A few days ago I was talking with Mike, Epoch’s founder, about the impact of Covid-19 on business. We both agreed the key to any business’ survival is to be seizing all the ‘quick wins’ it can.
We knew this could be a helpful topic for the Epoch article – but Mike wanted to do things a little differently this time.
You see for 2 years my agency, Pillar + Post has written a lot of Epoch’s content. Usually our pieces are fairly analytical. This time, Mike asked me to simply talk to you as a fellow business owner, sharing my own thoughts and experiences of seizing the ‘quick wins’ in my business.
So in this two part series, I’ll share what I think are the 5 most important principles helping my agency – and our clients – to get those ‘quick wins’ and perform as well as we can, under profoundly challenging conditions.
It’s a time of deep uncertainty for Melbourne’s business owners. Sadly, Victoria is lagging other states on economic reopening. The Andrews government kept significant Covid-19 restrictions in place, even as other states, like NSW, began easing restrictions.
Mr Andrews’ decision has drawn criticism from Victoria’s business community, as many owners struggle to stay afloat.
Anecdotal evidence suggests most Melbourne businesses have fallen into one of three categories. Roughly a third of businesses have shut their doors, with little chance of reopening. About another third of businesses are stagnating, not sure what to do next. Many of these are losing momentum – and dropping market share – fast.
Then there’s the third group. Businesses who are adapting, pivoting, adjusting their message and their methods – sometimes radically – and doing whatever they can to keep cash flowing in.
Seizing the ‘quick wins’ can play a fundamental role in empowering your business to adapt to a chaotic environment – so you can survive – and even thrive – on the other side of the turmoil.
Principle 1: Match Your Message to a New Market Mindset
Beijing and Hong Kong restaurateur, Michelle Garnaut, has a finger on the pulse of society’s movers and shakers. Featured in this weekend’s Australian Financial Review Magazine, she says ‘People don’t feel rich. Even rich people are complaining they don’t feel rich.’
Ms Garnaut’s observation illustrates how all businesses could change their message now to meet their market’s new mindset.
There’s a fairly well-worn principle of influence, that of ‘pacing and leading’. It’s the idea that when communicating, your first objective is to ‘pace’ or match the psychology and emotional state of your audience. This lets you build strong rapport so your audience is more inclined to follow your lead.
As the world struggles with a radically new normal, the reality is if you’re still using the marketing messages you were using in January 2020 – pre-lockdown – then your communications will likely fail to resonate with an emotionally transformed market.
If you’re not ‘pacing’ the psychological shift in your market, then you may find it hard to ‘lead’ them down your sales funnel.
So how should you change your message?
In his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, famed Psychologist Abraham Maslow gives a clear and simple framework for what he regards as the fundamental factors of human motivation. In order of importance these are:
- Love and belonging
- Self actualisation
Maslow’s premise is that only after the first need is met will we be motivated to chase the second need, and so on, up the hierarchy.
Pre-Covid-19 most of your market probably had the first three needs well met. Business was good, the environment stable and plenty of social activity and connection going on.
In that world your marketing could focus on Maslow’s higher needs of esteem and actualisation in your messaging to prospects. You could talk to loftier ambitions like profit, success, growth.
Suddenly large swathes of society have lost most of their social connections. Business and personal environments are in chaos. No one knows what the next week could bring. Half of Australia’s work-force is on some form of government support, which could expire in September. Then what?
People’s needs and emotional state have transformed. Businesses need to pivot to meet the market in its new emotional state.
Some businesses have already pivoted to deliver something entirely new which is in greater demand. Distilleries shifted to manufacturing hand sanitiser. Some pubs became grocery stores, achieving the status of ‘essential service’.
But for the quick win, all you really need to pivot is your messaging.
Consider another tactic for influence, the reframe. When we change the context or frame of reference around what our business delivers we can change its meaning – and make the same product or service more emotionally relevant to our market.
In terms of your own sales and communications, consider how you can simply ‘re-frame’ the benefits and solutions offered by your product or service to better support – and motivate – people in their new psychological state.
