Every single person on the planet has been impacted by the pandemic. On the surface, it seems like Businesses and Economies have been at an all time low. But when you dwell deeper, it becomes apparent that some businesses are not just staying afloat. With the rapid increase in the need for a digital presence, the website development space has flourished.
But regardless of the industry one is based in, every business has had to answer one question – Should we pull back and play to survive or race ahead and play to win?
We were particularly curious to know what WordPress Businesses have chosen to do. And hence the idea for this roundup was born.
We reached out to WordPress Experts and asked them share their thoughts on how to approach marketing & operations in the current situation.
While this list is in no means a representation of the entire WordPress industry, all these individuals have one thing in common – experience (and a lot of it!)
This was our basic criteria when we reached out to them:
- Does their business cater to the WordPress industry?
- Has their business boomed or atleast stayed the same through the pandemic?
- Have they made changes in policies and functioning to adapt better?
The agenda of this roundup is to help you
- Improve your marketing communications and operations
- Identify and focus on the right aspects of your business
- Streamline your efforts to achieve growth and sustainability
Let’s jump in!
“In times of crisis, a reasonable push is the right step for most businesses.
Unpredictability in business is common – be it delayed payments, canceled contracts, resignations, service outages. Business owners and executives have to be alert and ready to pivot at all times.
In every recession, there are winners and losers. The hospitality and travel industries are terribly impacted, but eCommerce, drugstores, logistics companies, digital tools are growing rapidly. Realign your sales efforts toward the winning industries and double down on covering losses until the storm has passed.”
“I know a lot of business owners who had big plans for growth in 2020. But then the pandemic hit and changed everything. In our company, we prioritized the health and wellbeing of our staff, customers and partners above all else. We’ve been successful over the years because of the support of amazing people — not a marketing or growth strategy. So I recommend checking in with others often and asking how you can help them.
It’s also important to show compassion and understanding with any financial hardship that your customers may face. We suspended billing and offered temporary discounts for customers that were struggling with cash flow. This will allow you to build goodwill with customers and will help you retain them for the long-term. Plus, in my opinion, it’s just the right thing to do.
Next, look at the new opportunities that may exist with the changing economic landscape. Can you serve your customers better during this time by offering a new service or add-on to an existing product or service? We identified a way to help our agency customers save money on their WordPress page builds, so we launched a new service to help with that. When I look back at our company’s history, every period of major growth was preceded by a challenge or crisis that was uncomfortable. So my advice is to welcome the uncertainty and use it as an opportunity to build a stronger company.”
“Some businesses in the event or travel spaces may have to go into maintenance mode or find alternate revenue streams during this tough time.
Some businesses like WP Buffs have seen significant growth with so many folks dedicating more resources to their WordPress websites.
Either way, all businesses should always be racing ahead in some capacity. For some businesses like ours that are positioned well for the current pandemic, we’re doing this by hiring more folks, investing more to diversify our marketing channels and potentially adding new services for our existing customer base. We’re focused on growth!
For businesses that are struggling right now, it’s important that although this is a stressful time, they take the “no pressure, no diamonds” approach and use this pressure to evolve their business in ways that may not be traditional. Sit-down restaurants are delivering and selling more alcohol to keep the revenue flowing; all businesses should probably be shifting sales to digital as well and investing in eCommerce through tools like WooCommerce or Shopify.
Either way, always be moving towards something!”
#4 Bhanu Ahuliawala – RankMath
“My personal approach is that, of course, the goal is to survive and continue to do well during the time, if possible. And as long as you’re not a business profiting off of a market that has no spending power during this time, such as by hoarding supplies and then price gouging, businesses need to remember that they are not just making money. They are offering customers solutions – whether, in the form of a service or product, you are helping people.
Take BlogVault for example, is it wrong of you to continue marketing during this time? No, of course not. A WordPress backup plugin actually helps businesses and potentially saves them thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Now, if someone would simply be running ads on “30 days to replace your income with affiliate marketing”, that’s obviously a different story, because this is directly taking advantage of the people in the global situation we’re in.
So yes, within reason, it’s more than ok, but in particular, even more recently, it’s vital that all copy – ad copy, emails, Facebook posts, everything in between is thoroughly read and businesses should be extremely cautious & mindful of double-checking language/messaging is safe. Right now, the world on all accounts is in a challenging time – companies should help in the ways they can, and continue serving their customer base without taking advantage of the situation.”
