If you own or lead a business and your world was turned upside down in March, you weren’t alone. So many of us went from successfully growing our life’s work to laboring to save it overnight. Every day brought its share of unforeseen challenges and it seemed like any time we were able to muck out a small win it would quickly be buried by yet another discouraging loss. At Nuera, despite our sound operational planning and carefully accumulated reserves, we saw multiple projects pause right away and a handful of hard-won new clients cancel their contracts just as we ramped up toward the busy season that typically follows the slow winter months. Times were certainly–as so many advertisers would constantly remind us in the weeks and months that followed—uncertain.
As we battled our way back toward stability and quickly pivoted into helping our retainer clients through this, we noticed something that perhaps we don’t get to zoom out and notice often enough–our team’s natural approach was working. Every client we were helping to navigate this thing was experiencing early increases across nearly every marketing metric, receiving positive and encouraging responses from their customers, and most importantly, seeing sustained or increasing revenue. We dug in and quickly formalized our approach to help ensure that every client entrusting us with their precious financial resources would see their brand emerge from this crisis even stronger. While we’ve still got work to do and this post isn’t meant to be exhaustive, we hope that by sharing a few of our most important thoughts on the matter, your brand might benefit as well.
Modify Your Mindset
Your traditional products offered in the traditional way may all of a sudden fail to meet your customers where they are right now. That’s okay, because that doesn’t mean that they don’t still need or want them, or that they don’t need something you don’t currently offer but very reasonably could. The point here is that no matter how much things change, we’ll always be surrounded by a wealth of opportunities. They might not look the same as we’re used to but they’re out there for those who are willing to step back, recognize them, and adjust course to capitalize. The foodservice industry was hit pretty hard, right? But whether it was our clients at Kathy’s Table recognizing the need for next day delivery while having the good sense to offer it for free or Shrimp Shack pivoting quickly to an online ordering platform and adjusted delivery methods, they’ve both soared through this period because they were nimble and because they were quick to understand this next point.
For lack of a better analogy, if your business catches a virus, marketing is the booster shot it needs to overcome it. We’ve witnessed it in past downturns and we’re starting to see it again now, but brands that go quiet during times of economic crisis grow weaker and face the longest road to recovery while brands that maintain or increase their marketing spends capture market share and emerge even stronger. In fact, on average, increases in marketing spending during a recession have boosted financial performance throughout the year following the recession. Keep in mind that as you continue to market, your messaging matters too. In times like this, it can become far too easy to go all-in on crisis messaging or in speaking at your customers from where you are vs. focusing on meeting them where they are. You may still be in the throes of managing your business through a crisis, but many of your customers are quickly growing tired of being reminded of that. In these uncertain times, remember to give them something certain–a reliable product and a consistent brand message that are familiar and therefore comforting.
Communication Is Critical
You know what else is comforting? Reassurance. That’s what you’re providing to your customers when you communicate with and keep them engaged. In the early stages of a crisis, customer retention should be priority #1 and that starts here. In focusing on that, you’re also reassuring yourself and your team as you remain in sync with your customers on needs, necessary adjustments, and most importantly, outcomes. For example, at Nuera we instantly moved into twice-weekly client syncs throughout the most pivotal period of the crisis. This allowed us to adjust and improve our marketing and messaging strategies to align in real-time with their widely varying and ever-changing landscapes. But constantly engaging them didn’t just help us improve their results, it provided us with the valuable opportunity to renew and strengthen all of our client relationships. As you focus on looking for those new opportunities that’ll help strengthen your brand through crisis, don’t forget that strengthening communication with the customers you already have–be it through phone, email, or consistent social updates–is of the most fundamental and critical.
Connect With Community
Personally, as a business owner, there were a lot of dark days that would’ve been a lot darker without the support of my community. I’m grateful to have a lot of strong connections so whether I would vent with my partner Grant here at Nuera, talk through a problem with a friendly, supportive fellow agency owner like Jay Owen from Design Extensions, receive an encouraging call from Daniel Davis at the Jax Chamber, or feel the support of Carl Smith and my fellow members at The Bureau of Digital, connecting with my community positively impacted my trajectory these past few months. Know who your community is, and if you don’t have one, reach out to me and I’ll do whatever I can to help–even if it’s just to listen, because sometimes that’s all we need. At the end of the day, business is something we do to live and living is all about connection and community. It’s okay to need that all of the time, but it seems especially important right now. Staying connected with your community won’t just lift you and those you lead up, it will also help you learn from others who are going through the same thing, it will help you find value and strength in supporting others, and ultimately, it will help your brand stay top of mind and grow stronger too.
As you continue leading your own brand through this, remember that there’s no clear, unassailable way forward here. These are uncharted waters we’re in and we’re all going to take a few wrong turns along the way. That’s okay because new waters explored are new waters learned and that knowledge may help you further along your journey. Just remember to zoom out and adjust course as-needed, mind your marketing and messaging, keep your customers consistently engaged, and connect with your community. As usual, if I personally or the Nuera team can be of assistance, just say hello.
About the Author
As president and co-founder, Joe is responsible for the development, execution, and success of client and company initiatives. With >20 years of brand and leadership experience, nothing puts a smile on his face like helping clients outperform their goals.
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