As marketers and consumers alike have felt the effects of the pandemic over the past couple of months, there are ways to rise above the challenges of being compromised or shuttered as our country has sheltered in place to avoid COVID-19. There are two attributes of the human spirit that have helped societies rise above and thrive — despite the odds and tragic setbacks out of one’s individual control — resilience and reinvention.
Difficulties often force us to look at life from different angles, and quite often those angles reveal opportunities we wouldn’t face otherwise. One of the things we hear from friends and colleagues, and admit to even ourselves, is that while sheltering in place we’ve learned what really matters, what we really need, and what we don’t. Focusing on “essentials” is a positive we can apply to all aspects of our lives.
In business, we are learning to do more with less, and as customers we are learning to expect less of the “thrills” in order to meet our “essential” needs, like being able to go to a store vs. shop online and hope we get something on time. Our values are changing out of necessity and these values are likely to linger longer than the rules of social distancing.
This is an ideal time for businesses across sectors to rethink the “extras” designed to add value, and focus on ways to deliver the quality and service your customers need without adding to your overhead. Consider:
Reward Programs: I can’t believe I, the person evangelizing customer experience for years, is suggesting to drop your rewards program, but I am. For at least now. Customers want you to stay in business and have learned to focus on “essential” vs. “extra” perks. Cutting out “Free This and Free That” can help you protect your cash flow and get back in the black as we re-open the economy.
Chances are, if you run the numbers, you’ll find a lower percentage of customers cashing in those awards than you think, and when this is the case it is not likely to cause you to lose customers. Right now, customers are just happy to be able to shop again, and want to keep their favorite businesses in business more than they want that “free gift.”
Hours of Operation: So you open earlier and close later to make it more convenient for customers, right? But those extra two hours could be costing you potentially thousands a year, and may not be generating that much in return. While it may make sense to open earlier for particular customer groups (such as having some early morning hours for senior citizens or the immuno-compromised to shop more easily) the current environment doesn’t dictate additional convenience. Now, most customers are just grateful to have you open for a short period of time and are willing to adjust their schedules around you.
Audit Your Inventory: There was a time when customers would buy those cute non-essential items near the cash registers or on the endcaps of aisle just because they could. I’m guessing that when we are all free to move around our worlds and shop freely, in person, at live stores vs. virtual platforms, this will change. Many of us consumers have learned to get by with less, and we’ve learned that “stuff” is just that – stuff.
By eliminating some of those non-essentials from your shelves and counters, you reduce your costs to operate, set yourself up to get to profitable sales volumes faster, and simplify the shopping experience as customers are allowed back in your stores. Now more than ever, the old adage, of “less is more” is critical to live by.
There are plenty of stories about businesses that are making ventilators instead of cars; making face masks instead of clothing; and the like. This is a powerful and critical strategy for all businesses in all categories as we come out of a shuttered economy. Our world has changed and so must we all if we want to rise above and thrive as we move forward.
Reinventing your business(es) applies to not just what you offer customers, but how you operate within the community. Consider this example:
A company making backpacks and duffel bags wasn’t getting any orders. So they offered to use their production facilities to help a local manufacturer of medical protective gear produce more of what was needed instead of focusing more on their products. As a result, that company has kept its people busy and company healthy. They also started making and selling T-shirts as a fundraiser to help raise money to be able to support more healthcare workers on the frontline. The company donated more than $30,000 from their T-shirt campaign, which will pay off much more as people remember that brand and choose to support them when they can purchase more freely again.
Ponder on how can you collaborate with other companies that are fitting a more “essential” need than yours, so you can keep busy, pay employees, and “reinvent” your relevance beyond just the core business you once had.
Another example is a business videographer I work with who isn’t booking those big events due to cancellations. To keep his name top-of-mind for the hopefully near future of business events again, he has started a tutorial offering. He is creating DIY videos and e-books to help clients do their own videos while they can’t afford his services, knowing that when they are back in their groove, he will be too.
The act of reinventing is not always about finding new products to sell, but about finding new ways to collaborate and expand your network while you add to your service lines. Instead, it’s about being relevant, present, and valuable so that the relationships you have in place will still be the ones that help you move forward and resume life as you once knew it.
No matter the nature or size of size your business, use this “time out” of your normal routine to contemplate ways to rise above by refocusing your time, money, energy, and resources on what matters and identify ways you can eliminate waste. Put energy into focusing your creativity on ways to collaborate with others in your community, reinvent your products to fit the needs of customers now, and add affordable services that meet current and future needs. Investing some energy into resilience and reinvention will pay off now, as well as later.
More than anything, keep believing in the you that has achieved the success you have, and do it all again. Shine on!