5 Things I’ve Learned so far about Growing a Business During COVID-19


boy walking on empty street

Casey Bourque - Web Design Phoenix

by Casey Bourque, VP Marketing at Web Design Phoenix
April 15, 2020

Every day, I get to chat with all kinds of businesses. It’s not just about websites, SEO and social media…not at all.

We talk about everything in their lives and in their companies. Hell, we talk about the golf course they played over the weekend. I’m right there on the front lines on Zoom calls as we try to figure out what’s working, what isn’t working, and what’s next.

Every situation is different, every mission is unique. It’s a game of light touches and constant refinement to bring business in the door and help them win.

Nowadays, there’s not much business coming in the door for a lot of our clients. Naturally, there are serious concerns, if not fears.

While I’m sensitive to the plight of many, many people out there. I’m also learning that this is also an incredible time in business. It’s a time filled with opportunity that many haven’t had the chance to consider (yet).

Here’s what I’m going to touch on…based on real research and conversations that I’m having every day…

• Why there might never be a better opportunity for winning market share.

• Which companies are going dark and why?

• What kind of messaging works best during a pandemic?

• How COVID-19 just might fix your broken sales strategy forever.

As always, this is an open forum. Hit me up if you have other ideas or questions. I believe that openly sharing ideas and communicating is the best way to find optimal solutions.

Self Preservation is the First Impulse

It’s correct to assume that business owners are scared. Some more than others depending on their place in the ecosystem. As humans, our first instinct is to protect what we have during times of need — to safeguard the necessities. We’ve all been doing this to some extent.

What I’ve been impressed with, and frankly surprised, is what follows…and it doesn’t take long. Our planning discussions very quickly shift from fear and cost-cutting to more proactive considerations. What’s life going to be like when things open back up? How can we position ourselves to come out the other side better off? What opportunities exist? How can we redeploy resources rather than cutting everything off?

These conversations are not only extremely helpful from a business perspective but from a psychological perspective as well. We all just feel better when we’re looking ahead to better times.

The World is Going to Remember

If we look back historically during times of crisis, we know that reputations have been made and broken forever.

I believe that people are going to remember the individuals and the companies that stepped up and did wonderful things for humankind. I also believe they’re going to remember the greedy assholes.

Challenging times are inflection points when we can bring enormous value to those around us. It’s an opportunity to be a good citizen. Not because we’re looking for a quick sale, but because it’s the right thing to do. People can tell the difference. This is a time to give, not a time to take.

I feel very strongly that the world is going to remember who the great “helpers” were when we needed it the most. Conversely, they’re also going to remember who the dicks were…the people and companies who were trying to take advantage of others, or trying to unjustly capitalize on a dire situation.

If you’re in a position to give to others, to bring value in ways that isn’t about moving dollars to your bottom line, then do it. There will never be a better time to do what’s right.

The Great Migration of Attention

This one’s pretty simple — more people are spending more time online. That’s where the attention is, so that’s where you need to be. The end.

I heard an interview this morning talking about the next great wealth divide having to do with the “digitals vs. non-digitals” — people operating online vs. those that aren’t or can’t. Wealth is disproportionately going to flow in the direction of those winning attention online, and away from the others.

Companies are already figuring out that they can operate more efficiently without in-person meetings, exhausting travel routines, long commutes, etc. That translates into less flights, hotels, eating in restaurants, expensive business suits, rental cars and everything else.

Here’s a Video About the Attention Economy

Your Competition is Hibernating

This is a big one. With all the economic contraction, layoffs, and remote working environments, companies aren’t very coordinated right now. Most have halted advertising spending completely.

Audit your competition…I bet the radio waves have gone pretty quiet.

We might assume that cuts in spending are the reason for this dormancy, but that’s not really the case. The real reason is an inherently flawed marketing strategy that’s been there all along.

People and companies like to talk about themselves…it’s always been the path of least resistance…the amateur approach to marketing. Let’s tell the world how great we are, show how well we’re doing.

I call it “We’re Awesome, Come Buy our Shit” marketing.

You see when everyone is living fat and happy, and things are going great, it’s easy to tell these kinds of stories. When things get hard, selfish business are afraid to share their reality, or they’re simply at a loss for what to talk about.

This is a huge opportunity for the rest of us who share our truth.

Forget About Monetization

When nobody is spending money, that means you’re not going to increase sales right now. That’s a fact for almost everyone. But why is this a good thing?

You can quit pestering people to buy your shit.

I’m serious. In today’s world, there are few short-term payoffs. Now, with quick wins and monthly sales reports off the radar screen, a long-term approach is the only way (and a much better way).

All of our messages either ask people for something (selling), or give them something (branding). You’re always either selling or branding, never both.

By the way, those messages disguised as a “give” with the sales pitch at end…yep, people see through that crap. Don’t do that…ever.

Market conditions are forcing us into a branding, reputation building, proactive mentality. We know that we’re not winning sales today, so don’t even try. Trust me, it pays off.

Doing good things for others without asking anything in return builds your brand’s reputation and puts you in position to win market share and monetize when things start moving again.

The Takeaway:

So, just like a down stock market, our economy presents opportunities for businesses to shake things up. In short, here’s what we know:

  • More of your customers are spending time online than ever.
  • Your competition is dormant, giving you a better spot on the soapbox.
  • Now is the time to give value and to help, not to sell. Don’t make it about you, make it about everyone else.

And perhaps the biggest branding play of them all, the one that might make or break your reputation forever:

  • The world is going to remember the hero as well as the bad actors during this time.

Be kind, be empathetic, be helpful, and you’ll win.
By the way, keep it going long after the crisis is over because these rules always apply.

Cheers and good luck,