“Definitely race ahead! Economic downturns are challenging times, but can also be an opportunity. Some of the world’s most game-changing products have come out of recessions. If a company can hunker down and work hard and well during a downturn, while focusing on its core and strengthening its offering, it can come out really strong on the other end when the economy turns around.”
#6 Ryan Sullivan – WP Site Care | Twitter
“In a world where businesses have been turned on their heads and consumers are more conscious than they’ve ever been about spending, knowing how to operate or run a business can feel like a complete shot in the dark. And in some ways, it will be. Experimentation and listening are more important than they’ve ever been.
I’ve personally been inspired by watching companies like Brooks Brothers totally revamp their production facilities from making ties and suits to manufacturing masks and other personal protective equipment. Manufacturing is one of the most rigid processes we encounter, so I glean hope when I see them being so flexible.
It helps me to know that I can make small accommodations with clients, change internal workflows, get more creative with our offering, and band together with the rest of the team to help keep the business and client relationships healthy.
I’m not sure whether now is a time to try and speed up or slow down, but I do know organizations will benefit from increasing their flexibility.
The future might be uncertain, the market might be uncertain, but that doesn’t mean we need to be uncertain. Confident decisions and an aim to stay flexible will take us as far as we’re willing to go.”
#7 Nick Gulic – Creative Click | Twitter
“Times of uncertainty generally bring on times of change, and times of change are often where the greatest opportunities come up. If you look back at previous periods of depression or recession, some amazing businesses were started. The kinds of businesses that you learn about in University or Business School.
Many business owners are scared right now. Many business owners are playing a defensive game, trying to keep hold of their businesses, clients, money, assets, etc – and hoping for all of this to “blow over” so things can hopefully get back to normal.
The thing is, while they’ve been sheltering in place and focusing on pure survival, all the people who have been focused on growth have been making things happen. They’ve been changing the game. They’ve been setting themselves up in positions of power, ready to ride the wave of growth as the economy eventually bounces back.
And then when all the defensive players finally come out of their safe places, they might find themselves in a whole new world – one that they might not even be in a position to survive in, let alone thrive.
What a person should do with their business is going to be highly situational, but if there is an opportunity to pivot and do something great, they should take it. Go all in. Make amazing changes.
And then THEY might end up being one of those businesses that ends up being used as a case study of succeeding during a recession.”
#8 Paul Lacey – DickieBirds Studio | Twitter
“One thing I know, is even at the best of times if one stays still in business, and doesn’t adapt or stay agile, then the business will eventually fail – as a rule.
The question of should we pull back or race ahead – reminds me of the fight or flight dilemma – either can be the correct strategy depending on the scenario. Pull back or race ahead, the answer can be both The key thing though is change management. Perhaps in fact, the answer is this: Observe, pull back, and race ahead. In other words, take stock of the new normal, the new rules, the changing landscape and economy (pull back). And then race ahead with a new strategy, adapt to change, enjoy the ride and seek to thrive.
And as for us?
As for our agency, we’ve pulled back a bit from our existing path – which is good, because honestly it was getting a bit repetitive, tiresome and stressful. We’ve taken a government backed loan in order to secure a much more exciting future (oh, and to survive in the new environment of course!). We’ve hired a project manager to specifically reposition myself as a creative entrepreneurial lead in the company to create new sales opportunities, new service offerings and productized services. So on that front, we’re racing ahead!
I’m excited about the future, and I want everyone in our industry to be excited too. Don’t be afraid, this is a time where we can thrive, but you absolutely have to be prepared to change – even if that seems really really hard. So my advice, and time will tell if I’m right, is to take stock, pull back a bit from your existing path if you need to, remap your strategy and then race ahead.”
#9 Kristina Romero – WP Care Market | Twitter
“The most important thing we can remember when approaching marketing and operation efforts during this time is that the situation is fluid. You need to position whatever you choose to do as a plan that can pivot quickly if the situation changes. Therefore, avoid goals that extend beyond 90 days and think of doing your marketing efforts and outreach in short sprints.
When it comes to lead generation for new clients, continue pushing ahead with creative solutions for these new needs that are arising from a world quickly moving everything online. From schools to restaurants, every business is now being required to move much of their operations online. Companies need strong virtual solutions, digital marketing efforts, and expertise from a website consultant that can guide them. So consider expanding your toolbox to include services fit for your niche.
