By Gaurang Sinha
At the beginning of last year, many businesses that were in the process of future-proofing had their priorities set straight—but none of them had a pandemic planned out.
Most businesses have become vulnerable due to the impact of COVID-19. And this has only underscored the technological gaps that businesses were already facing, such as the need to adopt emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, agile management, data management systems, and security.
Thanks to the pandemic, business ecosystems have made a not-seen before transformation, by adopting new technologies, office practices such as remote working, and customer strategies. Both customer and employee needs are now focused towards remote-first communications, and the new digital way of business has opened the need for tighter security limitations.
The economic crisis bought by the pandemic will not be the only disaster an organization will face. Hence, it is important to carefully plan and prepare for the worst. Developing a crisis manual is a necessity to effortlessly navigate through future obstacles.
Due to constant changes in customer behavior, existing strategies in outbound marketing or direct sales may not prove to be advantageous to acquire new customers. In 2021 and beyond, it is imperative to adapt to and cultivate new strategies for acquisition and revenue.
Customer expectations change constantly. In this era of remote work, in-person interactions are thin to none. It is vital for customer-facing employees to anticipate needing to over communicate with prospects to trim down the importance of the service being provided. That means the classic “Marketing Rule of 7”—that a customer needs to receive a message or pitch at least seven times before they’ll take action—needs to be revisited, as prospects likely need more exposure to your product or service before making a purchase decision.
Business leaders can now no longer simply take a potential client out to lunch or drinks to close a project—remote interactions and customer recognition now take place in the digital realm, with “digital coffees” becoming the new norm and customer appreciation gifts being sent directly to clients’ front steps. Massaging a customer relationship takes more effort in the digital age, and businesses can expect this to become more and more dominant.
To drive resilience, organizations need to upskill their employees and new hires. Adaptability is no longer a “good-to-have”—2020 has taught us all that businesses must be able to react to world changes at the snap of a finger in order to stay in the very business. Human resources and leadership teams should invest in continuous learning alongside reskilling opportunities to keep their employee skill sets developing. This leads to companywide flexibility and adaptability: for example, an event marketer in 2020 who has developed video streaming and web development skills is more likely to succeed in the pivot to digital events than one who is learning these skills for the first time ever.
And it’s not just about reskilling for company success, either. Employee engagement levels rapidly cycled throughout 2020. Anticipatory investment in employee development can improve those engagement levels—workers who feel that their employers care about their growth report higher motivation and engagement than those who do not.
As working from home continues and will continue to be the norm, employees find it challenging to communicate efficiently. Supervisors should communicate with employees regularly, using proper remote work tools and keeping transparency in mind. When a large number of employees faced layoffs in early 2020, most companies failed to communicate efficiently on how to handle the hitches of unemployment. Providing employee wellness programs like EAPs and garnering employee feedback can prevent these issues and ensure business longevity.
It is crucial for modern businesses now to accept emerging technologies in machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and more. As more business services like BI and financial management rely heavily on these serious technologies, ignoring these novel tools is a misstep that could mean the death of an organisation.
Proper cybersecurity procedures, for instance, are simply not an option, despite what some businesses may believe. With important financial documents, intellectual property, customer details, and employee work all taking place digitally, a business that does not sensibly invest in proper data security is putting itself at risk of completely dissolving the business. Adopting necessary data security measures is crucial for long-term survival.
This is not as simple as designating a VPN and encrypting passwords. Cybersecurity, as people may think, is not a one-time fix, but rather requires unceasing employee training and reminders on data management and compliance. It is essential that everyone in the company recognize the importance of proper business security. And business data should be audited on a regular basis to identify any security gaps that could pose a threat, “future-proofing” by anticipating security needs in the long run.
(The author is Director, Go-to-market Strategy at Flock)