Magical Thinking About The Future Doesn’t Work

Moving forward during a pandemic

The United States and the world have been in the COVID-19 pandemic for better than half a year (or perhaps longer when you read this.) Early on, people and businesses were abruptly closed in panic. Yet as the crisis wears on, entrepreneurs and leaders realize that planning for reopening and the future is critical to survival. We are entering the recovery phase.

Because of the COVID-19, great numbers of people have become ill and died. People have lost their jobs and livelihood. Industries have cratered. People are scared. The tragedy has altered the way we view the world outside our homes. 

The road ahead of us doesn’t look like the road behind us

Consumer spending has plummeted with dollars being allocated to fundamental goods and services that could be utilized from home. Spending on travel for business or pleasure stopped. Office workers ceased commuting and began logging in to the cloud to conduct business.The oil industry suffered losses in sales on top of record low oil prices. Spending on luxury services and goods took a vacation. Consumers decided to save their stimulus checks. Financially, they pulled back. To be sure, consumers are going to retain and be more comfortable with new habits and services they have adopted during the pandemic like spending on streaming media, ebooks, and other forms of online entertainment like gaming.

Hope for the future exists

Yet, there is hope for the future as scientists research and begin the development of vaccines. Business leaders are developing new ways of doing business. Ecommerce is flourishing. The human drive towards creativity and innovation is leading us forward. Industries are refining protocols to keep employees, vendors and customers safe. However, customers depending on the sector of your industry may not be comfortable resuming life as normal. Indeed, most people cannot envision “normal” in their future.

What is different going forward?

A recent poll conducted by financial services firm Cowen reports that the majority of the 2,500 individuals surveyed said they are not comfortable returning to their normal activities. As reported in AdWeek, consumers’ confidence (on a 1-10 point scale with 1 being no confidence and 10 being highly confident) has lowered with regards to returning to restaurants and bars, gyms, and concert venues. Half the people surveyed by Cowen report they expect their lives to be disrupted for more than six months and fully 22% expect their lives to be disrupted for 12 months.

Normal has a new look.

In this type of environment, doing nothing to build trust in your business is not an option. Magical thinking will not cut it. In fact, magical thinking will doom your business. This is the time to make a plan and implement a strategy that will help you find the future and achieve your goals. This is the time for agility and innovation.

As Chris Greenslade of Assurance Through Alliance (ATA) says, “As we transition our companies and ourselves to a post-pandemic world, we appreciate that the new normal for now is uncertainty, confusion and fear. A state of sheer panic and paralysis for some, where lack of action regarding forward planning can prove to be catastrophic. This is especially prevalent where hotel or vendor contracts, for example, have not been re-negotiated, exposing the client to potential damages and cancellation penalties.” Greenslade and his associates have come together, seeking an opportunity to form a new service to guide companies and leaders in a positive direction as they look forward to planning meetings and events.

A travel industry professional with whom we spoke knows that her customers may not desire to travel for a while, yet there are those who “want to get out there.” However, until she can assure herself and clients that every level of cleanliness and the prevention of disease / transmission has been addressed by her vendors, she cannot make a plan to resume regular operations. She is assessing opportunities to shift the type of business she does. Whether she may wish to do that or not has yet to be determined, but she is facing the reality with her eyes open and researching new types of small group travel and alternative ground transportation.

A business coach is resuming her small circle meetings after meeting with her clients in the park where they candidly discussed their fears and futures. Collectively, the group determined that they would wish to continue their gatherings, albeit in a safe environment, observing all recommended protocols to limit exposure.

A yoga studio is shifting the way they book classes and organize people in the studio space. They are limiting physical contact and asking class participants to sign up online. They are articulating the new procedures in emails to their students and on their social media. They are sharing their delight at getting students back on their mats and doing everything they can in a positive manner.

Looking ahead, not back, because that’s where opportunity lies

These wise entrepreneurs are moving forward. They know they must. They are communicating with their customers. They are seeking input from colleagues. They are assessing their options. They are not waiting and twiddling their thumbs. 

