The Brexit vote took a lot of us by surprise; not many people predicted how the dice would roll. What impressed me though was those businesses who monitored the impact the Brexit outcome was having on their customers, and by the end of the first day, already had a plan to implement and mitigate the potential negative impacts.
So, let’s learn from them and see how your business can react to the unexpected:
First, scan your market place
Take the time to analyse what is going on. Think about:
- how does this impact your current customer base?
- how does it impact your prospective clients?
- how are they reacting, right now?
- how will they be reacting in the future?
- what are their primary emotions?
Build up a picture of their thoughts, concerns and issues right now and in the future. Base it on quick research – reading the news, looking at social media, talking to similar businesses to your own, noting trends in your business etc. Do remember to look at emotional concerns too – fear and anger are powerful and need to be taken into account.
As well as thinking about your current customers, look at other segments in your market place – the clients whose needs you could serve but currently don’t. They might be in a different geographic location, have a different budget spend, or a different attitude to purchasing (eg they don’t like risk so always choose big brands). Consider:
- who are the people, who are potential clients, that are less affected by this change?
- who will have to change their buying behaviour now? how?
- where are they?
- what do you need to do to reach them?
- do you now have an opportunity to reach them?
Add this information to your customer profiles and keep adding to it as events unfold.
Next, think about how you can help them
Now that circumstances have changed, what opportunities do you have to help customers and potential customers?
In the first instance, can you:
- give an honest message of reassurance e.g. “Times are uncertain, however, we’re still here…”
- provide a useful insight into the situation?
- be a source of information?
A good example is from one of my clients, Emma Falkner.
She’s a Leadership Coach, working with leaders in the Government and Not for Profit sectors. In the turmoil that followed, she wrote a LinkedIn post called, “Three things our leaders need to do now to reunite the nation“. Her calm, practical approach provided an insight that was shared across different social media. She wrote from a position of knowledge and understanding of the sector, so her post was relevant, timely and interesting.
Long term, how else can you help your customers?
- are your existing products and services still relevant to them?
- are some now more relevant that others?
- can you adapt your promotional marketing to meet that change in emphasis?
- what can you do to help your existing customers still spend with you? e.g. staged payment plans, useful advice on currency fluctuations
- if you can no longer meet their needs, can you be helpful and point them to someone who can? This takes moral courage and the confidence to know that by being helpful, you might lose the sale now, but gain more in the long term.
Implement your plan
Once you have a good idea about how to find new opportunities and protect yourselves from threats, it’s time to get to work.
Start by identifying the “quick and easy” things to do. This might be updating your website, promoting a special offer, sending out an email campaign.
Then pause. Reassess the market place again and if what you predicted is happening, start to implement the more costly and time-consuming elements of your plan. Do it in steps so you can pause at each one, turn around, and see what’s happening. In times of change, change is the only certainty, so you need to keep looking.
That client I mentioned? Emma Falkner, the leadership consultant? She works with a lot of female leaders and helps them develop a collaborative leadership style (as opposed to the masculine “command and control” style) and she has contacts in her regional press. Guess what she is going to propose she writes as an article for them about…
Finally, look at it as an opportunity
This could be the time to break into that new market-place you’ve always been tempted by. Or to review your products. Or contact the press and say, “I’m an expert on this subject…do you want me to write an article or provide some comments for you?”
Like a health-scare, a business-scare can be turned to good use if you assess what it means and then take the opportunity to adapt and improve.
Victoria and Geoff run a boutique hotel, The Free Range Chalet, in the French Pyrenees mountains, aimed at the British market. As Brexit events unfolded and the £ crashed, they knew they had to act. They’d already discussed reaching a wider European audience but the event spurred them on to book the French and German translators to put their marketing material into other languages.
They saw how people were concerned about the cost of their European holiday rising but did not yet want to stop going on holiday. So they looked up the chain at people who had previously been less budget conscious – typically, these people who wanted a European Mountain holiday choose the Alps. It’s more expensive than the Pyrenees but is a known quantity, so people paid the extra price. This provides an opportunity – there’s a whole segment of people who want The Free Range Chalet’s type of holiday, previously they wouldn’t have considered that option but now they might. Victoria and Geoff are now creating a plan for how to reach these people.
Finally, they got in touch with customers who were already booked with them and due to pay final settlements. Geoff told customers that they could delay payment for a week, as everyone waited to see what the currency situation was. This showed a real empathy and understanding of what must be going through their customers minds and being genuinely helpful and considerate.
The Free Range Chalet’s British market place has been turned on its head by circumstances outside of their control. However, they are researching, adapting and acting, so they can ensure their business will survive and thrive.
By Kara Stanford, Strategic Marketing Consultant. Contact me to discuss how your business can put in place robust market plans to meet changing circumstances.