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“Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do.”​

 In All, Productivity

The hardest decisions are always the right decisions. Some businesses right now will be facing them thick and fast.

Taking the easy path is always easy. Taking the path no one has walked before is much harder.

The rewards for higher risk provides a greater return if you can hang in there and see it through because if you can push through the pain when others give up, you will win.

But being brave is a hard thing to do too when the world around you is so uncertain.

Constant change unsettles us. We get conflicted in our thinking. Caught between two minds makes us lose confidence. “Should we or shouldn’t we?”

The key here is to know uncertainty is certain. And get used to it.

You can make it your advantage.

Need some inspiration in these trying times? Think about the following brand examples that were born when times were tough:

  • Netflix changed their model from DVDs to online streaming literally overnight post GFC and lost 80% share price but look at them now
  • Kimberley Clarke closed their paper mills during depression times and survived to become a retail heavyweight
  • Staples closed stores in the GFC but increased its workforce by 10% to provide a greater customer experience (as a result it doubled its sales post-recession and became 30% more profitable than its arch rival Office Depot)
  • Dollar Shave Club launched with a $500 video shot on a friend’s phone and now give Gillette a good run for their money
  • Dove Soap ditched the tradition of using paid models and used real women instead and now command a huge market share 

All of them broke convention and did something very bold and brave. Each example propelled their profits during hard economic times and built brands that we all know and admire now.

“I can see you now”

In the COVID-19 crisis we’re experiencing, we are seeing the true character of the people we know and work with.

The same goes with ourselves. We are seeing what they – and we – are truly made of. 

Their true spirit comes to the surface.

How they react, behave and act makes a very telling statement.

It broadcasts their bare soul without the bullshit.

Some will be peaceful (enjoying any downtime undistracted), some will be precise (highly organised and time-efficient), some will be paranoid (freezing and freaking out) and some will be proactive (walking towards pressure seeing it as a opportunity not a threat).

You want to be in the last category because this is what will separate you from your competition. 

There are so many opportunities out there if you keep your nerve by being bold and brave.

Competitors will be weaker and retrenching in marketing and sales support. Talent will be more available than they were before. Customers will still be there. They will just demand a higher level of performance from you.

Former BNZ Economist Tony Alexander reminds us, because he’s been through three recessions, that we need to keep things in perspective:

“Remember that this too will pass as all previous recessions have and note that many people regret that, once they had cashflows under control, they stayed too cautious for too long and missed some good opportunities. Plan for the recovery. It often comes faster than expected when in the depths of the crisis and everything looks bad.”

Whilst it seems super counterintuitive to think about recovery in the midst of a recession, you must think about the actions you will take now so you can make it to the end game.

Action is the thing you need to keep taking.

19th Industrialist magnate Andrew Carnegie once said “I pay attention to what men do. Not what they say. It tells me what their priorities are.”

This is good advice for any employee or child.

Talk has always been cheap. Walk isn’t because it tells you all you need to know. What people do, not what they say, is what matters most.

One is a signal. The other is just noise.

Action says everything. 

There is no doubt there will be more business failures in the coming weeks and months. Some will be shocks and surprises. 

As Warren Buffet famously said “When the tides goes out you get to see who’s naked”

I personally know many companies who are so gripped by fear that they have freezed.

They haven’t worked out taking control is what gives them control.

They are hunkering down conserving cash hoping things will get better sooner rather than later.

The reality is yes, we should always prepare for a worse case scenario. Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

However what early actions you take now could mean the difference between success or failure.

Those brands and companies that have reminded their customers of their purpose and why, and reinforced their relationships, will win.

They can get ahead of the game rather than try to play catch up when things will have moved on already.Those that sit on their hands waiting and hoping won’t.

Out of sight means out of mind and salience is key. You have to remind your customers you are there, especially when they are so distracted. 

Hope isn’t a strategy. Doing nothing is not a strategy. Doing something is.

So what can you do?

You can:

  • create content that shows how you much you care about your customer
  • connect with your customers offering free advice and ideas (what tips, tricks, tools and techniques can you share?)
  • offer a higher level of responsiveness and service (Rockefeller Research showed that 68% of all customer loss was down to customer not thinking you cared about them, only 11% was about price)
  • continue to train your people (we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training). 
  • keep communicating through creating a content bank of generous and useful content (it will make you an authority and Google will love you for it when they rank you)
  • optimise your website so that it converts traffic into email leads you can continue a sales conversation that you can convert later on

Actions always speak louder than words.

Do not delay or dally. Get going. Now.

Are we seeing “digital Darwinism”?

Rapid changes like we’re seeing right now (i.e. essentials vs non-essentials, austerity, efficiency, local vs global, shorter supply chains, food security) brings rapid consumer changes. 

And like all changes, this can bring opportunities but only for those that move fast and first.

Some businesses will fail to keep up or catch up. Some will stay ahead of the curve by anticipating what their customers need.

Because the world is changing so fast those that don’t change with it, will fail.

Do not underestimate the amount of acceleration taking place right now, even in rural. Taking it easy, waiting or pulling back won’t work.

Customers will not revert back to where they were. There will be a reset.

Their actions and behaviours will have changed. 


“Who lead the digital transformation of your company?”

I love the joke doing the rounds with the following answers:

A) the CEO
B) the CTO
C) COVID-19

The answer is obvious. 

Covid-19 has meant businesses need to adapt their business models, and adapt fast.

The missing option here is D) The Customer. 

The customer needs to be at the centre of everything you do.

By sticking close to your customers and connecting with them regularly means you always know what they are thinking and feeling. Ask them, observe them and listen often.

My advice to you is this:

Connect (connect with your customers consistently and continually because retention right now matters more than acquisition)
Care (create content that shows how much you care)
Challenge (challenge what you do now, just because it’s what you’ve always done is not the answer)
Create (be a creator of content not a consumer, there’s a massive appetite out there for the right content and this will only increase)
Courageous (be courageous, be bold and brave, show people what you’re made of) 

You can only control the controllable.

It’s the only thing you can do.

Get going and keep going.

St John

PS. I’ve just finished reading a brilliant book on called Alchemy by advertising legend Rory Sutherland and it’s yours if you’re the first to email me back with 10 cc’d friends or colleagues so we can keep getting good content like this out there. Sharing really is caring : )

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