There’s a lot anxiety over COVID-19 pandemic, yet the Tech Sector is more agile, resilient and able to adapt quickly than most. I look at 7 ways you can survive now and maybe thrive when it’s all over – and none involves hand sanitiser…
1. Don’t Do Nothing
Technology, healthcare, online businesses and supermarkets are expected to buck the downward trend, according the Sydney Morning Herald on March 23, 2020. However, that won’t be by doing nothing; it will be by responding positively to change.
If you do nothing, the negative impact of COVID-19 and the mooted recession could be even greater. If you only take action when the government says it’s over, you could have missed major opportunities to transform your business. More than any other, the tech sector is able to adapt. If you wait until the storm has passed to act, it will take even longer to recover, meaning two lag periods not one.
In difficult times like these, being fearful or hunkering down aren’t the ways of the wise according to Warren Buffet: ‘Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful’ he says.
In technology, you might only have a few months’ jump on your competitors. You don’t want them to catch up or penetrate new markets while you’re in neutral. If you keep focused on activities that matter and keep alert to new opportunities, you could hit the ground running when life and markets are back to normal.
Be selective about what you do, be decisive and be ready. Your competitors could have greater overheads, lower liquidity, less agility or less freedom to take action. You could be in a far better position to do so. This is the time to focus on your strengths, not your fears.
2. Take Time To Take Stock
If you’re feeling the chill wind of a potential downturn, it’s a good time to take stock – of your staff, your systems, your clients and what your company does better than any other.
If more staff are working remotely, you may have fewer unscheduled meetings and interruptions (or maybe a lot more!). Whatever your situation, it’s vital that the captain has quiet daily thinking time, even if it’s only thirty minutes at dawn in the garden before everyone else wakes up.
Think about who in your team is best placed to do more (and who may prefer to do less), how your systems could be more efficient or cost-effective, which systems or overheads you could do without, what activities are delivering the most results, and how you could do things differently.
This is the time for open, possibility thinking not closed thoughts of doom. It isn’t easy, but it’s essential and it works. Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been changing minds and lives for decades. It’s hard under pressure but it definitely works.
3.Leverage Useful Technology
Remote working isn’t just becoming popular, it’s mandatory for survival in some industries. If you haven’t already done so, take a look at these tools and tips that make working from anywhere easier, more productive and more reliable than ever.
Luminary shows how to run successful workshops remotely.
John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing shows how to ramp up your video, video conferencing, webinars and live streaming.
Clockify runs through tools for time-tracking, communication, video-conferencing, file- sharing and collaboration, project management, development and design.
Your people may be working from home with children and dogs inside and mowers and kookaburras outside. They’ll be distracted, irritated and maybe nervous about how they’ll cope and be cool, calm and professional. Your technology support could really make a difference to their wellbeing and productivity and to your success.
4.Be Genuinely Helpful
Some of your clients may already be affected, if they’re in travel or hospitality, for instance. They’ll be anxious and will be hunkering down for the worst. This isn’t the time to stop communicating; it will only make them feel worse.
Take the time to reach out. Tell them you’re concerned and ask if you can help. Or be pro-active and offer them special payment terms or access to novel, low- or no-cost services that could really help them. Firstly, you’ll feel good and secondly, there could be spinoff: you might be paid, and remembered and re-engaged when the good times return.
If even Australian banks, those alleged perpetrators of fraud and deception on hapless and even deceased customers, can offer to help so can you. A reduced income flow is better than finding the tap has been turned off. It’s flattening the downturn, a bit like flattening the curve of new COVID-19 infections.
There may even be ways your technology could help clients, ways unique in these times of social distancing, isolation and lockdown. Could your solution be delivered in a cheaper, more effective, or novel way that could help them? Could you offer them something for nothing (see more under 7 below).
Other areas may be less affected, such as healthcare, retail (well, supermarkets and e-tailers anyway) and government. These would be the verticals to focus on but, not as a predator, but in ways that could help them do their jobs more easily, efficiently or with less stress.
Whatever else you do, keep your brand in front of clients and prospects, in a helpful and genuine way, not being self-serving or trying to make a quick buck out of adversity.
5.Focus Your Spend On Results
In terms of retaining or helping existing clients or gaining new ones, you have many options. For instance, there are eight different digital strategies just to generate leads. If you used them all, you’d never be able to afford the initiatives you’ll need to keep your business growing now and preparing to thrive later.
Focus on those strategies that consistently deliver concrete results, such as high quality leads that become profitable clients who refer you to others just like them.
If you have in-house marketing people, focus them on these strategies; if you have external agencies, focus them there, too, and choose the providers who know your business, your markets and how your targets think. It will save you money and time in execution.
6.Upskill Your People
Many software and technology bosses say their sales guys are brilliant in person and achieve high conversion rates. That’s great, but what if they can’t get face to face for a few weeks or months?
This is the ideal time to upskill the team to be great on the phone too. There’s a big upside for them when this period is over: they’ll be able to progress and close deals faster from anywhere. That means they could earn more, which might make them more enthusiastic about the idea.
Some of the skills they’ll have to perfect include using phone scripts, shutting out distractions at home, scheduling calling time and sticking to it, focusing on one objective per call, always setting the time for the next contact while on the phone, speaking slowly and clearly, listening (not just to answers but inaudible signals like pauses) and taking practical steps, like having a backup demo or web conference strategy, in case of an unstable internet signal.
7.Look For New Opportunities
Today, the government has made sweeping changes that affect us all, like bans on travel and large gatherings and closing pubs, clubs, churches and cinemas and all businesses regarded as non-essential. If the pundits are right, recession is ahead and that will affect even more in your market.
This is the perfect time to think about how an existing or new product could meet new needs in markets you may never have served. The world has changed and your thinking and focus need to change too.
How could your product or service be delivered in new ways, to different physical locations, in novel formats or to totally different markets? How could you split up a product or service to make it more accessible or affordable? How could you make it easier, more efficient or less costly for your prospects and clients to conduct business or stay in business? Which existing service could you offer for half price – or nothing – for six months and get it into more hands and really make a difference?
Get working on these ideas now and you could be well ahead of the curve when life gets back to normal. It will, even if it seems hard to envisage now.
If you take the opportunity to pause, think, plan and act during this period, you could keep your business in good shape now and see major benefits later. If you wait until it’s over, it could be too late.
Whatever you do, look after yourself too; keep safe, keep healthy, keep your head focused on what you want – not what you fear. It’s not easy, but it’s vital.