Shortly after the pandemic began, many business owners first called their accountants and banks. Secondly, they called their marketing agencies, including locally owned Gravitate, to ask what to do.
“We found ourselves not having the answers,” said Don Elliott, owner of Gravitate. Elliott said he could no longer guarantee things that were once common knowledge.
The ever-changing atmosphere of the pandemic created a new ground for businesses. On Thursday, a group of local marketing, design and other business leaders gathered for a virtual conference to collaborate, learn and lean on each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, called Rise Up, was hosted by Table Agency Group, and speakers advised business owners on how to handle the uncertain times.
Colten Tidwell, CEO of Gravitate, said that relationships with clients and other businesses have become focal points of the uncertain times.
“The one thing we can control is how we treat people,” he said. “Relationships, if they weren’t important before COVID, they 100 percent are now.”
Tidwell put effort into buying meals from local restaurants for his employees, for example.
Kelli Loo, a local certified public accountant, said that she found new success by creating a blog that explained boilerplate information to her clients. It helped so that when she had direct communication with them, she wasn’t repeating the same things. Instead, she could be more personal with them. She also made the blog free for anyone.
“Coming from a place of generosity has worked for me time and time again,” she said.
Many businesses that have remained open have tried to connect with customers through social media, like Facebook and Instagram.
Lacey Faught, CEO of Spry, a local marketing agency, advised restaurants to focus heavily on Instagram.
“People are wanting to be inspired and share inspirational content,” she said.
Faught said restaurants can gain business by commenting on local posts without the direct intent of selling something, but instead by just being caring.
One of the changes of the pandemic business atmosphere, according to some of the speakers, is that business relationships are becoming more sincere.
“Communication is first priority,” said Erin Lynch, partner and creative director for Shop. “See how they’re doing. Ask if they’re healthy.”
Pricing and communication was another topic of discussion. During the pandemic, some business owners have found success in telling customers and clients that their profits have evaporated, so all revenue is going toward keeping employees working.
The proceeds from the event were donated to three nonprofits: Columbia River Economic Development Council, the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools, and Family Meal. A highlight reel will be available next week, according to organizers.