Compatibility with your business partner is essential

‘My partner, Cara Leo, and I had only been working together for two months when our account was hacked; we immediately had completely different reactions. Cara was focused and practical, straight into problem-solving mode. I'm more reactive and I responded emotionally; a crippling sensation of not being able to communicate to our customers started to overwhelm me. I felt helpless for a few hours but, after sitting with it (frankly, not doing anything, just feeling it), I got into hype mode, feeling energy to twist this into a positive. I was totally focused on how to communicate what had happened. For the next 48 hours, Cara remained at the computer, working away at every lead we had, while I stayed on camera and managed the social side.’

Don't put all your sales in one basket 

‘It hurt to face the thing I'd always feared – that we were a one-trick pony, sales wise. I always knew we needed another strong sales channel, but we came up during the Instagram storm and stayed in that space because it had always worked for us – it was where our customers lived digitally. However, we never wanted to be just an Instagram business. But the time required to sink our teeth into customer relationship management (CRM) seemed impossible, and the lack of video skills kept us away from other areas, like YouTube and TikTok. We'd invested in a CRM provider, but we hadn't really capitalized on its capabilities yet. This showed us how serious it was to grow this area specifically, as the need to reach our entire customer base was so important.’

The power of publicly asking for help

‘Though we share a lot, we don't share most of the challenges that we face. When we entered into this crisis, the first instinct was to work privately to fix it. But, after the first day, we decided to ask for help through every single channel we possibly could, and the response was incredible. We had our story shared hundreds of times; we had DMs from customers or their contacts in Washington DC, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles – from Facebook, leading PR firms and political connections. If they didn't have advice or a contact to share, they shared our story on their business and personal feeds to try to find help for us. The loyalty seemed like a direct result of the time we spent building relationships and developing trust with our customer base. It was the decision to say that we needed help that galvanized this energy.’

Financial security has to be the focus

‘This was our first time where I felt like this could be it. I couldn't see how we could make money without Instagram, and I quickly calculated that we could go under if it went on for a month with little to no sales. I learned that we need a certain amount of money in the bank to weather these unpredictable storms. This feeds back to not using just one channel to communicate – we must push ourselves to new platforms and develop a strong CRM system. We've already put time into learning TikTok; we've chosen a new CRM provider that better suits us; and we've built time into our schedules to create better content for our newsletters.’

Thinking creatively is key in a crisis 

‘One of our biggest assets is that we were creative and agile enough to flip the script. I went home after the hack and ran through all my fears before finally finding my sweet spot: I needed to use the energy surrounding it to turn the whole thing into positive PR and, therefore, an opportunity for growth. We had a brand called NAC NAC that we were just about to launch, which had a small following. We flipped that Instagram and turned it into a temporary space for Bon Tot to communicate from. Then I recorded a series of stories explaining and asking very clearly for help. Both of these were immediately seen and widely shared. Then we decided to put our entire store on sale (something we don't do) to generate even more buzz. We put that out in a newsletter with the code HACKEDOFF, shared it on the new account and had a huge day of sales.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 45, February/March 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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