4 min read
There’s no way I can get back to the office,” a client recently told me. Over the course of the pandemic, he had picked up a side hustle as a graphic designer. He had an abundance of clients — and a personal life to balance, too. So when that “return to work” email from his 9-to-5 arrived, his new reality quickly collided with traditional corporate expectations.
He’s far from alone. As business owners figured out how to navigate the pandemic’s uncharted territory, they innovated — and sometimes found better ways of doing what they love. But now the divide between our new habits and our old ways of working has become a major stressor. As we face a “return to normalcy,” it can be difficult to decipher what normal should look like. What aspects of our pre-pandemic lives are worth bringing back, and how much of what we’ve discovered should we hold on to?
That question has become a primary source of conversations in my own consultancy. Here are some suggestions for what to keep.
Keep: Pivoting quickly.
The pandemic forced many businesses to shift more quickly than ever before. They swiftly developed solutions that served their customers. Processes that once took months or years — like go-to-market strategy development — suddenly took days or weeks.
Just look at the virtual book launch or movie premiere. It was once commonplace for marketers to book venues, splurge on social-worthy atmosphere, and spend budget on media — but the quick pivot became the “influencer gift box.” Once exclusively for top-tier Kardashian-esque glitterati, a curated gift box became a new, widespread standard during the pandemic as an intimate, cost-effective way to engage audiences, support social chatter, and deliver visibility. It focused on what media marketing is actually about: getting the product to the clients quickly, and getting them talking about it.
Simple pivots like this remind us that even in complicated circumstances, we can run our marketing efficiently without sacrificing results.
Keep: Building real relationships.
As the CDC’s recommendations begin to allow more gatherings, it’s worthwhile to resume in-person interaction with staff and customers alike.
While videoconferencing software served as a nice stopgap for getting business done, it’s not the most effective way to have a meeting. Digital project management tools help automate our work, but they’re not always as successful as live presentations to colleagues or clients.
We’ll have to get back to a point where we realize that while we can (and should) automate systems, we cannot apply that same approach to building and maintaining relationships. Old-school tactics such as open houses, modest quarterly gifts, or team retreats will help keep people from feeling detached or disconnected.
Keep: Committing to something bigger.
In 2020, many businesses for the first time publicly stood up for social causes and proudly declared their values. The importance of having and sharing a clear corporate social-responsibility vision took an important leap forward and will likely become a requirement for all. Consumers are demanding that the businesses they support stand for issues that matter to them. Empty promises or “big check” presentations to nonprofits won’t cut it — customers want to see an organization itself embody these values. They want to see results.
Having a clear mission statement in the business, and merging it with messaging for your internal team and your consumers, is an age-old corporate strategy that 2020 amplified, and it is here to stay.
Related: 3 Big Ways Companies Are Pivoting
The past year will remain indelibly imprinted on all our minds and our businesses. We can make it so that the changes it brought, and the lessons we learned together, will shape the future for the better.