HOW THE BUSINESS LANDSCAPE HAS SHIFTED
There are three major shifts which have occurred in business.
Technology + remote working
First, lockdown led to a surge in virtual service delivery as many businesses moved their services online. Expect this to continue, as companies benefit from investing in low cost technology and automation. And open their client base to new geographical locations.
People are also now much more open to connecting online. With virtual client interaction and relationship building set to become the ‘new normal.’
Second, flexible working has become more acceptable and commonplace. Recent ABS data shows 50% of Australians worked from home over the past 6 months. Employers are also preparing to manage a remote workforce well into the future.
This transition has resulted in reduced travel and less physical office space. The shift from permanent, in-house specialists to outsourcing and contractors is also growing.
Lastly, many companies have cut back on discretionary spending. Particularly when it comes to non-essential or non-strategic projects. For coaches, consultants and professional advisors, it’s critical to communicate your value and show your services are needed.
FACTORS IMPACTING SUCCESS
Flexibility and adaptability are key to your success in the changing business environment. Consider diversifying your client base or being flexible with the work you take on. Switching to online delivery is another option, with remote work less affected.
Building a client pipeline and converting sales is more important than ever. The ability to show your value and prove past results is also vital to your success. Focus on being of service to your clients — rather than giving advice.
HOW TO BEST POSITION YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY
If these are the current and future impacts of the changing business environment, how can you capitalise on the market opportunities? And where do you need to pivot to best position yourself professionally?
To approach this very practically, I’m going to break down and explore three key areas — your clients, services and marketing activities.
#1 — THINK ABOUT YOUR TARGET CLIENTS
To start, consider your target clients. Who are your current customers? Have you been relying too heavily on one client or industry?
Overnight, COVID had a significant impact on the most unexpected industries. Do you need to pivot in response to the market? Or broaden your client base to protect yourself in future?
Regardless of who your clients are, always start with the problems they’re experiencing. Understand the solutions you provide and how you help them. And most importantly, get clear on the benefits or results you and your services provide.
Meet your clients where they are. If you’re facing uncertainty about the future, chances are your clients are too. So how can you create solutions to support them NOW?
Think about their immediate problems and challenges. Focus on helping them find solutions, rather than sales and pitching for new business. Concentrate on being of service, building relationships and adding value to your clients — now, and always.
#2 — SCRUTINISE YOUR SERVICES
Next, look at your services. Both the type of services you offer and your methods of delivery.
Type of services
First, do you need to adapt your current service offerings to meet your clients where they are now?
If your client base has been financially impacted, they won’t be thinking long-term. So be flexible, get creative and think about their short-term needs. Consider offering services over a shorter timeframe or at a lower price point to support them with their immediate challenges.
Here are some examples.
In my business, I have a 6 month coaching program. But at the start of COVID, I realised people weren’t looking that far ahead. So for a few months, I introduced shorter programs to support my clients with their immediate needs.
When I worked in recruitment during the GFC, many companies were uncertain about the economic impact on their long-term staffing needs. In the recruitment industry, it’s commonplace to calculate fees as a percentage of the starting salary. Instead, I offered fixed fees, which were prorated for shorter term contracts.
The key point here is in both examples, I didn’t cut my rates. I offered shorter term options and worked out the equivalent fee over a smaller period.
Other examples from my clients and community include transitioning from an hourly or day rate to a fixed rate per project or package. This way, you’re selling the value of your services, not your time. And are focusing on the outcomes and results you provide for your clients, not justifying your time.
Longer-term payment plans, offering more bonuses or inclusions are other strategies. Again, the focus is on adding value and helping your clients manage costs — without reducing your prices.
Methods of delivery
Second, reflect on how you work and deliver your services. What opportunities exist to take your services online? And how could this be more affordable or convenient for your clients?
Consider going global! Why limit yourself to servicing local clients in person? Virtual delivery allows you to target clients nationally, regionally — or even globally.
#3 — MONITOR YOUR MARKETING
Finally, evaluate your business development and marketing activities. The most important point to remember here is marketing is a long-term game. Do it consistently and you will see the results over time.
There’s a saying: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If you haven’t been consistent with your marketing, commit to starting now!
Assess what activities are working or not working. What do you need to do more of or less of? What do you need to start doing?
Create consistent content
This should be part of your long-term marketing strategy. Much of the way we interact and build relationships with clients has moved online. So you need to be visible there!
Developing 1:1 relationships remains important. But greater visibility will lead to more offline relationships and sales conversations.
Creating consistent content allows you to demonstrate your expertise on a larger scale. And to build the know, like and trust factor with your audience.
Find a platform and medium that works for you. Whether it’s a regular email newsletter, blog, podcast, YouTube channel or creating posts on LinkedIn. And if in doubt, go where your clients are.
Projects you never have time for
Finally, if workflow has slowed down or you have a bit more time, tackle those projects you never have time for. Reposition your marketing, brand or offers. Update your website.
Consider creating long-term assets and passive income streams you can scale or deliver virtually. How can you package up your expertise? Think online workshops, digital programs to support your 1:1 services or teaching newer professionals in your industry.
These tips have helped my clients and I adapt to the changing business environment. And position ourselves for success in the ‘new normal’. I hope they support you too!