Surviving COVID-19 – a business perspective
2020 aka the year running a business become like playing in a game of Jumanji. The global spread is not slowing, and it is scary. There are several roads we as business owners can choose to go down. Sit on our hands and hope this is all a storm in a teacup. Freak out and start applying for a business loan to support the business during this difficult time. Work on an exit strategy to pack up shop quickly and minimise the loss. It’s time for fight or flight and we may be looking at 6 – 12 months to get to the other side.
If you decide you want to fight, have your business succeed and want to get through this difficult time stronger, wiser and tougher then this article is for you. I have listed my top 5 COVID-19 strategies which you should implement into your business.
- Pivot – I don’t think I can say this enough, pivot, pivot and pivot some more. If you have been in business for a few years, you will be familiar with the term pivoting. As you learn about your client and their problems, you pivot to provide the best solutions. With COVID-19, clients want treatments more than ever as we always want what we believe we can’t have. However, “social distancing” is best practice. Social distancing requires a separation between people of 1.5 metres, which completely contradicts having a facial treatment, injectables and/or any unnessercary treatment. GP’s are urging patients to teleconference (with this in mind), so it is not ideal to be marketing to clients encouraging them not to worry and to come into your clinic. Have you ever told a worried woman not to worry? I would not recommend it. So, if you can’t perform services that are the bread and butter of your business, how are you going too pivot to pay rent?
It’s time to think outside the square and look at other ways to generate revenue streams which consider social distancing and then disseminate that information to clients. Some of my suggestions are:
- Call patients to inform them not to arrive early or late as there will be no waiting in the waiting room. Minimise too many people in waiting areas.
- Jam open doors to limit touching handles on entry and exit.
- Remove unnessercary items (magazines, make-up, product)
- LED treatments are fantastic as they require no touching
- Emsella pelvic floor chair – no touching required
- Infrared Sauna therapy – no touching
- Cryotherapy – no touching
To keep your clients occupied whilst waiting for treatments, consider having videos running on screens, providing education and mentioning the services you provide. It’s a great time to bolster your video library by creating some situation specific videos and using them to educate.
If there is a lockdown or continual decline due to fear, some suggestions would be to ramp up your retail:
- Provide complimentary virtual skin consultations (people isolated need human connection and will love the chat via video)
- Create hampers/boxes/kits “COVID-19 Skin Survival Kit” tailor the retail packages to the client as per your consultation and deliver or organise a courier/post. Be mindful women hate paying postage, this is one key point in the book “Marketing to mums” by Katrina McCarter. So, don’t over discount and do be mindful of how you are covering the delivery cost. If you expect clients to pay delivery you will need to be up front, not sneak it in at the end of the transaction. Remember these tele clients are going to visit you as soon as they can, client retention is imperative. Maintaining your client – therapist/nurse/practitioner relationship is essential.
- Keep your content relevant to the times and appropriate, considering the constant developments occurring now. If you are using a scheduling app with weeks of posts waiting to go live, now is a good time to pause all posts. Posting an image of beautiful people out enjoying their best life is not relevant or appropriate to someone self-isolating. Holding events, going out to dinner and flaunting a vicarious lifestyle could be perceived as inconsiderate. Now is not the time to “fake it till you make it” whilst the world is struggling. Being careful, considerate, kind and vulnerable is the current tone on social media. In any normal instance we would all post our greatest angles and the great Easter parties, egg hunts & our fun lives. This Easter long weekend will have a very different tone, instead of promoting body sculpting to compensate for too much chocolate and preparing for the long weekend, we will be posting about gratitude and supporting others. Weddings, honeymoons and parties celebrating major life events are all being cancelled or minimised. We can’t visit and hug our dying grandparents in aged care facilities or relatives in hospital; we can’t visit our family or friend who just had a baby and we are banned from hugging those who suffer anxiety, value touch and need a hug. If you do not consider your social media content carefully you could potentially lose loyal clients and potential new clients. Remind yourself “patients before profit” unless you can survive at a loss for months you will need to prepare for the loss in business; you will have to be frugal and you will have to stand down staff and let contractors go. These times are unprecedented, life is not great when thousands of people around the world are dying and even more are in isolation or lock down and when you cannot pay valued staff and can’t maintain valued contractors. Be honest and let your followers know, it is a struggle and their support is appreciated. Tell your followers: “a: like, share and comment means the world to our clinic whilst we traverse this difficult period”. Acknowledge your medical colleagues who are working around the clock and struggling to maintain supplies and ED beds. Lead by example and utilise your social media to support those around you. You will find these challenging times can bring people together. To pretend this is not happening and to carry on “business as usual” is simply insensitive and a gross neglect of your duty of care. You cannot position yourself as a caring medical business whilst completely disregarding best practice from The World Health Organisation or your local Department of Health. The COVID-19 virus can survive for 3 days on some surfaces and when the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than 5 micrometres (known as aerosols) it can stay suspended in the air for about a half-hour before drifting and settling on a surface (New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973). Tell patients the facts, risks and how you are protecting them, yourself, your team and your family. If you decide to close, explain why and how this will work for existing patients. If you decide to remain open what measures have you taken to ensure the safety of everyone who enters your clinic.
