Pandemic Inflection Point Testing

Businesses begin with an idea that is tested to see who will buy, for how much, and whether the exercise can be repeated. Small businesses must retain this way of marketing, constantly testing new offerings to new segments while the company continues to market the things that make them revenue today.  As the business collects new leaders, more disciplines, more complex offerings, and investors, it accumulates more opinions. Not all opinions are relevant to the marketing process or marketing success. A marketing practice, to remain lean, must work to quickly map the buyer’s journey and test campaigns with customers to show business leaders what performs, rather than asking corporate executives what they like.

Action plans should include testing for inflection points…Companies are selling “jobs” to be done. Rather than thinking of customers buying products and services, it is more helpful strategically to consider the outcomes customers want; in effect, they are “hiring” products and services to achieve those outcomes. What becomes clear when looking through this lens is that outcomes can be achieved in many ways and do not always conform to traditional industry boundaries…inflection points require changes to your business model…a pivot…always testing for inflection points costs less and provides tested business model evolution rather that huge spending to catch up or becoming irrelevant and going out of business when hit with an inflection point such as the COVID pandemic.

Do-It-Yourself Customer Paradox Started Pre-Pandemic

Real paradoxes exist in the consumer market today. As Home Depot and Lowe’s power ahead with do-it-yourself (DIY) doers, other brands are powering ahead by doing things for us. Amazon brings us products. Grubhub and Uber Eats bring us restaurant foods. HelloFresh delivers meals that we can quickly assemble and serve. Alexa and Siri answer our questions, help us with shopping lists, and calm us with music. It seems as if DIY is now a multi-dimensional concept. The new definition of DIY revolves around the effort customers are willing to expend to feel they created something on their own. Some of us are all in with effort; others are willing to delegate. DIY will be different for each brand. As we learned in the 1950s, it is about how we define “made from scratch.” Does baking a cake from scratch mean we need to start with the individual ingredients? Or do we start with a boxed cake mix and just add an egg. Pillsbury built an empire on cake mixes and prepared dough. Do-it-yourself is not done. It is being re-developed and re-designed in real-time. Brands such as Home Depot and Lowe’s are leveraging our desires to remodel by ourselves. Other brands are leveraging our desire to have things done for us. The former takes some effort and talent; the latter takes an app. Companies need to remember that personal effort is a continuum: how much personal effort is a brand’s customer willing to exert to make something happen…inflection testing can help answer this.

Pandemic Forced Business Pivots

The pandemic forced inflection point testing into real-time pivoting by some companies to determine where their brand could be successful with the changing customer buying experience. For some, this was expensive but the pivot had to be done for survival. For others who had been doing inflection point testing, it was easier to make a successful pivot. Now, companies need to evaluate how much of the 2020 pandemic consumer buying experience change will remain.

For instance, restaurants were forced into changes during the pandemic in order to survive. Are the consumer buying experience changes here to stay? Will people increasingly want a high-tech front-end restaurant ordering experience and a high-touch back-end experience due to such things as: orders get screwed up; orders get changed; orders are not what was wanted? Will the role of humans become more important in the service industry as automation comes into play? Will customers who value fast demand more service roles replaced with automation? Will customers who value experience (there still might be some automation in a piece of the production) cherish that human element and be willing to pay a premium for it? Inflections point testing will be required for the restaurant industry to see if this separation between “fast” and “experience” continues to evolve.

Pandemic Forced Business On-Line Presence

Prior to March 2020, many businesses had little to no online presence, primarily because they depended on foot traffic and walk-ins to stay competitive. That changed dramatically during the pandemic, as lockdowns and quarantines forced storefronts to close, and led consumers to shop more online. Salesforce surveyed 2,500+ global small/medium businesses (SMBs) about how the pandemic impacted their strategies and values. Covid lockdowns forced retailers to shift online: 75% of the SMBs polled by Salesforce said their customers now expect them to offer online transactions; 72% of the companies have an e-comm operation, and 35% of them implemented it just within the past year. 71% say their business survived because of digitization. Technology also helped SMBs survive by providing customer-service software (currently, 53% of SMBs use it) and protection against cyberattacks (95% of SMBs made moves to secure company data and protect customer info). SMBs changed to offering their customers contactless services (91% of retail SMBs will use these permanently). A survey by Salesforce found that 43% of surveyed businesses said they’re implementing technology and e-comm for customer safety, while 32% said they want to provide safer working conditions.

Human Resource Inflection Point Testing Is Needed

Many business owners think only in terms of customers when the topic of inflection point testing is brought up in conversations. It only took the pandemic to refocus it in the HR arena. In a post-pandemic world, mass turnover has happened from people reevaluating their lives and their careers, and no company is immune. The Great Resignation is here and it’s time for leaders to step up and put talent in the spotlight. There are may be ways to curb the revolving door of turnover. In the second edition of its, 2021 Talent Index, Beamery surveyed 5,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K. to gather insights on post-pandemic workplace policies and the retention issues plaguing employers While half of the respondents reported being happy with how their employers coped and supported them during the pandemic, 53% are still considering leaving their job within the next year, with nearly a quarter already looking.Communication is key; leaders should regularly ask their teams how they can improve, and what they want to see. There are always more competitive job elements that can be met, such as flexible working, mentorship programs, and rewards systems.Don’t forget that inflection point testing should be done in all areas of your business including with your human resources.

Inflection point testing is still relevant today. Small businesses must retain this way of marketing, constantly testing new offerings to new segments and to their own employees while the company continues to market the things that make them revenue today. The company “brand” is both the products/services and your employees that address the needs of the customers.

For more thoughts about the importance of business inflection point testing, search the Thoughts Library.

Copyright ©John Trenary 2021

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