Yikes! There’s a health crisis and my business doesn’t have customers! What can I do and still be safe and responsible?

There’s nothing like a crisis to remind everyone how interdependent and connected we are. Just because something happens to disrupt our daily routine, doesn’t mean that your business doesn’t need to keep going.

Can your business survive if the restrictions run 8 weeks or longer? It can if you take on a crisis as a hidden opportunity. But first, you have to recognize exactly what type of business problem you’re solving.

A Problem is an Opportunity in Disguise

Your first job is to reframe the situation. That may seem challenging, but it’s necessary for your business to survive.

The first thing you have to do is change your language around the situation. Simply changing how you feel about the situation will change how you think about the situation. And changing what you think will change what you create.

Here are just two re-framing tactics that can help you serve your customers and save your business during a crisis.

Things happen “for you” and not “to you”.

Because any crisis is an external element you don’t control. It’s easy to say that it happened TO YOU. But this puts you in this helpless situation of being a victim. And victims just want to hide under a rock and not solve anything. So this isn’t helpful.

Instead, look at the crisis as something that revealed an opportunity. Just like the wind blowing away a cover and revealing a hidden treasure. When you think of it this way, your brain will be occupied looking for treasure rather than crying over something that can’t be changed.

You don’t HAVE to do things differently, you GET to try something different.

A crisis will push you into a fight or flight mindset. And you already know that doesn’t work. Instead, shift just ONE word in your language. Instead of saying “I have to…” consider “I get to”. This simple word change will shift how you communicate to your team, your family and with your customers and that makes a difference.

With that mindset in place, let’s find a new way of dealing with a new circumstance.

A Crisis is a Distribution Problem

You think that you have a sales and marketing problem because you no longer have enough customers. Not exactly.

A crisis often creates a distribution problem. Just because your customers are stuck at home, doesn’t mean that they don’t want or need your services.

You need to find a way to bring your products and services to your customers and vice versa.

Marketing Ideas You Can Implement NOW for Any Crisis

Here is a list of creative and low-cost digital marketing ideas that you can implement in times of crisis.

All of these low-cost marketing ideas are focused on two forgotten (and most important) elements in marketing: developing an offer and distribution.

These ideas aren’t limited to a crisis! In fact, your customers might like them so much, you may decide to keep them.

Let’s get started.

1—Define what you’ll be offering and when

Take a breath and get creative about what you can offer to your customers and how you can deliver it.

If you are a retailer, take a look at your inventory and make a list of products that are likely to be in high demand and that you have on the shelf. Consider grouping a package together and selling it as a bundle. This will avoid hoarding and also make it easy for people to buy.

Restaurants can create a special menu of meals or pre-prepared food that your customers can order by calling or emailing.

Service providers can also take a look at their services and look at ways of staying within recommended health guidelines while still serving customers.

Not sure what to do?

Send a quick email with just one question: “How can we help you?” Tell your customers to just reply to the email. Take the best ideas and implement them. Pssst. This is market research! It’s free and it’s helpful to you and your customers.

2—Put a highlighted notification on your website

There are several free tools and plugins that you can use that will create a “notification bar” at the top of your website.

Try the  WP Front Notification Bar a plugin for WordPress Sites.

If you don’t have a WordPress website, you can easily add a notice at the very top of your website informing people about any updates to your products or services.

3—Adjust your Google My Business listing

The first place many of your customers will go to get information is Google. Be ready and update your Google My Business Listing with updated hours and services.

4—Send emails featuring special offers 

Even if retailers, restaurants or bars are closed to the masses, many can offer take out and/or delivery services.

Here’s an example of a local restaurant that is shifting its service to pick up and delivery during a health crisis.

This doesn’t have to be limited to restaurants. Large grocery chains offer online ordering and pickup already. But if you’re a smaller retailer, you can do the same thing! Send an email featuring a menu of products that are available and any limitations on quantity.

Don’t forget to tell your customers exactly what they should do to order. You can have them call and place their order or email their orders to a specific email address.

5—Invite your customers to a virtual event or meeting

If you are a professional such as a CPA, lawyer, financial planner or even a doctor, you can move all of your appointments to phone calls or webinar meetings.

Zoho is making their Remotely platform available FREE through July. Remotely gives you access to Zoho Meeting and Zoho Connect where you can connect with your customers and your team virtually.

Here are some more free online meeting tools.

6—Use videos sharing helpful tips.

Don’t forget that you’re the expert in your area of business. Take a moment to step back and think of ways that you can help your customers with helpful video tips, tricks, how-to’ and strategies.

7—Create a “backstage” video showing your team keeping your office or retail location clean and safe.

Don’t just tell people what you’re doing inside your business to make and keep it safe for customers. SHOW your customers!  You can do this via Facebook live, or maybe record a YouTube video to show your customers your quality system or safety precautions.

8—Redeploy employees.

If you have employees in your business who need to keep working, consider having them help out with deliveries of products.

If you have a service business, this is a great time to do some of those projects that you’ve been putting off because there’s been too much to do.

  • Create that list of Frequently Asked Questions and answer them.
  • Update some of the pages on your website.
  • Clear out clutter
  • Do some business analysis. Identify your best customers, most profitable products, least profitable products, etc.

9—Add online chat

No matter what type of website you have, you can easily add an online chat feature. This is a great way to help answer customer questions.

There are several great online chat tools out there. One of my favorites is Olark. It’s super easy to install and costs less than $20 per month.

10—Chat with customers using Facebook Messenger

Many of your customers are probably on Facebook (now more than ever). If you have a Facebook Page, and you haven’t spent a lot of energy on it, use it as a communication channel.

Consider using  Facebook Messenger to chat with customers and answer all of their questions.

11—Create a list of Frequently Asked Questions

One of the most important pieces of content that any business can have is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. It can be hard to develop this list. Like most things, there’s nothing quite like a crisis to focus your attention.

Use this time to collect customer questions and create a piece of content to answer those questions. Post it on your website and/or create a series of videos that answers each question.

How You Manage a Crisis Impacts Your Future

How you react, how you engage with people, what you say, how you say it and the channels you use are invisible marketing messages.

How you deal with a crisis will speak volumes about your business and whether your customers should trust you.

Make no mistake, if you fall apart, freak out and fold, it will impact your business in the future. Your customers will find alternatives that meet their needs and shifting back to you is not as likely to happen.

Lastly, if you take on any of these tactics in a way that lands as being greedy, selfish and opportunistic, they will backfire.

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of and the host of the popular #BizapaloozaChat on Twitter (Mon at 2pmET/Thu at 8pm ET). She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.

Business owner stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock