As part of my ‘Coming out of COVID’ series to help business owners feel more prepared post pandemic, this week’s focus is on communication.
You’ve Got Help and Got Clear – Now Get Communicating!
If you’ve followed my four week series of how to come out of COVID-19 as a business owner you will know by now that we have so far focused on:
- Getting help and formulating a plan
- Getting clear and cashflow forecasting
- Your strategy for reopening
It’s time to start thinking about your communication and the various ways in which you get to communicate with so many vital people in your business network as you reopen.
Communicating With Your Staff
Coming Back to Work
By now you will know from your cashflow forecasting which staff you will need to start bringing back into the business and which staff may need to stay on the furlough scheme. There may also be some really difficult conversations around redundancy that will take place. If you do not have a HR person in your business, you may wish to seek the advice and help of a specialist HR consultancy service who will be able to guide you on the correct steps.
A sense of uncertainty has been the overriding feeling throughout the last few months and even though furlough has been a welcome comfort for some, there will need to be open and honest conversations about returning to work with as much advance notice as possible. We know this can be difficult as a lot of sectors are still waiting for a confirmed reopening date to be able to plan effectively.
While personal family circumstances are not discussed at interview, most business owners will know the family situation of their employees. When making a decision on lifting furlough and bringing people back into the workplace, please remember that discussions around childcare get to be discussed. If an employee has a child of primary school age in Years 3, 4 or 5 or high school age in Years 7, 8 or 9 then some schools are not putting plans in place to accommodate these years groups before September. This means your employees may be without adequate childcare and this may affect their ability to return to work.
This also applies to those staff members who come under the vulnerable category, or those loved ones that they live with. They may need to shield for longer. The current advice at the time of writing this is until at least June 30th 2020 at the earliest.
Restrictions and New Regulations in the Workplace
If you have created new restrictions in the workplace to enable the 2m social distancing rules, you will need to communicate this to your workforce. If your employees have been furloughed they may not have access to company email so phone calls and emails/letters with new restrictions and regulations should be outlined. If staff will need to wear PPE, let them know and how they can get it ready for their first working day. If you have had to stagger work times, this should be discussed with your employees in advance.
You may have implemented a one way system or blocked off certain office or work spaces. You may have new rules around the handling of cash or the contact with customers. Ensure your employees know about this ahead of time and make sure the emphasis is on their safety and well-being alongside the needs of the customer. Employees will naturally have reservations about their safety in returning to work.
It’s important to mention that at the time of writing on 22/06/20, the social distancing rule is rumoured to be being reviewed in the UK. This means that the restrictions and regulations may change again before your business reopens.
This time of the pandemic has taught us that we have to pull together and that community is key. This includes the community of your workplace. You may have had to make cost cutting decisions or put certain plans on hold due to COVID. This may disappoint your teams, but communicating with them honestly and openly will help them understand why certain decisions have been made.
At Insight Finance Solutions we use Float cashflow forecasting as outlined in the last blog. This is a visual tool to show the financial impact of different scenarios. You may want to showcase this to key team members to visually demonstrate why some business decisions have been made.
Communicating with your Landlord/Banks/HMRC
After completing cash flow forecasting as outlined in my last blog, you will have been able to see the impact of rent on finances. While you may have had a period of grace during the coronavirus this is a time to decide if you can start to pay rent again or can you have a conversation with your landlord about changing your payment terms temporarily. If you are in a position to pay your rent again in full or you need to negotiate you will still need to communicate with your landlord to re-instate the payment or change the terms.
If you have loans or credit card payments that were put on hold now is the time to extend those payment holidays if possible, renegotiate repayments or start to make payments again in full.
If you have paused a regular self assessment tax payment or VAT with HMRC you will need to liaise with HMRC to reinstate the direct debit. On the flip side of this, if you want to arrange for these payments to be paused, even if you have informed HMRC you will still need to manually cancel the direct debit to stop that payment. HMRC cannot do that from their side.
Communicating with your Customers
This is a big one but once you know when you will reopen and how your business will look on opening, it is time to communicate with your customers. Even if you’re in a sector where you’re waiting for a date to reopen, you can still communicate that to your customers. It is your chance to build excitement, anticipation and remind them how much they love you!
