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Marketing Matters: Be prepared for the next one

May 19, 2020  By Cathy Bartolic

We are all guilty of living for today and not planning for tomorrow. None of us expected to see the kind of pandemic that paralyzed the world earlier this year. But, now is the time to get yourself and your business ready for the next crisis. And there will be another crisis – it may not (hopefully not) be as devastating as COVID-19, but have no doubts there is another one coming.

Were you caught unprepared when this crisis hit? Were you ready to deal with the downturn of sales that occurred so quickly? Were you able to communicate your plans to your customers effectively and efficiently?

If you have answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, the time to rectify the situation is now. Okay, maybe not this exact minute, but definitely before 2020 has moved on and becomes hazy in the rear-view mirror.

After every global disruption, there are survivors and non-survivors. The survivors are the ones who are able to ride out the storm and hit the ground running, once things start to get back to normal. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a financial reserve.

We were told even as children that we should always set aside money for a rainy day. This is often hard to do for both sides. If you’ve had great sales for the last few years, you might want to reinvest the money back into the business instead of storing it away. If sales have been down, then you don’t have the extra cash to put aside. Only the highly disciplined can follow this rule. But in times of crisis, it is critical for survival.

Given that we have survived self-isolation and distancing protocols that have made it almost impossible to physically sell your products: what can you do to overcome this challenge in the future? Is there some way you can do business online? I’m not only talking about selling your products through Amazon, which can be an option, but also exploring other digital platforms. There are other avenues to sell your products as well. Have a look at “Local Line”. This is a Shopify-type system for farmers, allowing your customers to pre-order from farmers’ markets and on-farm markets. It may not immediately increase your sales but it would help you be better prepared for customers that you know are coming to your market because of their online orders.

Other opportunities to look at might include: starting a YouTube channel, a blog, or a podcast around your expertise; or creating some online training workshops where you can share your talents.

Another consideration for review is your communication plan. When things are changing so quickly, how do you let your customers know what’s going on? A customer database is the foundation of effective communications. It is the easiest and most cost-effective way of keeping your customers in the loop as things change from day to day. But it is something that needs to be built over time, maintained and used in a way that offers real value. It is the result of consistent hard work.

When things are changing so quickly, how do you let your customers know what’s going on? A customer database is the foundation of effective communications.

Yes, you can post messages on social media but very few of your followers will actually get them. E-mails are delivered to their inboxes and they can decide if they want to subscribe or not. In an ideal world, you already have been using these tools and can now quickly put them to work for you.

If you do not make it through this crisis in the best shape, make sure you set aside some time to review these options. Don’t let complacency set in. You know you need to be better prepared for the next time. A next time is as sure a bet as spring arriving every year.

Editor’s note: This column was written in the midst of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking ahead to different times.

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