The world has never faced a future as uncertain as today’s. Even before the lockdown imperilled our families and businesses, there was already an oil price war, problems with the dollar, and the meltdown of the European Union. At times like these, every business owner and manager should be feverishly planning the future.

One thing is more certain than ever; business will shift even further to digital. People are now accustomed to working from home and shopping from home. They depend more on social media than on newspapers, television or high streets. It’s not certain when traditional ways of meeting, buying and selling will be allowed to revive – if ever. Everyone needs a new plan and we need it now.

Cut back and sink

In times of adversity, our instinct is to be frugal. This time, however, frugal will fail. Even governments and banks are suddenly spending money like water. Spending (when you do it right of course) will help us swim through very choppy waters. The government sees no alternative and nor should businesses. Warren Buffett, possibly the world’s most successful investor, famously said: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful”. It doesn’t take a stock exchange insider to know that the herd is fearful today.

When the dust settles on Covid-19, Brexit and the oil crisis, there will be new markets and fewer players. For those with hats still in the ring, opportunities will be enormous. Closing branches, making employees redundant and deferring investment could be the biggest mistake you will ever make. The market is still there. You need to reach out to it not hide under the bed.

When the lockdown winds down, expansion will be rapid and there will be no time to back-pedal on cut-backs.

100 metres marketing

Marketing is the way a business sprints toward opportunities before they disappear. In steady markets you barely need it; established customers keep coming back and things tick over. On the other hand, skimp on marketing when there is everything to play for and you’ll trip at the start line. The Olympics may have been postponed, but they haven’t been cancelled.

Despite the metaphor, don’t get business confused with sport: the best way to win a sprint is to start first. For the wise, it has already started. The importance of reaching customers using the web and email during the lockdown should be obvious, but when it ends there is no going back. When the coronavirus lockdown lifts you’ll really begin to see things change. Begin now, or you won’t be ready.

Not all marketing has to be digital, and in fact, digital marketing works best when it’s part of a coordinated marketing plan. Nevertheless, no business without web and social media presence is likely to survive the current conditions or prosper in those soon to follow.

Building or rebuilding websites quickly

You haven’t time to reinvent the wheel. Without doubt, you need a well established and user-friendly website platform, such as WordPress. The great advantage of WordPress over most other platforms is that it is a quick and easy way to build a website, but still flexible and extensible later. Other platforms either involve challenging coding or they are one-size-fits-all.

WordPress already has modules to help integrate it with Instagram, Facebook, Ebay and mobile phones – all media that tomorrow’s customers expect today. Even more important, WordPress won’t kill you at the bank.

Creating a website isn’t marketing, but it is a very good start. Without digital shop windows, your marketing team will have nowhere to send your customers.

Customers are only half the solution

We live in times of extortionate rents and crippling energy costs, so why pay for shops and offices that are no longer needed? Your customers are now working and shopping from home; why can’t you and your employees do the same?

This isn’t just for the lockdown, this is forever. One day you will look back on your old place of work as a ball and chain and wonder how it didn’t drag you under.

Moving your company into cyberspace isn’t difficult. In most cases, all you need is for employees to have phones and laptops. Most already do, so you are ready to go!

Well-organised communications are essential and for that, there is a panorama of cloud software and services. Packages such as Slack and Zoom keep colleagues in touch at all times. Clockify can create timesheets, manage wages and bill clients. Blogs, videos, Whatsapp and Facebook help to maintain strong relationships between your workforce and customers.

Every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining. The lockdown is a golden opportunity to transform how you operate, ready for the shape of things to come.