Its Time to Start Planning for the Recovery

Just as it was time in January to dust off or create your pandemic plans, it’s time to dust off, or create, your business plans.  Much has changed in the last three months so your previous plans are, most likely, only good for starting a fire or lining the bird cage.  That’s not to say they are completely worthless but relying on them going forward would be a big mistake.

Who are our Customers?

The first step is to look at customer in a general way.

  • Sorry to say some may no longer with us, either because they succumbed to the virus or moved away.
  • They have found other ways to shop for the goods and/or services you provide. Many of these folks shopped online for the first time and may not return to their previous purchasing habits.
  • For now they can’t afford your goods and/or services. Unemployment and under employment will be around for a while as the economy returns.  And when they do have the means, they find other sources.
  • Current customer could remain customers. Remember that others, even those that in the past were not your competitors, will not be out after your customers.
  • New customers will be available now. Folks that would have never thought to purchase from you in that past may find your goods and/or services attractive, if you can reach them.  Think Dollar General.  Many of their new customers will continue to shop there once the pandemic subsides.  If you were required to close during this phase of the pandemic, you still have the possibility of reaching new customers via online marketing, sales and service.

Second you should look your current customer mix in demographical terms.  Your current model may be adequate with adjustments using what was developed in step above.  Don’t short change the review by assuming nothing has changed – it has.  These customer categories should be clearly defined and documented.

What are our Products and Services?

Once you have a revised customer model you can begin to look at your current product mix.

  • What existing products/services will still meet each of our customer groups’ needs?
  • What existing products/services will not meet each our customers groups’ needs?
  • What new products/services should we add to meet each of our customer groups’ needs?

Treat each customer category as a unique entity.  Create a matrix of customer categories to your revised product/services.

Customer Category Product 1 Product 2 Product 3 Product 4

Review the matrix to see if anything looks odd.  In the example above, should product 4 be retained?  The answer may be yes because of the number of customers in category 3 or the profitability of each sale.  Always be careful when dropping products because they may be contributing to the organization in ways not realized just by financial analysis.

This mapping process may require you to loop back and further define your customers or products/services.

How do we deliver the Product/Service?

Now that you have a revised customer matrix it is time to review how you deliver your products/services to these customers.  Additional information will be needed.  You will have to know, in detail, where your sales come from then map that data to the revised customer/product matrix.  This will give you a starting point to evaluate your current delivery model.  For large, complex organizations, this is quantitative process, for smaller ones it is much more qualitative.

  • Does your current delivery model need to be modified? Why or why not?
  • If it requires modification, what type of modification, number of stores, location of stores, product mix per store, strengthening of your online sales and marketing capabilities?

Once you have a good understanding of what needs to be changed you must look at how to make those changes occur.  Do you through the big switch or do you make a transition plan that systematically transforms your organization.  There may be a combination of both.  You may radically change your online presence and expand online sales before you make other changes that require store modifications or relocations.  Online sales may keep your backend processes working while you modify the physical, customer-facing, delivery systems.

Steve Blank wrote “No business plan survives first contact with customers.”.  So know that you will have to make changes as you go.  It may mean that you didn’t understand your customers or your own organization as well as you thought -or- Things have changed quickly or more dramatically than anticipated.