and engage with them during this time.
If the social distancing requirements remain in effect longer than 4-weeks, a lot of students may miss some of the learning that should be occurring during this year, and parents will be experiencing long-term symptoms of cabin fever. While most private schools will move to some type of distance learning, they should not forget about all of the families they want to reach for future enrollment. Using instructional resources and faculty to help other families in the community, gives them the opportunity to not only make a difference right now but to also build a trust relationship with new families for the future. The right communication strategy for private schools that want to rebound quickly in the future will include not only communication internally, but also information to benefit the community.
In a season of isolation for the direct customer – seniors – and the caregivers and family members who support seniors are feeling challenged and concerned. Most of the news reinforces these fears. As senior living facilities get beyond just the management challenge of ensuring health conditions and healthy workers on-site, they have the opportunity to encourage the larger senior population and families in the community beyond their own direct services. Stepping up to share encouragement and tips for seniors and families in your community meets a current need and positions you for the new normal that is ahead.
Get Two Targets in Your Sites
Once you get past the huge transition from the former normal to doing business in a restricted living status, it’s time to look at two focus areas.
First, how can you communicate effectively and meaningfully to all of your stakeholders, including your prospects and community?
Second, how can your current activity get you prepared to focus on being ready for the new normal that is coming as we get passed the critical period?
We think this position – serving in the present with an eye to the “new normal” is the best position for organizations and their leaders. Join us as we share strategies and practical approaches in our Thursday Workshop. We’ll be discussing how the choices you make now will prepare you for a quick bounce-back in the future.
It’s important for businesses and nonprofits to create a revised sales and marketing plan that contains two phases: a Short-Term Plan for what to do during the crisis and a Bounce-Back Plan after the crisis. Helping with these plans is an important focus for the Story Collaborative team.