You replaced trade show booths with webinars and hired a great content marketing person – now would be a great time to plan your post-Covid-19 Go-To-Market strategy, and it must involve physical interaction.
Covid-19 has accelerated processes which began to take shape in the last few years, as the world is transforming from physical to digital. Almost everything was, is and will be affected by this digital storm, "Technology on Steroids" if you will – Businesses, which had been forced to send their employees to work from home, replaced indoor office-interaction with remote digital collaboration tools. Retailers, prohibited from serving their customers on-site, had to shift their brick and mortar sales and procurement processes into a long-overdue eCommerce offering. Consumers, socially-distancing themselves from each other, embraced online content and communication options to keep in touch and be entertained.
Early-stage start ups, already working in a very competitive environment and striving to reach the relevant stakeholders within their perceived target customers, were faced with a complete shutdown of their "physical" marketing, business development, sales, integration and support channels, as countries closed their borders and businesses closed their offices.
Many of them succeeded in quickly transforming these physical interactions into digital ones – after all, these are companies born in the digital age – but surviving, and even thriving, in this digitally-forced transformation can only take you so far. To resume and increase the business traction with global customers, we believe several initiatives should be implemented within the start-ups' future strategy.
1. Initiate – the current situation might seem to be a time in which you should just preserve the minimum assets needed to keep the business operational, and wait for the storm to pass. On the contrary – we believe that in most cases a crisis is the best time to be active, to charge into the market left unserved by others who are waiting for the sky to clear up.
This is not to say that you should spend all your money on global media campaigns and celebrity endorsements – working under a strict budget will force you to be creative and efficient, optimizing your available assets towards clearly-defined goals. The key here is to understand what are the goals and what is the process to achieve them – which is a first step towards recovery - rather than just cut costs all across the board – which keeps you in the same spot or even worse.
2. Relocate (yes, now) - Although it might seem like the whole world has gone digital, physical human interaction is still a major business requirement for many companies offering physical products or selling to businesses when the average deal is 6-figures and up.
Being physically close to your potential customers is crucial in some markets and verticals, as some companies would prefer to buy from a vendor that has an operation, or at least a trusted representative, within their immediate location.
Ironically, now is a great time to relocate a team member to a target geography – considering the fact that the work can be done "from home", there's no need for offices and related expenditures, as the representative can work remote but still able to "drop by" the client's offices at short notice. Strategically placing representatives in central locations in Europe, for example, enables them to procure leads and serve customers within the same country or even adjacent countries using short domestic flights, rather than having a person from the Israeli office spend days just travelling to and from their destination.
3. Outsource your business development – some partners can get you to your market faster (and sometimes cheaper) than you could have done it yourself. Companies which are already working within your target geography have contacts, experience and knowledge which would take you a long time to acquire, and usually the best way to penetrate a new market is by using a local partner.
Partners with global presence have the added advantage of being able to assist you in choosing the most relevant market to target, and then conduct the relevant actions within the chosen markets. This can be an end-to-end partnership, or divided into an initial consulting project and ad-hoc utilization of the partners' assets in several markets, as needed.
4. Go Local – You might already have a lucrative market you have been ignoring – your own. Israeli start ups tend to view the local market as irrelevant due to its small potential compared to other countries, and complain often about the long sales cycles and bureaucracy involved, especially in the public sector. They sometimes approach a small number of Israeli organizations with their offering, but usually do so to utilize these customers as the low hanging fruit equivalent of a beta site or as a source for LOIs and testimonials which can be presented to investors when raising funds.
However, Israeli organizations have also adapted to the digital age, and are much more receptive to new technologies. A lot of organizations have built specific processes aimed at accelerating the pace in which they define their problems, approach vendors or publish a call for proposals, and, most importantly, designate specific employees within the organization as those who will take ownership of the process. This does not solve all the traditional problems associated with the interaction of a large enterprise and a small start up, but it certainly offers enough of an improvement to convey the potential of the local market to Israeli start ups, especially when markets abroad are harder to reach now.
5. You might need more money than you thought – if your product requires large-scale manufacturing, then even before Covid-19 you needed to reassess your options. The U.S is now less receptive to Chinese-manufactured products, to put it mildly, so manufacturing in China might not be an option for U.S-destined Israeli products.
Europe, and the U.S, can offer alternative manufacturing services, but at a higher cost. This would mean that any business plan which was conceived prior to this "war of nations" must be updated upwards in terms of cost of manufacturing. In some cases, the incremental change of expenditure could be unloaded onto the end-user (especially in already high priced or critical infrastructure products), but when items which are more price-sensitive, an external infusion of capital from investors might be needed in order to adjust to the near-term cost increase.