Guiding a company through a crisis is a big task for any business leader. Add to that a world-wide health emergency, global financial meltdown and unprecedented shifts to the way we work, live and exist; and it feels huge writes Sabri Suby, founder of multimillion-dollar digital agency King Kong.
However in reality, now’s the perfect time for business leaders to get on the top of their game and take advantage of the situation. Some of the world’s most successful businesses were formed or hit their stride during a financial crisis – and there’s no reason yours can’t too.
Take examples from the past
As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, famously said: “I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part.” And Walton’s not the only one. Take Conrad Hilton, who bought up hotels during the Great Depression, confident that a boom had to follow. He saw where the money would be arriving and acted accordingly. He did not, incidentally, have a mountain of research assembled by MBAs and consultancies to base his future vision on. Had he waited for that, he’d have been too late.
In the 1920s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring Snap, Crackle and Pop. Kellogg’s profits grew by 30 per cent and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for almost a century.
As recently as 2009, Amazon’s sales grew by 28 per cent during the GFC thanks to its innovative new products, most notably its new Kindle. On Christmas Day 2009, Amazon customers bought more ebooks than printed books – a world first at the time. As a result, in the minds of consumers, Amazon became an innovative company by introducing a lower-cost alternative to cash-strapped consumers.
Take advantage of the extra eyeballs
According to an internal Facebook report obtained by the New York Times, U.S. traffic from Facebook to other websites increased by 50% within the past week. There’s no doubt that similar statistics are true in other countries too.
It’s clear that people are at home, looking for solutions to their problems. As your competitors are contracting in fear, now is the time to push forward and be very aggressive with your marketing because you can get those eyeballs for cheaper, get better cut through and a bigger share of voice.
The emphasis now needs to be on building prospects and engineering a sales funnel that’s not focused on immediate conversion. People may not be buying right now but they are certainly researching, and when the crisis blows over, they certainly will be buying.
This is a great time to put out information and nurture a list of prospects that are great candidates for what you sell. And then when things do blow over, the economy does snap back, you’re going to be in a position where you’ve developed a relationship. When they’re ready to buy, who do you think they’re going to buy from?
Connect with your staff
When it comes to business’s structure, it’s important to keep your teams as connected as possible. At King Kong, we’re doing daily chats and video meetings on Google Hangouts, and we even recreated Friday drinks by all having a huge video chat with everyone in the company. It’s a great opportunity to blow off some steam and feel connected.
Demonstrate positive leadership and make sure that your people understand that this thing is going to end, whether it’s in six weeks or in six months. Connect with your staff virtually, remind everyone to still have fun and continue to work hard because the business is pushing forward and will come out stronger.
Go on a “news diet”
Understand that news channels are a business in themself: they are in the business of really extracting as much eyeball attention as they possibly can. You don’t want to be oblivious to what’s going on around you, but schedule time for news and limit yourself to the amount of news that you’re consuming. It could be a 10 to 15-minute diet of how much news you want to consume in your day.
Invest in yourself
Instead of being in a reactive state, get on the front foot and invest in bettering yourself and bettering your business. Buy courses, buy books, make sure that you’re still actively exercising, and keep yourself in that positive frame of mind, because this too shall pass.
History has given us examples of many businesses that emerge stronger from testing times are those who have looked for opportunities instead of looking at challenges. They’re the ones that always come out the other end in a much stronger position while everybody else is frozen in fear.
Now’s the time to get on the offensive, and take action for your business. During an economic contraction, the companies that thrive are the ones that don’t retreat and don’t contract with the economy. Do not stop advertising and marketing, because if you do, you’re restricting the oxygen that forms new sales, new customers and revenue. And whatever you do, don’t let the fear and uncertainty phase you.
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