Last week I explored the first set of strategies to positively impact your business during a time of crisis. As the COVID-19 crisis moves on, you should hopefully now have a toolkit designed for short-term survival.
In this blog we will move onto exploring the offensive strategies designed to help your business survive and ultimately grow.
An offensive approach – is about planning for longer term survival and essentially adopts a promotion-based approach, with positive moves that aim to provide upside benefits.
Whilst evidence from the last recession shows the most common approach to the financial crisis was cutting costs and operating in a leaner fashion, there is also strong evidence to suggest that those organisations that survive most effectively combine this with positive strategies such as expansion, buying of competitors, a real customer focus, strategic partnerships and so on.
An offensive approach requires careful planning, creativity, an open mind and visionary leadership and whilst it can complement the cost-cutting many organisations undertake, it will require some degree of investment or re-allocation of resource.
So here are our top tips for creating an offensive approach to survival and growth.
Focus on Your Health - Being healthy encompasses many aspects of your life from your mental health to your physical health to your spiritual health. A time of crisis will require mental strength, a healthy body and a clear mind and it is important to get this right first. Before diving into the other ideas below, make sure that you have a plan to look after your personal health and well-being first.
Focus on Leadership - Your new offensive approach is likely to need you to create a compelling vision and engage others. You will need to be able to communicate what lies beyond the current COVID-19 crisis and paint a clear picture of the potential the future holds. You will need to do this with clarity and you will need to inspire your people.
Inspirational leadership is about finding ways to enhance the potential of those you lead and finding ways to inspire and engage. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many examples of inspirational and not so inspirational leadership (too many for us to mention in this article) and it is worth exploring this if you can. Forbes article on the 13th April “What do countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common? Women Leaders.” is well worth a read and whether it be Captain Tom Moore, the world of business, sport, entertainment or politics I am sure you can find examples of both the good and the bad.
Create a Clear Strategy & Plan - So now that we have taken care of you, let’s look at the business. Chances are you had a clear strategy that was working well several months ago: chances are it is now no longer relevant. Now is the time to re-evaluate, to readjust your goals and objectives and perhaps even create a completely new vision for the future.
Many businesses that we have spoken to are using this time to essentially reinvent themselves; to build that newco that they have wanted to build for years.
It is worth at this stage considering some of the likely barriers that you will face to sales and growth moving forward. How will COVID-19 impact your customer base, your sales pipeline, the viability of your products and your ability to supply them?
Ensure a customer focus - I would advocate a customer centric approach at this stage. How are your customers being impacted by the crisis? What support can you provide them? Have you been speaking to them about what they need both at the moment and in their short to medium term future?
If you don’t understand your customers and their changing needs, it will be difficult to help and support them. By understanding them, by supporting them, by speaking to them, you can build and cement long term relationships for the future and remove the likely barriers to an ongoing relationship
Removing barriers - Once you understand your customers you should be able to identify barriers and create innovative solutions for them. From our research typical barriers at present include a reticence to spend or invest big, an inability to travel for anything other than essentials and a lack of available / suitable products or services to meet the current working from home culture. By talking to your customers and by identifying barriers you have the opportunity to remove these, or at least minimise their impact on your business.
Let’s explore this further with several examples. You can decide which work, and which don’t!
- I recently tried to buy a golf mat (like all golfers are doing) for the back garden. The supplier had no issues with stock…… it was collection only!
- Education provider’s moving to online rather than classroom delivery. We recently spoke to a multitude of online learning system providers. Some are waiving set up fees, others are moving to pay monthly models; others are sticking with annual licensing to try and take advantage of increased demand. Which would you choose?
Ask yourself what are the barriers your current customers are facing and how can you help by removing them?
Be innovative - Now is the time to be creative, invent new products, come up with new sales strategies, market your products differently. Get your thinking cap on and whether that be product diversification, special offers to customers, partnership working or technological innovations get thinking!
Product diversification: There is much that you can do here. Ask yourself; are some aspects of your products or services more suited to a remote working culture than others? Are there any aspects of what you do that could help customers deal with a lack of travel, support the health & wellbeing of their workforce, help manage remote working, deal with the likely impacts of social distancing for the months and months to come? Can you develop products or services that can be used more widely in the home rather than travelling to access? Do you still sell face to face or do you allow for online shopping/purchases?
Partnership Working: Are there opportunities for you to go into partnership with other organisations offering similar or complimentary products or services? Can you work together to drive up sales through collaboration? Are there organisations with strong supply chains, an existing online presence, a customer base that they cannot fully service etc that you could work closely with?
Technological innovation: We know many organisations still relying upon cash sales, physical transactions, limited online presence, no marketing automation and so on. Have you considered how embracing new technologies might impact your ability to save money, increase your marketing reach, allow for additional sales revenue, manage your own remote teams, improve customer and employee communication and improve efficiencies in many areas of your operation?
And finally, let people know …..
Whatever you decide to do you must let them know. Revise your existing marketing strategy, select the appropriate marketing channels for your new products or offers and promote the hell out of it.
I cannot stress the importance of creating a clear marketing plan here. If you are looking at new products, innovations, partnership work etc, then your target audience might be different to before, your message might be different to before and your existing and potentially new customers will not know about it.
I wish you all the best on this exciting new journey. Times of crisis often lead to stronger businesses in the long run and those that have the foresight to innovate, create, diversify and focus upon medium to long term growth (offensive) as well as to protect and preserve (defensive) are most likely to survive.