Think the weather doesn’t affect the way you do business? Well, if it hasn’t yet, it will. Thanks to changing weather patterns, it's only a matter of time.
If you’re smart, you can plan for it. I’m not talking about a disaster-preparedness plan, which I hope you already have in place—too many businesses learned the importance of this during Hurricane Sandy. I’m talking about a business plan to serve new markets during the disaster. A way you can provide your community with what it will need most, at a fair price, if disaster strikes.
If you plan ahead, your business can make the most of super storms.
1. Pop-up stores and timely offers. When it’s raining outside, Walmart moves the umbrellas to the front of the store. In the age of super storms, that’s child’s play. If you can anticipate needs during and after a storm, and develop a plan to provide them, you’re set up for big business. Find a way to provide food, power, Internet access or shelter, and you’ll have customers in droves. Create offers that let customers know that you’re ready and waiting to help them survive.
Is there a vacant space you could rent to sell the things people will need during a crisis? The trick to success here is to do all the planning and work upfront. You need to have a plan in place so when disaster hits, you can make a quick deal on that vacant space, get the inventory or whatever you need in there, and be up and running fast.
2. Rapid inventory movement. Devastating storms happen everywhere, and if you have created a plan to relocate your inventory to the fringes of the areas affected by storms, you’ll be making sales when no one else has merchandise to sell. Look at your inventory movement options and prep your solution ahead of time. Remember that you don’t have to get into the heart of the devastation. The fringes are both safer and easier to access for your customers.
3. Timely advertising. Again, preparation is the key. If you see a storm headed your way, get your radio ads prepped. Radio is the best bet in storm situations, since most folks have battery-powered radios, but not battery-powered flat screen televisions. Twitter and other social media can also be useful for advertising as long as cellular service is operational. And advertising doesn't need to be expensive if you use some out-of-the-box marketing strategies.
4. Deliveries to devastated areas. If you’re already in the business of supplying things that people need in crises, then create a plan to deliver goods—generators, building supplies—from a distance. Coordination ahead of time with emergency response agencies can be a huge advantage, as you’re already set up with contacts who know you can supply what they need.
5. Naming conventions. It used to be that only hurricanes were named, but the trend to name every major storm gives you a great marketing opportunity, whether you’re selling necessities or simply capitalizing on a chance to cash in on a current event. Use the name of the storm in your ads—whether you’re selling beer or replacement windows. Consumers will respond to the storm’s name because it’s already on their radar.
6. Lend a hand in your community. Whether there are sandbags to be filled or cleanup to be done, if you can rally your staff to help out, you’re getting a shot at some great PR. Footage of your employees (wearing shirts with your company’s logo, of course) handing out coffee to firefighters is priceless. It’s good for your community, and it’s good for your business.
7. Think long term. News coverage will move on to the next political scandal or Kardashian sighting, but there’s long-term business to be done in areas that have been devastated. Hurricane Katrina hit nearly 10 years ago, and Louisiana is still rebuilding. Needs will persist, and businesses that cater to those needs will thrive. Pop-up stores can get you up-and-running quickly; once you see your business is viable, it's time to investigate its long-term potential.
Super storms are inevitable. I certainly don’t welcome them, and as a survivor of Sandy's wrath, I know how devastating it can be to try to cope with the effects of Mother Nature’s worst. Developing a plan for these storms can not only keep your business running during trying times, but it can also set you up to provide for community needs while keeping your business healthy.
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