Business transformation and staying true to your brand values in a crisis

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17/03/2020

There are two basic tenets of strong marketing practices, and on the face of it they sound at odds with one another. The first is to be consistent. The second is to embrace business transformation. While these two ideals sound as though they are in conflict, it is actually possible to do both at the same time – being both true to your core values whilst being relevant to current markets and objectives, and being able to do that is perhaps never more important than during a crisis like COVID-19.

 

Numbers that make the case for business transformation

True to form, information from McKinsey makes a strong case for well-managed business transformation. Backing up their hypothesis with numbers, they have shown it’s good news for companies that go broad, move fast and renew often, always stretching their aspirations. Following marketing guru Peter Drucker’s famous observation, “What gets measured, gets managed”, they looked at the 18-month full-scale transformation track records of 82 public companies, and came up with some surprising and exciting data.

The first takeaway was that in contrast to traditional transformations that go step-by-step through different parts of the organisation, “the most successful performance-transformation efforts cut across business units and functions” – the phrase – ‘go big or go home’, comes to mind.

The second key point was “move fast, renew often”. Their findings suggested that the top-quartile transforming companies “sprint out of the gates, turning their initial burst of idea generation into an achievable, rigorous plan within a few short months”. The changes “corresponded to 28% of fully ramped-up value in the first three months, 57% in the first six months, and 74% in the first 12 months. This is particularly poignant at the moment where businesses are being faced with an indeterminate period of time in which travel restrictions and isolation make the sale of many products and services in their existing guise, impossible for who knows how long. It is a moment for creative thinking based on specialist knowledge.

Meanwhile, other keys to successful transformations included embracing company health (“companies with a healthy culture consistently outperform their peers”), and stretching aspirations. They note: “in our experience companies that achieve the most successful transformations often evolve their aspirations, making them more aggressive as the transformation gets rolling and accomplishing more than they thought possible at the outset.” Again, especially poignant at the moment – how we care for one another both physically and financially over the next few months will no doubt have a long term bearing on our business relationships as well as our reputation as employers and subsequent ability to attract talent.

 

Challenge and innovation

Coronavirus has taken the world by storm in recent weeks, and all of us are beginning to feel it. The disconcerting thing from a business perspective, apart from the obvious health threat, are the number of unknowns. How long will it last being one of the key questions on everybody’s lips. For guidance, we can do two things – look at the history of economic challenges and see how they played out, and think strategically about the future of our businesses and how they may be relevant to the changing world – whether that’s long or short term. Most of us still remember the last recession by going into a cold sweat, but while crises cause casualties, they can also be fruitful. It can unleash new creative approaches, which can ultimately lead to a greater resilience. Already, we are seeing companies pivot. For example, LVMH, the French luxury goods maker, is switching its perfume production lines to making hand sanitiser.

 

Balancing processes including centralisation and decentralisation

Within our own team, we have abundant experience in helping to strategise and manage the execution of business transformation and innovation. Often that is in order to take an organisation into its next growth phase, but sometimes it’s change to facilitate a turnaround in declining business.

For example, this month we welcomed US-based Marion Weiler to our team. Transformation is exactly the area in which Marion has done much of her work, supporting companies, such as Sotheby’s International Realty, as they grow in size and venture into new markets. She has been instrumental in helping them to navigate the needs for centralised vs decentralised processes in order to respect core company values whilst tailoring services and messaging to the needs of a specific or local team and market.

In this she has had great success, for example, at Sotheby’s International Realty on Long Island and Queens in New York, she developed and executed a strategic road map that realigned the organisation, its services and key stakeholders with company goals, resulting in a 6% growth of the organisation to $3.5 billion in sales volume. Equally, at Coldwell Banker residential Brokerage, she helped them develop their luxury markets whilst effectively managing the different applications of marketing and sales processes for their established and well-saturated mid market.

 

Knowing when to self-reflect and make difficult decisions

Meanwhile, UK-based Fractional CMO, Mikki Hall, made a significant impact on company fortunes at one organisation who were finding their competitive edge dwindling and sales falling because they were used to living off the momentum of an outdated brand strategy.

She helped guide them through a period of reflection and self-assessment – identifying where the issues were, evaluating customer values and guiding them through a period of change including shrinking and pivoting in order to get back on track.

By the end of the process, positivity was higher than ever, and the end results were excellent because they had a clear direction, staff knew what they were all about, and customers were really satisfied.

Transformation and change is not always easy, but the inevitable goal is long term growth and sustainability. With the emergence of new ways of communicating with our audiences and the emergence of Gen Z, whose mentality is so incredibly different to other consumer generations, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of brand values and brand representation at all levels of business. Change isn’t always easy, but with the right support, the rewards can be fantastic.

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