Any crisis is significant, but the impact of a global health crisis affects every part of a business’ operations and its employees. Unlike an economic recession or the disruption created by a new technology, COVID-19 brought an immediate event that changed how we think and work at the most fundamental levels. Today tech CEOs are moving into the second phase of their COVID-19 response – they’ve regained their operational footing and are refocusing on new customer realities.
In phase one, companies responded to external events that disrupted customers, operations, strategies and plans. Moving to phase two, it’s now time for businesses to redirect team focus and resources towards new opportunities to facilitate a bounce forward.
Now that the UK is officially in a recession, most customers are motivated to continue reducing discretionary spending to conserve cash for their own post-pandemic rebound. However, in the face of these pressures, tech CEOs need to pivot forward and achieve two goals: Generate new revenue by relaunching products with a new focus and define a new organisation-wide ambition that will guide decisions for future success.
Generating revenue through redefinition and focus
Customers, both current and new, are oxygen during this second phase. Initially, businesses needed to concentrate on meeting their immediate commitments to customers, however, as this phase progresses businesses need to get as close as reasonably possible to their customers to understand what they need next.
By investing in deeper customer engagement through customer advisory boards and direct interaction with customers, you will understand both their voice and the way they see their future needs.
Listening is an ongoing project all great companies do, use it to start simplifying your product portfolio and redefining its value proposition. The clearer the connection to their problems, the more powerful the message will be because customers do not have the time or resources to consider complex ‘solutions’. You need to align to the priorities you identified your customer have in order to provide customers certainty in the effectiveness of your product, support and trust.
By combining these two strategies, you can relaunch a select number of products with simple and specific messages that will allow you to secure new revenues by being consistent with new customer and buyer realities and priorities.
New ambitions today for success tomorrow
Bouncing forward is a balance between making the most of what you have and preparing what you will need in the future. Achieving this balance starts now and the people in your organisation need an important motivator. You must be able to declare your ambition, a set of statements regarding who you plan to be in the relationship to your customers and the market during the recovery.
The ambition creation process should take less than a month and should involve the leaders who will be responsible for revenue and operations in the recovery: heads of sales, chief operating officer, chief marketing officer and heads of customer service.
To develop your organisation’s ambition, assemble a cognitively diverse team that brings a wide variety of experiences, perspectives and thoughts to the table. The team should be made of leaders who are genuinely enthusiastic for the organisation’s mission, purpose, workforce, and customers. By picking the right people for the team you create a buzz around what the company can become, instead of committee that views change as a threat.
Together, discuss and define the company’s ambition based on who it wants to be and its intended market position once the disruptive crisis has ended.
How other tech CEOs have approached new realities
We surveyed members of our Tech CEO Research Circle to find out what the top small and midsize technology and service providers are doing to bounce forward.
By aggregating the data, we found that while a third of providers (32%) have made no changes to their offerings, an almost equal amount has created new products (39%), adjusted pricing to existing products (32%), and added free product trials (29%) to better meet new customer realities.
The majority of tech CEOs adapted their demand generation efforts to put greater focus on existing customers (55%). When it comes to new clients, over half (55%) of tech CEOs report that they are more precisely targeting a specific prospect type.
Looking at the internal changes we found:
- 45% of tech CEOs are adjusting sales models to maintain remote selling as a post-pandemic strategy
- 55% of tech CEOs are implementing remote working as a long-term employee benefit
- 81% are allowing employees to work flexible hours with over half of those planning to keep flexible work as a long-term benefit
As you can see, most tech CEOs have made mid to long-term strategic changes to focus on generating revenue and being true to their new ambition through changes in policies for employees.
Leaders bounce forward
Phase two is the transition from investing in obsolete plans to focusing on the opportunities that will come when demand recovers. This phase can last from a few months to a few quarters, depending on factors outside of the tech CEO’s control, such as supply chain delays, market recovery, and competitor activities. In a disruptive crisis, it is possible for companies to remain in phase two longer than some or even return to a reactionary position should things take a turn for the worse.
Given that uncertainty, the need to act and secure the organisation’s future is stronger than the desire to reduce resources and react to changing markets. The top tech CEOs are now more accepting to new realities early on and understand the importance of capturing new opportunities in the rebound, to accelerate a stronger financial position.
Remember, bouncing forward means using adversity to change for the better. Bouncing back may be easier but it disregards the learnings from a crisis and returns you to the vulnerable position in which you started.
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash
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