Pivot with Purpose
COVID-19 has reminded me of the process of mourning — the mourning of a world that feels lost.
The first stage, absolute grief and despair, was filled with hopelessness and fear. We slowly progressed into the dark depression that gripped our every move and dominated our every thought.
But it wasn’t long before we realized that we needed to buck up, take a shower and rethink our direction. And somehow, we find ourselves back on our feet and ready to face what the world is handing us.
We’ve been kicked hard, and our world has been turned upside down. Despite all we have endured, we still have a choice: We can mope around and feel sorry for ourselves. Or we can be thankful for the gifts we have and the opportunities that arise in front of us. In other words, we can choose to lean in.
None of us know for sure what the future holds. We read every piece of content out there and debate its meaning on Facebook. We create spreadsheets and forecast models that tell us where our businesses or organizations might be in six months, twelve months and further into the future. But really, we don’t know.
One thing, however, is for certain: Those of us that choose to realign, reposition and refocus our energy and efforts over the next year will find opportunities we didn’t realize existed. We will find a way to survive — maybe even thrive.
We aren’t going to do that by following a one-size-fits-all framework or a step-by-step process. As always, the key will be our ability to deliver value to our customers. Those who continue to peddle the same old goods only slightly re-packaged for a new era will face difficulties providing true value for their customers. Those who have always operated from a very transactional perspective will face even greater difficulties. These are times when our customers and clients seek partners + performance + positioning. They need us to be there, hand-in-hand, heart-in-heart and head-in-head. And then some.
What does it mean to be a true partner to your clients and your customers? True partners walk hand-in-hand with their clients and listen carefully with their hearts as well as their heads. True partners are flexible, understanding and compassionate. True partners go farther for less and meet clients halfway. False partners, by contrast, listen only for opportunities to upsell. False partners focus conversations only on themselves — their contracts, their scope of work, their needs.
True partners know that they aren’t merely order-takers. They think critically about the needs of their clients. They act quickly. They work on the client’s problem as if the client’s business were their own. They know that those who deliver value will be equitably rewarded.
Our clients don’t have three months or six months to determine if a plan is working. Never has timely, top performance been so important.
At this point we should be completing our Phase 2 and Phase 3 plans for the post-COVID environment. We should understand developing trends. We should identify opportunities to capture the momentum of the trends for our clients, but we should recognize that situations can change rapidly. Marrying your client to a single idea or data point during COVID is like marrying your first love – the perfection of the moment probably won’t last long.
We have realigned our budgets so that they can move freely during the next few phases of this pandemic. The best assets and ideas will be those that can be changed quickly without requiring too much research or burdensome strategy sessions. We are leveraging data produced by large associations and using it to make quick decisions that can be adapted to changing times.
There isn’t going to be a lot of money or time for experimentation — but there will be a great opportunity for creativity. That’s where positioning comes in.
If you’ve ever wanted to reinvent yourself now is the time. Many new markets are opening, and each represents a lot of opportunity.
But you are going to have to stand out and be bold. Clients and audiences will be a lot more forgiving over the next year than they have been during the last five. You can get crafty, racy, funny or snarky with your marketing and probably get away with a little more than before. I’ve always appreciated the British and their tongue-in-cheek approach to advertising and marketing. The Brits take some chances and aren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly. Opportunity awaits businesses and organizations that follow their lead in this new era.
This is the time to re-think your position in the marketplace and your market share. How might you break into that attractive demographic or psychographic that you’ve never fully developed? Is this the time to let your freak flag fly a bit so that you stand out boldly? You may feel slightly uncomfortable, but this isn’t the time to stay comfortable. This is the time to exchange a little comfort for a lot of excitement.
I honestly thought the world was ending eight weeks ago. I was scared to death and paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. But now I realize this is a rare opportunity to re-light that fire under my ass, the one that used to burn so brightly but seemed to dim just a bit when times were good.
It’s go time. Let’s roll.