2. Context – constantly re-assess the context of your messaging across social media, email marketing and your website. The environment is rapidly changing. Before you post something ask yourself “Is this appropriate creative placement and is this in context”. I saw a post today: “Get your Fraxel before quarantine – now is the perfect time”, I also saw a post from a clinic closing its doors until mid-April. How do you think this type of conflicting messaging is perceived by the general public? We are certainly not on the same page regarding moving forward and adapting to the times. On top of that, people are fighting over toilet paper, who the hell cares about pigmentation at a time like this? I appreciate the clinic is desperate and needs to generate appointments, but this is not a well thought out campaign. I saw a wedding post promoting surgery prior to your big day which in any other context would be great. You may have a June wedding campaign planned, which would have been amazing if COVID-19 did not happen. But is it appropriate to post about a hen’s party, big wedding and glamourous honeymoon? NO. In the context of now, we can’t have intimate hens nights, big gatherings and trips to Europe. Weddings are being cancelled, it is completely inappropriate and damaging marketing. I shudder when I see the doctors, surgeons and clinics who clearly outsource their social media and have months of out of context content scheduled and populating their pages.
3. Creative considerations – I saw two birthday posts today with staff hugging in one and another “we are stronger together” with a large team of staff all together with arms over each other’s shoulders. When you consider that we are practicing social distancing and knowing this measure is going to save lives, why on earth as health professionals are you literally doing the opposite (consider your imagery). Your creative visual imagery needs to be scrutinised, no hugs, handshakes, kisses, touching and high fives. Your tone and copy needs to be carefully checked, tongue in cheek humour will not be received well by all. Be cautious, you want to make people smile and laugh without being insensitive or causing offense to anyone. The keywords, “virus” has taken on a new meaning and needs to be used cautiously. Hence, I keep referring to COVID-19 not coronavirus. Keep your messaging considerate in this new reality.
4. Budget – your sales are declining therefore your marketing budget must be cut. You cannot continue to simply boost a post you like, throw money at google ads and keep the content creator, creating. You now need to scrutinise every cent you spend, because you are not going to get an ROI in the short term. Maintaining your online presence and selling stock is the goal. Treatments will drop with social isolation, so you cannot rely on past costs per lead acquisition. As a medical professional and nurturer, you must be helpful, educate and drive the dissemination of factual reliable information. You will retain clients, gain new clients and restore your business when this is over, if you maintain a meaningful presence. If you are of no value to a user, annoying people with unreliable fake news and acting as though its “business as usual” you will lose clients. Empathy and listening are two of the most important skills when working in aesthetics, we empathise with a patients concern and we listen, we listen to learn about them, their motivation to have an elective treatment, their goal, their fears and we provide a wholistic service to help them feel good about themselves. People are scared, acknowledge that, empathise, validate and in a meaningful way stay connected. You should still be budgeting for restarting your business when we are on the other side of this crisis. Now is a good time to collect good content and to plan strategies for kick starting your business when applicable.
Start negotiating with your landlord, let him/her know they could lose you as a tenant entirely and be left with vacant space, or they could help you by reducing the rental cost for 6 months whilst you try to get through this tough time. Start contacting your suppliers and device reps and find out how they can they help and support your business? If you support your clients, your clients will remember and remain loyal and if reps support you in this tough time, you too will remember, and that relationship will only become stronger and more profitable. Stocktake your retail and start creating a plan to move the stock you have. It is the choices you make now that you will be judged on in the future. If we can all just scrape by that’s ok, as long as when this is over your business skyrockets!
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Social Media Stylist, Mumpreneaur, Speaker and Influencer, Nicole Montgomery is on a mission to help aesthetic business build their online presence and effectively communicate with their ideal customers.
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