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Hope is not a strategy: Secrets of driving growth through uncertainty

To maintain the health of a business, it's important for leaders to put themselves in their customers' shoes

As states across the country slowly reopen, businesses in nearly every industry are left with questions. Some are still unclear on when exactly they’ll be able to return to being completely operational, while others are trying to figure out how to fill the sometimes-massive gaps in revenue left by months of disruption.

The current coronavirus crisis has heavily impacted the economy and many business owners have been left hoping the measures they’ve taken to weather the storm and the glimmers of economies returning to their prior state will turn around their bottom lines. In some industries, like B2B software, businesses have been able to continue operations with employees working remotely. However, their customers may have been heavily impacted by stay-at-home orders, leaving them with a slightly different challenge—retaining customers who may be struggling themselves.

While “hope” is a word we’ve heard frequently over the past few months, it is not a business strategy. There are better and more specific points of focus for business leaders right now to drive growth not only as economies start to reopen, but also as we navigate an economic downturn that is unfortunately expected to last far longer than any stay-at-home advisories. Here are strategies businesses can use to drive growth and maintain the health of their company during a down economy.

Customer retention is the top priority

Software CEOs should have an almost maniacal focus on retention right now. This includes providing value to core customers and ensuring your solution is essential to their business, making adjustments where necessary to better align product with current customer needs. This crisis has quickly shown organizations which of their solutions are truly mission-critical to customers, because anything that isn’t has been cut as businesses look for ways to minimize spending.

For example, W Energy’s oil and gas accounting software has helped customers consolidate legacy systems, move core financial reporting operations to the cloud and increase processing speed—a major priority right now, as upstream and midstream oil and gas companies navigate volatile energy markets.

Another example here is Titan Cloud Software, whose cloud-based software platform enables convenience store customers to automate the importation of test and inspection records to create efficiencies. The Titan Cloud platform enables customers to scale quickly and maintain efficient processes throughout that growth—crucial in today’s environment. It also enables customers to more fully outsource the environmental function of their business, enabling customers to reduce operating expenses and focus on their most important work.

By checking in with customers and ensuring you are fulfilling a core need, you can retain as many of your current customers as possible—critical at a time when leads and new customers may be decreasing.

Take a walk in your customer’s shoes

Everyone in your organization—from C-level executives to salespeople—must put themselves in your customers’ shoes. While this is a common practice not just in times of crisis, companies should be intentional about working this into all facets of the business given the current situation.

Understanding what your customers are going through and what unique pain points they’re experiencing are not only key to communicating with them effectively, but also to coming up with new and different ways your offerings can help them. In addition to its core value, W Energy has committed to creating thoughtful educational content for oil and gas customers who are looking to modernize their financial reporting systems. Likewise, Titan Cloud Software has created a series of webcasts and podcasts focused on sharing best practices with customers on topics relevant to their work.

Learning about specific challenges customers are facing can lead to new ideas and identifying ways to tweak your offerings to better suit their current needs.

Creativity is key

From audiences you haven’t targeted before to strategies you’ve yet to employ, give new tactics a shot in this changing environment. Now is the time to find creative ways to get people introduced to and using your product. This may mean offering free trials, even if a company has not traditionally made the software available in that format, or experimenting with plans that enable customers to reduce “time-to-value” by offering back-weighted subscription agreements.

Another path companies can take is tailoring their value proposition to meet the new needs of their customers and prospects—as the world changes, organizations must make sure they adapt their solutions accordingly. This might look like shifting a pitch from focusing on high-processing speed to reducing general and administrative spending—something many companies are looking to achieve right now. It may also mean shifting the mix of software and services to offer customers a more complete solution to the business challenge they are trying to solve, particularly if customers are operating with reduced headcount.

Lastly, businesses should consider the capacity of their teams and whether there is an opportunity to redeploy resources to develop a very focused product configuration to win a strategic account—even if that account is one you might not go the extra mile to win during stronger economic times. Now is the time to be flexible and agile in the interest of onboarding new customers.

While these strategies are top of mind for getting through the uncertainty of the current economic landscape, they go beyond ensuring companies just survive—they enable them to thrive well after the current disruption has ceased. By implementing them now, businesses can position themselves to not only weather the storm but come out stronger on the other side.

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