The COVID-19 pandemic has already heavily impacted the global economy, and will reshape society and how we live moving forward. We are in the midst of a massive wave of change, and those of us in B2B marketing are taking a hard look at our businesses to see how we can adapt them to the rapidly changing situation. Many B2B marketers have already been working to transform their marketing organizations with an eye to the future of business and marketing. Now, we’ve the added difficulty of considering how to set up our operations to ride out the crisis and thrive on the other side. But transformation is possible—we’re watching it happen all around us.
While a lot of us in marketing are working from home, perhaps doing the same work we were doing in the same way we did it before the pandemic, we’re watching our community businesses rapidly transform their models. Restaurants are at risk of going under and some are staying afloat by offering takeout and delivery. Some have changed their model entirely while sticking to their roots.
One example in Seattle, where the first US COVID-19 cases were reported, is Canlis, a fine-dining restaurant. Even before the state ordered businesses to close, Canlis closed its restaurant and opened three new services in its place: a breakfast bagel shed, a burger drive-thru, and a family meal dinner delivery service. Canlis posted to Facebook: “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees while serving as much of the city as we can.” This is an amazing example of using creativity and innovation to transform a business model to stay relevant and keep business afloat. It’s a trend we’re seeing across industries as companies work to rapidly meet changes in demand and stay relevant. And it builds brand loyalty.
Even manufacturers are pivoting rapidly. Look at Tesla, Ford, and GM. They’ve reprioritized production of cars and motors to build ventilators and masks because they have the means and capabilities to do it. Other companies like Dyson hopped on board to develop ventilators, and some local businesses, like Kass Tailored and Nordstrom, adjusted production to deliver masks to healthcare workers. Companies like Nike, Gap, and Carhartt began producing masks and protective wear for healthcare workers, too. This is both a heroic effort and a PR play, and they’re building long-term positive customer sentiment while delivering tremendous value in the near term.
For businesses that suddenly have hyper-relevant services for virtual-only living—especially in the tech industry—we’re seeing another trend emerge: The need to be both sensitive and helpful to customers has prompted a lot of digital service providers to temporarily offer products for free. Comcast and T-Mobile removed data limitations for 60 days, and major tech companies are offering virtual event services for free. This is an impactful approach that people will remember, and it increases the chances that they’ll become strong advocates and adopters of the service later.
We’re all worried about how the near-term economic impact of the pandemic will affect our ability to continue hitting revenue targets and meeting customers’ needs. It can be helpful to turn your focus from “How can we survive this?” to “What can we offer this world today to help everyone thrive?”
Here are a few prompts to help you get into the mindset to thrive:
1. Start with the inventory of what you offer today.
2. Ask why those products and services matter right now and whether they are still as relevant as they were before. You might be able to draw on usage statistics or social listening tools to get an assessment.
3. If one or more are still relevant, consider what it is about your customers’ situations that confirms that relevance. Where are your customers? What are they concerned about? What do they need right now? Do you need to reach them in a different way than you have been? How will you communicate the value for your customers now? Be creative in coming up with a solution and challenge yourself to be different than you have been. Draw inspiration from tactics that have resonated for you as a customer.
4. For what doesn’t appear to be as relevant today, still assess why it matters. Review the specific aspects of customer behavior that have changed demand for now. At the core of what you were delivering, what is it that people still want and need, even if it looks different tomorrow? Be honest with the assessment; going back to the drawing board to reconsider the product or service will lead to you to improvements that your business will carry into the future.
Think differently. Be creative. Transform your business and stay ahead.
I’d love to hear about what you’re seeing, how you’re adapting, and what you’re learning. If you’d like to share, or need help with your own transformation, just get in touch.