Writing for HBR, Patrick Viguerie and Alex Viguerie state, “Objectives for reopening must balance multiple and competing considerations. Clear thinking here will go a long way toward helping frame sensible action choices. Decision scientists call these “saddle point” problems, which typically involve minimizing one quantity and maximizing another.”

Only you and your business partners can make decisions. And make decisions you must. Not to decide your future is to give up. So, if you’re not giving up what are you going to do moving forward? 

Make your plan

Take time to assess and evaluate your options and think creatively about your future. In days past, we would call this a SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.) Plot these on a quadrant and then break each one down. Be honest and clear with yourself, your business partners and vendors. Discuss all the roadblocks you can see. Make plans to address each one to reach a level of comfort with your intentions. Use your emotions positively to help you track down what you choose to commit to. 

The 4Rs of reopening in a pandemic world

Critical elements to evaluate and enumerate as you move forward towards a plan include:

  • Resources: assess your financial situation to determine if you can endure at a lowered volume; your personnel; governmental restrictions and guidelines where you operate; industry guidelines and best practices as well as ways to limit negative outcomes.
  • Roadblocks: What are the nogos? Where are the limits? 
  • Resiliency: assess your ability to shift, to pivot, to begin in a new manner or a modified manner. We will see many who become hybrids after understanding the new normal. What can you do differently and still operate in your core space?
  • Reality: Consumers’ habits have and will continue to shift. More are cooking at home, working from home and perhaps even undertaking home-schooling of their children. These consumers have a different set to preferences going forward. Have you clearly examined the mindset of those whom you serve? Will your services and products meet their need/s? Create a marketing plan based on this reality as well as the other items in this list.

Tell us about your reopening plans. What are you doing differently? How are you innovating?

Featured image credit to Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

What should you know about working with a PR and marketing communications firm?

What does a marketing communications / PR firm do?

A marketing and PR firm helps you define and refine your brand presentation to align with your company DNA and position in the marketplace. We work with you to ensure that your marketing aligns with and supports your business goals.

From there, we help you refine your key messages and presentation of them so that they help increase awareness, pull your ideal customers to you and support every aspect of your brand.

We design marketing materials such as flyers, brochures, social media messaging materials, blog content, website content). We also recommend appropriate channels in which to communicate. These channels can be Owned (your website, your social media channels and blog); Earned (media mentions, earned media, shared and comments on posts on social and on your website); Paid (paid social media advertising, print advertising, digital advertising such as pay per click, etc.) 

When should I work with a marketing communications / PR firm?

You should work with a marketing communications and PR firm when your efforts to market your company, services and present yourself to the world are not achieving the goals you expect. 

If your business is growing and your time is limited or you know that your marketing is not hitting the mark, it’s time to consult a professional. 

If you feel you do not know what to do to market your company, you may wish to consider working with a marketing consultant. 

Many entrepreneurs can work on their own to promote their businesses. In fact, many entrepreneurs enjoy the challenges of marketing their services. However, even these very involved individuals may need some mentoring and support to be certain their marketing goals align with their wishes. In such cases, a professional may be the perfect individual to guide you, allowing you to do the actual implementation.

What are the best ways to increase awareness of my business?

There is no one best way to increase awareness of your business. Methods used to promote it are determined based on your customers and their needs. 

When working with a professional to figure out the best ways to market your business, you can expect to answer a lot of questions to help us understand your product, services and when and how people need and use them. Only after we have these insights can we properly provide guidance.

Amanda Milligan of Fractl, authored a blog post for MOZ on the topic of marketing tactics and wrote,

“It’s critical to analyze the attitudes and behaviors of your current and potential clients/customers in order to best communicate with them in the methods they prefer.”

Fractl’s survey, which is cited in her article, notes that for most business leaders, being found in search results is critical to success.

