April 13, 2020
5 Mins to Read

No going back: how to adapt to the new normal

No going back: how to adapt to the new normal

You, your organization, and the world as a whole has gone through an irrevocable change. But, if you're struggling on how to adapt, just know you're not alone and there are steps you can take. Below, you’ll find answers to common business-related questions that may help you survive and thrive in our new normal. 

At Major Tom, we strive to find clarity in chaos—especially during a global pandemic.

In November, our Senior Leadership team spent three days sequestered in a cabin, an hour and a half north of Vancouver in Squamish, BC. Annual planning is an intellectually and emotionally draining process. Not only do we take a hard kick at the can of some foundational pieces of our business (vision, values, etc.) while we plan out the 12 months ahead, we also spend time opening up, being vulnerable, and forging the trust leadership teams need to be successful in times of stress.

I remember leaving our annual planning session feeling energized, confident that we had built a plan that was going to make 2020 the most successful, profitable, and personally gratifying year in our agency’s history.

I can’t say that we had a “pandemic that temporarily cripples the global economy” on our list of issues to navigate, but well, here we are. And while many of our best-laid plans from this fall are completely out the window, I’m certainly glad for the trust we formed as a team — we’ve needed it these past few weeks as we’ve dealt with the biggest personal and professional curveball most of us will ever deal with.

There are two schools of thought, which one do you have?

Over the last two weeks specifically, I’ve spent countless hours talking not only to our clients, but others in our community, and I’ve found that most organizations fall into one of two schools of thought:

  1. Those who are strategizing around how to make it through this “unprecedented time” and return to normalcy for their business.
  2. Those who are strategizing around how to make it through this “unprecedented time” (regardless of approach, this term seems to be universally beloved) and pivot their organization into the new normal.
choose a direction image three arrows right before a person shoes

For what it is worth, we fall into the second category, and not because we’re contrarian. Simply put, as our leadership team has grappled with this change, we’ve all come to the same conclusion: the world, the economy, and the way consumers interact with organizations will never quite be the same. We may, after time, begin to approach what we previously knew as normal, but in some ways, we already have — and continue to — change irrevocably.

With that change in mind, I wanted to share a few of the questions I’ve heard most often in the past few weeks, with some thoughts on what I think businesses can be doing to address them.

“How can I pivot to succeed in the new normal?”

This is the question that I’ve heard the most often. For many businesses, their customers, markets, or models have changed or are in the process of changing significantly. In my experience, most organizations struggle to think about how to shift, restructure, or otherwise reshape their existing business model because they haven’t spent the time to define it clearly in the first place.

The power of the Business Model Canvas

While there are a variety of different ways to go through the process of defining, and subsequently reimagining, a business model, at Major Tom we typically utilize a tool called the Business Model Canvas, originally created by Alexander Osterwalder, of Strategyzer. There are lots of articles online about how to use this tool, and Strategyzer offers a digital course to teach you how to build your own Business Model Canvas.

Once you have your model mapped out, it is easy to start playing with it by introducing or changing elements to discover the impact on the rest of the model. Deconstructing, adjusting, and analyzing business models is perhaps (embarrassingly enough) one of my favorite activities in my professional life — if you are interested in working through yours with me, reach out and we can figure out how to make that happen.

business model canvas empty sample

“I need to keep marketing, but how do I know what is appropriate for me to say?”

During a webinar focused on equipping marketers with projects to tackle during the pandemic, Mitchell and I discussed how to tackle messaging in light of COVID-19 and the economic downturn. If you want the abridged version, the key takeaway in managing  your messaging in this new reality is twofold:

  • Be clear on your brand strategy and tone of voice. If you cannot clearly articulate what your brand stands for and sounds like, you are likely to produce disjointed messaging.
  • Understand where your customer is coming from by revisiting your personas. Your customer has fundamentally changed and will continue to evolve as we navigate this.

Messaging needs to serve a purpose

Keep in mind, people are being inundated with COVID-19 related stories. You’ve probably received several hundred corporate emails telling you the stance they’re taking during the pandemic, scrolled through thousands of articles on how the coronavirus will affect humankind, and looked at countless memes on the subject.

When you create content, send out an email on the subject, or even post something on social, ask yourself, what value am I bringing to my audience? If you’re making noise for the sake of joining a conversation, take a step back and re-evaluate. Your messaging, just like everything else you do, should serve a purpose.

“When will this all end?”

Short answer: not any time soon. Social distancing measures are likely to continue into the summer, and there is an outside chance that they could be reintroduced in the fall as the virus rebounds. That is not meant to scare anyone — I for one have been incredibly inspired by the courage and resilience with which people have leaned into this in order to support one another.

person highlighting a word adapt

Change your perspective

My advice for those asking this question is to shift your thinking. Rather than anticipating when this will end, focus on how you can make the most of the situation (personally and professionally). By having the mental outlook that this is just a holding period, you inherently limit yourself and your business from growing and becoming stronger.

Not to sound trite, but every challenge is also an opportunity. In some industries, it may be hard to see any silver linings, but they are there. The businesses that succeed in the new normal will be the ones that push themselves to discover them.

It’s overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone

These questions are all big ones and can touch on multiple aspects of your business. For some, the shift to a digital environment and service delivery can seem overwhelming. Major Tom has been specializing in strategy, digital, tech solutions, and digital marketing for years. We are already assisting our existing clients on how to pivot and identify what solutions will help them survive and thrive in this new market.

If you are looking for help in thinking through some of these problems, reach out — our team is eager to have a conversation about how we might be able to help. We’re even experimenting with smaller, productized engagements to give you more value, faster, with less cash investment.

As you adapt to the new normal, you may pivot your business model, build new products, focus on digital, go direct to consumer or other strategies. All of these require re-alignment of a company's focus as well as updating its marketing, website, technology solutions, and logistics, to name a few.

This new normal is here to stay

Markets and behaviors will be changed from this point forward. The companies that recognize this will adapt, and thrive, while those that don't will not survive this massive shift in how business is done.

It is a new world and despite our annual plan being out the window, we’re ready to dive in headfirst and be the best organization we can in it. We know that many of you out there are looking to lean in as well. If you’re one of these companies, let us know and we can figure out how we can help you get there.

Miles Sellyn, President

It's much more fun to be interested than interesting.

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