I asked Gemma Ray who assists me with my marketing to help on this part. I am so grateful to Gemma she has been a godsend over the last few weeks and months helping me get my messages out to my customers and audience. She makes sense of my WhatsApp voice notes and turns my words into brilliant content. Find out more about Gemma here.
Her advice is as follows:
Look at all the ways you currently communicate with your clients, or you did before the coronavirus outbreak. Common ways we communicate with our customers include:
- email marketing
- text message marketing
- social media
- direct mail
- local newspapers/radio/outdoor advertising
- phone call
- Google listing
Taking all the ways you used to communicate with your clients, create a letter or piece of content that will tell your customers how you plan to open and when. Don’t forget to adjust your Google My Business listing and your opening times on your website and all social media channels.
Create a social media plan of content that doesn’t just tell them when and how you’re reopening but make them remember how good you are and why they need you. Always remember when posting on social media that it isn’t always about selling your business, you need to think about your customer and how they feel.
- Who is your ideal customer? (Craft your message as if you are talking to your ideal customer)
- What problem will you solve for the customer?
- How will you solve it?
- When they can come to you?
- Why someone should come to you? What makes your business brilliant?
Tap into the current events and the restrictions that have all been placed on us. Use humour where possible and appropriate and remind your customers what they’ve been missing by not seeing you.
Start With Your Current Customers
If you are a business where your customers booked in to see you, start with those who were booked in with you in March/April/May and June. Prioritise them first as they are your loyal customers and will feel valued that they were thought of.
A lot of businesses I see don’t ask their current customers for their help and support and this is a great time to do it. Ask your current customers to recommend you to others. In your communication to them about your new opening plans ask them to tell a friend, share your social media posts or write you a review. It all helps! You will find that your loyal business fans will be happy to help and if each customer shares your business messaging with their own immediate audience, it is a wonderful form of word of mouth advertising.
There has never been a better time to champion your business and turn your loyal customers into raving fans who will form a thriving community for you. People will want to see your business thrive so don’t be scared to ask for their help.
Focus on Your Quality Rather than Discounts
I’ve seen many business owners panicking and offering discounts for when they reopen. My extensive experience in this area has shown that focusing on the quality of what you do always wins over constant sales messages and discounts.
Tell a story about your business. People love storytelling. Showcase your customers or your staff. Be human. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable but also a great piece of advice with any social media storytelling is “Share the scar, not the wound” as there is a fine line between pouring out your business worries and coming off desperate compared to showing up as a strong, resilient business leader who is ready to take on the world post coronavirus. Ask for help and support but do it from a place of strength.
If you are going to offer a discount as this is something your customers have come to know about you, I always find a monetary value rather than a percentage gets a greater uptake. One example is with the hairdressing industry. I used to market hairdressing salons all over the world and whenever we ran promotions for new colour clients a £10 off offer was always more popular than a 10% off offer – even though the average spend was £150+. We ran this same promotion with hair extensions, priced at £600+ and the offer for £50 off always did better than the offer for 10% off.
Create a Schedule
Create a small marketing plan for communicating with your customers. Write your letters in advance and sense check them with staff or valued customers. Make sure what you’re trying to convey comes across as you intend it to do.
Create a social media plan focusing on that quality of your services, ideal customer and what they have missed. You can even schedule social media in advance using software like Buffer, Hootsuite, Later or SocialBee. Doing it in one go could be a weight off your mind.
This is probably one of the most important weeks in terms of the action steps towards opening your business. Honest, open and effective communication is the key to everything. When you are clear on what you are doing and why, it will help you feel more at ease.
We can help you specifically with the communication with landlords, HMRC and suppliers. Take a look at our healthcheck package to see how we are supporting people through the pandemic towards stress free finances.
Helen Crapper is the founder of Insight Finance Solutions. Helen and the team specialise in accountancy advice at every stage of business and help make finances stress free for clients. Helen is also a coach and uses money mindset coaching to help business people remove their personal blocks and limiting beliefs to grow as people while growing their businesses.
To have a chat about your business finances and how Insight Finance Solutions can help you, get in touch.