What can small business owners like us learn from how major corporations are adapting to the current context?
Like me, you may have recently seen ads for car companies. Ford Motor Company is offering six months of no payments if you buy now. The first three months are on them, and if you need three more months, they’ll be there for you. Is anyone else surprised to hear this given automotive history of unfavorable terms and repossession?
Ford realized that helping their clients make decisions knowing they can sustain their purchase over the long term is a vital way to stay in business during this time of universal uncertainty. They’ve named the campaign “Built to Lend a Hand” and it’s impressive. I believe Elizabeth Warren and other progressive voices helped set the table for this kind of corporate consciousness and it’s long overdue.
Even if it took a global pandemic to make it happen, I hope this shift in consciousness sticks because it represents an agile response to the unpredictability of our immediate financial uncertainty and a willingness to support the people who believe in their product. A mutual investment in the future by Ford and their customers – win, win, win.
An excellent example of an agile approach is a company called Betabrand. The company began with the notion that women were missing comfortable yoga-like pants that looked smart enough to wear to the office.
They built their business on preorders. They started by offering a limited number of choices based on their understanding of what women really wanted. They didn’t stock the shelves but focused on selections of what women actually wanted – and were willing to pay in advance and wait to have delivered.
This crowdfunding approach made it possible to be agile and to be responsive to the women who expressed interest in the product. As a business, they could be sure they got the style, color, and pocket right before beginning the manufacturing process – rather than learning about it after the fact, and being stuck with unwanted inventory.
The iterative process allowed customers to actively participate in the design process and voice their needs, while also being early investors in a business that would continue to serve them.
I recently ordered a pair of pants from “Beta” brand and got a series of emails from the owner of the business. Their Welcome email kicked off our relationship and they even sent a personalized video to say “Thank You”. Now that I’ve received my order, they’ve emailed me to be sure I’m happy with my purchase.
Whether you think of them as a beta test or a “better” brand, I think they’re a model to follow as they continue to ask women what they want with their Friday Special Live Interactive Shopping. As their slogan says: Dress Pant Yoga Pants – 4 million legs can’t be wrong.
So how will you shift?
Will you –
- Offer flexible payment plans or online gift certificates?
- Offer a personalized survey to ask what your clients want?
- Create a personalized welcome campaign for lasting relationships?
Shifting takes courage and a spirit of resilience – especially now.
Let’s use this pivotal time to be agile and see where it takes us!
I’m here if you could use a partner who is invested in your success and has the roadmap and flashlight.