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The Cost Of Inaction

 In All, Productivity

Here in New Zealand we’ve supposedly “gone hard and gone early”. Time will soon tell (around April 6th) if we took action early enough to see a flattening of the curve in the hope that the number of daily cases goes down and community transmission stays low.

If this “go hard go early” response fails to pay dividends our economy is set to pay a very, very high price. Our lock down could extend further and more businesses will go broke because the subsidies can only last so long.

Instead of the dotted line in the image above being the medical health care system capacity, think of it as the amount of capacity available in the form of government assistance.

“Going hard and going early” got me thinking about this from a primary sector perspective and how rural service businesses can flatten their own curves by taking their own protective measures if they want to speed up their recovery.

What preventative and protective actions you take now will give you more options rather than leaving it later with less, or worse none. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines.

When facing a crisis it’s very natural and understandable for us humans to freeze. It’s how our primal brains are wired (aka. “fight, flight and freeze” mode) when we face any threat to our survival.

Fear can take hold of us and we freeze hoping to minimise any hurt or harm through our over-active amygdala.

You see animals freeze when threatened and we humans can do exactly the same – unless we can get our pre-frontal cortex (human brain) to settle our active amygdala (reptilian brain) allowing us to think through our feelings.

We call it emotional regulation and the best performing people on the planet know this is the key to success and growth.

If you’re still in business as you read this, I will give you this advice:

You cannot afford to freeze.

Freezing means you will only extend any pain and lock in any loss. By not taking any action you will be acted upon because nothing changes unless you change.

You have to keep moving which means taking action sooner, not later.

The threat of a real recession or depression isn’t going to go way any time soon so the more time you take sitting on inaction, the longer and more expensive it will take when you are forced to take action – action that you can’t control as opposed to action you could have controlled if you’d acted earlier.

We don’t know how long this crisis will last and the how long its long tail will be.

Like weeds in a garden, you have to keep on top of things rather than let things take over.

Many marketing experts are suggesting some level of marketing maintenance, especially short-term revenue and lead generating activity. Brand purpose plays a big role too.

Defining your brand purpose will help you. The first question I always ask my clients is:

“Tell me why your brand matters?”

It’s such a simple question yet many when we first work with them don’t have the answer so we help them with that because having meaning and mattering are so important in today’s over-communicated, noisy competing world.

Brand purpose can mean the difference between cut through or being ignored.

When times are tough customers will trust those brands that they believe in. They will keep backing those brands that have become part of their lives, routines and rituals (think coffee, spirits, washing powder, cars, TV channels or computer software).

Brands earn their place in consumer’s lives by being dependable and reliable. Doing what they promise to do and not letting their customer down. This builds the best currency of any business: trust.

Example: I drive a 2009 Toyota Highlander that’s clocked up 230,000 kms. She drives just like she did at 130,000 kms when I bought her. She starts every time and this car has never let me or my family down (unlike some of the European brands I have bought when I was younger). She just keeps going. Not squeaks, no rattles. Just steady consistently performing mile after mile.

The trust I get knowing this car will start and do what it’s supposed to will keep me loyal to Toyota probably for a lifetime.

Garnering brand purpose on the hoof won’t necessarily cut it right now.

Perhaps for a few it might but for the majority it’s what you were doing and what you stood for before the COVID-19 crisis that you can fall back on now. We call it brand equity.

Some companies will be tone deaf and appear overly-opportunistic like the Terry Langley Funeral Homes did on my Facebook feed I got a few weeks ago – so utterly insensitive it’s almost not worth dedicating the words to.

Others will be better and less selfless by putting their customers needs ahead of themselves. They will understand and acknowledge the lives their customers are currently living.

Those brands that are consistently helpful, useful, reliable and defendable will be valuable.

You need to ask yourself:

  • How can your brand be of service right now?
  • How can you help your customers with the specific expertise you have?
  • What can you offer freely with no expectation of return?
  • What content could you create that is useful and valuable?
  • What meaningful actions can you take that will make you more meaningful?

Inaction doesn’t mean reaction either.

It’s means a calm, considered and collected response.

How you choose to respond now – remembering you have that choice – will be how you are remembered or rewarded as a rural business once this time has passed.

You can choose your flight, freeze or fight response. It’s up to you.

The key thing is inaction will hurt or harm your business much more leaving you with a much longer and painful recovery.

The sooner you act the sooner you will flatten your own curve.

Keep taking the right actions.

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