One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is when my Dad (often) told me: “Son, you can’t control what happens in this life. You can only control how you react to what happens.”
These days, we’re all seeing a plethora of reactions to what’s going on in the world—some of it good, some of it not so good. Getting frustrated at how someone else is reacting just slows down your own ability to move forward in a positive manner. This is why I turn off the news, which is rarely—if ever– positive. If there are some facts I need to know, someone will tell me. I have a business to run.
I’m talking to a lot of business owners right now, and it’s really interesting to see their various perspectives and mindsets. I’ve classified them into three groups:
Caught off-guard by 2020’s challenges, setbacks have caused some leaders to strategically shut down. Their sense of loss is palpable, and I feel for them. With pervious plans ripped to shreds, their energies are spent on conserving resources that will help them wait out the storm. Worried things will never go back to normal, anything not resembling the previous order is understandably dismissed as impractical.
These folks may have taken some legitimate hits to their business in some fashion or another, but they remain settled, focused, and optimistic. Making sure their organization is nimble, adaptive, and responsive is an everyday strategy. Their creativity is in overdrive, meeting challenges with innovation. They’ve shepherded their companies through some tough times already in 2020. Right now, they’re finding and spending money to make sure they have a strong business for any future ups-and-downs.
These are often the smallest of small business owners. Their mantra is, “I don’t have a lot of money, but I have a lot of time!” They may be small, but they’re scurrying left and right to put together a business that can take off. They are using size as an advantage by hyper-focusing on resources that can help them grow.
It’s not on any of us to judge another’s actions, because we’re not walking in their shoes. What is on us is the responsibility to encourage each other, no matter if we’re struggling, overcoming, or even just dreaming.
To that end, here are some tips to encourage each of us in our respective battles.
1. Your brand must evolve to better engage customers.
Leadership is based on a vision for you, your company, your employees—but most importantly, for your customers. If you don’t have a vision, you’re not a leader. More than ever, your customers need authentic leadership that results in their needs being met. Your brand cannot be an afterthought right now; it has to be the foremost pillar of your entire company strategy.
You may be going through some challenges, but your customers don’t care—nor should they. Your brand has the ability to positively impact their lives, but it requires superhuman levels of enthusiasm to maintain potency. Status quo mentality won’t inspire anyone in an age where people are starving for inspiration.
Your brand is not what you say it is; it’s what your customers say it is. If customers aren’t saying anything about your brand because it’s no longer relevant to their current needs, it’s past time to engage them in a different, more authentic manner. Your customers’ needs have evolved dramatically in the past few weeks. The question you have to answer is: Has your brand evolved as well?
2. Focus on what is working—and make it really work.
The past few weeks have had an indelible impact on people’s emotions, which affects the way they shop. The key is to pivot your business with a keen understanding of your customers’ current emotional and physical needs. This may result in selling more of what you were already selling, but there could be some “sleeper hits” that may now need special attention.
Creating visceral and meaningful product promotions is critical in today’s environment. Don’t be content to simply list inventory: it’s time to sell. Your product ads and descriptions need to leap off the screen with an energy that connects authentically with your customers, giving them more of a reason to buy.
3. Fix what’s broken—yesterday.
One of the smartest things I’ve seen many merchants doing right now is shoring up areas in their business that have been lacking or under-performing. “Down-times” present the perfect opportunity to zero in on great ideas that have been previously back-burnered. If there are multiple doors that have been shut lately, it’s time to bust open twice as many.
While many business owners are naturally focused on cutting costs wherever they can, the smart move is to invest into the areas that are actually making you money. From customer support to your website, making data-driven investments in the user experience is a wise move. Tweaking your “voice” across all marketing channels is critical, because consistency is hugely important as you better engage consumers.
Savvy companies will look at the long-term, versus just making their quarter. What’s going on in the world is a complete reset of the way we do business, and consumers will reward companies that did the right thing by them. If we put it off addressing challenges, we’ll be dealing them and many more months from now. We all have a golden opportunity to become stronger through adversity, with our customers being the driving reason to work harder as well as smarter.