Thriving in the times of COVID-19

Take your business from barely surviving to thriving with a little creativity (and perhaps, some chat marketing!)

Any kind of crisis can be bad for business. But a global pandemic with a mounting death toll, strict lockdown and shelter in place measures, struggling economies and collapsing companies can be catastrophic. Maybe not. If you play your cards right. 

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news you already know. It’s all around you on social media, television channels, everybody’s lips and your mind. The good news is that there is a way, or even multiple ways, to salvage your business and take it from  surviving to thriving. We’ve broken down five of the most common struggles businesses are facing during the coronavirus pandemic and practical solutions for them:

1. Sales are down in the present? Sell for the future.

If your offering is something that customers cannot enjoy in the present because of strict lockdown or shelter in place measures, let them reserve the experience for a future date – when we finally beat the virus and can move from the virtual world to the real world. This works especially well for restaurants, but also for salons and spas. This idea works, as evidenced by a number of initiatives that are helping to facilitate this pay now-enjoy later format such as Lunch Next, Eazy Diner, and Dineout.

2. Customers out of touch? Connect with them. 

So you had to shut your storefront or office, give your team paid leave or schedule work from home, pause all or most operations…stop, drop and roll. Building your business may seem impossible right now, But there’s something you can build – relationships with your existing customers (which will always lead to building your business).

Some companies have reported calling every client and offering any help they can, others send out emails. The first approach is time and labor intensive and really only works if you have a small, select bunch of clients or customers. The second has been done to death and comes off as insincere templatized concern, if not done just right. Also,email open rates are already low. With every business sending out emails right now, yours is just another in a stack of spam.  So, what do you do?

Messenger chatbots are a great solution because they don’t require much effort or time on your part, and have an open rate of 90%. Unlike a mass-email where you’d just use the customer’s name, chatbots can be personalized to a much greater extent. Plus, you can let your customer decide exactly how you can provide value to them. By giving them multiple options to select from, you let them steer the conversation and continue to engage with your brand as they would with a friend or acquaintance. They may not be able to buy from you just now, but you’ll still be on their minds.

Chatbots aren’t just tools for sales, they are excellent ways to strengthen relationships with customers or create ones with potential customers. 

It gets better. 

One of the ways you can use your business chatbot is to create a loyalty program, like the one we made for MonQo, a cafe that got them an incredible amount of leads in just two weeks. It allows you to award those customers who do engage with your brand and give them an incentive to visit you once the crisis clears.  Win-win.

3. Customers don’t have funds? Give them a payment plan.

A lot of businesses are offering their products or services at lowered prices or even for free. Some of them as a way to do their bit and help the world, others to keep cash flowing. It’s a good move, because most customers are taking pay cuts, losing their jobs or curtailing expenses in general. But if that isn’t sustainable for your business, what do you do?

Ask for full price and be the villain or reduce prices and perceived value? Instead of asking your customers to pay less, give them more time to make the payment by offering them a payment plan. That way, you still have a steady income, they can continue to enjoy your product or service without it making a dent in their budget.

Another perk? Not only does the perceived value of your- offering stay stable, the perception about your business gets a positive boost too. 

4. Your product is a one-time purchase? Create a subscription service. 

With the emphasis on only purchasing and selling essentials, what you’re offering may not be on your customer’s priority list. But even as some customers may be cutting down on expenses, others may be missing their creature comforts. Take the stress of sourcing non-essentials off their shoulders by creating a custom subscription service.

You have to get creative and personalize each package as much as possible for it to work. Maybe you’re a toy or book store – and with bored kids stuck at home, a few new toys or fun story and activity books delivered home according to age range may be a godsend. Puzzle Post, while started before the crisis, is a jigsaw puzzle subscription service that offers a great way to spend time sheltering in place, delivered home. Or you sell makeup or gourmet ingredients or maybe even clothes?

Time to dig into your customer database and find out what your customers really like but cannot have, and have it sent to them for a fee. You’re helping them, and your business. Boom. 

5. Shutters forced closed? Sell your wares online.

The word on the street is life will never go back to the way it was before this pandemic. Words from survey reports claim that shopping will never be the same again either.  Online shopping has seen a massive surge. And once customers see how much easier it is to buy online and have it delivered home or use the ‘click and collect’ format that retailers have adopted in Australia, that’s how they’ll keep shopping. So while a shift to e-commerce is a great way to cope with the current crisis, it will also be crucial to prevent having to close shutters for good once the crisis ends. 

All of these solutions do come with a caveat to work – you’ll have to promote them online, and to a highly targeted audience. That’s where chat marketing comes in. Now is not the time to simply rely on social media and word of mouth and generic mass marketing.

As you get ready to experiment with a new way to sell, it is also the best time to expand how you sell to your customers. Give your business that fighting chance. 


Teesha Thomas

Teesha Thomas
Director of Content, Chatveda

With years of experience in digital marketing and a degree in Advertising, Teesha has worked with agencies across India to help build brands and tell their stories.
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