Coming Out of the Crisis with a Stronger, Strategically Aligned Story

 Coming Out of the Crisis with a Stronger, Strategically Aligned Story

2020 will go down in history. Not only because of the global pandemic, but due to the lasting impact it will have on the business community at large.

Leaders are being asked—no, forced —to retool their businesses to be successful in what many believe to be our new normal.

COVID-19 has changed our economic environment, social systems, consumer behavior, and what buyers expect and demand. These sweeping changes directly impact the foundational business models companies have been running for decades.

What does this mean for you as a business owner or CEO?

It means you must re-evaluate everything. Yes, everything.

Your entire go-to-market strategy. Regardless of the type of business you run, your industry, the products or services you offer, changes will be required to compete in the future.

For some businesses, these changes will be material. For others, minimal. But, every business leader must conduct a top-to-bottom inventory and assessment of their go-to-market strategy if they want to succeed beyond the crisis.

Recently, Silicon Valley sage John Chambers was asked how COVID-19 would impact businesses and he said, “It’s time to reinvent or be left behind.” When David Gibbs, the CEO at Yum Brands, was asked how the crisis was impacting their corporate strategy he said, “We are reinventing our business on the fly.”

Call it a reset, restart, reinvention. Whatever you call it, to be successful in the future, your business must adapt or die.

But where do you start? That’s easy. With your customers.

You must fully understand how the new normal has changed their behavior and mindset. How has it influenced or changed their . . .

  • Personal and business priorities?
  • Budget allocation and investment plans?
  • Buying requirements and processes?
  • What they need?
  • What they value?
  • Where they spend their time?

Answers to these and many other questions will inform the material or minimal changes that will be required to your go-to-market strategy.

To assess the impact customer and buyer changes will have on your specific business, you must also ask yourself: How do changes in my customer’s world align with our current . . .

  • High-value targets (customers, geographies, industries)?
  • Growth platforms and initiatives?
  • Product and service portfolio?
  • Pricing models?
  • Marketing channels?
  • Sales model?
  • Buying process and channels?
  • Revenue forecasts?
  • Customer experience?

The next step is to go through the disciplined process of mapping changes in your customer’s mindset, behaviors, and priorities to specific changes that are required in your business model. But remember, this cannot be done without having an entirely new, fresh, and vivid picture of your customer—post-COVID. This is critical because remember—a lot has changed. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, only those companies who develop relationships with their customers (including on an emotional level) and achieve an intimate knowledge of their challenges, constraints, opportunities, and aspirations will rebound from this crisis.

So, if you don’t have a current, accurate view of your customer, the voice of the customer is required. Why? Because you have to get into their heads if you ever want to get into their wallets.

Once this process is complete, you now have a clear picture of the foundational changes you will need to make in your business model and strategy. You can actually see how the business must change to better serve your customers in the future. However, your work is not done. Now, it’s time to align those changes with your go-to-market story.

After all, your customers will never know that you’ve changed or why it matters . . . until you tell them.

This is where many leaders will short-circuit their restart plan. They forget the important role their story plays in pulling the new strategy forward. They underestimate the time, energy, and investment required to ensure current and future buyers are fully aware of how the business has changed to better serve them. That’s why, much like your strategy, the company story must be rewritten. You must align the story you want to share in the marketplace with the new picture of your customer and strategy.

Have changes in your customer’s world required you to reprioritize your high-value targets? Realign the value you deliver with new buying priorities? Make changes in your product or service portfolio? Reinvent how you service customers and how they buy from you?

All of these and other changes must be reflected in the story. Said another way, your story must align with the foundational changes you are making in the business and how those changes bring value to your customers.

Much like you had to paint a new picture of your customer—post-crisis. It is imperative that you also paint a new post-crisis picture of your business—for your customers. That’s why your story is so important. It is the lever you pull in the restart plan that brings to life all of the meaningful changes you have made to better serve your customers. It is how you reconnect with them, establish relevance and earn trust.

As stated earlier, every business must change because of the crisis. Some materially, others minimally. Regardless, that change needs to be reflected in your story if you want to be successful in the future.

Don’t make the same mistake many other leaders are making right now. Don’t reinvent your business and forget to tell anyone about it. And don’t forget, your corporate story (messaging) matters more than ever before. Isn’t it about time your customers hear it loud and clear?

6 Strategic Questions That Will Help You Come out of the Crisis with a Stronger, Strategically Aligned Story

1. How will your business be different?

For some companies, their business model and strategy will remain the same. But for others, significant shifts will be required in the business. Will your growth opportunities remain the same? Will you have to shift market priorities? Will you need to introduce new products and services?

2. Has your competitive environment changed?

This crisis will create winners, losers and newcomers. Will your competitive landscape look the same? Have your competitors changed their stories? Who are the newcomers in your space that must be considered as you reshape your story?

3. How has your customer’s mindset evolved?

The pandemic has changed all of us—personally and professionally. How has it impacted the psyche of your buyer? How has it changed the way they think? Their needs? Their buying priorities? How has it changed the way they engage with their customers?

4. Is your corporate positioning still relevant and meaningful?

What position do you currently own in the mind of your buyers/customers? Is that still the most important thing you want them to remember when they think of your brand or does this need to change?

5. Does your value proposition need to reflect new buying requirements and priorities?

How has the pandemic changed what is most important to your buyer? Do they have new priorities and requirements that take precedent? Are there new and different ways that you can deliver value in the world they operate in?

6. Does your corporate mission, vision, and values need to evolve?

For many leaders, this crisis has changed how they look at their business and the larger role they want it to play in the world. Has the crisis changed your North Star? The dent you want to leave in the universe? Has it made you rethink the type of culture and company you want to build moving forward?

James O'Gara

James O’Gara is the CEO and Founder of StoryDimensions, an OnMessage company. StoryDimensions offers a SaaS sales enablement solution that enables B2B companies to capture, develop, and share real customer stories at scale. He is also the author of 40+ Ways to Increase Organizational Clarity, Alignment, and Performance.

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