The world isn’t getting back to normal. The world is establishing a new normal. That means businesses need to make sure that their strategy accounts for this change. With that in mind, here are some points all businesses should consider.
Strength comes from the roots
In business, your roots are your “why”. Your “why” is your value proposition. It’s what determines the level of relevance you have in a person’s life. Just as different plants have different types of roots, so different businesses can have different types of value propositions.
For example, some businesses have a high level of relevance to a small number of people. Other businesses have low relevance to a great number of people. Many businesses are somewhere in between. The key point is that long-term sustainability depends on your business having enough relevance with enough people.
Part of making this happen is developing the ability to move with the times without losing sight of your core identity. This is particularly important right now because many people are likely to make changes to their lives, possibly significant ones. For example, if remote-/hybrid-working goes mainstream over the long term, then it will have huge implications for many businesses.
Businesses should always be paying attention to what their customers (past, present, and future) are doing, saying, and thinking. Ideally, businesses should be interacting directly with their customers as much as possible. In-person interactions are great but social-media/online interactions run a close second and can be much easier to organize.
An engaged customer base is a company’s biggest asset
In the real world, very few customers need the best product or service. In fact, they don’t even need the best product or service for their situation. They may want it but then again they might not. What most customers need is a product or service that does the job they need it to do. Anything else is negotiable.
For most businesses, therefore, it’s actually far more important to invest in building a strong community than to invest in building the best product or service. You build a community by forging human connections with your customers. In short, you position yourself as a valued friend who has products and/or services to sell rather than just another business.
The more people want to buy from you, specifically, because they like you, the more protection you have from threats to your business. This doesn’t just have to mean competition from other businesses. It can mean disruptions of all sorts or even broader social changes.
Essentially, if people like your brand, there’s a good chance that they’ll continue to like it if you branch out in a new direction. This is particularly likely if you’re clearly responding to changes they’re feeling themselves. Post-COVID19, there’s likely to be a whole new emphasis on community especially in the real world but also online. Think carefully about what this means for your business.
You need to go where your customers are
This has a literal meaning and a figurative one. The figurative one can actually be easier for businesses to grasp. You need to find your customer base and let them know who you are and why they should care. In principle, it doesn’t really matter if you do this through old-school leaflet drops or ecommerce marketing. In practice, the latter tends to be easier to target.
It’s the literal meaning which tends to catch out businesses. You need to get your product to your customers. There are lots of ways of doing this. The three main ones are in-store, home delivery, and digital delivery.
After COVID19, you may be tempted to pull back from in-store sales, at least as much as possible. This could be a reasonable course for some businesses. Just be sure that you’ve made a mindful decision and not had a knee-jerk reaction. Be aware that the logistics of mass home deliveries have long been a problem for the ecommerce sector.
Firstly, there’s the challenge of choosing the right courier company to get your item where it needs to be in one piece. Secondly, there’s the challenge of managing customer returns. Effective business processes can go a long way to minimizing these but they will inevitably happen.
Despite the impression you might have been left with from the pandemic, digital delivery isn’t always the answer to everything either. It isn’t so much the fact that it depends on your customers having a decent internet connection. It’s the fact that it often depends on them having decent technical skills – or you guiding them through the steps they need to take.
Your supply chain plays a huge role in your success
Prior to COVID19, it seemed like nothing could stop the trend towards leaner, more agile businesses. Agility is still a highly desirable trait in many, if not all, businesses. The pandemic did, however, demonstrate that it was very definitely possible to have too much of a good thing.
The most obvious example of this was the news-making shortage of key items, particularly in major stores. This was, however, just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Many businesses had their operations disrupted through a lack of supplies.
This was partly due to many producers having to shut down. It was, however, also due to issues with transport, especially long-distance transport. Going forward, businesses are going to have to choose from one (or more) of three options. Firstly, you can stick with your current arrangement and take your chances.
Secondly, you can actively prioritize suppliers who either operate or warehouse close to where you are based. Thirdly, you can keep more inventory yourself as a buffer against disruptions. If you depend on perishable supplies then you may want to see if there are options for switching to less perishable alternatives.
A lot of success comes from showing up
This is one of the oldest business adages there is, particularly in the entertainment industry. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve probably grasped the fact that there’s usually a long, hard slog to success. You’ve probably also grasped the fact that the work doesn’t end when you complete your early growth phase. You have to maintain your gains.
Post-COVID19, however, many businesses are going to need to find a balance between stability and adaptability. On the one hand, it’s unlikely that many businesses are going to have to change their business model completely. On the other hand, it’s very likely that businesses are going to need to make significant adaptations to cope with changes in consumer behavior.
It’s vital that you have robust systems for measuring the effectiveness of the key areas of your business. You also need to have a fair way of comparing the “before and after” of any changes you make. This includes giving both a try for a suitable length of time rather than chopping and changing between them.
Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between a product or service and a business model. There may be little to nothing you need to do to your core offering. You may, however, need to make changes to how you deliver it. These may entail changes to how you price it.
Leveraging technology may be key to your post-COVID19 success
It’s probably fair to say that many businesses use technology but don’t really leverage it effectively. This is especially likely in the SMB sector. Unless technology is your business, you may struggle to understand what it could mean for you. The transition to the post-COVID19 “new normal” could be the ideal time to address this.
Every business has pain points. The key to success is to minimize both the number of them and the pain they cause. A lot of business pain points ultimately boil down to delays in key areas. In fact, possibly the single, biggest pain point of all is delayed payment. The only way to avoid this completely is to get cash upfront for all purchases.
In the real world, however, this is simply not possible for many businesses. What’s more, even if it is, there are massive security implications plus customers tend to be moving away from cash. Fortunately, this is such a major issue for so many businesses that it’s also a major area of innovation within IT.
The introduction of new means of payment has met with highly variable levels of success. Think Bitcoin versus Libra/Diem. The introduction of new means to collect payments, however, is becoming a very exciting area.
It could be well worth doing some thorough research on what options are currently available for our business. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on the space in general as it develops. Similarly, if you invoice for payment keep an eye on invoice-tracking/credit-control solutions as these are improving all the time.
Try to build flexibility into your business
The businesses which did best in the pandemic tended to be the ones that showed the most flexibility. Appropriately enough, the fitness industry was a shining example of how to move quickly when circumstances demanded it.
In business, as in fitness, it’s easier to work on flexibility continually than to have to develop it suddenly. Post-COVID19, therefore, flexibility should generally be a core part of all business plans and strategies.
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