The upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic has left companies, large and small, reeling. Practically every industry has been affected, and there still is no definite date for when the country will reopen for business as usual.
As reported by Business Insider, “A simple look at the stock market will tell you that coronavirus has led to a volatile economy, but there are numerous other factors at play. The initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China disrupted global supply chains. A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 21 as coronavirus-induced layoffs surge around the US. Even when the short-term effects end, the long-term economic impact will ripple for years.”
What’s more, many national business conferences have come to a halt, which for some companies, can mean major revenue losses resulting in the downsizing of staff and even closure. Some experts advise companies to find alternative ways to execute events such as going digital. Here, we turn to Will Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Quantasy + Associates, a leading multicultural marketing agency in Los Angeles. Alongside his work with top tier corporations and government organizations, Campbell counsels and serves some of the world’s most renowned and iconic public figures including Magic Johnson and Kevin Hart. With over 15 years of experience, he provides ongoing advice and support to ensure policies for minority-owned businesses, and spearheads programs for national brands including Honda, Google, Wells Fargo, Kevin Hart, Magic Johnson, Best Buy and many more.
TNJ.com: Tell me a bit about your company. What, if any, adjustments have you had to make since COVID-19 hit?
Will Campbell: Our approach has been a 4-pronged approach.
1. Business Continuity: We put in a plan to as best as possible keep business operations ongoing. This includes keeping status meetings, creative brainstorms, proactive audience and insight development. Setting up remote working protocols and procedures to continue delivering on our clients needs.
2. Business Reality: Even with all of the continuity planning we can implement, we understand that there is no longer any “business as usual” option. Things are different. We put in a plan to account for the new realities we face. How can we help employees to create more flexible work conditions like understanding they may have kids at home during the day. We also set up structured agreements with some of the vendors we use to as best as possible not put additional stress on their businesses. For example, we have kept certain service provider’s contracts in tact, even though we are unable to take full advantage of their service during this time.
3. Business Development: During this time, we still need to drive business and opportunities for growth. With all the things we are seeing, how do we not fall victim to the economic impact. This is where we need to learn to forge ahead and ask ourselves how we can pivot to grow stronger from this. We are having many conversations with existing and prospective clients about how we can use our cultural insights and digital innovation expertise to help their businesses succeed.
4. Business Transformation: When this does get under control, a new market will emerge, and this massive event will have had a huge effect on the world. Many things will never return to the way they were. We have implemented a transformation where we have asked ourselves “What business do we need to be at that point to thrive?” and “What do we need to start doing today to become that business?”
TNJ.com: Should companies turn their live, public events into digital events in order to adhere to the social distancing rules? Or is it better to postpone live events and execute them in the same live format that clients and customers have grown accustomed to?
Will Campbell: Leading up to the COVID-19 crisis, live event attendance was on the rise. Similarly, online engagement with live experiences was on the rise. This has a lot to do with sharing a moment in time with others. With the future being uncertain in regard to when large scale events will be once again safe to attend, it remains important for brands and talent to create authentic points of connection with their customers, communities and fans. That’s where virtual live events propel us forward and keep us connected. By the way, the ability to participate in a live experience when one can’t be there physically will remain a relevant way for people all over the globe to connect.
TNJ.com: If going the digital route, how does the marketing of those events change?
Will Campbell: Some will change, but a lot will stay the same. Many live experiences prior to COVID-19 relied on digital mediums for promotion and marketing. That will continue, it will increase and it will need to happen even faster – if you can imagine that. A lot more focus on creating earned media and community buzz to drive excitement and anticipation will grow in comparison to digital ad campaigns.
TNJ.com: What should business owners do to maintain their client base, and encourage clients to remain loyal to your company’s products, services and offerings through the COVID-19 pandemic? Would offering discounts on future events be a viable option?
Will Campbell: Business owners, those that can, should ask themselves “what can we do to help.” That’s the core essence of running a business. Identifying and delivering on customer needs during this crisis will make all the difference.
TNJ.com: As a member of the L.A. County Small Business Commission, what practical advice would you give to small business owners who are struggling due to COVID-19?
Will Campbell: It’s important for struggling businesses to quickly identify the resources that are available to them. This could range from reaching out to local and state government agencies for relief sources. Also, as much as possible, proactively reaching out to business relationships from banking and suppliers or vendors to find out what options they have to bridge this uncertain gap. Additionally, ask your most loyal customers if there is any way you can continue to help or serve them until your full business operations can resume. Consider ways to digitize your offerings or provide your offerings through more digital outlets. For example, if you’re not already using them, many of the social platforms have created easy to integrate social commerce tools.