As the Coronavirus quarantine starts to lift and the world starts to get back to normal, digital agencies need to reflect on what we’ve learned over the past few months.

One of the most common questions I’ve been getting over the past several months is about how to stay calm. As the sky is falling down around you, how do you minimize stress so you can think clearly, make smart decisions, and adapt? 

In this article, I’m going to share five things you can start doing today to make sure that in the best of times, and in the worst of times, you can keep your wits about you and keep your cool. 

The easiest way to escape danger…

I’m going to make an odd analogy. You’ve probably heard of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before. It’s like wrestling, except instead of pinning your opponent down, you try to catch them in joint locks or chokeholds. When they can’t escape, they tap the mat and the match is over. It’s like chess, except you use your arms and legs to put your opponent in checkmate. 

There’s a saying in Jiu-Jitsu: the easiest way to escape a bad position is to never get in it in the first place. 

Here’s why I bring up BJJ… 

Obviously the Covid pandemic caught us all off guard. If your business was hit hard, it’s not your fault. Even the smartest and most successful business owners were affected. 

But for many businesses, Covid revealed weaknesses that were already there. They didn’t have repeatable lead generation systems. They didn’t have strong sales processes. They didn’t have automation in place, so they spent too much time working in the business instead of on the business. And a thousand other pitfalls. 

I guarantee you, this is not the last time you’ll experience chaos in your career as an entrepreneur. And the next time disaster strikes, the best way to keep calm is to not get into trouble in the first place. Take precautions now so that you’ll be in a better position to weather the storm. 

That way when everyone else is scrambling to brace for the impact, you’ll be cool and collected because you’ll be protected from the damage.

Here are the five things you can start doing today…  

1. Never stop the lead flow

Leads are the lifeblood of your business. Without leads there are no sales, and without sales there’s no money. 

That’s why it’s so crazy to me how many agency owners don’t make lead generation a higher priority. I see so many beginning entrepreneurs- and frankly established entrepreneurs who should know better- do this…

They make a huge outreach push. They make cold calls. They send cold emails. They land a few clients, and then they stop reaching out. Instead they transition to fulfillment- actually doing the work they’ve been paid to do. 

The problem is as the work wraps up, and as some clients decide not to continue with the service, suddenly you find yourself in a position where there are no new clients… and the money you got paid at the beginning of the contract is quickly drying up. 

You have to switch back into outreach mode and frantically scramble to get new clients. 

I’ve done this too, and it’s a scary place to find yourself in. One minute you feel like a successful business owner, and the next minute you’re trying just to survive. 

That’s why today, even though I’ve run a thriving business for years, I still set aside time each week for prospecting. I go to Chamber of Commerce functions. I go to lunch meetings. I go to events where I meet other business owners. I attend seminars and masterminds. 

And more importantly, I now have systems in place where lead generation is automated. People discover my content online, join my email list, and learn about my products. It happens every day on autopilot.

Whichever method fits your business, whether it be in-person connection or automated list building, make sure that you’re generating leads every single week. That way the next time there’s an economic downturn, you have a long list of names you can start converting into paying customers. 

2. Have a premium service

Now you might be thinking, “What good are leads if the economy tanks and no one is spending money?!” 

Here’s what you need to understand…

I know so many people whose businesses absolutely skyrocketed during the Coronavirus. It’s a crazy paradox. Unemployment has never been higher. Businesses have been closing left and right. And meanwhile their sales were hitting new records. 

It just goes to show that even in the worst economy, people are still spending money. People still need to put food on the table. They still need to meet their basic needs. They still need to run their businesses. 

So while the size of the pie might be shrinking… there’s still pie. You just need to be a little craftier to get your slice. 

And one of the best ways to carve out a slice for yourself is by creating a premium offer. 

Imagine your corner of the market like a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is the mass-market segment- the beginners with small budgets. And the tip of the pyramid are the experts with big budgets. 

Ask yourself how you can go up the pyramid. Because during a recession, the beginners are going to tighten their belts. They’re not going to be spending money on new ideas. Maybe they’ve thought about testing the services you offer, but now they’re going to wait for the economy to bounce back. 

But the experts at the top of the pyramid- their business is a well-oiled machine, and they’re still making sales which means they have money to reinvest in their business. And they realize that now is the time for them to think outside the box and to stay ahead of the curve. 

That’s why it’s so important for you to have a premium offer that generates real results. It allows you to approach the big fish that still have money to invest, and capture their attention by offering services that legitimately help grow their businesses. 

If you don’t have a premium service yet, start brainstorming: what could you charge $5k, $10k, or even $20k for? What is the most high-value result you can give to a business? Start writing down some ideas and crafting your  premium offer.

3. Diversify

Most beginning agency owners I work with run into a common problem: they want to say yes to everyone. They’re so hungry for sales that they want to provide any service for anyone who is willing to pay them.

