How the backbone of your company can help you ride out these uncertain times
At a time of crisis, which our beleaguered planet is very much in the midst of, business leaders find themselves scrambling to find ways of mitigating damage and safeguarding their survival. Employees are relieved of their duties, suppliers put on hold, and non-essential tools and utilities pruned from the business.
Though sometimes necessary steps, such undertakings tend to be more driven by panic than strategy. In this piece, we wish to encourage readers to turn their attention towards a key pillar of their business that, if managed effectively, can provide both a powerful layer of defence to the organisation and help carve out crucial time to make decisions with the future in mind and not just the present.
Your business proposition
As a tool, a proposition is the promise you make as a business and which aligns to your vision, mission and values. Crafted with thought and articulated succinctly, it becomes a resilient foundation. Errors though, are common.
The pitfall many companies fall into when building a proposition to support their brand, is they focus on whatthey do, or howthey do it. However, ‘what’ - e.g. we sell laptops - is rarely unique, and ‘how’ - e.g. online with next day delivery - is easily copied.
Consider for a moment, if you were to put your product/service in a line-up with others from companies within your sector; how do you differentiate? Do you differentiate at all? If these questions can only be answered in the negative, it is time to review your proposition by shifting the focus away from the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, and towards the why.
Framing a proposition to answer ‘why’ questions offers something distinct and allows you to reach your target audience in unique and powerful ways. It creates a purpose, a clear point of difference and a compelling “Why us?” rationale - essential for sales and new business communication.
Moving towardsa potent ‘why’ proposition means recognising when and where you are making the classic and enduring mistake of talking only about yourself; “We are industry leaders in…We are an award-winning…We provide the best…” and so on and so forth. The problem with such statements is that they refer to your business, not what your business offers the customer.
It can be a tough one to take, but businesses need to come to terms with the fact that most customers don’t really care about your own opinion of yourself, the contents of your trophy cabinet or about some ticker tape of features, functions and numbers. They would rather see, in clear and uncertain terms, what your product or service does to support theirbusiness interests.
Remember that the contemporary customer is a discerning beast and you must always assume that, should they happen upon your business when looking for a product or service, you will be one of many, and all are claiming to be the best.
A strong proposition also goes a long way towards unifying your workforce. Growth and success are only possible when everyone is pulling in the same direction and are motivated by the same desire to deliver on the company’s objectives. A proposition that underpins these objectives ensures that everyone in your company communicates the same message.
How does this help me deal with the COVID-19 fallout?
It won’t, not if you do nothing. The key here is recognising that investing time and thought into crafting an intelligent, customer-orientated proposition should not be seen as a one-time undertaking. A good proposition evolves with your business and the times you operate within.
Adapting a proposition to meet new demands requires a creative approach. Creativity is a commonly misunderstood concept. Heavily associated with the arts, those professionals who have never really displayed a natural ability with traditional artistic pursuits, such as music or painting, tend not to regard themselves as creative. This is a mistake.
Creativity is a multi-faceted entity that expresses itself in more ways than just water-colour paintings and French Horn solos - creativity is also problem solving. It doesn’t matter that an idea may have been done before, there’s nothing you can come up with that The Simpsons hasn’t already done anyway.
Recycling a good idea and applying it successfully within another context may not feel like creativity as it was explained to us at school, but it is. Indeed, in a business world that is constantly changing, reusing, re-applying and re-interpreting ideas is arguably more beneficial than sitting around waiting for a Eureka moment that might never come.
And the real beauty of the creative application of existing ideas to new processes, is that you already have a constant source of inspiration; your customers.
If you don’t know, ask
As the people of Britain desert the streets and retreat into their homes leaving our heroic NHS to wage war on an insidious and invisible enemy, commerce across the country has slowed. Some companies have temporarily stopped trading altogether.
It would be easy at a time like this to accept a slowdown of your own business as an inevitability and it will be if you continue to apply a proposition, created at a time of prosperity, to a time of crisis. Your customers’ needs have changed, which means your proposition must adapt and for that to happen, you need to begin initiating conversations.
Work through your client-base and start asking them questions like:
Gathering and analysing this information will reveal certain patterns and trends in behaviour and foresight which, if utilised intelligently, can inform a whole new proposition that still marries with your vision, mission and values, but is fortified to cope with both the current and post-coronavirus business landscape.
Long memories trump short wins
In the meantime, this lesson is critical to remember. The chances of emerging from the other side of this crisis unscathed for most are slim, although there are certain sectors that are prospering from the crisis. Either way, if you do your bit to ease the pressure on your customers now, the rebuild will be easier later.
As you’re reading this, the internet bristles with people compiling and sharing lists of those businesses and individuals which are extending hands of support, and those who are attempting to sail away in empty lifeboats. The latter may well safeguard their short-term positions, but people have long memories and their desertion will not be forgotten.
Consider for a moment the fitness guru Joe Wickes aka The Body Coach. His free online morning PE routines have taken the country by storm and although he has committed to donating all increased advertising revenues to the NHS, make no mistake, brand Body Coach will thrive in the post-COVID-19 world. And he’s not the only one.
Throughout the wider business world, companies and senior leaders are working to provide free and heavily discounted resources to help their peers steady their own ships. Tom Castley, VP of UK Sales for Outreach.io is currently spearheading the organisation’s free ‘In this together’ webinar series featuring business luminaries discussing a range of strategies and approaches for weathering the coronavirus storm.
Meanwhile, Hubspot, the renowned developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing, sales, and customer service have, for the next 90 days, made their ‘Paid Meetings’ functionality free, removed email sending limits, are providing 2,000 minutes of calling per user/per month for free, and have slashed the price on their ‘starter growth suite’.
Like Joe Wickes, Tom Castley and Hubspot, your focus should remain equally on the long-term vision as well as short-term survival. Speak to your customers, ask questions, use the information they give you to adapt your proposition, lend a supportive hand in the meantime and when this testing time is over, you will be as well placed as you can be to embark on a new, prosperous era.