Where will your business be in 2022?
Strategies will change in the post pandmic economy.
The business world has changed! are you in cozymania or actively seeking a way to survive and looking towards the future?.
The uncertainty that has enveloped our communities and economies has jolted all of us into a new reality. And in this new environment, growth is a tough topic to broach.
While a few companies are experiencing accelerated growth as a result of dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour, most are facing significant challenges. And it is survival, not growth, that is the word of the day.
When urgently switching focus to strategies for survival, as many businesses are now having to do, it's easy to become absorbed in short-term thinking and to forget the fact that the decisions made in the midst of a crisis can have lasting effects — positive or negative — on the path back to growth. Budgets need to be cut. Ads need to be paused. Forecasts need to be adjusted.
Amidst the fog, many businesses can lose sight of their greatest source of direction when navigating times of uncertainty:
Finding Focus Amidst the Fog
During times of crisis, the stakes are raised, and customers feel the impact of their experience with a business more acutely than during normal times. They remember the companies they heard from too often — and those they didn't hear from enough. They remember the interactions that felt empathetic — and those that didn't. And they remember the actions that truly provided help when it was needed the most.
Marketers are signing up to automation software to help them move their entire marketing strategy online. And brick-and-mortar retailers have hastily acquired website management systems to enable them to spin up ecommerce sites.
Plans for gradual, carefully managed digital transformation have been torn asunder by the pandemic, and the changes that many leaders thought would take years to implement have taken place in a matter of weeks. Entire industries are now waking up in a digitally transformed world awash with new opportunities ... and unknowns.
"Companies that provide solutions for their customers during times of crisis can foster deep levels of loyalty that will live long into the future and help them swiftly return to growth once conditions improve".
Adapting Customer Experience
Particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty. As millions are furloughed and retreat into isolation, a primary barometer of their customer experience will be how the businesses they frequent and depend upon deliver experiences and service that meets their new needs with empathy, care and concern. Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behaviour that result from this crisis. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys that matter to a very different context will be key. read more
Customer experience has taken on a new definition and dimension in the overwhelming challenge of COVID-19. Customer leaders who care and innovate during this crisis and anticipate how customers will change their habits will build stronger relationships that will endure well beyond the crisis’s passing.
Selling for Today and Tomorrow
That is why it is so important that business owners and their sales, marketing, and service teams in particular fight the forces dragging them in the direction of quick fixes and short-term solutions and firmly focus on the customer amidst the fog of crisis.
This isn't only the right thing to do, it's the most effective way to protect key business metrics in a sustainable way, for the long term, through times good and bad.
What will happen to the high street now? After long years of decline prior to the pandemic, the sense of inevitable disaster is becoming overwhelming.
Pick your place and the headlines tell the same stories major retailers are closing local stores at a rapid rate, major lenders are calling in loans, hotels are being repossesed, small businesses are closing or will be in the long term.
The sadness of the stories seems all the greater when you read about the thriving trade based around brown parcels adorned with stylised smiles.
Traditional shops may be in free fall, but since the start of 2020 the worth of the Amazon empire is reckoned to have increased by more than half, to an astonishing $1.49 trillion (£1.1tn). Last Thursday, it announced quarterly sales that were up 40% on the same period last year, like it or not Amazon know their customers, market fit, operate an ideal business model, is exceptionally well managed, demonstrates great skills at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them!
So owners of small businesses beware and learn from this exceptional success and business model, your door can still be open for business!
Much of this has been driven by what the pandemic has done to people’s buying habits, and a share of the e-commerce market now put at 44% in the US and about 30% in the UK. But also relevant is Amazon’s Web Services division, which has cleaned up as companies have shifted more of their activities to the online cloud.
When growth stagnates, sales teams are naturally inclined towards ramping up outreach to prospects in the hope of quickly closing new deals. But this is counterproductive. During a time of economic uncertainty, prospects are likely to be reducing budgets and taking a more cautious approach to purchase decisions, making them less likely to respond positively to cold emails and calls.
Where possible, businesses should update their automated emails to ensure they're empathetic, re-evaluate their target markets based on which segments and industries have been most impacted by the crisis, and adjust their forecasts to reflect the challenging economic conditions — a move that can help to relieve salespeople of the sense of urgent pressure that pushes them towards short-term solutions.
Adopting this approach can help sales teams to close more deals in the immediate future, but more significantly, it can serve as a powerful display of empathy and understanding that helps set up new business relationships for long-term success.
Marketing that Matters for the Moment
In the face of uncertainty there should be one over riding question for SME business owners and their marketing messages,
"How can we help our customers right now"
For SME's it could mean re evaluating the effectiveness and performance of their current website and method of attracting and servicing loyal customers.
A more dynamic customer approach would be to contact them with fresh content and innovative services that are empathetic to their customers situation creating brand new resources — that offer unique value and speak to the immediate needs of their audiences.
Salespeople and marketers should adjust the tone of their messaging to ensure that empathy is at the centre of every touchpoint with the customer.
At its core, good marketing is always about providing value to audiences. Business owners and marketing teams that successfully adapt their strategies to add value in a moment of crisis reassure their customers that they are committed to helping them, no matter the circumstances. And that's a message that can foster deeper levels of trust, which will be key to reigniting growth post-crisis.
The graphic, Digital Marketing Transformation, example demonstrates how hotel owners can sell thier rooms by focusing on booking rooms direct off the company website via their own booking channel instead of relying on OTE's for room booking. It has other benefits such as reducing high commission fees, improved cash flow and gives back control of their business.
Service That Can Sustain the Strain of a Crisis
When uncertain times strike, many companies experience sudden spikes in customer queries, which can put a major strain on service teams. While the natural temptation may be to try to increase effort and working hours to manage the higher volume, this could lead to employee burnout, a lower-quality of service, and longer-than-expected wait times for customers. A more sustainable approach is needed to solve for the customer.
Businesses should consider investing in a chatbot, which will allow customers to self-serve and get quick answers to common questions, while also freeing up staff to spend more time working on more complex queries. Service and marketing teams should also work together to create relevant educational content that proactively addresses anticipated customer issues.
Businesses that successfully adopt new sustainable service strategies during a crisis will be well-placed to support their customers through the period of uncertainty, and significantly, will have established new scalable processes to support renewed growth in the future.
Grow Better: a Message for These Times
During times of crisis, growth often grinds to a halt. But as most businesses will attest, growth is never a straight line. For individuals, companies, and economies alike, the journey is littered with setbacks, misplaced bets, false starts, and a whole host of unforeseen events.
There is no fool proof playbook for the unprecedented situation now facing businesses across the world, and there is no guaranteed fast-track back to growth. Some companies will pivot to a new model that sets them up for renewed long-term success. Others will double-down on their existing strategies and white-knuckle their way through the coming months. Others will have to make some agonising decisions to survive.
"It's easy to feel pessimistic at a time like this, but in the face of undeniable uncertainty, be fiercely optimistic that the customer-centric values that got businesses to where they were before the present crisis are ultimately what will get them through it".
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
By drawing closer to customers and placing them at the centre of every decision across sales, marketing, and service, businesses give themselves their best chance of successfully navigating these uncharted waters. Not only that, they also position themselves for renewed growth as the economy stabilizes and new opportunities emerge.
Michael J Fox
The author wishes to acknowledge and thank the following for their contribution in writing this article: