It's disheartening when businesses no longer need your services, but you must remember that as an agency owner, you still have a business to run. Here are some tips for dealing with client cancellations:
- Review the contract terms to check how this impacts timelines
- Review if there are any outstanding invoices
- Discuss if there's any space to adjust services instead of cancelling
- Discuss if there's a possibility to work together again in the future once circumstances improve
- Ask if there's a possibility to get feedback and social proof
Hearing a lot of stories from freelancers & consultants who are being asked to cut their prices because businesses "need to focus on cashflow right now". Well guess what? So do we. I'm all for working w/ a budget & saying what you need but don't be surprised when we do that too.— Val Geisler 💌 (@lovevalgeisler) March 24, 2020
Step 3: Plan for the future, once you’re ready
Once your mindset and first priorities are taken care of, it’s time to get practical and start planning for the future of your brand or agency. Although it may seem impossible now, as soon as you’re ready, you may want to look into the next steps for your business.
For Sendible's CEO and Founder Gavin Hammar, using strategy maps to plan, formulate and communicate a new business strategy during COVID-19 proved helpful. If you'd like to learn how to create strategy maps for your business, agency or clients in order to navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, you can find Gavin's guide here:
Here are some additional actions you can take to rebuild your agency or brand after a significant global crisis like COVID-19:
Review your financial situation
This is crunch time. You'll need to pull up your financial records or speak to your accountant to get a tight grip on your agency's finances. Some of the key areas to consider are:
- What your current expenses are (from salaries to paid tools)
- How much income you are still expecting to receive
- How much cash you have in the bank and for how long it could last
- How much of your agency's revenue could drop in the near future
- What actions you need to take to stay in business
As a social media management company, this is the part where we are a bit out of our depth, so we've collated a few resources to help you review how you're doing financially:
- COVID-19 Resource Center for Agencies by agency advisor, Karl Sakas
Karl has published a comprehensive FAQ page on how to manage your agency during COVID-19. His finance and sales advice is priceless to agencies who are unsure how to calculate their monthly income/expenditure, are wondering how to react to the pandemic publicly, and how to continue to sell their clients.
- COVID-19 Agency Survival Guide by a team of attorneys at Matchstick
This will be most useful if you're an agency based in the US, since quite a few laws mentioned would apply to this country only. You'll find insightful and practical advice on putting together client contracts going forward, communicating and taking care of employees, as well as managing your payroll.
- SBA Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus for agencies based in the US
If you're based in the US and you need additional funds to stay afloat, your agency may be eligible for the SBA disaster loan and/or other Coronavirus related relief. The additional funds may help you keep your peace of mind and focus on other important matters during this time.
- COVID-19: support for businesses and agencies based in the UK by GOV.UK
This is the official website page for measures currently in place by the UK government to “support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19”. If you're active on Twitter, you may want to follow Work Notes - it's an account dedicated to providing useful resources for the freelancer community based in the UK.
New article 🥳— Work Notes (@_worknotes) March 28, 2020
The disparity in coronavirus support available for sole traders and those who run their business as a limited company is stark.
The light has been shone on this group who fit somewhere between the employed and self-employed world.
Start looking for new business
A lot of businesses are experiencing losses at the moment, so it may feel like an odd time to start prospecting for new opportunities. However, once the dust starts to settle, this will be an important step on the road to recovery. Here are some suggestions for finding new clients in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis:
- Follow and engage with brands you’d love to work with
Following a crisis, building genuine relationships with your prospects is key. As a starting point, you could look for brands who you think have responded particularly well to the COVID-19 pandemic. Start by following them on social media and engaging with their posts to build a rapport.
- Make the most of virtual networking opportunities
In times of social distancing, traditional networking opportunities are sparse. But that doesn’t mean they’re non-existent. Use Facebook Groups and other social media forums to scope out potential clients and try to join groups where you can offer help, value and demonstrate your skills and experience.
- Be proactive and creative in your approach to sourcing new clients
When finding new clients, resourcefulness and initiative are key. Try running events rather than just attending them. If you’re a small agency, you could run a local ‘social media for small business’ virtual meetup, speak at online conferences, make guest appearances on Podcasts, Webinars, Twitter Chats, and Facebook Lives.
If you do have free time, consider using it to upskill
In the event that you find yourself with time on your hands as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, upskilling is a great way to put it to use. Plenty of brands and companies are offering free training courses, which under normal circumstances they would have charged for, such as Ahrefs Blogging for Business course. The Hubspot Academy is another free resource which is perfect for helping to take your professional skills to the next level.
Equally, if you’re a social media marketer who’s found themselves at a loose end, you could use this quieter period to master the specific features of the channels that you work with every day or get ahead of the curve by keeping abreast of the upcoming changes and new features of the main social media networks.
You could learn more about the best features for engagement on Instagram for example, or take the time to improve your visual content creation skills by experimenting with creating more GIFs and videos.
Some other areas in which to upskill could include:
- Improving your knowledge of analytics and reporting using tools like Google Analytics and Search Console
- Experimenting with paid media such as Facebook or Twitter ads
- Learning how to create live video and better social media Stories
Improving your skills will help you to become a stronger digital marketer in the future, and who knows, you could discover a new passion which could take your brand or agency in an entirely new or unexpected direction!
Future-proof your brand or business
One of the most alarming lessons that COVID-19 has taught us, is how little control we have over some crisis situations. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them.
Once the initial shock of the pandemic has subsided and things start to feel a bit more certain, it’s time to implement what we learned and begin to lay a solid foundation to start over.
Use this crisis as an opportunity to rebuild your or your clients brand as a stronger and more viable entity. Here are some of the things you can do to make this possible:
- Generate social proof
If you’re looking to win new clients you’ll need to gain credibility and the best way to do this is through social proof. Client testimonials are a fantastic way to prove that your agency does great work. Simply reach out to your best clients and ask for feedback and place this on your website’s ‘About Us’ page. You could also think about writing up case studies of your most successful work and placing these on your website for prospective customers to see.
- Find your industry voice and raise the profile of your brand
A strong business has a unique voice and a recognisable presence. If you’d like to ensure that your brand or agency can make it through the next crisis, then increasing the visibility of your company culture is a great place to start. Utilise platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium to advertise thought leadership, introduce team members and work on improving the online presence of your company so that when potential clients do come, they are more familiar with who you are and are more likely to buy.
- Update your existing processes to improve client onboarding in the future
This could also be a good time to review and update your current processes. Think about the whole journey of your clients - from the moment you first get in touch to when they become a client and you're collaborating with them on their project. You could improve any part of that journey - from the templates you use when reaching out to them, to the social media proposal template, which may need a revamp. Perhaps a better framework is required to deliver impactful analytics reports faster? Streamlining how you work will help you when things get busy again!
We are facing unprecedented times and there will be many challenges ahead for brands and agencies in the next weeks and months due to COVID-19.
However, we must remember that whatever happens, there is strength in the global community, on and offline, and so many resources available that can offer help and support.
This is a time that demands innovation and flexibility, but together, there is nothing that we cannot overcome.
For support, we recommend visiting mentalhealth.org and for official health advice, go to the World Health Organisation.
For more helpful content related to COVID-19, check out our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram profiles.