By Gino Giovannelli Special to the Star Tribune AUGUST 16, 2020 — 2:00PM

Q: What advice do you have for companies trying to survive during COVID-19?

A: Good question, and one that reminds me of a course I taught last spring in which student teams create real marketing strategies for real clients in the real world. We were cruising through the first couple of months of the semester when COVID-19 hit. One of the teams asked, “Is COVID-19 in scope for our assignment?” I gave it some thought and ultimately decided it had to be in scope because what better way to help prepare students for the real world than to have them solve one of the biggest business challenges of our lifetime? So, I had all teams propose a marketing plan to help their clients survive COVID-19. Those plans fell into the following three categories.

Hit the pause button. The business closes its doors, rests the front-line staff and identifies improvement opportunities that could not otherwise be done easily while being “open for business.” This requires cash to weather the storm, but the intent is to re-emerge post COVID-19 stronger than ever.

Bridge the gap. In this scenario, businesses figure out quick and clever ways to stay open in limited capacity for their customers and still bring in some revenue, granted limited, during this time. Because the solutions are short term, they can be assembled and disassembled quickly with a relatively nimble return to their full-scale business operation post COVID-19. The challenge here is the unknown of how long the “gap” will be.

Reinvent the business. In this scenario, businesses stay open in whatever capacity they can while incorporating longer-term improvements, many of which may have been planned for in the future anyway. This is the classic “necessity is the mother of invention,” right? And if deployed quickly, these improvements could be implemented during COVID-19 as well as afterward.

Despite COVID-19 representing a huge challenge for businesses, it also provides opportunities for businesses to try things they would not otherwise do. And whether a business follows one of the scenarios listed above or something else, the goal is to come out of COVID-19 better than before it.

Gino Giovannelli is a marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business and is co-host of the podcast series “In the Key of D — Using Digital to Transform Your Business.”

This article originally appeared in the Star Tribune. Used by kind permission of the Star Tribune.