I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about strategy lately.
A lot of reasons really, but mostly because as we move through the pandemic, we are going to see a different business environment than the one we were in at the start of the year. This means we are going to have to approach marketing and selling our services in a different way as well.
Some of you may already have achieved some level of success relaunching your business or pointing yourself in a new direction, intentionally or not.
But as I’ve been sitting around and really trying to hone in on where I want to point myself, the idea that keeps coming back to me at the core of strategy right now is that in an increasingly commoditized world, your strategy is about standing out in this commoditized environment so that you can win the business you and your business need to survive.
And, after a pandemic and a financial shutdown, this idea likely is more important than ever.
Here are a couple of ways to stand out now:
Things are crazy out there in the world and I don’t think that is likely to change for the next few months.
In the United States, we have an election coming up in November. In New Zealand, they’ve had to postpone their election for a month due to a recent outbreak of new coronavirus cases. And, we still don’t know whether or not there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases like is often the case during viral pandemics.
Top the virus off with a financial crisis brought on by the need to shut down the economy in a lot of places to protect folks from the pandemic; psychological wounds from not being able to see friends and family or being called on to work, teach, and do work around the house; and, you can see that we are dealing with a lot of things.
This just goes a long way to show you that right now, folks are stressed out and stretched in more ways than we might imagine.
So, one point of differentiation that can lead you to stand out today is by offering some sort of emotional differentiation for your product or service.
As an example, think about the stories of folks rushing out to get their hair styled as soon as they were able to again?
Is this all about the need to be fashionable?
It may be a little bit, but there’s also a large part of it that was an emotional thing for folks to be able to put themselves back together again and that started with a fresh haircut or style.
The same goes for the ability to have a physical distance beer with a neighbor or just know that your office is clean if you have to go in for some reason.
All of these are emotional clues that can lead to differentiation as much as they are services or products that people desire.
In general, I’m out on offering discounts.
I feel like discounts are the last refuge of bad marketers and sales folks that are about to miss their numbers.
But in a pandemic and shut down, it is a good idea to rethink your pricing strategy.
Maybe, you were overpriced and you can offer a more competitive price under the cover of the pandemic and shut down?
Think about it.
Potentially, you were always right-priced in your market…
Is this true?
If so, maybe the fact that you have managed to keep a consistent price that reflects value and comfort to people can give you a competitive advantage and help you stand out.
Or, maybe you’ve always been willing to discount your offerings or charge too little for what you provide and find it more valuable than ever…
Could now be a good time to raise your prices?
I know that everyone will have their own theory on pricing, but from a strategy standpoint, you are going to want to keep in mind that pricing is a valuable point of differentiation and can help you enter or keep the target market you want to have.
For motivation, look at what businesses around you are doing to stand out in your area.
This may be one of the great ways to differentiate your brand in every market and situation, by focusing on relationships.
Early in the pandemic, a bunch of the sports teams I work with all called me about the ways that they were going to try and deal with cancellations, postponements, and refunds.
What was heartening was that most of them led with the idea that they wanted to make sure they strengthened or kept the relationship alive, even if it cost them a little money right now.
That’s great because it also isn’t always easy to do. Just look at some of the companies that have gone to tremendous lenghts to keep folks money and not give refunds where services have been paid for and been unable to be rendered.
But more than those initial conversations, relationships can be a huge bonus for differentiation for you now because folks are unsure of what the future will look like.
When will we be able to travel like normal?
Do you think we can go back to our offices soon?
Is it going to be okay for me to go to a ballgame again?
The real answer is no one knows.
But having someone that can help you navigate a situation where there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty can be a huge point of differentiation because folks don’t want to go through things alone and they want to have an outside perspective in case they are missing something.
This is true for service professionals like lawyers, accountants, and consultants, but it is also just as important for folks that do other things like talking with a tailor about taking in some clothes or items; getting a book recommendation from a bookseller; or, connecting with a local brewer.
In all of these instances, the ability to differentiate is more important than ever. While I’ve shared three ideas right now, there are more and I’d encourage you to think about where and how you can differentiate. Because how well you do at this could be a clear indication of how well you deliver and grow your business as we recover from the pandemic.