Business activity is coming back as most regions have started to reopen. We see an increase in website traffic for our distributor clients and orders have started to come in for products other than PPE products.
But we’re far from “a new normal”. The pandemic is not over yet. The authorities indicate that it’s on a decline worldwide and precautions and monitoring must continue. We can expect that needs will change continuously as the situation evolves. There will continue to be new opportunities that will come and go, so flexibility is key, looking out for changes and adapting quickly as things progress.
Three Phases To The New Normal
The way I see it, we will go through 3 phases before we reach a point of normalcy: first, there is the aftermath and recovery, where we are right now. Then, we will reach a period of stability, once everything is open again, and only after that, we will reach a point of new normal.
I talk about this in-depth in my recent webinar, Preparing Your Promo Business For The New Landscape, and in this post, I will share my views on the aftermath and recovery period, the actions to take, and the opportunities.
The Recovery Period
As the stay at home orders are being lifted in some parts of the country, businesses are opening up gradually with extreme precautions in place. Health is a concern for employers, the last thing anyone wants is to have anyone in their staff get sick.
So this is an adjustment period, where we’ll be adapting to working under certain restrictions, with lots of sanitizing and masks, as well as social distancing requirements.
The economy is in a recession, but because it’s a forced recession, as businesses are allowed to open and start producing again, a recovery period is starting. I think we can expect a growth trend in the economy in general, but some businesses won’t make it. You might know of businesses in your area that are closed for good, I know I do. And that might include some of your clients or potential clients, other distributors, and even suppliers.
Some businesses have done layoffs, retired senior employees, established pay cuts, and/or are keeping their staff working from home.
At the same time, there are businesses that are experiencing increased demand and maybe they’ve been busy all along, also, new businesses will emerge.
Considering the entire marketplace has been affected, it’s a good idea to make an assessment of the state of the businesses in your market, evaluate your opportunities with your current clients and prospects, and also assess your suppliers’ situation.
Check With Your Clients
If you have not talked to your clients since the shutdown, it is very important that you do ASAP. But don’t make it a pitch call, you will sound very insensitive and opportunistic. Instead, ask how things are shaping up, what plans do they as far as safety guidelines in returning to work, etc.
Talk about your situation as well. How you’ve pivoted, the challenges in dealing with ups and downs in inventory, delays in shipping, etc. Clients will appreciate knowing how the supply chain has been affected. It will make it easier for them to understand possible issues with their orders when the time comes.
Avoid going for the pitch right off the bat, lead with empathy. If your clients need anything the conversation will naturally flow in that direction. But if they have cut down or are not ready to order anything now, you want to still be in touch and be helpful. Remember, it’s important to build relationships, and this is a time for that.
Check With Your Suppliers
Suppliers have been under a lot of pressure. Some of them had to shut down completely, and lay everybody off. Others were able to continue to work partially, taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of their personnel.
Another consideration is potential stock issues. Suppliers might have large stocks sitting in their warehouses, with some products having little demand for a while, while not enough of what’s in demand right now.
Keep in mind, all this started around the Chinese new year, very close to the beginning of the year, suppliers usually are stoked up at that time of the year. Plus the cancellations of orders from the canceled events, that add financial strain on suppliers.
Another point to consider is that product prices will be affected because anytime you have a supply-demand or conflict, prices are affected.
This is a time to be kind to suppliers, they are your partners and critical to your business. I think it’s a good thing to call your most appreciated suppliers and see how they’re doing in terms of inventory, production times, staff back at work, and so on.
Talk to Your Clients About Stock, Price, and Turnaround Issues
It is important to have this conversation ahead of time. You want to educate your clients about these issues so that they’re prepared. They will understand because they’re going through the effects of the disruption themselves. Talking to your clients ahead of time will avoid negative reactions if you just present a quote with new, very high prices, and way longer delivery.
A very effective way of communicating these issues to your clients is by writing about it on your blog, then sending them an email and posting it on social media.
As far as events, I think businesses will be holding off on these for the most part for the rest of this year, while the cautionary social distancing remains in place. That’s the way I anticipate the events part of our industry, there might be some here and there happening, but I think it’s better to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
As it’s already the case, we’ll be wearing masks when we go out to public places and at the workplace. This to me is so depressing, but it might be our new normal for a while. We don’t know how long this will last as things are constantly evolving with this pandemic. But this is a time to be empathetic, to be helpful, and to be nimble. You have to be flexible and adapt to what’s going on and the changes.
Because even at this period of time, we’re all going to be kind of depressed but trying to make the best of it and trying to push forward. But we continue to be in the same turbulent ocean. So it’s better to be empathetic with your clients, and with everybody for that matter. We’re all going through the same thing.
Long Term Opportunities
During the aftermath and recovery, as we’ve seen in other recessions, the government, as a way to stimulate the economy, will start infrastructure projects that will generate work across the business “food chain” at local levels, This will generate employment and allocation of budgets to mostly HR and employee marketing.
Go on your local government websites and look for construction projects, such as roads and bridges, parks, etc. Think of all the businesses that feed on it and that you can approach.
Another sector to look at is service companies. They have not stopped working and in some cases, they have been growing. Many of them have had to improvise and hire extra people to meet the demand, and now they’ll have to make adjustments and will need your products. Being the one that helps them in this process, recommending the right marketing products, even if it’s on a small scale now, will ensure you the business when the economy recovers because you were there when they needed you.
Direct mail is making a big comeback. You have the resources and the knowledge to become king in the direct mail marketing space. From variable data postcards to custom boxes of branded goodies, you can provide complete solutions. Find out which suppliers provide these types of products and come up with a handful of offerings, then start promoting them!
The China Factor
I think we can all agree that China has gotten a bad rep worldwide and we don’t know where this is going. At this point, more and more people are asking for US made products. This is likely to ease off, I don’t think that we’re going to just stop buying stuff from China, that’s very unrealistic. But it’s important to manage this with your clients, we have excellent suppliers from China and need to reassure our clients if needed. But it’s necessary to be aware of how this pans out and be on the lookout for how it evolves.
To conclude, things will continue to evolve for a while. 2020 will be the year of rebuilding and healing, rapid change will be the norm. This is a time to connect with your business community and be helpful. To be aware of your market conditions and be nimble. Also, to be in very close touch with your suppliers and know their dilemmas, and most importantly, not to make permanent decisions based on temporary demands.
If you are looking for help in transforming your business model and the marketing strategy required to succeed, we can help! Contact us and let’s have a conversation.