Last Sunday marked the final outdoor swim team practice of the season for me. It felt bittersweet, for sure. This was one of the most memorable summers for me in many ways.
One reason was that I enjoyed multiple lake swims in Vermont and outdoor practices. But with the Fall Equinox arriving today, the chill in the air swiftly ushers me to the indoor pool.
Long, intense workouts are not foreign to me. I’ve been swimming since I learned to walk. Today, as a more seasoned competitive open water swimmer, I value the effects of active recovery after intense training or competitive spurts. This is when athletes practice low-intensity exercise immediately following a strenuous workout period.
Much like recovering from an intense workout, an active recovery mindset and habits are essential to help us rapidly shift from survival to revival mode—especially during recessions. (I recently talked about this in my weekly LinkedIn Life Stream – you can watch the replay here).
While our counterparts and competitors may be burning the midnight oil, relying on old growth strategies, or choosing to go into “turtle mode,” we can choose a different path. We can use this moment to balance short term cash management with longer term pursuit of opportunity.
While the pandemic cannot be compared to any other downturn in our lifetimes, one thing remains steady: the best way out of the slump is to slow down, review your portfolio of offerings, and create small experiments to get closer to your customers and other stakeholders.
Here are three methods:
Build an advisory board. Invite 10-15 customers and potential customers to join this virtual board. Be sure you make this worth their time. Design a clear purpose for the group. This is NOT intended to be a product-palooza for your company, nor should it be a forum to bow to the demands of your biggest customers.
Create time on the agenda for them to share their industry challenges. Over time, you become the architect of a professional peer community. Ultimately, you will discover fresh ideas on future products, process improvements, and potential partnerships. Need more details on how to launch a CAB? I dedicated a chapter to this topic in my latest book.
Conduct proprietary research. This process offers myriad benefits during the pandemic.
For example, it can accelerate your learning of a given market or audience. It helps you uncover new product and service ideas.
Proprietary research follows the scientific method. It helps you observe, form a theory (or hypothesis) and then conduct small, lower-cost experiments to test the results. I have conducted several studies over the past 17 years to improve my client’s condition. Most paid off. One did not.
In 2006, I invested five figures in a partnership with a technology association to generate demand for my consulting services. I conducted phone surveys as part of a proprietary marketing study.
I mistakenly forgot to ask the interviewees whether they were willing to fix their business problems and whether they would be willing to invest budget to fix them now. My research never generated any consulting business. I abandoned that market segment and never renewed my association dues.
Look for your future customers. What is a future customer need that your competition is ignoring?
In our current economy, we are witnessing a return to the simpler needs of life: family time, game nights, home cooking, touchless retail transactions, low-cost lifestyles, domestic road versus global air travel, and “stay at home” retreats. How might you fill these future customer needs?
Relying on your existing customers will only take you so far. Stretch your thinking and look in places your competitors may be ignoring. We need to avoid the classic innovator’s dilemma. If you are relying on easy profits from existing customers, you will miss noticing when competitors are edging into your territory.
Waves of opportunity lie before us. You just need to train your mind to anticipate them and become a business bodysurfer.