In times of crisis business owners have a dilemma. They have to balance the need to be seen as sensitive with the need to do everything they can to keep revenues coming in.

Right now, as we start the descent into the global Covid-19 crisis, I see this everywhere. Some businesses getting it right and others seemingly getting it wrong.

Crisis such as earthquakes, pandemics, extreme weather events and so forth bring out the best and the worst in people. People express extreme opinions on social media in ways they wouldn’t in public and that makes business owners fearful of a bad reaction to continued business promotion. Not everything is intentional and we’re all learning so it’s important to temper criticism with a little generosity.

We need to remember who we serve and what the mission of our business is. Out prime purpose isn’t to serve everyone. It’s to serve our audience and customers. Our secondary mission is to serve our community, normally through our tax contributions.

It’s your responsibility to be as helpful as you can whilst not putting yourself or your business in undue danger. Your ability to continue trading is as important for your community as the ability most other people have to contribute in other ways, such key workers staying at work.

So with that in mind, how can we continue to promote our business and sensitively cut through the noise in times of crisis.

A first general principle is to be as helpful as possible. Be as free as you can with advice and support to those you might be able to help, but not to the detriment of your core operations ( unless you’re sitting on substantial cash reserves. ).

Don’t compare your ability to help more widely in the community with that of other businesses. Larger businesses have different resources or may have decided to use being helpful in the crisis as a marketing event. Don’t be tempted to participate in that if it puts your livelihood at risk.

So what can we do to promote in times of crisis? Here are a few ideas. These would probably apply at any time but when you’re in a crisis you need to trim everything back to the fewest things which make the biggest impact.

1 – My first tip is content. Firstly you should consume way less content. The world is an overwhelming and noisy place. Stay as informed as you need to be to maintain your safety but avoid becoming a consumer.

Resources might become tighter and your ability to do things like networking, advertising or events will likely diminish. Your ability to create content doesn’t cost money and doesn’t need to be disrupted. Turn it up.

Content reaches beyond social isolation and it works while you don’t. It overcomes geography and allows you to connect with people who need to hear what you have to say.

Creating good content in written, audio or video form allows you to continue investing in your business while also being as helpful as you can to your audience and customer. It’s also building a legacy content foundation in your business which will allow a much faster recovery once the air clears and the dust settles.

2 – Go big on idea generation. One of the surest routes to survival in any crisis is creativity. A lot of people think they’re not creative and while I get that, I disagree. Creativity can be trained.

Crisis demands creativity. You’re going to face challenges and situations you never have before. Starting a few daily practises to build your creative and idea generation muscles will, I promise, give some very surprising results.

In James Althucher’s book ‘Choose Yourself’ he speaks about his daily practises. While I urge you to ready the whole book and consider all his daily practises, one in particular is something I use with clients all the time.

Buy a simple small notebook. One of those ring bound supermarket pocket sized ones. Every day write ten ideas in it. You can choose, every day, what the topic of the ideas is. One day it might be ten ideas for ways to say thank you to customers and the next day you might write ten ways to make your garden look nicer.

The 10 ideas a day practise might sound simple but it quickly stimulates the unconscious into understanding that you value ideas and when you need them they come more easily.

3 – Reassess your level of courage. Crisis demands courage. When times are easy we get complacent and it’s easy to coast. In a crisis, what worked before stops working or just isn’t available. If you want to survive you’re going to need to do things you did’t do before.

There’s a formula at work in digital marketing which I see working very often. Your returns go up and costs go down in direct proportion to your willingness to be visible and express yourself. For a very small number of people that’s easy. For the rest of us it triggers fear.

Professional rescuers and those for whom extreme situations are more routine know that through training, practise and experience, fear can be managed. You need to bring this attitude to your business marketing and start stretching your comfort zone.

I have a bonus suggestion for you as well.

4 – In times of crisis you need knowledge, so take your learning in hand. We’re in for a tough time ahead and while, what you know got you so far in business, don’t make the mistake of being complacent and assume it will continue to do so.

Things are likely to get very competitive and survival skills matter. I’d argue that your ability to connect with your customer just became a survival skill and assuming you have all the answers might just be fatal for your business.

So in conclusion, we need to rethink our business models, certainly, but we also need to rethink how we’re connecting to customers. The world is too noisy and everyone is so busy watching the world burn that it takes more to turn their head.

You might object to the idea of content by saying your business is boring and there’s nothing to say. If that’s how you feel you’re probably in the wrong business or you just need to start working on your idea generation muscle.

We become complacent to our own glamour. We see pictures from inside other people’s business or from other locations and we can’t help but be interested. So why do we assume that same interest won’t be directed towards us. It makes no sense at all.

You need to start working out what you can share. You need to connect with your creativity and courage as this is what will unlock your ability to become a beacon in this current crisis.

Everything I’ve described above might sound like it’s time-consuming. So are eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. That’s how normal this stuff needs to become for you if you want your business to survive and continue to make a contribution to the world.

About Bob Gentle

I work with businesses of all sizes on digital marketing, host the Amplify digital marketing entrepreneur podcast and work with entrepreneurs to help them amplify their business online.