With that said, I urge all web professionals to resist going outward immediately and encourage you to turn inward to your current client list first. Start proactively thinking for your current clients, offering them solutions, and approaching them first with project ideas. Clients will always respond to this positively when presented as a way to help them grow in this changing and unpredictable time.”
#10 James Rose – Content Snare and Agency Highway | Twitter
“It’s hard to say what a business should do, as it depends on what industry they are in. Doubling down on travel or in-person events right now isn’t exactly going to work out.
That said, because so many companies are pulling back, it presents a chance to stand out by stepping up your efforts on marketing. We’re actually launching new campaigns for both Content Snare and JimmyRose.me. Should everyone do that? Probably not. Even if you don’t double down, if you opt for marketing that has long-term impact, like content & SEO, that’s always going to help in the long run.
On the operations side, it’s a similar argument to the long-term marketing. If you have extra time you can solidify your operations and processes. That way when this is all over, you’ll be in a better position.
I don’t think pulling back is the right idea unless you’re in a market that was directly and severely affected and you have no way out. If you run an agency you can help your clients pivot (e.g. help restaurants set up for online ordering). Who knows, you may even come out even better than before.
#11 Mike Killen – Sell My Service | Twitter
Focus on your core values
When everything becomes chaotic around you, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Which is why I believe the first thing to do when faced with change, chaos and uncertainty, is to look within yourself and find your core values.
Businesses who endure chaotic times and weather the storms of our economy are usually clear on their core values.
Think of your business as an extension of your values. You probably believe that helping people makes a better world. You also probably believe to be fairly compensated for the help you provide. In those beliefs, you probably run a business that enables those values. By examining our core values, we find strong foundations to base our future decisions on.
To understand what are your values, my immediate advice would be to ask yourself:
“If I had to give a younger version of myself 10 rules to live by, in order to have the best life possible, what would those rules be?”
Chances are, those answers will be your values and can guide the future of your business in times that seem so uncertain.
Be a shining light
And this provides you with an opportunity to be a shining light to your audience, your customers, colleagues and friends. If you want to be aggressive in times like this (and you should) it needs to be done with firm foundational values first.
Then we can begin to create content and offer opportunities to others. Start sharing your values and your advice, outside of typical WordPress news and knowledge. Talk about things that matter and you will attract an audience that loves you and supports you no matter what the situation.
Pivot into the opportunity
I’m a firm believer of “attacking the opportunity”. When everyone is retreating, be dangerous. Be physical and aggressive when others shy away, especially in times like this.
With that, you now have a chance to pivot into this new opportunity. And there IS opportunity. Businesses that haven’t changed their model in 10, 25 or even 50 years are seeing massive change in how their customers buy.
The opportunity is helping businesses make that transition. It’s in BEING that shining light when others around you are desperate for clarity and direction. Your core values should demonstrate what you can provide to others, outside of what you might have usually defined as your “offer”.
It might not be enough to just offer websites and designs and themes. You might need to offer content, or training. Plugins, SaaS offerings, videos and more. Don’t feel overwhelmed with what to offer, go back to your core values. What can you offer to your audience or customers that revolves around those core offers?
Finally, I wanted to give an example. Of my core values “have the courage to be disliked” is certainly my most important. I believe that my audience has a problem with not creating content or promoting themselves too much, for fear of being disliked.
I created a Confidence In Closing training document that shows people how to sell their marketing services, without fear of offending or being disliked by the customer. It helps people get over their fear of being disliked, and shows them how to close customers without being pushy.
It’s a very very simple process, but the strength of business isn’t measured by what it can chase after. It’s measured in what it gives to its audience. If you’d like more information on pivoting your business, focusing and exploring your core values, I have a free workshop on YouTube which takes you step by step through the entire process.
#12 Anthony Tran – Beaver Builder | Twitter
“I believe that business owners should take two approaches.
First step, “play to survive” in regards to reducing your overhead expenses in your business. This is a great time to assess where your business is and see where you can trim down. For example, if you have a physical location… can your business operate with a complete remote workforce and offer your products/services online? If so, then you should look into closing down your office… which will allow you to reduce huge operating expenses (i.e. rent, utilities, commute expenses, etc.)
