3 Lessons On Post-Pandemic Business From My Trip To Roanoke!

Hey-

A little later than normal today, but the boy had a travel soccer match in Roanoke that included him getting called up to the U12 team for his scoring abilities and a 4-hour rain delay. 

But we stayed overnight and the boy enjoyed himself for the most part so we will call that a win after him being home for a year and only leaving to go to soccer matches. 

How do I turn all of this into something useful this morning? 

It is simple. I’ve been watching what people are doing as more and more people get vaccinated and thinking through what the re-opening of the world will mean for folks. Here are three ideas:

People and their businesses are going to be more flexible: 

I had a conversation with the CEO of a major ticket technology company and the term that stuck out from our conversation was “magic bullet”. As in the folks in the world of tickets, sports or theatre or concerts, are still holding onto a magic bullet that will put the pieces of the world back together again in the exact same place and way they were before the pandemic. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the CEO is wrong. 

In fact, too much of what I’ve seen and heard has put me in the mindset that the “magic bullet” theory is likely to create a second hit to the business of tickets and technology. 

But when I look at other businesses, I see a lot more flexibility and agility that has entered their core DNA. 

One thing I enjoyed was I recently went to a pizza place on the DC waterfront in the Navy Yard. While waiting for the to-go pizza, I was able to order a beer and sit out on the boardwalk, looking at the river, having a beer. 

Why is that unique?

Because before the pandemic, that wasn’t possible. You could have a drink inside. You could buy cans or growlers, but an individual drink to sit on the water and enjoy…crazy. 

I’ve also seen the way that businesses have adjusted the way that they do business. Like I used to do a lot of workshops and talks in-person. I’ve adjusted even one of the most intense segmentation practices I do to a virtual world. 

Flexibility is going to be key. 

If you are flexible, you’ll find a way to change. If you are not, well good luck…I guess. 

I think Market Orientation might be back in vogue! 

If I haven’t mentioned the concept before, it is just a fancy B-School marketing term that means getting the voice of the customer into the business. 

It is the most foundational marketing concept, but in looking at the world…all of a sudden, people are seeing people as people, not just numbers on a spreadsheet. 

Let’s see if it lasts, but I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt. 

Even if a lot of the folks pushing the “listen to the customers”, “listen to the fans”, “people matter” conversation sound like the SNL skit of Mark Zuckerberg.

There are a lot of examples of how you can better understand your market and the people you serve so that you can give them a better experience, more value, and deliver on the things that they want or need. 

One thing I’ve mentioned here before is the NPS survey that I run 2-3 times a year. The one I at the end of the year gave me a 40. Solid, I’m working to improve the newsletter to get above 50. 

Why?

Because from the quantitative feedback of the score, I can get a good trend on how well I’m doing giving you valuable information each week especially combining it with my open rate. 

Second, the qualitative feedback from the additional questions can tell me where I can improve. 

If you are interested in doing a survey or learning how to do a survey for yourself, send me a reply. I’ve partnered with my friends at Eventellect to put together a worksheet that explains NPS and helps you set one up of your own. 

Also, they scored a 77 on their last survey and I’m totally jealous! 

The key coming out of the pandemic is going to be listening to your customers, understanding their needs and desires, and finding solutions for your customers. 

It is likely that they are going to be changed from the situation we’ve experienced and their behaviors will be different. 

You better do some strategy work, now: 

I read a pretty useless article on Medium that proclaimed to be an interview with Danny Meyer of Shake Shack fame but was really some sort of listicle of stupid ideas. 

One metaphor that stuck with me though was the way that Danny described the last year for businesses in the restaurant industry as being able to put the boat in drydock and rebuild it to make it seaworthy again. 

From the quote, the implication is that even though a lot of businesses were floating along and still getting to their destination, they were taking on water, and that was likely to be fatal in the end. 

If you go back to the top, the “magic bullet”. 

The “magic bullet” and the boat taking on water is a mixed metaphor but they both highlight the same thing, businesses need to rethink their businesses and their strategies. 

If you haven’t used this time to rethink how you do things, made sure you were focused on the right ideas, you’ll likely struggle when the pandemic moves away and you’ll end up prolonging the failure of a business or you’ll have missed a chance to re-position yourself. 

I mentioned Eventellect above with their emphasis on their NPS results. 

Again, 77 is amazing. 

But the thing that stands out more than the score is the focus on value. About two years ago, I had a chance to talk with their CEO, Patrick Ryan, on The Business of Funpodcast and the word that has stuck with me for so long is “value.” 

And, as y’all know if you’ve been following along, what you say and what you do are two different things. 

But during the pandemic, what Patrick and his team have done is put the idea of value to work for their customers by offering new insights, new learnings, new ways to help their partners put their businesses back together. 

Was this the plan at the start of 2020? 

No. 

Was their ability to add value a reflection of their focus on strategy? 

Yes. 

From my conversations with Patrick and his team, they are always asking and answering my 3 key strategic questions:

  1. What’s the value we want to create?
  2. Who is our customer? 
  3. How can we reach them with this value? 

In their case, they are partners of their teams and organizations that they are working with. They recognized that the value of being a partner didn’t go away during the pandemic, but how they delivered that value would. 

That means instead of sales data, you might get more insights. 

Instead of current pricing, you might get insights and lessons on how to price better after the pandemic. 

Most important, instead of feeling like you were flying through this pandemic alone, you knew you had someone you could talk with and trust. 

If you look at what I’ve managed to do during the pandemic, I’ve, obviously, changed things. 

Offering ideas in different forms like using the podcast feed for mini-lessons on marketing or strategy concepts. 

Using more of my personal experiences and anecdotes to show you how to tackle things, especially where I’ve had to overcome some challenges. 

Using a combination of free and fee programs to help people reach their goals and set themselves up for future success. 

It is all about having a strategy that answers two questions:

  • Where will we compete?
  • How will we win?

And, the important lesson that you can gain from looking at me and Eventellect is that you put strategy before tactics, which is often tough since it is easier to just do things and the feeling of motion can make us feel productive, even if we are acting in a counterproductive manner. 

While we are still unwinding and working to put the pandemic behind us, the best step you can take is to make sure you’ve taken the step back first. 

So, to recap:

  1. Take a step back and look around. Strategy before tactics. Focus on value.
  2. The customer is the most important person. Find or create things for your customers, don’t just try and wedge them into whatever you are working on. Let them lead you. Don’t bring me the Steve Jobs defense either.
  1. Think flexibility first. We don’t really know what the world will look like and act like when things are fully re-opened and to quote another ticket company CEO I chatted with, “re-opening isn’t recovery.” 

I’m off to take a nap. 

Being soccer dad has now started to come with 4 hour drives soccer matches…and I’m not sure how I feel about that. 

Dave 

P.S. Remember, drop me a note if you want a copy of the NPS worksheet. And, if you have questions about the process, let me know as well. 

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