May 30, 2024

In recent weeks, my online business has dropped by 50 percent.

What caused the sudden drop in business? Coronavirus, a black swan event that forced the world into lockdown.

On March 22nd, I woke up, and it felt like any other day. I logged in to my various dashboards and got quite a shock. Every stat was down for website visits, blog views, and the number of readers, email subscribers, and customers who bought my digital products.

The next day, the numbers continued to drop.

The day after, things got worse.

After two weeks, my business was completely changed. I have sold ebooks, online courses, digital content, coaching services, and consulting to a handful of internet businesses for the last two years. Each of these revenue streams was affected significantly byby the recent world events – and it all happened simultaneously.

The first thing I did was turn to the gods of the internet. I messaged people on LinkedIn who had online businesses to see how they were doing. Their results were freakishly similar to mine.

The whole situation was tough to process as a millennial business owner. The last economic downturn I faced was in 2008 when I was a young whippersnapper with a huge ego and a selfish desire to crush everybody in pursuit of success, fame, Lambos, and money. That kid was reborn as a blogger-turned-business-owner who built a profitable online business without a dollar spent on marketing.

The economy may have gone down the toilet in the short term, but I’ve found a few ways to cope over the last few weeks. Misery loves company, so let’s dig in.

Collaborate (rather than isolate) with other online businesses

The big secret to my online business is collaboration.

Most of what I have achieved online results from silent partnerships with other businesses that happen behind the scenes. The worst thing you can do in an economic downturn is isolate yourself and your business from others in your industry.

It would be best if you found additional ways to make money in times like this. It’s hard to do this all by yourself. When my business dropped significantly, I reached out to other companies just like mine. I scheduled several weekly video calls to get an outside perspective and look for affiliate deals or cross-promotion.

The simplest form of collaboration I came across was sharing my email list with other entrepreneurs. In doing so, they opened their list to me. All of a sudden, there were more customers to sell to. The way I communicated with my list changed, too. I learned tips and tricks regarding copywriting, email subject lines, images, and sharing links.

My favorite lesson was this: emails are most effective when they contain one link. Like landing pages, only allowing email subscribers to take one action – clicking a single link – focuses their attention and increases conversion rates.

Collaboration is underrated in an economic downturn. Use it to your advantage. You may find your competitors become your best friends in the business.

Drop the pet projects that don’t make revenue

All the pet projects that didn’t contribute income have been axed.

Case in point, podcast interviews. Podcasts take time, often, they give you the promise of “exposure.”

But exposure doesn’t pay the bills, man.

I need the Benjamin Franklin variety of payments to keep the freelancers – who design, write, and maintain my digital assets – employed and to keep my family alive and fed. Those nice-to-have projects have got to go so you can focus on covering your business expenses and serving your customers.

Empathy marketing

What is empathy marketing? It takes many forms.

Many people, including your customers, will suffer in an economic downturn. Empathy marketing is about getting in your customers’ shoes and thinking about their feelings.

Think about their touchpoints with your business and how you can make them easier during difficult times. Consider the little things you can offer your customers to show them you care.

Here are some examples from my personal life:

My health insurance provider waived their annual increase

My bank offered financial assistance to small businesses doing it tough

My internet provider gave me 20GB extra data, for free, to help with the forced requirement to work from home

My shipping provider came up with a way to deliver without needing a signature yet still being secure

Celebrities did their part too. Jay Shetty used some of the resources from his business to run daily online meditations to keep people calm. The 90s band Backstreet Boys took time away from the music business to do living room concerts for free to help people take their minds off the economy. TV hosts like Jimmy Fallon did their shows from home using a low-cost video camera to give people relief caused by the economic situation.

All of these examples show empathy. They conduct an understanding of what humans are going through and offer a little something for free to make life a little bit easier.

When world events return to normal, the businesses that will be remembered stand out during the tough times.

Spend a small amount of your business’ money or time on being empathetic – a form of marketing that will build your company’s brand for years.

Watch your mental health.

When the economy goes into cardiac arrest, as it does roughly every five to seven years, your mental health can quickly go down.

As a former anxiety sufferer, I know this all too well. There have been no relapses in more than five years, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still guarding the door to my mind every single day.

Seeing businesses close or loved ones lose their life savings is never pleasant. Without trying to, you can imagine you are these people, and it’s you enduring that experience.

A few ways I’ve found to calm the storm are:

Turn off your social media notifications.

Avoid over-consuming commentary about the economy.

Experiment with a meditation app.

Go for walks at lunchtime and get out of your office.

With your mind intact, you can fight the economic downturn and win.

Cut costs like a tight

As Gary Vaynerchuk would say, a downturn is not the time to be romantic. When my business started to tank, I had to act fast. The subscription economy was the most accessible area to cut costs.

I ripped the head off any subscriptions that wouldn’t help my business survive. The easiest way to do so was by email – that way, my emotions wouldn’t get in the way.

One of those subscriptions was my gym membership, which helped keep me fit to have the energy to be in business. I had become attached to the gym owner, but the membership was no good to me due to the lockdown. Exercising after a long day of work was no longer an option. Yes, it would hurt his business – everybody was canceling their membership. But in these moments, sometimes, you must say to yourself, “It’s either their business or mine.”

To remove the human connection, I sent off an email politely asking to cancel and be released into the wilderness of home fitness.

Ruthlessly cut costs. Cut all expenses if you have to and, later, add the ones you need to survive.

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