Last month, I wrote about the importance of keeping a listening ear. In normal times, understanding your colleagues, your partners and your customers is important – now it is critical, and for many, constantly changing.
The decisions you make now as a business will not only affect the next three to six months as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to (hopefully) subside, but longer-term into 2021 and beyond.
The accuracy and quality of the data going ‘in’ directly affects the accuracy and quality of the decisions you can make off the back of that data. The same can be said for ensuring you have the right data ‘in’ to make good business decisions in general. You need to listen – understand the underlying messages and do your research. Speak to the market and not just your current customers – where do your customers plan on being in the next year? Where is the opportunity and where are the pitfalls?
In this particularly dynamic market, there is a short, medium and longer-term aspect to this from a sales, marketing and product point of view.
Your sales data has likely changed completely. Sectors that were previously hot and a focus for the sales team might now be in a temporary or permanent state of decline with other non-target sectors thriving in the face of adversity. Look at your sales pipeline objectively and use the new data and market insight you have. Pursuing seemingly ‘live’ opportunities, particularly if you have a long time-to-contract, can lead to thousands of pounds of wasted effort should it transpire that your contact wasn’t aware of the company’s broader cost-cutting and investment delay strategy.
Now is the time to look hard and be innovative when it comes to your target market – are there emerging or resilient sectors that could use your product or service in its current state or with a reasonable product adaption? Don’t just think about the ‘now’ but which sectors are likely to continue to thrive in the ‘new normal’, as the pandemic acts as a catalyst for change across the globe. This heatmap from Deloitte shows where different industries sit on the ‘respond, recover or thrive’ COVID-19 journey and there are a number of studies looking at which sectors are likely to accelerate a switch to digital and the adoption of new technologies.
In the medium-term, you need to look at both your marketing message and also the delivery of that message. Marketing and customer contact channels have been removed or have dramatically changed. There are no traditional events, dinners or face to face networking opportunities. The market is swamped with webinars, LinkedIn activity and digital marketing. This will likely all look different in three months and then again in six months as the ‘system’ refines itself.
Being relevant is more crucial than ever. The message needs to address the challenges individuals and businesses are facing both today and also as they plan for the future. Report, report, report – study the data forensically – what is cutting through and what feedback are you getting? As a Gartner marketing report references:
“...now more than ever, it’s important to know what customers feel and do, and why.”
Think about your customer engagement focus. In contact centers, ‘call duration’ targets have been turned on their head with the objective being to efficiently handle 90% of calls cancelling holidays, for example. Businesses are being forced to remove or minimize customer contact channels as contact centers struggle to shift operations into the cloud and activate home working. Our customers suggest that over 50% of contact center workers are at home, so consumer needs have completely changed and those on the front line of customer support are operating in unique and challenging circumstances.
One of my favorite analogies is ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” When it comes to product development and your release schedule, for many, the puck has moved. There will be different product priorities and delivering to your former roadmap will no longer be a relevant strategy. If you are on the wrong product trajectory it is a problem that you likely won’t realize for months if not years to come. Although hard in a uniquely dynamic environment, the product team needs to tear up the existing plan and look at what people and businesses will be buying in 12 months time and beyond.
With the Government’s current review of lockdown measures hinting at a (long) road back to normalcy, businesses will naturally be distracted by immediate priorities – how do I get my staff back to work? How do I keep them safe? How do I need to report to my investors or secure bridging finance? The reality is that this phase will pass quickly and plans need to be put in place now if you are to survive and thrive in the months and years to come.