Last week, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates went live on LinkedIn to answer questions about the novel coronavirus, including what we should expect life to look like over the next few months, and the next several years.
Speaking with LinkedIn editor-in-chief Daniel Roth on “This Is Working,” Gates said it will be a while before many things get back to normal. And a lot about everyday life has probably been changed forever.
Gates said he believes the U.S. could begin opening back up in early June, if things go well. But he describes this “opening up” more as a “semi-normal” than a return to what many are used to.
“It won’t be where you’re doing large public gatherings or even filling up a restaurant,” says Gates. “I do think that things like running factories, doing construction, going back to school–those things can be done.”
But when it comes to other industries, including hospitality, sports events, and even real estate, Gates believes it will take much longer to recover.
“Will people want to go and travel?” Gates questioned. “Will they want to go to restaurants? Will they even think, you know, buying a new home is an appropriate thing? So, even once the government is saying these activities are OK, we can’t expect the demand side to re-emerge overnight.”
Gates believes it will require approval and widespread manufacturing of an effective vaccine before any of these changes begin to take place–and he predicts we’re still 18 months away from producing that vaccine.
These things will change.
Beyond the aforementioned issues, Gates believes the COVID-19 pandemic will keep forcing us to push things digitally.
“There are a few things, like business trips, that I doubt will ever go back,” Gates said. “I mean, there will still be business trips, but you know, less.”
And other things, says Gates, will likely be changed for good.
For example, Gates cites Microsoft as having gone to virtual shareholder meetings even before the outbreak of the pandemic. As many other companies begin to follow this model, says Gates, he doubts they will want to go back to in-person shareholder meetings.
Gates also says as new software innovations emerge, things will continue to change. “What is a virtual courtroom?” he asked. “What is a virtual legislature? How do you create the logic?… In some ways, you can create something that’s actually more efficient and better than what was there before.”
How to adapt?
So, if you’re a business owner, how can you adapt to the new normal Gates has described?
As an example, let’s say you run a restaurant. Until social distancing restrictions ease up, you need to make sure you have a robust pickup and delivery service.
Stop asking yourself if you want to go that route. It’s no longer an option. For now, it’s pickup and delivery, or close down.
But unlike Field of Dreams, just building out your service doesn’t mean people will automatically come. Make sure to adjust your website to prominently feature your new pickup and delivery options.
And don’t forget the power of content marketing: Work on creating some YouTube videos that demonstrate you cooking some of your most popular dishes. Showcase your personality. Don’t worry about people wanting to stay home and cook instead of ordering out: Some will, some won’t. Your market is the ones who won’t.
A few great videos shared on social media may be all it takes to get you back in business.
As another example, let’s say you’re focused on conferences and events. Have all your speaking gigs have canceled? Is your company responsible for putting on events?
Yes, everyone is going virtual. But not everyone has the ability to put on a high-quality show. Although the logistics of virtual conferences are much different than live ones, there’s still a lot of work to be done behind the scenes.
Get familiar with technology, features, and effects that will separate your conference from the rest of the pack. Then, do a few for free, so you can hone your skills and create a portfolio. Once polished, use that portfolio to start selling your speaking or conference services to a huge market that is suddenly looking for online training and events.
And let’s look to tourism– the tourism industry is definitely one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. But maybe you can learn from “Greece From Home,” a brilliant initiative by the Greek National Tourism Organization, in cooperation with Google.
This site is also built on the principle of content marketing: using great online content to create a relationship with potential customers. Through YouTube videos and other content, creators give viewers a chance to tour archeological sites and museums, experience beautiful scenes of nature, and even take “walking” tours or visit restaurants–all virtually, of course.
Done right, your content might be able to bring in revenue through ads or product sales. And at the very least, it’s a way to keep in touch with your audience until they are willing (and able) to travel again.
Even if your business isn’t in one of these industries, hopefully this sparks some ideas. The key is to redirect your efforts and use your time wisely.
Because very likely this new normal is here to stay. And the quicker you adjust to that fact, the greater your business’s chance to survive, and possibly thrive.