Short-Term Disruptions Can be a Catalyst for Innovation in Long-Term Growth Planning

Posted by Mary Mechler on Mar 25, 2020 10:26:35 AM


Short term disruption not only disrupts and interrupts business, but also our thinking in how we do business.  Disruption forces us to learn and grow.  It’s uncomfortable, even painful to endure, as we wish our circumstance was that of even one week ago, when our work was more comfortable and uneventful.

As uncomfortable as it might be to openly discuss, within disruption lies opportunity. There are customers who are growing rapidly as a result of it, and those who are rapidly losing business. If we knew one week ago there would be such massive disruption to our business, it’s likely many changes that have been put off, would have been implemented much sooner.  What is important now is to take stock of what is being learned and apply it in a more comprehensive, long-term growth strategy going forward. Suffice it to say, if there is currently a growth strategy in place, it will no doubt need revision or possibly a total re-thinking.

Debrief after Disruption

A few important questions to answer ahead of the strategy planning process should be:

  • What did we learn?
  • Where were we strong?
  • Where could we improve?
  • How has the marketplace changed?
  • How well did we communicate with our customers?
  • How well did we communicate with one another internally?
  • Did we stay focused as a company on the same goals?
  • Were there new or different types of customers we acquired?
  • How nimble were we in meeting customer needs?
  • How have our customer needs and their expectations of us changed?
  • What is the new baseline for these expectations, and can we accommodate it?
  • How are we stronger on the other side of disruption?
  • How can we minimize the impact of future business disruptions, based on what we know now?
  • Armed with this new knowledge and experience, what is our company’s future state we will build a plan to achieve?

Answering these questions will arm you in planning for future growth with some built-in resiliency. Resiliency in terms of thinking innovatively, diversifying base of customers, being flexible and nimble to anticipate opportunities, make change to stay ahead of the competition, who may have lesser growth aspirations.

Identify Best Target Segments and Ideal Contact Position Titles

One of the most important steps in building a strategy is to identify which market segments you plan to grow, always including the current customer base. Did new industry segments emerge during the disruption?  Were you able to increase your capabilities to serve new segments? Which segments do you feel provide the most opportunity for growth, or profitability?

Don’t forget your current customers.  It’s critical to retain your current customers. Remember, your competitors are also marketing to your customers, so it is imperative to stay engaged with them. There have been many companies who have been surprised by losing their top customer, throwing them into recovery mode. It is easier to generate additional revenue from those loyal to you, rather than building new relationships with those you do not know. Both activities need to co-exist to help you diversify your customer base.

Once those customers and industry segments have been identified, it’s time to create your tactical plan for outreach and engagement with them. This is a strategic exercise in understanding the differences in the targets.

  • Think about the person/position title you most want to reach. Typically, this is someone who has influence and decision-making authority in purchasing products and services.
  • Identify their pains, frustrations, and challenges – these could differ based on industry segment.
  • Identify where each is likely to source information – some positions avoid social media while others are more open to it, for example.
  • Identify your capabilities to resolve those pains, frustrations and challenges
  • Know your competitor’s weaknesses regarding the same pains, frustrations, and challenges.
Identify which channels of communication are best to use in reaching your targets

Interestingly, depending on the position title of your target, they may choose to source or pay attention to various channels of communication.  Some are more likely to read emails, while others will incorporate LinkedIn or go directly to Google and websites.

Understanding as much as you can about your prospective audience will help you strategically create your messaging. Addressing relevant issues for each segment will give you a better chance of messages being read, your website being sourced, and your phone call taken. Your messaging should be created as if you were sitting across the table from them. There may be similarities, but if there are differing pains, there should be different conversations that resonate and are relevant to each.

Measure Results

Knowing what is working and what isn’t working will allow you to shift resources to maximize your ROI, in both your time and dollars. Tracking incoming call sources, contact forms, email inquiries and referrals should be part of the fabric of your plan to be efficient, cost effective and successful in retaining and acquiring new customers. Use this information to make better marketing decisions going forward. One of the lessons learned from disruption is that plans must be fluid to be open to opportunities and course correct as you go.

There is so much important learning that comes from disruption to help shape a more strategic, ambitious, competitive and resilient long-term growth plan - despite the unpleasantness in getting through it.

Get in touch with the Illinois Manufacturing Helpline to get your questions and concerns addressed quickly by industry experts.

Mary Mechler

Written by Mary Mechler

Topics: growth strategies, marketing, continuous improvement, customer engagement, COVID-19

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