Right now, companies along the Gulf Coast, from South Texas to Louisiana, are scrambling to recover assets, rebuild infrastructure, look out for employees, and make up lost business. Many will never recover.
At the same time, other businesses are being swamped with requests for help. Some are in recovery-related businesses like construction, water removal, mold remediation, flooring, drywall, insurance, landscaping, HVAC, electrical service, plumbing and car repair. Others are in a position to build goodwill, establish new relationships and reinvigorate their local markets by investing in helping those in need, either directly through their core offerings, or indirectly through philanthropy and giving.
Regardless of where your business falls on Harvey’s continuum of destruction, you have a duty, and possibly an opportunity, to leverage the storm to either pivot into a position of successful recovery or reposition yourself as a solutions provider.
How you manage your digital footprint can have an impact on your success. Here are five ways digital technology can help you rebound, that you might not have already thought of:
1. Strategies to Advance Your Market Position
Brands are either Reactive, Inactive or Proactive. In other words, you can copy your competitors, you can do nothing, or you can take the bull by the horns and shape your own digital destiny. Marketing studies have consistently shown that companies who invest aggressively in marketing during downturns generally emerge from those periods with significant improvements in market share over companies that invest conservatively. A disaster-driven economy is a competitive wildfire, with extremes in positioning success on both ends of the spectrum. Some of your peers may be destroyed, not necessarily by the storm itself, but by the success or failure of their marketing efforts during the aftermath. They may assume a reactive or even an inactive position in response to the storm. Reacting without a strategic purpose, or taking down your sails and risking nothing, are two common responses many managements gravitate to in times of chaos. But both can be dangerous choices. Digital media offers the promise of a direct connection to your market at their time of most pressing need, that you can proactively leverage to solve real problems and embed your brand in the hearts of your customers. So think about your positioning, especially in the digital arena, and how you might leapfrog over your peers as this crisis unfolds. It’s a safe bet most of your competition will be focused either on survival, or on meeting short-term demand.
2. Situational Marketing Opportunities
Companies that invest in digital technology, especially with an eye towards how it can help position them in the market, can pivot quickly to take advantage of opportunities that emerge, either through the missteps of their peers, or through new needs that arise. For example, repair and reconstruction companies with highly visible digital footprints have a distinct advantage over those that rely on canvassing and direct sales. And companies that have effective digital tools can re-deploy them in niches specific to the disaster at hand. Drone technology used for real estate photography, for example, can be used for damage assessment.
But above these fundamental shifts, companies can tap into digital marketing channels to target prospects who may be relying on social channels for localized information, or present special offers relative to whatever situation is at hand. And digital technology allows companies to establish direct channels where customers can complete purchases immediately upon first contact.
Perhaps the greatest advantage digital can provide, though, is the longer-term benefit of directly connecting internal processes that create value with outward-facing tools that engage customers, removing administrative layers and raising the cost-effectiveness of service delivery. These examples only scratch the surface of what a digital advantage can offer, of course. A robust custom strategy, established as a result of a direct digital brand assessment, will go a long way towards leveraging current opportunities.
3. Emergency Communication Systems
Did your company have a plan in place to respond to Harvey? If so, was it supported by digital tools such as emergency employee portals, help and support websites, SMS message delivery systems, email notifications or mobile apps?
Today, many organizations can not only switch from physical to virtual operations at the drop of a hat, but they can also reach out to employees and stakeholders instantly, with critical information regarding emergency plans, available resources, operational changes, strategic information and more. To be fluent in emergency communication, you only need establish the digital framework and policy support to be ready when things go wrong. Organizations that have addressed such needs in advance are ahead of the game, while competitors who haven’t are struggling to keep their operations afloat.
4. Mobile Field Apps to Power Remote Productivity
Field employees typically travel to remote locations, solve problems by performing tasks, and then report results to their offices. An alarming percentage of companies still use manual or paper-based systems to support field activities. Under the best of circumstances, custom mobile field apps make this work easier and more cost effective. With the added pressure of a regional disaster, field work becomes exponentially more difficult, and the application of digital solutions far more impactful.
Imagine a custom mobile app to automate residential or commercial property inspection and report findings in real time. Or an app for dispatching ambulances run by multiple providers, to and from multiple medical facilities. Or a mobile app that captures and manages vast quantities of highly sensitive video data from the body cameras of police officers, firefighters and other first responders. These are some of the mobile apps Espresso Moon has been involved in. What are some of the ways mobile technology can be used to empower your business?
5. Disaster-Responsive Custom Operations Software
Regional chaos disrupts all sorts of systems. Employees are stranded and can’t get to the office. Field service teams can’t reach customers. Shipping and transportation are disrupted. Repairs and reconstruction hijack resources normally allocated to routine operations. Organizations find themselves having to provide emotional and financial aid to team members just to maintain normal productivity.
Custom software is normally aimed at solving logistical and administrative inefficiencies, opening channels for business process management, making customer service more efficient or opening new markets. In times of disaster, these needs and inefficiencies become more critical. Right now, there are probably many ways your organization can use custom business software to overcome some of the logistical and management hurdles Harvey has placed in your path. Take some time to brainstorm opportunities to identify areas where value can be created by automating your processes, and how much time and money might be saved at times of great stress.
What digital assets do you control that can be used to make your brand promise real to the people in your market that matter? What tools would give you a competitive edge in our current situation? How can you step up while others are in reactive mode, to emerge from Harvey’s clutches in a stronger leadership position and with a bigger share of your market?
Espresso Moon is a Houston web, mobile and software development firm dedicated to designing the digital future. For a confidential assessment of your digital brand assets, contact Espresso Moon today.
Senior Creative Director, Espresso Moon LLC
Tim Johnson has worked in brand design and marketing since 1981. He writes frequently on how media impacts culture and is a recognized expert in translating business vision into strategic design. For more information, visit http://espressomoon.com/about-espresso-moon/our-team/tim-johnson.