Sorry my voice is shot for various reasons and this is the worst voice recording I’ve ever done. Listen if you really must but best to just read it yourself this week. Spotify here.
Opportunity Is On
Whatever happened to the old you? The energetic, optimistic character with big dreams and exciting plans? If that’s still you, give yourself a gold star.
Because so many people are in power-save mode now.
A lot of business folk I’ve spoken to lately are just not feeling it. They’re going through the routines. Even if they’re in industries that are doing ok.
Fair enough, because they’ve been through a lot over the last year. How much pain, change and boredom can you put up with? So it’s easy to just ‘wait and see’.
Let’s see what the government does.
Let’s see what changes are temporary versus which will be permanent.
Let’s see what our competitors are doing.
Then it’ll be safe to act.
Wait if you want. But be prepared to hit 2022 and realise you missed some of the biggest opportunities of your business life.
Because the whole economy is in Ctrl-Alt-Delete mode.
And that’s serving up an all-you-can eat buffet of customer change and different buying habits. Those habits have been set in cement for so long, and in the good times they’re hard to change.
Now, it’s on.
Never Waste A Good Crisis
My business partners and I owe everything to bad times.
We started in late 2006. So many customers told us:
‘Our existing supplier sucks. They’re expensive and slow to respond. IF ONLY someone would offer better service and reasonable prices, we’d so use them instead!’
On that exciting prospect, we opened in four cities over that first year. We pitched our shiny new equipment and skilled technicians to those clients. Here’s that thing you asked for!
100% of those clients said:
‘Thank you for all the effort you put into your proposal, but on this occasion, we’ve decided: better the devil you know.’
Unloved and unwanted, we set fire to bales of cash for a year. Then in 2008, the US housing bubble popped and the world was plunged into financial crisis. Corporate budgets got slashed. And the customer enquiries started, looking for that better deal. We were away, and it’s all worked nicely since then. Thanks for the recession, dodgy finance derivatives cowboys!
That wave of customer change was purely driven by hard times and low budgets. There weren’t the wild daily behaviour changes we’ve seen in the last year.
For customers coming out of a year-long change boot-camp, decisions that would have seemed risky in 2019 aren’t that big a deal.
I’ve just changed airlines after more than a decade of Platinum-hood with an airline I loved a lot. Now they have private equity owners. I’ve worked under private equity overlords. It was the inspiration for the original blog title, Kill All MBAs. The new owners will say all the right words about keeping that airline’s spirit alive. But their actions will turn it into a Two Dollar Shop with wings.
All it took was a modest status-match offer and I was out of there. Who knows if it’s permanent but I’m up to test it out.
How To Use Customer Change To Your Advantage
Now is the time to talk to potential customers who wouldn’t take your call before. And to get really close to your existing customers, because they might be looking elsewhere right now.
Talk to them and find out what’s changed in their world. What their new objectives are. What challenges they face that you can assist with.
Take an open mind and listen. Your old assumptions might not apply any more. Now is not the time for talking over them with your pre-prepped selling points. Shut up and learn.
Even if their business hasn’t been affected or changed at all, in their minds it has.
They want to feel they’re stepping up to the challenges of the new era, because that’s the way the herd is running.
Don’t say ‘nah actually nothing’s changed in your game, let’s just keep going like it’s 2019’.
Bring your noticings back to the office. Get all your staff involved and put together a plan on what your business is going to be in 2021 and beyond.
(You’re thinking: Ian what the fuck are noticings? It’s an even worse version of learnings. I thought I was on top of work buzzwords but I hadn’t encountered noticings until this story. Read through the comments for some horrifying gear, like this Sydney-centric shocker:
Sorry didn’t mean to distract you from what is an important point.
We have lots of ideas and plans to take advantage of customer change that’s probably going to happen when our industry starts functioning again.
Do we know exactly how things will change? No. But we know something will, and you have to be ready.
Getting Out Of Your 2020 Rut
Getting back to not feeling it: most of us are in a bit of a rut. For those who can remote work, it’s a familiar, comfortable cycle. Same surroundings, same conversations, same routines.
You forget how much your batteries get recharged by other humans around you. (Sorry, families don’t count, they’re great but it’s a different energy).
Imagine sending people a Zoom invite saying:
“Let’s just hang out and talk pointless crap for a couple of hours. No objectives or action items at all.”
They would not take that call. It sounds so inefficient.
Yet when you get interesting work people together in person to do exactly that, you come away excited about something that had never entered your head before.
You need reminders that there are bigger possibilities out there. Forcing yourself to re-join the physical world will do that.
I plan to go out for drinks.
Our first 2021 face-to-face industry event is next week, and I’m so excited for that.
Yes, I know some people are introverts, and I’m one of them, but staying comfortable in your cave isn’t going to help your cause. You don’t have to be a pushy, elevator-pitching party animal. Catch up with one or two people at a time if that’s your speed.
Change Your Daily Routine
Another suggestion: examine your daily routine with all its leftover lockdown habits.
Change it in some way.
Start small if you want to.
Just break that endless sameness.
Get out of the house.
We’ve started visiting our interstate offices again in person, and it’s so valuable. Staff want to know what’s going on. We want to know how they’re feeling.
You don’t realise what you were missing until you feel it again.
The random conversation detours. The instinctive feedback you feel without a word spoken. The questions people feel more comfortable asking you in person. The side conversations away from the rest of the group.
These are essential culture building-blocks that will never happen on Zoom.
The opportunity gate is open. Time to get out of your tracksuit pants.
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