At what seemed like the snap of fingers, everything changed.  Local businesses are now planning and testing re-opening strategies, attempting to restart the economy while keeping the virus at bay.  Various strategies in place.  Abiding by restrictions with new protocols.  With hope.  No playbook in hand.

Consumer engagement, the customer experience, must be a core focal point when re-defining strategic marketing plans.  A proven effective strategy during any economic situation.  An imperative strategy to adopt and properly execute during times of disruption.   

How do we best go about this, given it all?  When the economy is as it is.  When health and safety has become a necessary priority.  When the use of e-commerce has accelerated to a place it may otherwise have taken years (and years) to get to.  When the impact to supply and demand, the unprecedented shifts in consumption, are undeniable and everlasting. 

I recently had the pleasure to connect with local business owners about this.  It was refreshing (and fun!) – thinking deep, perhaps differently, engaging, sharing of ideas, common and unique challenges and opportunities.  Tremendous opportunities exist, right now.  To innovate.

For many, it comes down to understanding and effectively adapting to change.  The capacity to adapt is not a simple equation.  Mindsets.  Behaviors.  Mental and emotional states.  Existing operations and infrastructures.  Financial strain.   Real challenges to overcome.   With passion, purpose, and strategy, there are tremendous opportunities for success.

Food for thought.

These are Extraordinary Times

We reflected on the how grand this moment in time is – in our history, our societies, our lives and our businesses.  Truly extraordinary.    

We have all been forced to adapt.  Going about our days, our lives differently than before.  Left with little choice but to change, literally for survival.  Our behaviors have changed – we are now doing things differently (shop, eat, work, parent, leisure). 

Each of us are adapting at our own pace.  Based on our own unique circumstances.  So many factors play into our ability to effectively adapt to what’s transpiring – across all basis (individual, consumer, employee, business owner).  With the right mindset and strategic planning, small local businesses can, have and will flourish.

  • New normal, shaping our future forever
  • Changing fundamental, core value systems
  • New and everlasting habits being formed
  • Living, Buying, Thinking Differently
  • Acceleration of prior trends, emergence of new
  • Government carving the path
  • No direct precedence, no playbook
  • Incredible moment of change
  • Amazing opportunity to transform through innovation

“ … the word crisis is composed of two characters — one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy

How we go about adapting- is up to us.  Organizations (small & large) have transformed throughout history – prior to this pandemic, and during.  What’s occurred during has been fascinating in a lot of ways.  We can learn from how this crisis has changed things – and innovate.

Health & Safety – #1 Priority

Concerns for the health of our families, our businesses will be ongoing.  A basic human need, to feel safe, is our priority.  The government is providing the direction, setting guidelines and policies – for our safety, and to flatten the curve. 

  • Nearly half of American’s remain concerned about safety
  • Consumer demand for ‘contactless’ interactions has accelerated
  • Adhering to guidelines, regulations
  • Establishing new protocols, procedures

All businesses are now in the health business.  Each doing (or planning to do) what’s required – and desiring to keep everyone safe.  Communicating these plans, policies and procedures with customers, however, has presented a challenge for some.   It’s so important to do so. 

Engage in every way possible to let audiences know of your efforts, how much you care, and build upon trust.   It will make a meaningful difference.

Remarkable shifts in consumer demand, supply

The changes in consumer behavior, consumption have been nothing short of fascinating.   It was enlightening to look at this from the perspective of the businesses we operate.  How to best align with consumer demand.  Re-thinking business models. 

  • Unprecedented changes in consumer attitudes, behaviors, preferences
  • Driven by necessity, preference, supply
  • Notable trends provide actionable insights
  • Paths to purchase dramatically altered
  • Advancements through new technologies
  • Business model transformations

To improve cash flow, businesses are seeking alternative ideas that can yield returns.  This, by staying very close – and following – consumers.   It’s not a new concept, by any means.  Be where the consumers are.  Offer what they want, need.  Supply and demand. 

A real challenge for many local businesses, much more so in today’s environment.  Hence, an opportunity – a chance to adapt, pivot and grow.  Prepare for the changes that are occurring today to accommodate for the changes in consumption.

We all desire to remain connected

Being forced into isolation, social distancing measures put into place.  We are social creatures, for the most part, and understandably struggle as a result.  I, for one, will find it most interesting to watch trends  and advancements in this area- as we have with collaboration tools (i.e. zoom,) and the gaming industry (e-sports) which was already growing rapidly.  Activity on social media is at record highs.  Online avenues to connect and engage with people should be a primary consideration in business plans.

  • Fundamental human need, to connect
  • To learn, to work, to play, to cope, and more
  • Socially, emotionally, psychologically, physically

Which businesses are – and will – fill the gaps, and how?  Perhaps life will never be as physically social as it once was.  We are resilient, however, and as we have been doing … will find ways adapt and remain connected.   Neither the “wait and see” nor the “day by day” approach will provide the progress needed, in today’s environment.  Consider ways that your business can connect people – with you and with others.

Data-Driven Engagement and Experiences

Here in lies the foundation.  A primary capability that has allowed larger organizations and some small businesses to pivot, while others remain more challenged, some at a standstill.  A large proportion of our community businesses lack the data, insights and analytical capabilities to leverage for informed decision-making.  Further, systems in which information does reside are limited, disparate and outdated. 

  • Data – a quantifiable asset
  • Leverage for strategic decision making
  • Advancing businesses for decades
  • Tremendous opportunity for small businesses

Consider how your operation can integrate and leverage insights and technology appropriately, and set forth a strategic direction.  Your business will, as a direct result, become agile and better equipped to handle – and take full advantage of – change.   

Fundamentals for Success

The online space, data-analytics-insights, audience engagement and newer technologies are true opportunities for many local businesses.   Likely, as time rolls along, they’ll prove to be critical components of success and longevity.

To boil it all down, focus energy and efforts on three things.  To a large degree, they’re intimately tied together.

  • Provide helpful and meaningful interactions; create an emotional connection
  • Capitalize on emerging trends, heightened demand and a captive online audience
  • Leverage data and insights, integrated with modern technology

And, believe.  Believe in yourself and your business. It is entirely possible to adapt, advance, survive and thrive. Know the challenges can be overcome. Flip ’em upside down. Challenges ARE opportunities. You’ve got this!

“Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other.” – Brian Tracy

Following are a handful of questions posed to the group.  Notice the questions are not led with IF or WHEN.  Rather, WHAT and HOW.   We’ve assumed the need to adapt, to plan strategically for advancement. To put procedures, processes and systems into place, properly execute, measure and refine.

What strategies or activities are you enacting to remain connected with your audiences?  To deepen engagement and extend loyalty?

How are you engaging with your audiences (consumers, employees) regarding your specific plans and actions to ensure their health and safety?

How are you capitalizing on trends, some dramatic fluctuations in demand for products and services?  Are you (if so, how) providing your audiences with what they NOW need, prefer, desire? 

How are you leveraging emerging digital channels and technologies?

What’s your data strategy?  How are you capturing, ingesting, integrating and leveraging data?  What’s been the impact?

So … what about you and your business?  How would you address these questions? What other questions should we be asking?

As always, striving to make a meaningful difference, I want to help in every way feasible.  Eager and equipped to do so.  With the knowledge and expertise to drive strategic decision-making, and armed with powerful, intuitive technology, please feel free to engage with me to talk about your challenges.  We will create solutions.  You can adapt and thrive.

Until next time, stay healthy & be happy!

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