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Four Questions Your Business Needs to Ask Right Now (Thinks Out Loud Episode 297)

Four Questions Your Business Needs To Ask Right Now (Thinks Out Loud Episode 297)

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Headlines and Show Notes

How long do you think the current downturn is going to last? How ready are you if you if it lasts for another 6 months? Another year? Longer?

While there’s no guarantee how long this recession will last, there are actions you can take to make it shorter, at least for your business. And those actions start with four questions your business needs to ask right now.

What are those questions? The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud outlines the four questions your business needs to ask right now — and offers some insights on possible answers too.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Thinks Out Loud is sponsored by SoloSegment: SoloSegment increases large-enterprise, B2B website conversion with easy-to-install software that automatically connects website visitors to the content they need to see to achieve their goals. SoloSegment does this using anonymous data and machine learning ensuring privacy compliance, addressing the many anonymous visitors, and improving the efficiency of marketing teams. Visit SoloSegment.com.

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Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 17m 43s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Four Questions Your Business Needs to Ask Right Now (Thinks Out Loud Episode 297) — Transcript

Well, hello again, everyone. And welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 297 of the big show. And thank you so much for tuning in. I know I say it every week, but I really appreciate it. I just wouldn’t do the show without you.

And I think we’ve got a really cool show for you today. There’s some interesting news that is very much worth examining for what it might mean to you as the year goes on. So there was a news story today, originally reported in the Wall Street Journal, and since then has been picked up by a lot of folks, but basically it is that Google announced today that they are going work from home until July of 2021. They’re going work from home. They’re having all their employees work from home for the next year.

Now, this is after people have already been working from home for the last, you know, three or four months here in the States, and they’re doing this globally. And I think there’s a lot to unpack in terms of what this could mean.

You know, the first thing is, does Google know something we don’t. And yeah, the easy answer is, well, probably yeah. I mean, who are we kidding? You know, Google always knows something we don’t. aAnd I have no interest in starting any kind of conspiracy theory. I mean, they probably don’t know anything specifically about what’s gonna happen with COVID and work from home, but they have immense amounts of data. I’m sure there are people searching right now, whether they are healthcare researchers, whether they are office managers, you know, executives or folks tasked with, by executives, with understanding when they can bring people back to the office. And Google is probably using that data to make the best decision they can for their company, given the situation.

And even if Google doesn’t know anything we don’t know — even if Google is not making any decision based on any data — but just based on what they think, their action leads to a number of questions that are worth taking a few minutes to think about.

And the first of these is: Have you thought about how long this situation will go on? How long this will last for your business?

The second question, which I think is equally important is have you thought about how long this will go on for your customers?

And the third question, which is the most important and probably the one that brings those two questions together is have you thought about what your customers needs are for however long this lasts and how you can help fill those needs?

And it’s that last question that I really want to focus on, though I guarantee you, I will circle back to the other two before we’re done.

As we’ve been through this last three or four month period where the world has kind of gone to hell. Well, let me rephrase that. I mean, the world is starting to recover, but here in the States, we’re still kind of struggling through this right now.
And as this has occurred, some businesses have done a masterful job, a really extraordinary job of adapting to the changes we’ve seen to date in customer behavior. Restaurants and retailers who launched curbside pickup or delivery immediately after the quarantine went into effect, small startups and retooled companies who introduced products like masks and the hand sanitizer.

Now are those sustainable actions? That’s a really good question. But I’d argue that any company who pivoted quickly and who continues to pivot quickly, undoubtedly puts themselves in a better position to succeed. Not because the action they took was perfect or the action they took was absolutely the best of all possible actions, but because they demonstrated in that pivot to their customers — and equally important to themselves — that they can adapt, that they can adapt on the fly to the needs of the moment.

There’s this myth in business and one that I subscribed to for a lot longer than I wish I had, but there’s this myth about the perfect strategy, about this ability to predict the future with such precision, that you are — I’m going to borrow hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s analogy — always going to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is. But if we can borrow from another sports legend, boxer Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. And let’s face it, no pun intended there, we all just got punched in the face. All of us. Me too. You know, I typically prefer to talk about my clients and their successes, and the lessons that we learned together. But I’m a business owner too.

My business depends on the success of my clients and when they’re hurting, my company does too. About half of the business that we generate out of Tim Peter & Associates each year comes from the travel industry. Some years a little more, some years a little less. But given what’s going on with the travel industry, that means that about half of our business dropped by a ton. And one of my clients outside of travel ran into some pretty significant challenges as well. We all got punched in the face together at the same time.

So we, the company here, had a few options available to us. You know, we could have fired existing clients who couldn’t afford our services. I could have been a hard ass about payment from folks who were in trouble. I could have, I dunno, tried to ignore the problem. But as the last couple of months have demonstrated, that doesn’t work.

So, you know, we did a few things instead of that. And to be really clear, none of this, not one single part of what I’m going to tell you is to make me or the folks at my company the hero of this story. Because everything we did was inspired by our clients and how hard they were working and how creative they were in finding ways to help their customers, to help their employees and to help their communities.

And in pretty much every case that creativity all started with the same question. And that question was, how can I help?

And so those were the conversations I had with my clients. And that’s the conversations people on the team had with our clients. To listen to them and to find solutions that worked for them and for us. And it seems to be helping them. We only lost one client through the process. And yes, I’m doing this because I’m a nice guy. Sure. Okay. Fine. But also it’s really a poor strategy, you know, if you’re the reason your customers go out of business. Particularly as a consultant, right? But if you work with businesses and you’re the reason they go out of business, that my friends is the definition of a losing strategy. You know what I mean? That’s not a thing you want to do. I want to make sure that any check that any client ever writes to my company is not the last check they ever write. I would rather act like Jack and the Beanstalk. We take that and we plant that to, you know, build a Beanstalk and go find some giants. That’s just a far more interesting thing to me.