But building momentum actually requires the opposite: you need to narrow your focus down to a finely-honed edge. You need to provide clear value to an ideal customer. “This is exactly what I do, and this is exactly who I do it for.”

The more laser-focused your offer and your avatar is, the quicker you can start making sales and scaling up. 

As you start to get traction though, you’ll start to run into an issue: you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket. 

If you only get customers from Facebook ads, what happens if Facebook blocks your account? 

If you only rely on organic traffic, what happens when Google changes its search algorithm? 

If you only work with local businesses, what happens when you’ve already pitched everyone in your town? 

What you want to do is diversify. Diversify your marketing channels. Diversify your products and services. Diversify your ideal clients.

If money has multiple ways to flow into your business, if there’s an economic downturn and a certain sales channel or market segment dries up, you’ll still have other sources of income. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you can stop being focused. This isn’t a free license to juggle 10 untested ideas at the same time. Which leads to my next point…

4. Dial-in your systems

Every business comes down to its systems. 

A client hears about you. They go through a sales process and become a paying customer. You deliver a service. Work concludes and then the client either continues on, or hopefully refers other customers. 

There’s a life cycle, and systems explain how people come into your business and then move through your business to achieve their desired end result. 

And as an entrepreneur and an agency owner, it’s your job to dial in these systems until your business is a well-oiled machine. 

There are a lot of obvious reasons why you need to do this. Your costs go down. Your margins go up. You provide a better service in less time. 

But there’s a critical reason specific to economic downturns…

During a recession, you need to be proactive instead of reactive. Everyone is scrambling to adapt to changes as they’re happening. But the businesses that are most likely to survive and thrive are the ones that can go on the offensive. 

Having your systems dialed in means you have the time and the bandwidth to try new things, to test new ads, to experiment with new marketing channels, and to take advantage of opportunities. 

You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle: 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your inputs. So when you have streamlined systems, you can spend 80% of your time doing what currently works, and then 20% of your time trying new things. And then when you stumble across new ideas that outperform your current strategies, you can spend 80% of your time on the new thing and 20% of your time on the next idea. 

Like this, you constantly discover and refine systems in your business so that you’re always improving. 

Your competitors who don’t have efficient systems will be busy doing all the work themselves. As the economy tightens they’ll be scrambling trying to get new customers, close sales, and fulfill all the work themselves. Meanwhile, you’ll be calmly taking advantage of new opportunities and gobbling up market share. 

5. Keep the lines of communication open

I see so many entrepreneurs who get seduced by automation. They think that with the perfect sales funnel and the right Facebook ads, they can start processing payments but never have to talk to customers. 

They dream of sitting on a beach and hearing their Stripe notification chime as the passive income comes rolling in. 

Is it possible? Sure… I guess. 

But the reality is, online business isn’t some sexy new thing. It’s still business, the same as it has always been. 

You need to find customers. You need to give them an excellent customer experience. And people like doing business with people they know, like, and trust. 

It all comes down to relationships. 

So as you start landing customers, don’t start thinking, “How can I turn this into passive income?” Don’t roll your eyes every time a client emails you and asks for your time. 

Instead, focus on providing the most amazing customer service you can. Try to build a fantastic working relationship. 

And most importantly, find a way to keep the lines of communication open. Don’t waste your client’s time. Don’t ask them questions you can find the answer to on your own, and don’t pull them into projects just to prove you’re doing work. But find ways to reach out regularly and provide value. 

This will help build that relationship, and train your clients that whenever they see your name in their inbox it’s for a great reason. They always want to open your emails because you always provide value. 

If you do these things, during the next economic downturn it’ll be harder for your clients to cancel their service. Imagine them scanning their monthly expenses. They could say, “I hardly ever talk to this service provider anymore. In fact I forget we were still paying them!” 

Or they could say, “This person has become a part of my business life, I’d be sad if I stopped talking to them!” 

And even if your clients do suspend your service, having great relationships will mean more raving fans who can give referrals. 

Start building a better business today

The important thing to realize about the five points above is that these aren’t just good strategies during recessions… it’s just good business in general. 

It doesn’t matter whether the economy is getting stronger or weaker… you need to generate leads. You need to build strong relationships. You need to dial in your systems. 

And really that’s what being calm is all about. 

Over the past three months you’ve probably heard this quote a thousand times: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” 

When the economy is going great, it’s easy for businesses to remain profitable while being a little sloppy. But when things contract they get exposed. And then they start panicking because they realize they should have fixed their weaknesses long ago. They freak out that maybe it’s too late to get their house in order. 

But if you’ve already done the hard work of streamlining your business, you won’t have to worry about being exposed. When everyone else is playing catch up, trying to patch the leaks in their sinking ships, you’ll be able to go on the offensive. You’ll have the peace of mind that your hard work is about to pay off. 

So I encourage you, don’t wait for tomorrow. Ask yourself what can you do today to make your business more resilient? How can you provide a more amazing service for your clients? 

Leave a comment below and let us know your answer. And then start implementing it today!

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