Updated: May 4
On January 17th, 1920 (rather coincidentally almost exactly 100 years ago) the United States enforced a national prohibition. This meant that for 13 years, big brand brewing companies like Miller and Coors were not allowed to sell any of the products that made them money. Overnight, these companies became brewers who couldn't brew beer. By rights, these companies should have dissolved there and then - and many of them did. Yet, we still see these brands around today. How is that possible?
They pivoted, fast!
They re-evaluated the new marketplace in which they suddenly found themselves and they decided that they were going to find new ways to meet the needs of their customers. They dumped their beer in rivers and Millers started non-alcoholic beer and Coors began churning out teacups and dinner plates. How’s that for a quick change of direction!
Right now, as we look as global pandemic squarely in the eyes, ask yourself, is it really the pandemic that has caused you to see a downturn in your business, or is it actually the fact that you haven't adapted quickly enough to the evolving world around you? Now don’t get me wrong, COVID is having a very real impact on manufacturing businesses all around the world. But, I would encourage you to pose that question to yourself first, before being so quick to assume that COVID is the only reason you aren't attracting as much business as you would like. After all, there are people who find ways to win in every economic environment.
Often we get so caught up in what we have to do day to day in our business, that we forget to take a step back and truly evaluate what’s really going on around us. But right now, that’s exactly what you should be doing. The world is changing at a very rapid pace, and therefore so is your marketplace and so are the needs of your customers.
Here are a couple of things you can do right now to help you re-evaluate your marketplace.
Take another look at your customer
When was the last time you asked your customers what they wanted? Do they still want the same things that they did last year? Chances are, probably not. You must regularly perform user research to stay on top of the needs, motivations and behaviors of your audience. Two of the easiest ways to do this are through user surveys and observation.
Start by creating a short survey to send to your current customers and ask them directly what they want and need. It’s all about communication and conversation. If you don’t ask them what they want, how will you ever know?
Then, start being nosy! There is nothing wrong with snooping a little on your ideal customers in LinkedIn & Facebook groups. They are public, afterall. Observe what they are talking about. Are their problems still the same as you thought they were, or are other things top of their mind now?
Take another look at your products
Once you have re-understood the needs of your customers, take a look at your current product offerings and ask yourself, do these products still meet the needs of your customers? If not, be honest with yourself and make some changes to them. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we can invest so much time in creating our product offerings that we become destructively wedded to them.
But, whenever you feel strongly attached to your idea, remember the tales of Millers and Coors. The companies who pivoted their offerings and who are still going strong 100 years after they should have gone out of business...what would they have done in your situation?
Charlotte Fuller is an award-winning digital transformation consultant. She helps manufacturing SMEs get to the heart of what their customers want, so they can create competitive, customer-led digital strategies to grow their business. Take her FREE QUIZ to find out what digital technology is right for your manufacturing SME here.