We also found some new clients through content marketing. You know, the team has done a really great job of putting together content that answers key questions that customers have, and that helps customers help themselves. And a couple of folks have reached out to us and said, “Hey, can you help us do this for our customers?”

And all of that comes down to listening. There’s this old saying about you have two ears and one mouth and use them in the same ratio. Says me unironically, the guy who hosts a podcast where I talk to you all the time. You’d think I know better. Maybe that’s why I hear the expression, so often. <aybe people are saying to me, “Hey Tim: Two ears.”

Now, I don’t know. But that’s, that’s something where particularly at a time like this, you’ve got to listen to your customers. And there are some very practical and some very pragmatic and some very tactical, functional things you can do right now.

You need to be listening to your customers. And what I mean by that is there is data from search and social listening, you know, there’s some great options here that are free, low cost, and paid. It can be as simple as going to Google, doing a search for keywords that you want to rank for, or that your competitors rank for, seeing what are the questions that people are asking around those keywords, and then creating some content around those questions.

And here’s the thing you’re not necessarily trying to rank in search for that. It’d be great if you did. But that can be challenging, right? What you want to do is create some content that you can use to then promote on social and on other channels, that you can send in an email to people maybe you haven’t heard from for some time. Send them a note that says, “Hey, we just put this together. And I was thinking of you, and maybe this would be helpful to you right now.”

Now if you rank in search? Even better, because you might get some people who, you know, will see you who you might not have reached before. But you’re responding to the questions that you know are relevant.

Obviously you don’t even have to use Google for that. You can talk to some of your customers and say,

“What are the problems you’re having right now? What are the problems you expect to have three months from now? What are the problems you expect to have six months from now? What are the problems you expect to have a year from now? If you were to look back a year from now on where you are right now, what would you have done to get where you want to be?”

Obviously, there’s a ton of great tools out there. You know, a BuzzSumo or Google or Facebook or LinkedIn or Bing or Salesforce.com or MailChimp, plenty of others have done some tremendous work in putting together resources to help businesses of all sizes, figure out how they do what’s right for their business and for their, for their customers.

Salesforce, by the way, I want to give them a huge shout out. I have no relationship to the company, but I think they’ve done a tremendous job with a model that they’ve used that’s very straightforward. They have a three step process:

  • Stabilize
  • Reopen
  • Grow.
  • And for each of those, what do you need to do in each of four areas to make sure you’re doing what’s right for your customers and for your company?

Recap: The Four Questions Your Business Needs to Ask Right Now

And obviously I’m going to link to all of this in the show notes, but all of this comes back to four questions, the three questions from the beginning of the show and the one that I gave you part way through, which is:

  • Have you thought about how long this is going to go on for your business? Where do you need to be three months from now?Where do you need to be six months from now? Where do you need to be nine months from now? Where do you need to be a year from now?
  • Have you thought about how long this is going to go on for your customers and the same timeframes, where are they going to be three months down the road? Where are they going to be nine months down the road?
  • The third question of course is, have you thought about what their needs are and how you can help fill those needs?
  • And the fourth question is how can I help? Not, not, this is not me asking you. This is what you need to ask your customers and listen to what they say. And it’s something you’re going to need to keep asking until we’re through this situation, because how you can help is probably going to change over the coming days and weeks and months.

It’s why listening is so important. It’s why asking is so important because your customers may answer that or may have different questions in September and in November and in January and in April then they’re asking right now, And you have to be prepared to help them as they go. You know, when we talk about the folks who transitioned quickly to delivery or in store pickup, and we talk about the folks who transitioned to making hand sanitizer and making face masks, they were thinking about where their customers were in the moment. And where the moment is, is going to change. Where people are in the moment is going to change.

So I would encourage you to think about how long you think this is going to go on for your business. Think about how long you think this is going to go on for your customers. Think about what their needs are. And think about how you can help fill those needs. And just remember to keep asking them, “how can I help?”

And if you do those four things and react to the answers appropriately, you’re going to put yourself in a good position to be around for a long time. To be able to stabilize. To be able to reopen. And when the time is right — when the market is ready — to be able to grow. And that’s the really exciting thing. You can do this, just do what you gotta do to make it through the crisis. Make sure you’re doing the right thing. Listen to your customers. Respond to what their needs are. And you’re going to be okay.

Thinks Out Loud Outro and Credits

Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s TimPeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 297. While you’re there. You can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes. You find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher Radio, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those. I would also very much appreciate it while you’re there if you could provide us a positive rating or review. It helps new listeners find us, it helps us show up better in search on those various podcast hosting services, and it helps new listeners understand what the show is all about. It really makes a huge difference to the podcast overall. I very much appreciate it.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates. You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @TCPeter. And of course you can email me by sending an email to podcast@TimPeter.com.
Again, that’s podcast@TimPeter.com.

I’d like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment helps large enterprise B2B companies convert more customers with easy to deploy software as a service that automatically connects website visitors to the content they need to achieve their goals. SoloSegment does this using anonymous data and machine learning to ensure privacy compliance, address the needs of your visitors and improve the efficiency of your marketing team. You can learn more by going to SoloSegment.com. Again, that’s SoloSegment.com

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I very much appreciate your listening week after week. It means so much to me. I hope you have a great rest of the week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. And I’ll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then please be well, be safe and, as ever take care, everybody.

Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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