While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world, it has also presented the opportunity for innovation and new revenue streams. Many of our normal ways of doing business are gone — some of them will come back and others won’t.
All of this has had me thinking about whether or not you’ve adapted your business to this new normal?
Although some doors are closed, closed doors can actually present opportunities for you to think creatively about your business because innovation thrives within constraints.
Constraints force you to find solutions you may not have previously considered. They invite you to try to do things in a different way from the way they’ve always been done, and they present you with the need to listen to what the people you want to serve truly need at that moment.
In the Harvard Business Review article “Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation”, the authors reviewed 145 empirical studies and discovered that, “ when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas.
Constraints, in contrast, provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes.”
When it comes to your business, what new constraints are you being presented with? How are you adapting to those constraints?
This article will help you consider some of the constraints your business might be facing, especially in the face of pandemic-induced lockdowns, reduced foot traffic, hesitance around in-person interactions and doubt about doing business.
Then, we will prompt you to consider ways you can create opportunities for your business.
Is this a cafe or a grocery business?
There is a cafe located near my husband Peter’s job, and over the years he’s come to know the owners. During the 2020 lockdown in Sydney the business saw a decline in foot traffic leaving them with a huge oversupply of ingredients to make the food on their menu.
At the same time, there was a shortage of food in local grocery stores because of delays in the supply chain. Families were searching for basic items like loaves of bread, meat and cheese.
One day, Peter saw the owner and asked how things were going. After a brief chat he learned that the business was struggling, not only with a lack of customers but also with a glut of ingredients.
Peter wasn’t offering business advice when he told the owner families were struggling to find basic items like bread, meat and other simple grocery items, he was just sharing his experience as a consumer. But then the light bulb went off.
Peter suggested to the cafe owner that the cafe start selling the ingredients they had access to through their wholesaler to people in the area. Within a week, the business had a table set-up outside of the restaurant offering all of the hard-to-find items, like bread, cheese and meat as well as packaged meals from their menu – some of them in family-sized portions.
Are you listening?
One of the keys to adapting in an ever-changing environment is to constantly listen to the people you want to serve. As the environment changes, their needs will change as well. And as their needs change, what they’re willing to buy will change as well.
Even if you’ve already done an ideal customer profile, it’s useful to review it and see if anything has changed since you first created it. You can get an idea of how to understand your ideal customer in our article, “How to get to know and understand your ideal customer.”
The foundation of understanding your customers is listening and there are many practical ways you can listen.
- Interviewing your potential (or current) customers
- Visiting forums where your potential customers hang out
- Checking out the comments sections on posts or articles where your potential customers might hang out
- Observing trends
- Reading news your customers are likely reading
- Finding where your customers hang out online and spending time there
Have you spotted new needs?
As you’re listening to the concerns, questions and comments of your current and potential customers, common problems or issues will emerge. You’ll begin to hear how the needs are shifting for them as their environment is shifting. As you do, start noting the needs. Have they changed? Have any of them stayed the same?
Start to analyze the changes. What’s driving the change? Will this be a short-term change or a long-term change? How will you adapt to these changes?
Have you adapted?
Observing the changing needs of your customers doesn’t just signal that you need to change what you offer, it can also signal to you if you want to stay in the business you’re in. What you end up doing may not be what you signed up to do. Are you game for that? If not, how can you shift your business to both meet customers’ needs while also doing what you feel you’re meant to be doing?
Have you re-thought what you might offer?
After you’ve listened and assessed needs and even assessed your business, next it’s time for you to think about what you’re offering. Think about your new environment and the constraints. Has your business had to shift online? Are you stuck in a locked down area? Are people hesitant to come to your business? Do you have a long-term contract but now lack the associated revenue?
Ask yourself, how you can adapt to this new situation. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
How to adapt to your new situation
There are a few ways you might consider adapting to your new situation. The simplest are to:
Change the way you get business.
This can involve shifting the way you advertise or developing a content marketing strategy.
Adapt your product.
This can involve shifting the way you talk to your clients or deliver your product experience. If you’ve traditionally only offered in-person experiences, have you considered how you can shift your offering online or have a multi-pronged approach?
Change your product
In some cases, changing your product will be the best way to adapt to a changing environment.
Do you need help adapting your business?
Adapting your business to a changing environment can require a fresh set of eyes to see your situation for the first time. You can bring that fresh perspective to your business by bringing a new way of thinking, and you can also bring someone along to help provide an unbiased observation and assessment.
Would you like some help thinking through how you can adapt your business in these ever-changing times? I invite you to sign-up for a consulting session where we can discuss your current situation and think of ways you can adapt to your environment and find ways to thrive.