Across the country, state governments are establishing a dialogue about the appropriate and safe time to re-open various aspects of business. It’s a glimmer of hope in a challenging time, but the decision and timing will be different for each state. Regardless of when your state plans to re-open, facility owners and operators must be ready. There’s a tremendous opportunity in place for your facility to lead the charge to recovery in your community.
In the final part of our series inspired by the webinar, COVID-19 Response: Money Saving Measures for Owners and Operators, we will provide tips for recovery planning for facility owners and operators. Other parts of this series included tips on cost containment, communications and leadership practices, maximizing revenues, and pursuing relief aid.
These tips are broken into two categories, business and marketing and operations. We will also provide a few parting shots at the end of this article.
Marketing & Business Development
Update annual budget & forecast: The budget and forecasts that you created at the beginning of the year will need a revamp, if not a total overhaul. The facility leadership team should establish a new budget that reflects the reality of a temporarily closed facility. It would be prudent to produce several forecasts to reflect different time periods in which your facility may re-open. A great deal of flexibility must be used during this time because of the uncertainty of the crisis and leadership must be ready for a variety of scenarios. Depending on your ownership structure (public, private, P3), you may need to communicate these plans well in advance to an oversight committee or board.
Get creative with online content: There’s a tremendous opportunity to exhibit leadership in the online space. Thanks to safer at home orders throughout the country (and world for that matter), you have a captive audience. You can provide valuable content to them including free training, guides, or webinars. On the Cedar Point Sports Center Facebook page, among promotional messages, is a daily “Drill of the Day” that teaches viewers a new fun skill. These types of tactics are inexpensive to execute but can keep you top of mind when your facility re-opens.
Support your sponsors and partners: The COVID-19 crisis has had a tremendous impact on all facets of the youth sports tourism industry. Your sponsors and partners are feeling the pinch and it will take a community effort to recover from the economic damage that has been incurred. Support your sponsors and partners during this time. Sharing their promotional messages on your own social media platforms is a great gesture that will strengthen your relationships. Also, if they are conducting humanitarian efforts such as food drives, do what you can to support them. The phrase, “we’re all in this together” may seem overdone but it’s simply the truth.
Write new blog posts: Similar to creating online content, this is a tremendous time to put new blog content on your website for the purpose of supporting SEO. According to report by Search Engine Journal, 93 percent of all online experiences originate from a search engine. While you may have focused on other tactics in the past, being more visible on Google and Bing can greatly boost your brand. Now’s the time, while your facility is temporarily closed, to write a few articles that are of value to your audience. Doing this will bring more people to your site and further establish a leadership position in your industry and community. As we move towards recover, we will look to leaders for guidance.
Plan campaigns for summer/fall programming and design assets: When facilities are permitted to re-open, you must be ready. As facility owners and operators, we know that it takes time get prepared for guests and events and depending on when state and federal governments allow us to reopen, competition is going to be fierce. Now is the time to start planning summer and fall programming both from an operational and marketing standpoint. Government and health officials will determine the “when” in terms of reopening, but it’s up to you to determine the “what” and position yourself well to resume business and recover lost revenues.
Website review and audit – what needs updated, refreshed, or added: Preparation for the economic recovery should take place online as well. Now’s the time to take a look at your website. Make sure all links function properly, all information is current, and add or adjust information as needed. If you have the resources, now’s a great time to update the design of your website as well. When businesses reopen, you will be competing with a myriad of activities for customer attention, not just other facilities. Everything you can do to cut through the clutter will payoff down the line.
Start booking process for 2021 and beyond: Many events and facilities book dates a year or more in advance. Assuming you’ve already re-booked and re-scheduled your spring/summer 2020 events, now is a great time to focus on your event calendar for 2021 and beyond. There may be times when events conflict with programming. In some cases, there are opportunities to create a revenue-share or joint venture in an event to create something new and achieve multiple goals at once.
Reschedule not refund, if possible: Work with event owners to find a win-win. It’s critical to operate from the standpoint that a hosted event is good for all parties. Negotiation will be a standard part of operations for all events. In terms of economic recovery, we are all partners.
Deep facility cleaning and strategic projects: As you can imagine, your customers will place a high value on safety and cleanliness. Deep facility cleaning during this time period is a must. With your facility temporarily closed, now’s the time for other strategic projects as well, including beautification initiatives and maintenance. Additional cleaning and safety measures will be part of the new normal – are you ready with additional hand sanitizing stations, plexiglass dividers, and social distancing seating?
Plan for re-opening: This will be an important moment for your community. Think strategically about what you want this moment to look like and symbolize. An event to bring the community together is important, but it’s equally important to demonstrate that you are conducting all measures necessary to keep attendees safe.
Evaluate waivers, agreements, contracts: Work with your legal counsel to evaluate these items and determine if they are still relevant given the current situation and make adjustments where needed.
Create new revenue sources: With facilities closed during this time, it’s even more important to think outside of the box about revenue generation. Consider non-traditional events such as esports, parties, or faith-based gatherings.
Stay in contact with employees: While things look bleak currently, an economic recovery is pending. When you get the green light to open your facility, you are going to need your team ready to go. Maintain an open and honest dialogue with employees during this time period. Where possible, let them know that you would like to bring them back, provide a timetable for doing so, and discuss how you’ll keep them safe as well as your guests.
Prepare for shift in customer behavior: Your customers are going to have concerns about their safety upon entering your venue. Be proactive in addressing those concerns. The facilities that do that will have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
Not all regions will recover simultaneously: Certain regions will open business prior to others. Be patient and follow the policies of your state.
Be ready for “bounce back”, assess marketing spend: Not only do you need to be ready for an economic bounce back from an operational standpoint, you must be ready from a marketing standpoint as well. Start considering your messaging for the bounce back and answer the needs of your consumers.
Standing with You
While these are uncertain times, none of us are alone. The SF Companies are standing with you with the resources and services to weather storm and prepare you for a sunny recovery. We’re also here to brighten your day. Check out this video from our SFM Network team.
Ready for the recovery? We can help. Contact us at 727-374-3845.