For business leaders at major brands, there are a lot of unknowns today. When will we get back to normal? Will there even be a normal? What happens if this drags out into 2021? What happens if my production facilities have to be quarantined? Are these even the right questions to be asking?
We’re seeing a lot of unexpected changes in the short term and adaptive behavior from brands and customers.
Some industries (mortgage, delivery and shipping, grocery and essential retail) are actually doing well right now, but it’s all predicated on keeping their employees healthy and happy. Industries like food production have been hit hard with micro outbreaks, and it has put America on a precarious path which might include food shortages. The beef and pork markets in particular have had multiple processing facilities shut down due to Covid-19, and until they can get back online it’s sending ripples through the channel.
Sounds pretty grim.
Yet, there is one thing brand leaders can do to not only help them weather this storm, but help position their brand for breakthrough growth:
Have an informed plan.
Creating a Plan
Planning is best executed when you can leverage data and information. This ensures your plan is based on facts, and that your desired outcomes are realistic. A really easy way to make sure you have the right information is to get the whole story, and brand leaders can achieve a holistic story by leveraging research, especially during unprecedented times.
Realistically, you’re going to need plans for multiple scenarios. Creating defined plans to ensure you land somewhere in the upper right quadrant is critical, and having, at minimum, skeleton plans for worst case scenario will ensure no matter what happens, you can just hit go when the time is right. McKinsey has a really great graphic that shows the nine potential economic outcomes we can expect:
Image source: McKinsey
What Kind of Plan Do I Need?
Every company is different, but there are four aspects to consider when putting your plan for the current climate in place:
- People: What am I doing now to make sure my people are healthy, and that their hard (and sometimes dangerous work) is recognized?
- Operations: What I am I doing now to set my company up for future success?
- Growth: What do we need to do as a brand to make sure we put our foot on the gas at the exact right moment when the market bounces back?
- Customers: What do we need to do to change our business going forward to account for a new consumer type?
Here’s a deeper look within each bucket at some of the questions you should be asking.
People: What am I doing now to make sure my people are healthy, and that their hard (and sometimes dangerous work) is recognized?
- Pulse surveys can help you keep track of emotional and mental states of employees, and give you critical, actionable data to keep employee moral high during uncertainty.
- Customer sentiment, related to your brand, can help you adjust on the fly and guide you as you react quickly to changing market conditions.
- Messaging is critical. Honesty and transparency are paramount.
- Recognizing above and beyond performance will have long term positive effects, but be careful—the wrong recognition may cause a revolt.
- Now is a great time to push training and certification. As channel partners and employees have downtime, increasing brand education will set your company up for success.
Operations: What I am I doing now to set my company up for future success?
- As employees have downtime, check tactical thinks off your list that have been delayed for larger priorities.
- Champion innovation from your channel, your teams, and even your customers – a great idea now is even more valuable, and if you can create efficiencies in your operations, you can spend more time focusing on what matters when this levels off.
- Creativity is spiking as brands adapt right now. What are you learning from the market that you can apply to your company?
- Reassessing your entire channel ecosystem right now can help to better inform all of your plans post-pandemic, and allow you invest where you have the most potential.
- If you have disparate data or systems, consider a cleanup to make sure you are streamlined to effectively leverage data for marketing and sales efforts once we bounce back.
Growth: What do we need to do as a brand to make sure we put our foot on the gas at the exact right moment when the market bounces back?
- Whatever your plan is, have it in place, with a plan B and C, so when it is go time, you just have to hit the button. Invest in groundwork. Speed will be paramount.
- What research opportunities are you capitalizing on right now to make smarter decisions? Everyone is going to need a new segmentation study after this, because the consumer has changed in profound ways. There may even be a waiting list with research firms. Get a plan in place now to understand how these changes will impact your business for the next 2 to 5 years, and make sure you have a plan to turn that data actionable.
- A lot of companies right now are straddling the fence—some parts of their business have stopped and some parts are thriving. Work with your partners to research and design flexible options so you have the ability to pivot back and forth.
- Assuming the pandemic drags on, have a clear understanding of how you can pivot through potentially multiple surges and setbacks. Keep flexibility and nimbleness top of mind.
Customers: What do we need to do to change our business going forward to account for a new consumer type?
- What is the new path to purchase? Conducting iterative path to purchase studies may be needed to inform how to be going to market as things change.
- Consider if now is the right time to hire a consultant to identify and fix any gaps in your data.
- What parts of your business will remain a priority for consumers post-pandemic? Anticipating their needs vs. desire will be critical if you want to ensure you have the right product in market at the right price.
Speed Is Paramount
We've learned from previous instances of global chaos that those who adapt quickest thrive. Assume all of your competitors are doing the same planning and strategic groundwork as you. How are you making sure you differentiate your brand? How can you be sure it will work?
Last thought—remember, your brand is only as good as your least engaged employee. Brands who put their employees first reap benefits that cascade down the channel. Being a beacon of light in a chaotic time for your employees will ensure you keep the best, and it will reverberate all the way down to the customer.
If you don’t have a plan, or are stuck, or don’t have answers to the questions above, let’s talk. ITA Group has the ability to collect and leverage data for your brand, which can help your brand navigate the nuances of a chaotic market. Download our ebook to learn more about the specific factors impacting channel engagement and actionable ways to increase partner support.