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PIVOTING OUT OF COVID19
29/6/2020

The word “pivot” captures the current zeitgeist, love it or hate it: take it seriously.  Coming out of lockdown means entering a faltering economy.  How do you make sure your SME survives?  The most important leadership skill in any market is adaptability: now more than ever.  So, here are some top starter questions to ask yourself based around Ansoff’s Matrix (and Kotler’s 7 Ps of Marketing). 
 
MARKET AND P for PRODUCT/SERVICE
Who are they and will they still want or be able to afford my product/service in the next 12 months? Ansoff’s Matrix is a handy tool to help you ask the right questions of yourself, your business and your team.
MARKET PENETRATION: 
You probably know your target market well and have loyal existing customers.  Make sure you are in regular contact with them to ensure they are happy to continue using the product/service.  Ask them what their plans are over the coming year and what you can do to help them.  Do what you can to secure their business through excellent customer service. 
Of course, you have already been trying to get new customers in the existing market, so more of the same is always the first thing to do but it is a constricting market so competition will be rife.  Being clear on who your market is, where they will hear about you and having a plan for the tactics you will use to market to them will give you confidence and keep you organised.
 
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
If your market is solid in terms of liquidity, when the market constricts you could cover sales by selling them additional products or services. What other product or service could you develop that would serve them? How can you sell more to your existing customers?  So, if you’re in web design perhaps you add on social media campaigns or SEO. If you’re a graphic designer, you could maybe organise all the print, signage, slide deck etc.
 
Take a good look at your P FOR PEOPLE and their skills (skills audit) and work out how you could incorporate them into your offering. eg If you are a book-keeper and have a particularly talented credit controller, could you perhaps add her skills to your portfolio of services?
 
MARKET DEVELOPMENT
You know you are good at what you already do.  What market have you not explored fully?  
What other market segments could you serve who perhaps have more secure funding?  Who do you know who could help you gain entry?
 
A brilliant example of a market pivot at the beginning of the crisis is the Cambridge Fruit Company.  Their core business sold fruit boxes into local businesses in the centre of Cambridge – everything was cancelled overnight.  Neil put a shout out on social media that they needed to do something drastic.  Then one of his business contracts pulled an excellent PR stunt and offered to divert their weekly contract to NHS key workers.  Suddenly many of his clients did the same and his business has been sustained. Not one for sitting on his laurels, Neil is still pursuing other markets and now regularly delivers fruit into homes along with other food products from other quality local suppliers.
 
You can also Pivot on P for PLACE by-passing wholesalers or retail outlets, selling directly to the end consumer by setting up an eCommerce business.  It is now surprisingly fast to create the online PLACE but SEO is critical and risks are enormous as price sensitivity tends to disable the SME against the giants. If you have something unique, creative, bespoke or niche and a loyal, sensitive and aligned target market you may well pull it off!
 
DIVERSIFICATION
This is probably the most challenging and potentially risky answer.  This sometimes comes naturally out of a disruption in the supply chain.  An element of production (perhaps a small part involved in manufacture imported from China) is disrupted, so the manufacturer decides to manufacture the part in-house. 
 
Eg back in the 1970s my Dad had a fleet of 12 Walls Whippy Ice Cream vans. He fell out with Walls and set up making ice-cream very successfully himself! Passionate about ice-cream, he had a big enough property (PLACE), the energy, loyal workforce and investment capital to make it work. In fact, Dad pivoted a second time on the PLACE when having a heart attack and losing the ice-cream business he set up selling second-hand furniture in the barns. Eventually the old ice-cream factory became a workshop when he started developed the product and started making furniture.
 
Another example from the crisis in the way garment manufacturers selling to fashion stores pivoted to making PHE for the government – new product, new market, secure funding. 
 
We can continue to talk around the other Ps another time.  I just wanted to give you some ideas for questions to ask yourself which may give you food for thought and even another revenue stream. Click here for some famous business pivots to inspire you further.  If you would like some help in pivoting your business, then please do get in touch, jill@coachyou.co.uk

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