The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people perceive the world. It has forced us to stay at home, focus on health, curtail regular activities and review our financial stability. In addition, the pandemic and subsequent lock-down has profoundly impacted the global economy – causing several brands to stumble and fall.
During the past few weeks, I reached out to leaders in startups and established companies to understand how they are adapting to a post covid world. Almost everyone candidly mentioned they were attempting to survive this period of economic instability and where possible, pivoting to meet the needs of the new normal. This post is a summary of my understanding of how smart business leaders are handling this crisis.
Mapping customer needs
Everyone’s world has been impacted.
Covid 19 has disrupted the global economy. Businesses are striving to adapt to the new normal. Many have taken measures to curb expenses in light of the decline in sale projections. And several are working on new products or services in an attempt to grow or simply remain in business.
Take for an example, an AI driven Healthtech startup. The company wanted to launch their tele-pathology platform to screen for Cervical Cancer in the first quarter of 2020. However, potential customers had shifted their focus to coronavirus. Instead of pushing for sales, the founders engaged with stakeholders to understand how their technology could adapt to a post Covid world. Then within a few weeks the company pivoted. They adapted their tele-pathology platform to handle Xray and CT images to help doctors screen for coronavirus. The startup quickly gained traction and above all, is now considered a nimble, customer focused technology partner.
But all brands cannot launch products or services to fight the pandemic.
In these cases, successful business leaders, took a softer approach. They adapted to engage customers in a non- transactional manner. Consider a Swiss MNC company in the building materials business. At the start of the lock-down, the CEO understood their customer’s world was negatively impacted. Decision makers were working from home, trying to figure out how to run their business in a situation of declining demand. Plus only a few were willing to talk about sales and pipeline of orders.
To keep customers engaged, the company launched a series of invite only, high quality webinars branded ‘Knowhow’ sessions. The sessions featured European experts who shared real world building solutions adapted to a post Covid world. This knowledge exchange kept business relationships alive and made it easier to shift into business mode once lock-down lifted.
Review your value proposition
Are you relevant in the new normal?
What was relevant in a pre-pandemic situation may not be relevant any more. Companies are being forced to review their value proposition and adapt to a post Covid world.
For instance, the restaurant business. At the start of the lock-down, the owner of a small chain of restaurants realized his business would close down, unless he found a way to minimize losses. After that, he began to look for opportunities that would help him pay rentals and staff salaries for at least six months. Within a few weeks, he accepted a tough deal from a cloud kitchen service, to rent out his space and staff at low prices. The owner said he was grateful for the offer despite negligible profits. His focus for 2020 was to adapt to survival – not growth.
Can your current business grow in the post Covid world without change?
This pragmatic approach, towards adapting the value proposition to keep it relevant in a post Covid situation, has helped many business leaders pivot to new opportunities.
Consider a small apparel manufacturing firm. During the initial months of lockdown, business was low and costs remained high. However, the management quickly shifted their focus to the medical space. The team hired the right people and made necessary investments to pivot from manufacturing shirts to creating PPE coverings. Therefore by adapting to the post Covid world, they remained true to their value proposition of timely, spec-adhering high quality garment production but in a new, growing category.
Communicate your “Reason Why”
Post lock-down business is slow.
Buyers are taking their time with purchase decisions and competition is fierce. In addition, companies are downsizing and reducing non essential spends. Therefore marketing is not a priority. However communication is critical for businesses that have launched offerings that are relevant in a post Covid world. And successful leaders have adapted digital communication to connect with customers.
Consider an old and respected CXO training company – famous for traditional class room training sessions. They realized their offering needed adapt to post Covid constraints. As a result, the leadership team used the initial months of lock-down to devise a series of digital first programs based on their international experience. However sales remained low. A quick discussion with their customers revealed a perception problem. Because on account of legacy issues the company was seen by many customers as ‘Great content but old world delivery’.
Therefore to address this issue, the company released a series of digital ads accompanied by a targeted social media campaign to promote their digital capabilities. In addition, they also offered free ‘Samples’ to key accounts who were hesitant to try their digitally powered offerings. As a result, they were able to re-engage with customers and add new clients. In other words, adapt to a post Covid world.
Startups cannot afford to stop communicating.
Communication is equally important for Startups. And in the absence of large budgets, founders often arrive at innovative means to communicate their offering. For instance, consider a green startup that sells composting solutions, sustainable hygiene products and other eco-friendly solutions. At the start of the lockdown, the company quickly manufactured a range of re-usable, cloth masks made by self help groups. However sales were low due to lack of awareness. To address this, the company tied up with a leading app based security and community management company. After that, over 200 apartment complexes received their communication within a single week – leading to a sharp increase in sales.
It is become increasingly obvious that the ‘old’ ways of business won’t work any more. In other words, we need to adapt to grow in the new normal. That means demonstrating empathy, embracing change and learning new skills. In my opinion, companies who support their customers wholeheartedly in these difficult times, will come out the winners.
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For B2B companies who want a frugal marketing plan, please read our post “Marketing Basics for B2B Companies’.
And if you are planning to launch a new business, please read “7 Steps to a Successful Retail Launch” published in the Hindu Business Line.