By Per Ohstrom, fractional CMO with Chief Outsiders
We know the recession will reduce sales opportunities in many sectors, but there are bright spots. Sales in the grocery supply chain are up, as people have been cooking more at home instead of eating out. At the same time, there are legitimate fears around how the coronavirus spreads, and people must be kept informed about the safety of pallets and reusable containers for supermarkets.
Winning companies need to play to their core strengths, be prepared to pivot to exploit competitor weaknesses, and take advantage of new white spaces as customers go out of business or their needs change. This sounds like a lot, but here is a checklist that helps the navigation. It starts with activities to gain insights, formulate a strategy, and then a sure-fire plan for executing.
For this 3 Step strategy review to have good results, the CEO or leader of the business should work together with all key functions like Sales, Marketing, Operations, R&D, and Finance. Let’s look at the steps one by one.
Rather than just tweaking our current strategy, we need to take a look at the marketplace, and how it is changing. To gather insights we need to:
- talk to customers to get an accurate picture of what they need, how we can help them make money or save on costs. Will there be an increased demand for plastic pallets, if they are perceived as more hygienic? Will heat treatment of wood pallets be a value add for domestic shipments? Will new sanitizers or higher water temperatures be required for reusable containers? What about tracking and tracing of unit loads?
- watch our competitors so as to gain a good idea of what they are up to. Can we expect more plastic pallets in the pools? Will competitors offer more new pallets as opposed to remanufactured ones? Anyone leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities? How about pricing?
- talk to our company employees, who have been in the thick of the crisis dealing with customers, suppliers, and channel partners. They know our ability to respond to changing customer requirements, be it adding face masks to the PPE or customers asking for new sizes of pallets.
- keep a wary eye on the economic drivers for our business and our customers’ businesses. Consumer ability to spend drives our industry demand, hence it is important to keep tabs on unemployment and demographic factors to see where the economy is going. On the input side, it pays to follow the prices of important inputs like lumber, resin, and regrind.
- stay up to speed on government actions, both those that slow us down and those that help us muddle through. This gets complicated since there are several sets of rules to keep track of; local, county, state, and federal. We need to be up to speed on financial support, like PPP or EIDL loans, and deferred payroll tax payments. Also important to track other regulatory bodies like OHSA, and industry groups like NWPCA and RPA.
Putting our market insights to work, we can formulate a new or updated strategy that fits the new reality. We need to:
- revisit markets and market segments we serve, changing priority and rethinking ones that no longer make sense. For example, supermarkets and nurseries are booming while demand for restaurant supplies is down. What does this mean for a pallet supplier?
- look at our offerings, focus on the promising ones, and let go of the others. This is not the time to be shy. Maybe there are sizes of RPCs or pallets that are less attractive, and should stand aside for the faster sellers?
- overhaul positioning and messaging of both our company and our offerings. Are we talking to customers’ unmet needs, the way they are in the COVID-19 era?
- consider disruptive moves that could be major game-changers for our business. These are hard to identify, take some thought, and maybe help from an external facilitator.
With a Strategy built on solid Insights, the next step is to plan how to get things done. We need to make sure the right resources and go-to-market are in place.
- Do we have the resources needed to carry out the strategy? Are the right people in place, do we have financial resources for programs and promotion? How about the systems for executing a modern go-to-market strategy? Email marketing software and a CRM system come in really handy!
- Marketing and Sales need to collaborate on new tactics to reach target buyers and influencers. Combining digital efforts like SEM and ABM with sales promotions, sales calls, and great marketing content is the path forward.
- Finally, we know what gets measured gets done, so we put in place metrics for everyone from finance to sales to marketing. This is how we know we are on the right track and can hold each other accountable.
From a process standpoint, it is a good idea to set aside a day with no other engagements for the exec team to work on this 3 Step checklist. Many companies I work with use an external facilitator to challenge the thinking, keep the meeting on track, take notes, and bring in new perspectives in ideation and brainstorming.
For the results of a strategy review to be good, it is important that discussions are candid and honest, and action items are realistic. This demands a leader that is honest and not afraid of receiving feedback. Are you ready for recovery?