Second step, “play to win” by reducing your overhead expenses you will free up cash flow which you can use to increase your marketing efforts. Do some analysis on which marketing channel is providing you the best ROI and double-down on that. Ultimately, people are looking for solutions to their problems and you need to get your product and services in front of them.”
#13 Beth Livingston – WP Roadmaps and Coaching | Twitter
“ Trying to “sell” during difficult times is… well, difficult. You’re likely worried you might come off as unfeeling or like you’re trying to take advantage of a bad situation. You may feel that you must make some adjustment to the way you do business (like lowering prices) to show you care.
First, every one of these feelings are valid. Secondly, it doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD change anything based on these feelings.
My best advice, as a business analyst, is to try and take emotion out of the equation to decide if you should pull back for forge ahead. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I genuinely have something that will help folks during this time?
2. Does my product or service still have the same value (to the client) that it had before?
3. What’s my motive? Am I willing to forego profit out of a true desire to help or because it will make me look “good”?
If you are an agency, I can already answer the first question for you. YES! We are on the cusp of a “digital renaissance” not seen since the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The “dinosaurs” who never saw value in a digital presence now NEED folks to help them.
In terms of question #2, it’s unlikely that your product or service has decreased in value but it’s possible it has increased in value due to the answer to question 1. Value is a perception on the part of your client. The more they need you, the higher the value. But, instead of raising prices during these difficult times, you could consider that you’re doing “your part” by NOT raising prices.
The answer to question 3 is entirely personal and should give you some clarity as the path you want to take. The most important thing is to remain genuine and never do something simply because others are doing it. Clients will see right through it.
After this self-analysis, if you are still hesitant about moving forward and would prefer to take a step back, then by all means, DON’T stop learning. Address gaps and weaknesses in your skill set or your processes. In other words, never, ever stop learning and remember, folks are probably NOT judging you as harshly as you think, regardless of the approach you choose.
“COVID-19 has forced everyone indoors and online. This is when the screen time of almost everyone has gone up, with people scrolling through social feeds and web pages.
Online commerce is seeing a huge boom, and all businesses are forced to either go online or improve their digital experience to get their share of the pie. I now see many online industries such as ecommerce stores, online grocery, food deliveries, grow, and so well.
I believe businesses should play to win WHILE observing the ethical boundaries so as not to exploit the situation. Yes, the competition has gone way up – but this is when visitors reward creative marketing and the business’s efforts to engage their interest.
Another important thing I would like to emphasize is the social responsibility of the businesses where they should lend a helping hand in activities such as charities and donations because we need selflessness now more than ever.
So if you haven’t gone online yet, move now! This is the new norm. If your business is not online, it would soon cease to be! This is the time for your digital presence.”
“Survival mode happens in the midst of panic. Survival happens when you have zero control over what comes next. If you’re in a situation where all of the information you can gather is useless in the face of your circumstances, it makes sense to focus on existing another day. I believe we all lived in this for a bit when we didn’t know what was coming next after the initial quarantine orders. Sometimes the lack of control is external, sometimes it’s internal.
If the conditions are not so drastic then playing to win is always the best approach. Aim high, and if you fail you’ll still fall on the side of success. Gather all the data you can, assess your risk, and make your play. Playing to win doesn’t have to be a gamble, even in a pandemic.
The key, in the current pandemic climate, is ensuring you’re mentally in a place to make the moves you want to make. A stressed or anxious mind can quickly turn your best efforts into bad results. It’s important to take your own mental health into the equation when deciding if you need to just survive another day, or that you’re ready to get back in the game. These shifts from survival to forward progress can happen suddenly and that’s OK. Staying aware of how you’re feeling in light of the recent events and unknowns can give you the edge you need to make the most of a winning approach day in and day out.”
“I think that a crisis is an opportunity to remind us how crucial it is as a business to focus on having an excellent base : to focus on product first and customer support. If we focus on having more clients who will have a bad experience, it’s like filling a pierced basket. Increasing marketing expenses is an option, but which should always come once we have a great product.”
A Way Forward
We’d like to thank all of these wonderful people for taking the time out to share their thoughts. We hope their experience and advice resonates with you and helps you navigate your business through these uncertain times.
What has been your Marketing and Operational Strategy for these last 3 months? How has it worked out for you? Let us know on the bird app!