At the time of writing (April 2020) I am at home in quarantine and hit with the realization that things will not be the same for quite a while.
Initially after hearing warnings of pandemics before and seeing signs in airports for diseases which never seemed to have any traction, I was over-optimistic we wouldn’t experience any major disruptions. When the lockdown measures in my region came weeks before the U.S, as a sensible precaution I was days away from my next business flight. Fortunately the early lockdown prevented me from getting stranded abroad and facing more stringent quarantine upon return home.
And this was weeks before the rapid outbreak hit the U.S.
Fortunately we have a health writer on our team, Andrew Cavanagh, who’s been on the radio in Australia explaining what would be coming with the outbreak. He’d been warning me ahead of time that things would get bad, and this wasn’t just another flu.
Weeks before the outbreak in the U.S and before people were taking this seriously he warned me directly of what was to come (shown below).
A few weeks later the U.S was amidst the biggest pandemic since the Spanish Flu.
While I was expecting an economic downturn was due (as they always come at some point), like most of us I did not expect this was coming.
But now quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing have become the new normal. While many are waiting for things to go back to how they are, we can’t be certain that can happen.
It’s likely the USA and other countries will relax restrictions too early due to economic pressures, which will just end up prolonging the problem and see more lockdowns happen. While such lockdowns might be intermittent, vary in intensity, and be reactive to testing, it’s something that could very well continue.
With a vaccine realistically unlikely until 2021 and its effectiveness questionable, and effective drug treatments 2- 7 months away with many variations in how effective it could be, we should settle on the idea that the rest of 2020 will be impacted in some way by lockdowns, and possibly beyond.
The longer these lockdowns the harder the effect on the economy and the more intense the coming recession.
But the reality is we just don’t know. As billionaire Ray Dalio says it’s important to not get overconfident and think we know what is coming despite how good we think our information is. Instead we should be humble in recognizing that we have a lot more unknowns than knowledge and to face the reality we are largely navigating the unknown and could be wrong.
Ultimately it’s going to take time to figure this pandemic out and we don’t know how it will pan out, but we can be aware that various scenarios could play out from being back to normal in a few weeks (unlikely) to a more prolonged period of lockdowns and social distancing at various intensities (more likely).
Realistically businesses may need to change the way they do business for quite some time because people’s behaviour will have changed. Even if restrictions are lifted it’s unlikely the same number of people will be happy to engage in activities like going to a restaurant or to a gym… especially people who are more vulnerable.
Realistically things may never be quite the same again. We just don’t know but we should account for the likelihood of 6-18 months of some kind of social distancing with the longer time frame being more likely but different levels of social distancing also being likely.
So what does this mean for the average small business on the street?
- The economy is going to be hit hard so all businesses will be effected as we’ve already discussed
- Financial support will likely be critical for many businesses to keep things moving as is already becoming the case.
- Businesses that have a strong focus on keeping clients safe are likely to do better, and there are opportunities for them to get the word out about that.
- Getting creative about home delivery, online ordering systems, online consulting and other ways to deliver a service from a distance will be important.
Waiting for things to return to normal is most likely a mistake for many small businesses. Most businesses won’t survive the wait.
This means that businesses will be in a completely different mindset facing both lockdowns and an economic crisis at the same time.
When it comes to the digital marketing industry this will undoubtedly change the sales process, even if you are focusing on serving higher growth industries.
One thing you should come to terms with is some of your clients will struggle and even close down, but others will need to weather the temporary storm to come out on top after.
The idea here is not to cling on and sell to any client you can, but to be very strategic in who you help and how you help them, so you can help them survive and prosper.
For some businesses spending money on marketing won’t be right, for others strategic spending will be critical, and for those in growing industries they will need to invest heavily in marketing to secure their sales against the competition.
It’s worthwhile remembering that if you are helping businesses with their marketing and you help them get more customers you are doing your bit to alleviate pain in this crisis. A copywriter on the Ampifire team put it this way:
“I don’t know if your other people can see this, but what you guys are doing has a very large effect on micro-economies. If people can help local businesses, then those local businesses improve. If the local businesses improve, then the community improves as well which means that families and people’s lives get better.”
To be able to help businesses you need to get them as paying clients and keep them, and how we do that has changed…