The military always keeps a few gems up their sleeve. I cast my mind back to the wilds of Dartmoor, in the midst of my training to become a response team member for the international disaster relief charity ShelterBox...
The elements were coming in. The wind stirred, the rain pelted down and a grizzled, former Royal Marine looked down at me.
“Prior preparation prevents p**s poor performance,” he bellowed as he watched us struggle with the latest challenge we’d been set.
He wasn’t wrong. If we’d spent more time preparing ourselves, we wouldn’t have been struggling as much as we were.
The better we plan - and the faster we adapt when we need to - the more successful in our endeavours we’re likely to be.
No one planned for the events 2020 - and if anyone tells you they saw this coming they’re a bare faced liar. It caught all of us out. Yet most businesses I know reacted to the situation. Some diversified, those that could “pivot” (an almost over-used word now) did and silver-linings sprang from the gloom.
With winter beginning to bite and the situation evolving rapidly again, it’s time to think about what we can do this time around to make a better plan and ensure we’re all as prepared as possible for what comes next.
Every business is going to be different and - when uncertainty dominates proceedings - there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, these five tips will help you ensure your business is in the best possible position to capitalise on the festive period, lay down the foundations for success in 2021, and to deal with whatever is thrown your way:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Without a doubt, the single biggest failure I’ve seen in business this year is people who failed to communicate with their customers. At Jarrang, we work with a number of businesses from exclusive hotels to retailers and hedge funds. We’ve helped them hone their communication strategies and - through targeted email marketing campaigns - they’ve been able to keep a clear and consistent flow of communication with their database.
If there’s an information vacuum, people will fill it with conjecture. In this case, there’s no such thing as too much communication. And, just because the normal has been disrupted, it doesn’t mean people don’t want to hear from you. Quite the opposite in fact. Coming out of the first lockdown we saw brands who had been proactive with their communication fare much better than those who simply shut up shop. Put processes and systems in place that allow you to get the right messages to the right people at the right time.
2. Adapt and overcome
It’s not always going to be a smooth ride. There’s going to be hurdles. There’s going to be challenges. We’re going to be blindsided and left reeling. The question then is how do we react? Mark Manson, author of the bestseller The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F**k, talks about ‘learned hopefulness.’ In essence, he says, we are all born helpless. But we learn to take control of our lives and we learn hope. We adapt to what’s around us and we overcome it.
In the next six months you or your business will more than likely hit a bump in the road. Don’t let it derail and don’t steal your hope. All of us have been overcoming that feeling of helplessness our whole lives, now is not the time to give in to it.
Look at retail as a practical example of this. Many retailers have had stores closed for large chunks of the year and they’ve had to radically redefine the way physical stores operate. Yet, online sales are booming as is home delivery and click and collect. Making this seamless for customers requires a huge amount of work behind the scenes and, by putting this work in, many retailers are seeing fantastic results. And, in lieu of stores being able to deliver in-person experiences, we’re helping retailers send hyper-personalised email marketing campaigns to their customers to enhance their online experience.
3. Build relationships
Every kind of relationship needs nurturing and right now your customers and subscribers are crying out for something positive in their lives. Be that force for good. Help them, guide them, entertain them… do the things for them that only you can do that, in some small way, are going to enrich their lives. Taking the time to check in on your customers is a highly effective way of showing them you care.
It’s not just customers either. Nurture relationships with other businesses, even if they are in the same industry. 2020 has been full of stories of different businesses working together for mutual benefit. It’s a well worn phrase now but (most) of us are in this together and that means we can all help each other out of it.
4. Work smarter
A year ago, if you’d said large swathes of the workforce would’ve spent most of 2020 working from home no one would have believed you. Yet here we are. It’s not without its challenges but, with the tech we have at our fingertips, we’re able to work much smarter.
It’s not just Zoom and Teams, there’s a battalion of different apps and tools out there to help you and your business - whether that’s for budgeting, forecasting and accounts or hands-on operational tools that help you manage your teams and workforce. Embracing tech and digitalisation is a very good way to start working smarter.
5. Expect the unexpected
Finally, expect the unexpected. Going back to where I began this article and one of the key things to stick with me from the training I did with ShelterBox was to always expect the unexpected. A huge part of it is mindset and being prepared to deal with what comes your way. However, this only gets you so far. Knowledge, preparation and knowing how to respond complete the picture.
From a business perspective, map out your worst case scenarios or, as entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says, figure out how to put yourself out of business. Knowledge is power and, in this case, the more you know about your business, the better you’ll be able to react and respond when you need to.
As always, we’re here for you. Whether you’re old friends of ours or new to the party, our mission is to help businesses like yours to send better emails to strengthen relationships with your customers, increase sales and drive growth. But, away from all that, we make sure we take time to pay into the Bank of Goodwill, so if you ever need our help or advice, please get in touch.