Originally Published In Forbes, By Mathew Sweezey
The only thing the pandemic changed is everything. In both the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sectors, the landscape has been upended, and new growth strategies have emerged. Based on what I’ve been seeing, here are three strategies companies are adopting, enabling them to continue to grow amid the new climate.
From A Broad Reach To Narrow And Deep
While the crisis is affecting everyone, not everyone is equally affected. Some industries have seen record profits, while others pray for a return to normal in the coming years. This drastic difference has caused many businesses to shift their growth strategies from a broad-based approach to a hyper narrow and deep focus.
Many companies are first resetting their expectations of growth and scaling back their forecasts to meet the current reality. Next, they are identifying a narrow focus of key industries experiencing growth. These are their new and narrower targets.
In addition to net new growth strategies, companies are still looking to grow by expanding within their current client base. The same approach focuses on those customers within growing industries by adding to these customers with the highest potential lifetime value. This protects their current revenue and allows them to focus on the accounts where they have the highest likelihood of expansion.
To break into new accounts and to sell existing customers, more businesses are having to go upstream. As budgets have become tighter, more executives have been brought into buying cycles, many of whom have not previously engaged. Chief revenue officers (CROs), chief information officers (CIOs) and chief financial officers (CFOs) are a few of the new personas businesses must influence. To do this, I’ve been seeing companies embrace more executive-level thought leadership from workshops, executive briefing centers and exclusive executive communities.
Keeping The Shelves Stocked To Grow Your Brand
As of mid-October, data from McKinsey had found that 37% of consumers had tried a new brand, and 77% of them plan to continue to use the new brand. Convenience, value and availability are among the top reasons for switching to new brands.
As consumers shift to online shopping, keeping the “shelves” stocked now includes the digital ones too. Yes, you must have an e-commerce presence today, but there is also another strategy you can deploy to grow your brand: advertising within walled gardens. For brands that sell through larger marketplaces, marketing within walled gardens is a key strategy for driving bottom-line growth and your brand.
Amazon has long had advertising capabilities within its platform, but now other major retailers, including Walmart and CVS, are creating ad marketplaces for their e-commerce destinations as well. Soon, I believe all major e-commerce platforms will be walled gardens. As we’ve seen, consumers are trying new brands, and shifting advertising dollars to these marketplaces provides a highly targeted and contextual method for reaching shoppers in that key moment. Not only do you gain a sale, if it is a new customer, you also have a high chance of becoming their new preferred vendor.
A Focus On Outcomes
As both businesses and consumers have to tighten their budgets, it seems a new North Star is emerging: outcomes. Talking to an executive the other day, they told me that while happy customers often leave, unhappy ones also stay. It’s the outcomes they receive that differ.
This shift to outcomes for businesses that are selling to consumers means ensuring your customers can receive the value they seek. For products that are commodities, consumers are often focused on the price. According to McKinsey, 25% of consumers have begun buying private-label or in-store products, and 76% of them plan to continue with those brands after the pandemic.
Brands can counter the price war with a purpose-driven approach, where the outcome isn’t the product, but rather the purchase is a proxy for creating a better outcome in society. Research from Salesforce, the company I work for, shows that 61% of consumers have stopped buying from companies with ethics that don’t align with theirs.
For those selling to other businesses, a shift to outcomes is transforming all aspects of selling and service. Based on what I’ve seen, progressive companies have begun selling their services on an outcomes-based model rather than a pure consumption model. This is a major step, but you can begin moving in that direction by first aligning with customer outcomes in your selling process. New roles, such as the “success planner,” can be added to your selling process to ensure pre-sales and post-sales are aligned around the desired outcomes.
“Customer experience” has been a mantra for years, and the customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) have reigned supreme. However, with the shift to outcomes, time to value (TTV) is now often positioned as the new North Star. Business leaders may see TTV as a superior metric because it measures the time for the customer to achieve their desired outcome, and it is not subjective in how it affects the bottom line. Customers might be OK with putting up with less-than-stellar experiences as long as they are able to receive the outcome they desire. The quicker you can help them reach that milestone, the greater lifetime value and brand loyalty you can create.
The new normal has reset consumer expectations and market conditions and opened the doors for new pathways to success. Businesses must first reset expectations. Then, they must narrow their focus to fewer personas and go deeper within them, ensure these personas are available in the key decision-making moments and shift from experiences to outcomes as their new North Star.