The concept of having a business plan may seem cliche, but the reason so many business mentors and coaches advocate for planning is because it works. Developing a business plan will increase your chance of starting a business by 152% and it will increase your chance of growing past the initial startup phase by 129%.
Whether you are developing a plan for the first time or revisiting it for execution in 2021, it’s increasingly important to address the changes which unfolded in our world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In just the first two months of the pandemic alone, 22 million jobs were lost. It’s very unlikely your customer has not been touched by the pandemic. You need to address how COVID-19 has impacted your business, and in turn, your customer, and take it into consideration in how you launch and manage your business moving forward.
Here are three additions you need to make to your normal business planning process in response to COVID-19:
Understand customer psychographics
While customer demographics are important to understand who exactly your business serves, your customer psychographics are of greater importance in our current business climate.
Psychographics are the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria.
This will require you to ask questions such as:
- How and why does my customer make the purchasing decisions they make?
- What need does my customer currently need fulfilled?
- What is my customer’s biggest stressor?
- How did COVID-19 impact my customer and what has changed in their life which might affect their ability to engage with my business?
- What concerns are keeping my customer awake at night and how can I provide solutions to their needs?
Understanding the decision-making processes and stressors of your customer will help you to speak to their needs directly and provide the solutions they’re looking for through your product or service.
Conduct market research
Market testing and research is more crucial than ever. This may have been a clear-cut activity prior to the pandemic, but there are more elements to consider at this time than ever before. Consumers have become more discriminatory about spending due to economic impact and instability from the pandemic.
On an average year, 42% of business closures are the result of not finding the right market for a product.
Not only has consumer spending changed, but consumer behavior has also changed. If your business model relies on in-person consumption to any extent, you will need to address how your market will continue to respond to this change.
Will your consumer visit an in-person location at any point this year, or will you need to accommodate their preferences to avoid public gatherings? The more adaptable you are in meeting the preferences of your customers during this time, the better. Survey your demographic to better understand the changes in their behavior to ensure you are meeting them where they’re at.
Create an online strategy that stands out
A comprehensive online strategy needs to be included in your business planning for the year ahead.
In fact, I would go as far to say you need to double down on your online strategy with one small caveat: do it creatively. The upside is, you have a powerful marketing tool at your fingertips. The downside is, so does everyone else, and the online marketplace is saturated with businesses vying for the attention of their customers.
Your goal needs to be to find ways to stand out from other companies and differentiate yourself in the market. Try clever, unique and short-form video content, customer features and shout outs, and behind-the-scenes peeks at operations and your team.
One of the best ways to carve out a strong online presence is through conversations. The pandemic caused a disconnect between many businesses and the customers they serve after spending months without human contact. Conversation is the best way to mend any disconnect with your customers.
Whether your conversations are had in the comments section of blog or social media posts, email inboxes or direct message, the most important thing about these conversations is to ensure you are crafting relevant, custom messages to help your customer feel seen. Avoid copy/paste messages and messaging that is promotional in nature or that push for a sale. The purpose of these conversations is to build a trusting relationship with your customers.
Your business plan for 2021 must account for the changes in your customer and the marketplace as a result of the pandemic. From what you serve your clients with, to how you serve them, to how you inform them of your product or service, everything needs to be filtered through the immense changes we have incurred over the last 12 months.
How will you take the effects of the pandemic into consideration as you plan out your year ahead in business?