There’s a vintage poster of two vultures side by side on a tree branch. One is saying to the other: “Patience my ass, I’m gonna kill something.”
For many of us business equals action. We need to be doing something, or we don’t feel we’re doing enough.
But what should we do to prepare for business recovery, and how patient can we afford to be?
Living in an L-Shaped World
Exactly what shape the current recession takes will only be completely clear in hindsight, but likely indications are that it is going to be L-shaped.
This isn’t good news for business, since an L-shaped recession means a sharp fall in growth followed by a lengthy flat period of sluggish growth, or even stagnation.
However, even if businesses do find themselves in the middle of this, they still need to plan for coming out of it.
This is where patience comes in.
The landscape has changed. What people are receptive to has changed as part of it. Circumstances are far from normal, so you cannot approach them as if they were.
Think of this as development time, even if that feels enforced.
The new normal is going to make you ask questions about your business plan:
- Are there aspects of it that need to change?
- How has what you’ve been doing impacted on it?
- What will you need to add to it?
Person to Person
The human face of business, and of marketing it, has taken on a whole new significance during the pandemic.
Consumers and customers are still receptive to marketing, but brands need to find the right tone to engage with them.
At the same time, cash-flow is critical, so marketing spend has to be containable, but effective.
This is where social media channels can be highly effective in reaching audiences without involving a massive marketing spend.
Brands should be looking to connect to customers on some sort of emotional level, and social media provides perfect opportunities for this too.
However, this type of engagement must also be purposeful. It requires a clear brand strategy to drive it.
What Are People Looking For?
A McKinsey study of consumer sentiment, across 45 countries, during Covid-19, suggests shifts towards value and essentials.
The disruption to normal patterns of life has seen people look for alternatives, and then to consider these as potentially long-term behavioural changes.
This is reflected in current opinions about the long-term impact of working from home in the UK.
Businesses that can best adapt to the changing needs and behaviours of their customers are more likely to recover rapidly and position themselves effectively.
And if people are looking for meaning, as the pandemic forces them into making changes and reflecting on their lives, then it is vital that the brands they interact with have clearly-defined meanings of their own.
Two Brands in One
One way of making the human interface of your brand more effective is to maximise the human-to-human aspects of your communication.
This is like having two brands in one:
- Your business brand, and
- Your personal brand.
A business brand should lead with its sense of purpose, but the voices of people within this brand can express this purpose on a very human level.
How does this work in practice?
It’s about looking at appropriate channels and how to use these with a person-led, people-first approach.
But you still need to be distinctive. Standing out is as important as it’s ever been.
Simply trotting out the now over-familiar messages about the unprecedented times we live in, or reminding people to take care are not going to resonate with prospects and customers.
How to Keep Your Focus
Timing is critical to business recovery, but timing can be tricky when you appear to have lots of it, compared to when recovery times are shorter.
In an L-shaped recession, we could be facing months where things are more or less horizontal, at the base of the L.
During this time, there will be certain things businesses must do to survive, including:
- Focusing on cash-flow
- Minimising inefficiencies.
There may be lessons from the pandemic that will stand you in better stead during this long, flat period.
For example, bolstering your remote working and business capabilities and structuring your business around them.
But this is also a period for reflecting and strategising: what business models can you adopt to help you, and will these have long-term implications for your brand?
- Is your messaging right?
- Are you using appropriate channels?
- Does your marketing reflect your brand purpose?
Transition or Preparation?
The pandemic has created a situation where on one hand, everything feels slow-moving, or even static, but on the other, there is a sense of constant uncertainty that threatens to undermine any assumptions.
Navigating this period of transition is a major business challenge.
You might be dealing with a shortfall in income and a decline business levels. But it’s also important to see the potential value here.
It’s about taking the time to rethink your brand and plan your recovery strategy – even if you’ve got plenty on your plate to preoccupy you, even if the plate is one of many you’re having to spin.
And remember, people are at the core of all this. When you’re putting your brand out there, you need to do this on a very human level.
A Partisan Approach
Partisan is a Manchester-based brand consultancy. We’re helping brands find positive solutions to sustain future development in our towns and cities.
For more information, please call us on 0161 860 7010, or email firstname.lastname@example.org