We all find ourselves in unprecedented circumstances and this week has been very challenging for us, for our clients and our suppliers. But business usually finds a way through a crisis. I find it encouraging and inspirational to see some of the ways people cope and in many cases find new opportunities that will maybe help them in the future, and I think it’s safe to say that many businesses will not look the same coming out of the coronavirus crisis.
So, coming to the end of probably one of the strangest weeks of my 24 years in business, I reflect on some of the issues that we and our clients have faced.
Working from home
For companies like FIG and some of our clients who work in offices, it’s not that difficult to set up and work from home. The technology these days is fairly straightforward – all you need is a good internet connection, and our IT company has been able to get our staff connected to our servers, files and systems so that we can access everything remotely to work effectively from home. For some members of staff the bigger challenge is space. If there’s no designated office desk to work from, perching on kitchen tables or in conservatories is not always convenient. Some have taken desks and chairs home, even their office plant to make it as much like their office environment as possible!
You’ve got the challenge of keeping motivated and staying in touch to communicate and collaborate as we would normally. To this end, we’re trialling an online tool that enables us to share documents, hold meetings as we would do face to face and keep in touch with each other. And then of course there are the added challenges of looking after children or pets, who will be a distraction and for some it will mean they are unable to work at all. These are all difficulties a lot of businesses will face, including ours and we know this is going to get more challenging in days to come. But we’re talking about contingencies, and looking at individual circumstances so that we can all work through it.
eCommerce is going to do really well in this environment but it still impacts on the supply chain and resource levels. Good communication is necessary to keep customers up to date with stock levels to prevent negative reviews. Food and some other products are seeing a massive surge in supplies. We’ve had one client who did a month’s turnover in one day! Sounds amazing doesn’t it, but that brings huge pressures on a business, particularly when staff are supposed to be isolating and working from home. Marketing and communications becomes paramount when dealing with these sorts of pressures. Communicating regularly to customers about order lead times and product availability is vital. But also to communicate about new products being available to your existing customer base and looking to introduce existing products to new markets.
Some industries are also struggling to get products from other parts of the world, such as China and Italy, impacting on production. We do a lot of work with manufacturing companies and it has caused many challenges. A major product launch for one our clients was put on hold early on in the COVID-19 crisis because the products were being manufactured in China, and we’ve heard similar tales from other companies too.
Technology and opportunities
Technology is increasingly going to help us all in coming months to do our jobs. We’re currently helping a client whose compliance and training work now has to be delivered online. His customer base is worldwide so the plan will be a mix of webinars and other online tools to deliver training and presentations which actually creates a future opportunity to reduce costs and a wider reach going forward.
We’ve heard of colleagues and suppliers losing contracts worth thousands of pounds in a matter of days and up to 75% of their business being lost because they work with the travel industry. It is a scary situation if you are running or managing a business. Government support is going to be so important for many businesses and people who may be losing their income or having to lay off staff.
But what we have to do is adapt very quickly and jump on opportunities as soon as we can, working together to come up with new ideas and suggestions of working differently. Business will find a way. But it just might be very different to the way it did business previously.
Marketing and communications will always remain important, particularly during a crisis. Look at how many messages you will have received in the past week about how businesses are dealing with the crisis. For some, it will be just a case of, we’re working from home and it’s business as usual. For many, it’s bear with us, or there are systems in place, such as in the supermarkets, to manage the surge in demand. And of course, the sad demise of many businesses. We’ve turned off two websites this week for businesses who can no longer operate in the current climate.
We hope all of our clients, suppliers and business colleagues stay well and manage to stay positive in coming months. Everyone here at FIG is here to support you if you need it, to manage your marketing and communications throughout the crisis and to come up with creative, innovative ways of doing business, helping you consider new markets, launch new products and to communicate online when you cannot go and meet your customers.
Oh, and if you wonder what a turtle has to do with this topic? The turtle is the mascot of FIG’s Marketing Partner Programme, which was launched in a recession 10 years ago. Turtles have to stick their necks out to progress and get anywhere, just like businesses!
Give us a call on 01457 857111 if you want to discuss your business communications.