The businesses that continue to survive through this devastating shut-down typically have done so by altering the ways that they get their products or services out to market. Often referred to as “pivoting,” many have learned how to rely more on online methodologies, some added new products or more-robust services, and others altered their physical presence to make them safe for customers.
When the threat passes (hopefully sometime soon), businesses need to examine their pivots to decide whether some or all of them should remain in place. It’s time to review your customers’ responses to decide what your business will look like as you move forward.
First, Examine What Works for Your Customers, Employees … and Your Business
Not all virus-related changes will continue to be winners forever. You will probably earn better profits by distilling your popular designer whiskey than you earned by making hand sanitizer. Similarly, why continue to sew face masks when customers clamored for the hand-made quilts and customized dresses that you made before the shut-down?
Even if you want to return to your original product line, however, some pivots are worth retaining. You need to ask yourself some pointed questions like the following to avoid letting go of things that will continue to work even after the last virus bug is snuffed out.
- How will the pivots help strengthen your business over the long-term? Most restaurants, for example, will do better when their tables are filled with hungry people. Still, continuing delivery services might be an effective way to bring in even more paying customers during healthier times. Similarly, before wastefully tossing your remaining face mask inventory, consider that it requires little storage space, and perhaps it will regain popularity during the next flu season.
- Can some practices reduce your future spending? You undoubtedly found ways to reduce costs just to survive the shutdown, but why give up on techniques that proved to be successful? For example, just think about how much longer you can avoid moving to a bigger facility if your employees already proved that they can work from home productively — and they appreciate it.
- Do customers enjoy the convenience of some offerings? Just as a return to “normal” makes you busier than ever, your customers are in the same boat. Retaining curb-side pickup services can distinguish your business from the competition. Continuing to offer online exercise options for your fitness business will help you hold onto customers, while getting more use out of the videos that you already produced. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your customers now to find out what features or services they appreciated during the hard times.
- What changes made your employees happy? Don’t assume that all employees liked the same things about the new routine. Some may never want to stop telecommuting, while others can’t wait to get back to the workplace. Preferences pertaining to online meetings are a mixed bag, as well. Perhaps one of your online meetings should include a discussion on this subject. Offer a number of options that your employees can choose to make their days happy and productive — without bringing your long-term operations to a grinding halt.
Create a Marketing Campaign to Brag About it to Customers
Every pivot that you took since the shutdown served an important purpose: it helped to ensure that you could stay in business. But, while you just wanted to find ways to get your products or services out to your market, your customers discovered that they liked many of the convenient changes that you made. Everyone will be happy to see the end of the pandemic. Still, in some ways, your customers may dread fully returning to normal.
Your job is to create a marketing campaign to announce the pivots that you are retaining. Tell customers that you heard their preferences. Perhaps you plan to continue providing shoppers with curb-side pickup, or you will provide increased face-to-face consulting support with more online meetings. Get that message out to your customers — and use it as a selling-point to capture a larger market.
To add extra zing to your message, tout your new practices as high-end services at traditional prices. Your customers will know that you see them as elite.
Reward Employees for Their Extra Service
Never forget how well your employees weathered every pivot that you threw at them. You’ve probably admired the heroic efforts that they made to help your business stay afloat, no matter how much stress and complexity the constant changes added to their lives. Hopefully, you thanked them for their efforts many times, even if you could not afford to show your appreciation in more concrete ways.
As your business starts to return to its pre-pandemic successes, you have one more pivot to make. Find ways to share better times with the people who saw you through the craziness. Take them out for a nice meal. Promote or give pay raises to the people who demonstrated their true worth. Offer extra paid time off — and, by all means, issue bonus checks.
Pivoting is Much More Than Just Turning Around
It’s time to let go of the concept that pivoting demonstrates confusion and indecision because it all depends on what happens when you change position. Take some time to analyze the effects that your process changes had on your business and its people. A clear-eyed look will help to reveal what you want your company to look like, moving forward.
As business starts improving, you definitely want to rid your business of the pivots that were difficult to maintain while gaining nothing more than survival. Still, some of the changes were golden nuggets that you do want to retain. If you can recognize the difference, then your entire business can get the happiness boost that will lead to continued success.