Graph from Fractl on the most effective way to attract business
Image Credit: Fractl graph from MOZ blog post.

She also noted that very few tactics die out. We’re always hearing about the end of some (formerly highly utilized) ad type which is at risk for imminent death. The truth is that there are fads and phases in advertising, marketing and PR. 

Today’s influencers are yesterday’s local celebs. Instagram TV is today’s version of local access TV. 

However, with this being true, there are some ways of getting out in front of your potential customers that are better received than others. One of these which showed up as better liked is blogging.

Sentiment around Marketing tactics
Image Credit: Fractl via Moz blog post

We also learned from the Fractl survey that most people who seek new products or services utilize the Internet to find or identify what they need.

Given these findings, making certain that your company ranks well and shows up is critical. In order to make this happen, a carefully crafted content plan and tactical strategy is required as is ongoing commitment to publicizing your existing content.

If you need assistance identifying your potential customers, or how to gain awareness or increase your potential customers, get a complimentary marketing analysis. We would be pleased to offer you an initial conversation at no cost.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Avoiding Return to Sender: The Importance of 301 Redirects

This evergreen post was published to our site in 2012. We’ve updated it and republished it.

Even Elvis can’t help you if you get a 404 for missing content

Return to Sender Gif with Elivs

Cue Elvis. We need his singing while you read this post to help reinforce this post’s message. Return to Sender.

Moving websites or deleting pages should not result in a loss of web traffic. Learn about using 301 redirects.

People relocate from one residence to another all the time. So do websites. However, most of us would never move without a forwarding address. In reality, when you move a website and don’t direct search engines to the new content from the defunct pages, you are doing exactly that.

Whether deleting pages or consolidating, use redirects

If your website has grown tired, or you have a new domain or a new site, you don’t have to loose all the search engine cred you’ve worked so hard to build up. That inbound link from an online professional directory — without a 301 permanently moved redirect — will be gone. Just. Like. That. With a 301 redirect, the search engine gods will know where to find you and will send your page visitor right along to you.

Google says

If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results, we recommend that you use a server-side 301 redirect. This is the best way to ensure that users and search engines are directed to the correct page. The 301 status code means that a page has permanently moved to a new location.

A 307 redirect can be used if the content change is temporary. Say for example you’re holding a special sale for a product and you’d like to direct website visitors to your sale related landing page for the product. A 307 allows search engines headed for the product page to be redirected to the special sale page.

Google knows where your content is

Google indexes and caches pages in their search engine to make browsing faster. New sites often aren’t indexed immediately and so for a period of time, Google may direct site traffic to old pages which no longer exist. IF you tell search engines where to find the new pages which replace or are equivalent to the old pages, you have essence, have left a forwarding address for Google. So, when you update delete pages or create a new site to replace an old site, make sure  your webmaster creates 301 redirects for the pages which are disappearing and being removed. The redirects tell Google and other search engines what has replaced the old content. 

If you don’t do this, people coming to find your site and pages will get a big fat 404 error. To translate from geek speak, a 404 is the Interwebs’ way of saying, “Sorry, wrong number,” Or “Recipient moved, no longer at this address.”

Tools such as Yoast SEO allow you to create redirects

If you have a great webmaster to host your site and who can create the server level redirects, that’s super. However, if you’re not so techie, you can do it yourself provided you have the right tools for your site. It’s even more helpful if your site is built with WordPress as there are lots of plugins which can help you accomplish this.

If you have the premium version of Yoast SEO, you can set redirects using their Redirects Manager. According to Yoast, “In most cases, especially for a frequently visited page, you’d want to redirect the old URL to a new one with the information you think is most relevant to these visitors.”

As an example, if you previously had an “About” page but now you’ve renamed it or moved it or changed the URL to be About Our Team, you need to be sure to tell the search engine that About = About Our Team.

There are other tools in the WordPress repository that allow you to do this as well. 

Still not sure how this works? Give us a shout. We’d be delighted to help you sort this out.