Tomorrow is officially back on the calendar.
Businesses will dig out from sheltering in place. They’ll be coming from a feast of selling emergency services to essential businesses in the pandemic. Or from famine if they were serving non-essentials and shed headcount and waited behind shuttered doors.
Yet while we are still in a scary part of COVID-19, there is this window of time to get ready. Guessing the exact date when life returns is not as crucial as knowing there will be a tomorrow and preparing for it.
This is the moment to create the runway for your future normal.
Reopening Will be Interesting
There’s not a lot of certainty about how consumers, B2Cs, or B2Bs may have changed post-COVID-19. Our collective psyche may have changed. It is safe to say, something will have changed.
So many questions ahead, so few answers. Try it yourself. Ask yourself this:
- Feel less or more loyal to your firm if you were laid-off from your job & then rehired?
- Accept having your temperature taken to enter a building or public transportation?
- Get used to being asked daily if you tested positive for COVID-19?
- Willingly work in open office spaces less than 6 feet away from peers?
- Work in hoteling, hot-desking, or co-working spaces without disinfection between occupants?
- Continue to wash your hands fervently?
- Use hand sanitizer as if your life depended on it?
- Wear face masks & disposal gloves daily?
- Jump on a full flight as soon as restrictions are lifted, even if it’s at a great price?
- Join 65,000 others in sports stadiums, or at conventions, or in concerts?
- Shop less often in fewer trips, and/or shop more online?
This isn’t as far fetched as it might seem. The General Services Administration (GSA) has prepared for post-COVID-19. They’ve created new procedures for occupants and managers of their buildings.
Scenario Planning is What’s Needed
Businesses must be game-planning how to reopen. Some forward-looking vision is needed, just as much as re-forecasting financials. Peter Schwartz’s “The Art of the Long View” is a classic book on how-to.
Several questions for scenario planning today could include:
How will state and local restrictions on businesses be lifted:
- All at once?
- Phased-in like Germany is planning for its highest-valued industries?
- What 2-3 other scenarios are likely?
What behaviors will be different now for consumers, B2Cs, or B2Bs post-COVID-19 ?
What behaviors will be the same?
How will this affect buying processes for B2Cs and B2Bs?
Business Preparation from Scenario Planning
Preparations to reopen will differ widely among businesses, even between the vertical markets they serve. Scenario planning will help provide direction and guidance on what to prepare and how.
Here are five critical areas likely to be impacted and how they may have to change.
1. Messaging to Customers
Businesses won’t need to continuously remind customers of the carnage COVID-19 caused. But ignoring it, or pretending it never happened will be a fatal error.
Regardless if customers’ buying behavior has changed a lot or a little, businesses will have to speak to them in an authentic voice. The old marketing messages may no longer resonate with a newer customer disposition.
Before COVID-19, businesses’ promises should always have matched their actions and deliverables.
Now, post-COVID-19, customers may be less willing to put up with empty brand promises, they may have shorter fuses. Authenticity and relatability could be the strategic brand imperatives for the post-pandemic age.
2. Messaging Current Employees & Re-engaging Rehires
Employees will have been victimized by the effects of COVID-19; the uncertainty of employment, ability to afford and find food, keep their apartments or homes: they are consumers too. Keeping them informed of the honest truth along with aspirational hopes is a fundamental necessity.
And if they’ve been laid-off, they’ll have experienced the anxiety of losing their livelihood, as well as everyone’s fears about getting sick in the pandemic. Regaining their trust when rehired will be essential not only for businesses to deliver but to be competitive again.
3. Widening Sales’ Market Basket
If B2Bs were not serving essential businesses during the pandemic, this would be a good time to consider expanding their market basket to include them.
Serving essential businesses may not have fit a B2B’s strategy before the pandemic. But come the next emergency, it’s now clear it’s better to be serving a portion of the economy that’s open and paying their bills.
This means B2Bs will need to pivot to sell to those essential businesses. This will take new sales messaging and processes, operational expertise, references, and a powerful differentiator to pry incumbent suppliers away from customers.
4. Expanding Sales Playbook
Preparing new sales conversations and playbooks will be absolute requirements, as untold numbers of B2Cs and B2Bs won’t be returning to work.
New buying personnel may now make decisions in areas they didn’t know before, which means sales will have to educate and raise awareness to a new audience.
Traditional sales channels may have changed as well. What if large conventions are replaced by smaller regionals ones, eliminating what was once a single venue that could reach national customers and prospects at one time and in one place?
5. Energizing Sales Differentiation
Most incumbent suppliers’ relationships with their customers will have strengthened through this pandemic trial by fire. This means it’ll be harder for new suppliers to squeeze in.
Therefore, business development teams must find new and powerful differentiation to pry customers away from incumbents.
While differentiation has always been challenging for B2B businesses, it’s become even more of a requirement for success in post-pandemic times.
There is a Runway to Reopen – If Planned & Prepared for Now
The future is always and only a “best-guess.” With intelligent planning now, preparations can be made today for a better and higher lift-off when the time comes.
This article first published on LinkedIn.