A time for innovation using what we have

Across the world, we’re entering uncharted territory with a truly unprecedented shutdown of industry, putting extraordinary pressure on just about everyone. At a time like this, it’s important to remember that life has to go on, people have to eat, be entertained and do all the things that keep us sane and healthy. This applies as much to the channel as it does to any other line of business – and it’s worth bearing in mind that even with COVID-19 causing massive upheaval, we have more than a few aces in hand. The question now becomes how to apply those aces for the best outcomes.

Probably the biggest ace is that people today are by and large fully equipped for remote working. Laptops, connectivity and standard software means most of us have everything we need to keep being productive even if we can’t be in the office.

Social distancing doesn’t mean collaboration and communication must come to a standstill, as we can still interact virtually for work or even social purposes. With a little innovation and some smart approaches, we can work together to beat the virus, while still actually working together. A great example of social, if not business innovation, is the Japanese trend of ‘on-nami’: people getting together pub-style over webcams and a few cold ones.

On-nami is ideal for the end of the workday, but during it there’s plenty you can do to keep the wheels of commerce turning or, if those are moving a bit slowly, maximise the time for learning, strategic development (what better time to work on your business, rather than in your business). Use online resources like YouTube, Khan Academy, CommonLit or vendor-provided learning solutions including Microsoft Learn.

There’s an absolute ton of on-demand content, free and paid study programmes and more out there.

Get everyone up to speed

Of course, if you have staff members (or clients) who aren’t set up for remote work, now is the time to sort them out with the necessary devices and connectivity. Again, we’re fortunate that these things are commodities today and that means it’s all highly accessible. And with social distancing, it’s probably more important than ever to leverage these tools for digital inclusion.

This extends to the systems and approaches you’ll need for collaborating at scale. Consider timing for events, for example, look for opportunities for interactivity to maintain people’s attention (running polls, checking registrations, reporting on activity and contributions from participants), make sure the technology systems you’re using are fit for purpose and can scale to your audience size.

Look for every opportunity to engage and share with colleagues, associates, customers and suppliers. Humour is a great way of dealing with adversity. For example, consider using Microsoft Teams or some other community space where people can share anecdotes and experiences – already, social media is awash with memes and jokes. Laughter is the best medicine but do bear in mind that people’s tastes can vary widely so some sensitivity is advisable.

Getting down to business

There are also specific approaches you can take towards business development and productivity, including redesigning marketing or sales initiatives, engaging remotely rather than in person, and looking for opportunities to combine the physical with the digital. In other words, this is a time to stand out with your own ideas and approaches in support of your customers, suppliers and vendors: we are in unchartered territory, but the world will still move on.

This can include ramping up activity on webinars as a convenient way of sharing information and engaging with your supply chain. More than ever, look to drive engagement and interaction so you can maintain the relationships crucial to the effective functioning of the channel; while your specific approaches might include offering rewards along the way (or just to get people to turn up!) such as online gift vouchers and other prizes.

How you deliver webinars also warrants attention; just speaking from behind a desk may not be the most effective. Consider, for example, a ‘TV studio’ approach, with speakers in a panel. By ramping up the professionalism, you’ll stand out, achieve greater participation, and crucially (again) maintain productivity in the face of this unprecedented adversity. Leveraging technology, we can drive engagement, understand our audiences, build programmes and deliver calls to action.


Let’s make the most of it

Nobody’s happy about what’s happening and the inevitable restrictions we’re facing. But what better time than now to GET SAVVY and give people ways to engage virtually. By making the most of this situation and looking for the opportunity in adversity, we can keep things going as best possible.

What this isn’t is a time to do nothing. By acting, showing leadership and innovation, we can help everyone get through. Maintaining learning, commerce and engagement is a fundamental part of it – and at the end of the day, you want to look in the mirror and be the person who did something positive.