Positioning During A Black Swan Event

Let’s start with the obvious: Offerings, information and communication must be based not on what the company wants to sell, but what customers may need to buy. This is not new. Solution-based sales anchored in the customer perspective have always generated the greatest returns.

In times of recess, downturn, and extreme market movements, the first thing businesses do is cut back. Reduce the possible losses to a minimum, cut marketing, projects, innovation and general business development. Once that is done, we rapidly descend on price. Offering everything to everybody at half the price. And as a sum of it all, we essentially undercut the market and accelerate the downfall.

Regardless of the kind of company you are, stopping your business from developing and positioning will not serve you well on the other end of the Black Swan. Obviously, the activities related to your brand development will have to answer to more short-term KPIs. However, these types of events are superbly fit to help you look at your brand offering, value propositions, and positioning from a new perspective. This demands speed, rapid decision making, and extreme focus:

  • CLARITY. Do your customers and employees truly understand who you are, why you do what you do and what you are trying to achieve? A recent study showed that more than 60% of European employees really don’t know what the brand they work for is all about. Not you? Well good. If this might be you, this is the time to simplify and focus. Your customers surely will not spend time trying to really understand you. Not now, and not tomorrow.
  • VALUE PROPOSITIONS. Are your value propositions clear? Do they tell the exact story of your offering and the unique value creation your company delivers your audience? Do you have proof? Review these, simplify and clarify. Less is more. Focus.
  • CORE AUDIENCE. Do you know your core audience? Are they still the same as when you started out? How do they want to be treated, communicated to, and what is it they need right now that you can deliver? What drives them to you? Here´s an idea: Ask them!
  • CULTURE & LEADERSHIP. Remember Peter Drucker? Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast. It still does. And through the cereals of digital business models, the oats of scalability and the honey that is positive cash flow — the way your people interact, communicate, collaborate and feel while bringing your company to the next level — is key to the company’s success or failure.
  • PRODUCTS & SOLUTIONS. Are all of your products and solutions flying off the shelves? Customers fighting each other to get their hands on that one consultant? No money spent on Google Ads because your pull is so strong, you don´t need it? No? Take a good long hard look at your portfolio and kill what does not deliver. Because it steals focus, it creates false hope and clearly does not deliver on the set KPIs. This does not mean killing off all innovation, but surely there are rotten apples inside your portfolio. And this is the time to throw them out. For good.
  • CORE CONCEPT. Back to the first sentence, it is not about what the company wants to sell, it is about what the customer needs right now. You might find yourself at odds with the market you are trying to serve, and an economic downturn may have the ability to set you free. Re-evaluate your core concept and offering. Is there any way you would change the company to better suit the market if you had to? Breaking news: Now you have to!
  • INNOVATION. Back to the drawing board and based on the point above: Is there room for something new? Is the market demanding something you can deliver? If you have ever thought of innovation as a tool for future success, this is the time you want your brand to innovate. Put yourself on the map and keep innovating. If you don’t have budgets available, use your mind, and the competence of the people around you. Rethink processes, products and relationships. Innovations can be small, but extremely significant.
  • TECHNOLOGY. Legacy systems work desperately bad. Period. And they have been patched up, added to, repaired and set aside ad nauseam. Of course, in a time when revenues are missing, employees are put on leave, and you are unsure of the future, this is not the time to invest heavily in new technology. But this might be the time to evaluate your current status, make some fast prototypes how things “could” be if you had time, money and skill. And go for it once you can. Your business will thank you.

We truly believe that focusing your company will help you deal with this Black Swan. And that clear and focused leadership, both through brand, people and technology will make the difference between success and failure.

As always, stay safe, and let´s have a conversation.

Originally published at https://medium.com on March 14, 2020.

Elevating good businesses to great brands.