What We Can Learn From The Organisations Responding To The COVID-19 Outbreak

  • Apr 29, 2020

  • by Saurabh Kumar

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The unprecedented spread of COVID-19 has caused disruptions in lives and livelihoods at a global scale. Organizations, business leaders and governments around the world are coming together to find ways to minimize the crippling effects of this pandemic. While there are no ready-made answers to fight this crisis due to the unpredictability of the situation, and the lack of historical data, there is an opportunity to learn from the organizations and business leaders around the world that are taking steps to help the state as well as implement their own recovery plans. China, the first country to be affected by COVID-19, is now at an early stage of economic rebound. Here are a few examples of how Chinese companies are dealing with the crisis:

  1. Master Kong, China’s flagship instant noodles brand, put a review mechanism in place to anticipate changes on a daily basis during the early stages of the outbreak. The organization focussed on online-to-offline, e-commerce and smaller stores, and was able to recover its supply chain by 50% and supply to 60% of its stores (3x of its competitors).
  2. Supor, one of the largest kitchenware manufacturers in China, took initiatives in the early stages of the outbreak to limit exposure. From implementing strict operational guidelines and carrying out health checks for its employees to procuring preventive equipment and making emergency plans for exceptional situations, the organization left no stones unturned to manage the crisis situation. Supor was able to reopen some of its production lines by as early as the second week of February.
  3. Lin Qingxuan, a Chinese cosmetics giant, had to close down 40% of its stores because of the pandemic. The cosmetics company tried its hand in promoting its products online by turning its beauty advisers into online influencers. These influencers leveraged digital platforms (such as WeChat) to engage with customers. As a result, Lin Qingxuan recorded 200% growth in its sales from Wuhan region.

Learnings from the crisis

Although the measures taken by Chinese companies are formulated according to the social, cultural and political structure of the country, there are some broad learnings one can derive from the way these companies and many others across the world have responded to the crisis.

Innovate quickly and constantly

‘Slow’ won’t cut it. ‘Moderate’ will only take you so far. You have to be ‘quick’ - in assessing, crisis planning, responding, strategising for recovery and post-recovery and constantly looking back to reassess your efforts and find gaps. Management will play a crucial role in navigating through the crisis by solving internal conflicts and finding quick resolutions. The top-down strategies will have to be complemented by bottom-up efforts.

Focus on employees - your most valuable assets

Organizations need to look at the physical health and mental well-being of their employees on professional as well personal fronts. Understanding the risks involved will help you take the right decisions.
For employees working from home, create a conducive work environment by employing remote-working tools, having daily stand-ups, implementing robust tracking mechanisms and providing space for interpersonal, non-work related interactions. For the ones working on site, make sure that health-guidelines are in place, social distancing is practiced, work is completed in staggered shifts and the exposure is minimized using PPE.

In addition to this, create an employee hotline for query resolution, have a plan to quickly quarantine COVID-19 affected cases, and make a cross-functional team to implement your crisis-related tactics.

Set customer communication priorities

Customers are at the heart of every organization's marketing strategy and leaving them out of the loop will do you no good. Many companies are reaching out to customers to communicate that they are making their way through the crisis and will be back up very soon. You may start with sending out a weekly update newsletter to keep in touch with your customers. Create a dedicated phone-line to respond to your customers and highlight the measures you are taking to fight the pandemic. Additionally, invest resources in understanding the changed consumption patterns and consumer behaviour of your customers and devise new ways to fulfill their needs. Digital platforms like social media handles, YouTube channels, chatbots, and messenger apps could be leveraged to keep the channels of communication open. Put up questions and ask for inputs and feedback to make sure that the communication runs both ways.

Reassess your marketing channels mix

Retail, person-to-person, and brick and mortar sales channels have hit a roadblock. B2B companies have cancelled or postponed their milestone events. Companies are looking at newer ways to engage with the customers and digital marketing is leading the pack of available options.

For B2C companies, e-commerce platforms, social media influencers, and location-based marketing solutions can help optimize their sales efforts. B2B companies are moving their offline events to online platforms and going for webinar-led marketing to capture the share of heart and mind. Another focus area could be content production to get organic reach that, in turn, results in an increase in brand visibility and traffic. It is a sure-shot way to get relevant leads.

While the short-term solutions will help you stay afloat, the long-term strategies will ensure that you come out this crisis prepared. Reassess your existing channels, find gaps in marketing collaterals, sales scripts and value propositions, create marketing and training content properties to get prepared for the future.

Conclusion

Being proactive, methodical, and innovative has helped business leaders and countries fight the COVID-19 crisis effectively. Instead of waiting for the 11th hour, leaders must follow a cycle of pause-assess-anticipate-act approach. We must understand that this is a humanitarian crisis first and, if organizations look at solving the challenges faced by their customers first, they will succeed in making a mark in one of the most chaotic phases of our times.

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About author

Saurabh Kumar
  • Saurabh Kumar

A marketing enthusiast with a fascination for technology, an interest in tinkering with data and systems, and 4+ years of experience at ebookers, Saurabh Kumar Founder Envigo, a digital marketing agency, in the year 2007. His passion for Digital Marketing led him to launch a data-driven digital marketing solutions agency.

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