To borrow from Maslow, instead of speaking about how your offering can help customers achieve esteem and self-actualisation, you might instead show how it can help them achieve survival, belonging and connection.
Principle 2: Take Control
In a 2004 letter to investors, Warren Buffet compared an unpredictable market to swimming in the sea, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”.
Post-Covid we’ve already seen a range of high profile ‘skinny-dippers’. Bigger cases like Virgin Australia have taken centre stage for weeks, but countless smaller businesses have just quietly gone under.
In March of this year the FInancial Review mused ‘Who’s been swimming naked? Turns out – everyone.’
Thankfully, government programs like Jobkeeper have averted the collapse of Australia’s economy. Still, many businesses have had a rude awakening, realising how much they’d relied on an ever-rising tide to lift their boats.
Some companies, whose prime source of business was referrals and networking, have seen prospects and sales evaporate overnight – others have simply taken a strong hit to their bottom line.
As markets struggle under conditions like social distancing and poor consumer sentiment, it becomes even more important to invest the time and energy in taking a proactive approach to attracting new prospects.
In other words, just about every Melbourne business needs to hustle like it’s back in start-up mode.
Sphere of concern vs sphere of influence
One of my favourite principles for managing a business comes from Steven R Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It’s the idea of ensuring that our sphere of concern is aligned with our sphere of influence. It simply means stop wasting your precious time, capital, even attention, on things that are not within your control.
The more we align our sphere of concern within our sphere of influence, the more we can conserve precious mental and emotional energy for those things we can actually change.
For many Melbourne SMEs, that means adjusting sales funnels so that they’re proactively bringing new prospects into your reach, rather than passively waiting for them to show up, as they may have done in a stronger economy.
You might ask yourself what’s the minimum viable product (MVP) or action you can do fast to make sure you’re getting found by more of the right people. People who are actually interested in and even in need of what you do. A few helpful options might include:
1/ Google My Business (GMB): If you operate a local business, take a few hours to set up your GMB listing. Hubspot offers a quick and easy guide to do this. Taking some time one weekend to set this up will help ensure you’re being found in local searches online, (eg: ‘accountant near me’). If you’re wondering whether it’s time well spent, know that one out of every two local searches leads to a business visit that same day. Quick win.
2/ You’ll find cost effective, targeted and measurable marketing options on Facebook advertising (B2C/B2B) or Linked In advertising (B2B). Anecdotal evidence shows that these can cost about a third of the pre-Covid prices. But with so many of us still in semi-lock down, we’re spending more time online. So the social ads viewing numbers are through the roof. You can get up to speed on that via the above links for a solid quick win.
3/ A good way you can start to take control of your marketing is by building up your mailing list of qualified leads. Some of your best ROI on your marketing activity can come from a simple lead magnet (check out OptinMonster’s lead magnet guide for inspiration). Your qualified prospects will often give you their email address to download a relevant guide or checklist. Then you can stay in touch and keep adding value at scale until prospects enter their ‘buying window’ and have you front of mind.
It may take time to build your list, but each new qualified lead is another quick win. Your list becomes an asset that never leaves you. When times are tough it pays to have a database of people who know you, trust your advice and are receptive to your marketing messages.
Stay tuned for part two of this series. We’ll cover three more principles that can help you seize the quick wins and survive the market turmoil: 1) Focusing on your ‘One Thing’, 2) Selling the Smart Way and 3) Harnessing the Power of Automation.
Need detailed guidance to seize the ‘quick wins’ in your business? Pillar + Post is a digital marketing agency serving financial services and related clients. Right now, we’re offering a limited number of free ‘quick wins’ blueprints, tailored to the unique needs of your business. You’ll come away with a personalised plan that you can implement by yourself or with our help, if you prefer. Apply for your free ‘quick wins’ blueprint – just schedule a quick call today and we’ll get started.
The information in this blog is provided for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal, tax for financial advice or opinion. We recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances.