How to Compete in a COVID-19 Economy
Competition is rapidly changing, and our ability to maintain a competitive advantage is constantly tested. This is true regardless of our environment, but it has been tested like never before in recent months. While the wants and needs of customers have altered, and the products offerings have changed, and the delivery mechanisms have been interrupted - the fundamentals of the competition remain true. We compete in order to succeed.
Filter the Noise
There has been an influx of “new” information coming from varying perspectives about how to compete despite this changing situation. No question, most of us have had to adapt our process and have probably had to continue to re-evaluate our market. But are the components of competition in this market really that revolutionary and is this new information all that valuable?
One thing we can agree on is that there is a lot of noise out there. We especially reside in a market with a lot of opinions about how to address the challenges we are facing. This causes undue reactiveness and outright strategic changes when perhaps proactively monitoring and responding to the situation is best. The difficulty in reacting to such a volatile market is that it causes undue stress on our business practices. The working environment is stressful enough. We also don’t know what the future holds and anyone that says they have it worked out is misleading.
Your clients are also listening to the noise. The fundamental rule of competitive advantage is familiarity. This is especially true as you, and your clients, continue to navigate an unfamiliar situation. Your ability to maintain some resemblance of consistency showcases your natural competitive edge and sales ability.
There is no doubt that a lot of good information will come out of this challenging situation. Businesses will learn a great deal about preparedness for unforeseen events like they would have never been able to before. And many will learn that reactiveness, especially during an unforeseen event, is harmful to their long-term operations. Filter the noise according to your standards and not those suggested for you. Your clients will respond to your ability to be a constant in their world.
Less is More
If you look at businesses that have been able to keep their clients and even grow, a key factor remains constant: less is more. For example, we have not seen a manufacturing response to a critical need at this level since WWII. But this doesn’t mean that these businesses totally redeveloped their process. They simply adjusted their product offerings but were able to maintain competition through the process they have worked years or decades to achieve. They didn’t lose sight of what gave them a competitive advantage previously but amended that process to aid in the cause. This means that when they slow their pandemic response manufacturing, they will be able to more quickly and seamlessly return to their usual product line.
AIM executives undertook internal, random polling of key business leaders about what they wish they had done differently as this crisis evolved and what they would like to improve on right now. One area continues to emerge: reach out to clients more proactively.
During the early days of this event, distributors were all scrambling to assess the situation and ensure their businesses, families, and livelihoods were protected. Because of this, a sense of isolation was felt by many throughout a multitude of market sectors. But the ones who maintained their market share early were the ones who adopted a “we are here when you need us” strategy. That is often a difficult tactic as it has no guarantee attached. But the value, especially now, is immeasurable. The good news is that it is never too late to check-in. Your clients need an outlet just as much as you do. Our industry is so much more than tangible products. Now is the time to demonstrate that and take pride in it.