Are we really at a point where a mere three years ago have become “in the old days”?
It seems so, because most strategic business development managers that I have spoken to have confided in me that, where their plans used to cover the next five years, they are now only forecasting on a quarterly basis.
Your personal mileage will vary, of course, but for most of us, Lockdown-with-a-capital-L is a thing of the past – finally! – yet I still encounter customers who are confessing that their recovery plans are not working out as they had intended.
Perhaps they are relying on end-users to replicate pre-pandemic habits and patterns. Maybe their forecast modelling has been gutted by the lack of reliable, consistent data from the last 24 months. Either way, whatever they’re trying isn’t working for them. My suggestion is a back-to-basics approach for those of you who may be snagging on a multitude of stumbling blocks on the road to a full recovery. Don’t get buried under SWOT charts or reams of spreadsheets. Let’s just keep it simple.
Back to Basics
Only you can know your own business best, no one disputes this. Providing blanket advice, at this stage, would be insulting to my audience, with its very specific, individual requirements. It would probably be so generic as to be pointless. I can, however, suggest some tactics to help you codify your recovery strategies and introduce a new way of thinking about and breaking down the relevant subject matter, so as to be more actionable.
1. Create four quadrants, labelling one Operational, Financial, Customer-facing and Employee-facing.
These are the four main aspects of most businesses, when trying to decide where to place one’s focus.
2. Within each quadrant, write down a maximum of four key strategies that are value-based and will directly contribute to recovery. Don’t go over four, or under three.
|Operational ||Financial |
|External/Customer-facing ||Internal/Employee-facing |
This is the heart of the matter, here, so be strict with yourself. Anything that directly contributes to a value-based impact should stay – everything else is a distraction.
For instance, if you have a stack of customer leads that are at least 3 years old and a stack of leads that are around 6 months old, you will definitely want to focus on the six-month leads because activities surrounding the reactivation of ice-cold leads will yield a lower result, than those dealing with the comparatively-warm ones. Think about issues like key customer touchpoints, engagement activities, template creation for sales teams, etc., add them to the list and start them up.
In this way, you hone your focus, tighten it such that you start to concentrate only upon value-add, constructive activities without allowing yourself to become distracted by anything that doesn’t contribute directly to your organization’s growth over the coming months.
3. Finally, you want to be able to measure the outcomes of these activities, so for each one, decide upon a goal and a metric.
Through conversations with your heads of department, you may discover that temporarily focusing upon increasing revenue for a fixed period might enable your whole organization to recoup the losses experienced for a comparative amount of time. In this way, “Increasing revenue” becomes the goal, while activities that will increase this revenue can be itemized in the appropriate category. It is important to remember, especially if you are suffering through this recover period, that a focus on revenue will lead to a natural increase in profitability, if you do things the right way. Worry about revenue first; then, when that starts to flow, focus on ways to maximise profits.
Using our own print wing, Print Express, as an example, here are some entries from my quadrants, and what I plan to do.
Diversify. Are there any areas we aren’t covering, that we could cover? For instance, if you’re a B2B printer, with post-COVID figures show a rise in B2C commerce. Could you pivot into printing personalized gifts as well? This is something you might need to talk over with someone who has the experience with successfully doing exactly this, so if you need to, drop me an email. No obligation, no hidden fees. Just a confidential chat about it all.
Costs. Get a grip on them! During the good times, maybe you could get away with a bit of wastage and efficiency, but that’s not how things are right now. For us, our focus were suppliers. I’ve actually managed to cross “Go through supplier invoices” off my list, because I hired someone to just that. It was a good decision, too, because she’s since paid for herself about three times over, just in saved costs.
Customer reactivation. Don’t assume that customers will automatically return to us after two years away. They are also busy. We have to put some work in here.
Simplify our offerings. We need to make sure it’s easy for customers to participate in our offers and services. Things like direct mail campaigns and design services are in my spotlight, here. Again, if you need a hand showcasing your designs and services portfolio, let me know. We love helping with projects like this.
Website Health. Is the website fit for purpose? Does it give the customer the information they want to see, presented in a way they enjoy? Are our Google campaigns effective – what do our Analytics tell us?
Sales Teams. You need them trained to the best of their abilities, now more than ever. In the good times, in the long-long-ago, things were easier, but now, every lead matters, every sale matters. Close everything that comes in. Capture every opportunity. Good training will go a long way, here – something I specialize in! Talk to me about your sales training requirements and I can help plan a personal curriculum with you.
It should have become obvious by now that what you’re seeking to do not only includes streamlining existing processes, but also strengthening the value that each processes adds, overall.
In this way, this exercise appears highly simple on the surface of things, but will actually require a great deal of thought and management to get right.
Conversations with key personnel will help you arrive at effective conclusions faster and generate important good-will and morale within each department as it becomes obvious that you are seeking long-term solutions, not just short-term spikes in productivity and profitability.
For this, your listening skills must be in tip-top condition – seek advice, gather suggestions and record input across the full spectrum of your employee-base. Trends will emerge almost immediately, based on the feedback you receive, and these will help to inform the entries you create within each quadrant.
Into the future!
If you’re doing things right, this will become a living document, as your activities become more and more productive leading to some becoming crossed off and entirely new ones added, over time. Keep it close, keep it handy – on your desk or personal corkboard – anywhere you will glance at it repeatedly over the day. This is your plan of attack. Your winning solution. Make it work for you.
This is standard management practice: identify the correct strategies and focus on those to the exclusion of all else. In this way, you can identify the crises and formulate a response which recognizes the opportunities at hand.
It’s not all doom and gloom. An expectation that things will go back to how they were, pre-pandemic, is unrealistic, but true recovery is feasible and achievable.
As you remain focused on only those activities that contribute directly to recovery, you will start to build momentum, which is why continually maintaining and updating this document is important; if you lose focus, you will lose momentum and that could mean wallowing in those doldrums forever. You just have to make sure your focus stays on the right activities, which it will, with this simple, but effective and practical method. Good luck with your recovery!