No business, it’s safe to say, was prepared for the events of 2020. The pandemic is unlike anything leaders alive today have dealt with. With Covid-19 continuing to throw curveballs at the economy, 2021 is the perfect year for a strategic shift.
If you continue to do things the same way, you’ll get the same results. If you want something new — revenue, market share, you name it — you have to change your approach.
The million-dollar question, of course, is how you should change. Here are seven strategic shifts you should consider in 2021:
1. Expand your service offerings
Rolling out new products or services can help you build new revenue streams within your current client base. The key is to use your infrastructure wisely.
Amazon went from a bookstore to an e-commerce giant. Nurx started in the sexual health industry by helping patients access birth control online but is now exploring telehealth migraine treatment. Both used their existing platform and supplier relationships to offer something new.
When in doubt, ask your customers: What are their other needs? If you’re a lawn mowing company, might your clients also be interested in landscaping? If you’re a content marketing agency, you might try your hand with SEO services. Adjacent service lines are your best bet.
2. Make remote work the norm
When Covid-19 hit, most companies that could send their workers home. This year, consider making remote work your default arrangement.
Nothing saves on overhead costs like a remote team. Not only is it a surefire way to cut your water and electric bills, but you might be able to ax office rent from the budget altogether. Plus, you’ll have a new employee perk to talk up. Many people prefer to work from home, or they at least like to have the option.
Start by making all new positions 100% remote. For existing employees, provide a transition timeline. Offer to cover the costs of a co-working space if they don’t have a place to be productive at home.
3. Change how you deliver your product or service
Most products can be delivered in different ways. For example, many retail stores are now offering curbside deliver and contactless pickup. This model was put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission; now, consumers see it as a matter of convenience.
This strategy doesn’t just make sense for product companies, either. Counselors can offer their services via videoconference. Mechanics can perform some services where the customer’s car is parked, rather than insisting they bring it into the shop.
Delivering your service differently is likely to require infrastructure changes. Do your homework: Are those costs likely to be offset by the revenue brought in through the new channel?
4. Capture a new audience
Markets only contain so many customers. Trying to grow into a new one is probably the last thing on your mind, if you’re struggling to stay afloat. But now is as good a time as ever to consider expanding into new markets.
Think about it: Everything is virtual nowadays. You may be able to sell your service globally just as easily as you do domestically. Investigate whether customers in other countries might be interested in what you sell.
Place some ads in those markets to test the waters before making any major investments. Use surveys and focus groups to get feedback. You don’t want to find out a certain region won’t work after you’ve committed to building an office there.
5. Put together a partnership
In an uncertain business climate, cooperation may be a better strategy than competition. If you’re struggling, consider making peace with another company in your space. You’ll gain:
- Access to each other’s customer bases
- Talent efficiencies related to overlapping roles
- Institutional knowledge from your competitor
- Increased brand awareness and trust
- Organic media related to the merger or acquisition
Think about the people and companies in your network. Can you think of one with complementary skills or products? Reach out to ask about teaming up. Be receptive to the potential partner’s suggestions, which may differ from the opportunities you see.
Be careful, however, to vet the potential partner for cultural fit. The last thing you want is a culture clash that rubs your team members the wrong way. Get both teams together before you formally partner to see how they interact. Trust your gut: If it doesn’t feel like the right fit, it probably is not.
6. Double down on technology
Nothing delivers a strategic advantage quite like technology. If you’re satisfied with your current customer base and service lines, it’s time to optimize your efficiency.
Look for bottlenecks. If your team spends hours sending emails each day, check out email automation software. If your salespeople spend all day chasing down signatures, maybe a contact automation tool could speed things up. Every business is different, so leave no stone unturned.
Your goal shouldn’t be to replace members of your team; it should be to free them up for human-required work. Your accountant has more important things to do than follow up on invoices all day.
7. Put a premium on your customer experience
Almost nine in 10 customers will pay more for a better customer experience. You might be able to grow your business simply by making it easier or more enjoyable to work with you.
There’s no one “right” way to improve your customer experience. If you’re an appointment-based company, it might be as simple as reducing wait times or ordering some fresh furniture for your waiting room. If you sell physical products, faster shipping speeds might be just the ticket.
Other customer experience optimizations are more involved. One example is 24/7 customer service: Your human reps can’t work around the clock, so you may need to invest in a customer service chatbot.
If you’ve survived the pandemic so far, the road ahead looks promising. The fallout from Covid-19 isn’t over by a long shot, but the smartest businesses use the challenge as a chance to shore up their weak spots. Make sure your 2021 plan includes strategic solutions for yours.