A ‘period’ or just a passing ‘phase’?
You may recall that the talk in the spring was that we would “bounce back” from the pandemic by the summer or at least by September.
Well, we’re still here… and will be for some time yet.
For example, a recent Forbes survey of return to work policies shows that very few large companies are anticipating a significant move back until 2021, and many of them are not until at least the summer.
- Amazon, Microsoft, Mastercard, and Fox are not returning until the start of 2021
- Google, Uber, Facebook, Salesforce, and AirBnB are not returning until summer 2021 or later
Perhaps most notable are the high-growth B2B companies who already have adopted a permanent WFH policy (for some employees at least): Shopify, Okta, Twitter, Square, Coinbase, Upwork, Slack, and Atlassian. How about never?
What are we learning?
So here’s where I’m going with this… by the time we escape from the clutches of COVID-19, we humans will have had at least 10 – 18 months of training in the “now normal”.
Science tells us it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. So our “now” habits should be pretty solid by the time the “next normal” arrives.
So what: This means that there is nothing automatic, simple, or easy about getting “back” to behavior from the “old normal” when we arrive in the “next normal”.
‘Back’ thinking is bad thinking
At one point in my career, I took my family on an expat assignment in Paris. (I know – but somebody’s got to do it.)
Anyway, I prepared for the experience by reading all I could about the French culture and stuffing as much French phrases and vocabulary into my linguistically-limited brain as I could. By the time I arrived, I was a prepared as I could be.
My family and I got reasonably accustomed to French life (my kids attended the local French public school) before we returned to the New York area a few years later.
Lesson of the last chapter
But here’s the thing – the most important lesson I learned came from the last chapter of a book on how to have a successful expat experience. This was all there was about the overlooked half the experience – returning home,
The author pointed out that it was the return home – not the time overseas – that trips people up. That’s because expats:
- Spend no time setting expectations or preparing for their return
- Expect that friendships will pick up from where they left off
- Expect that the “old place” will be the same as they remembered it when they return (despite the passage of years)
- Overlook how much they themselves have changed, so their experience of “home” would be hugely changed even if nothing changed (but it did)!
Expats from our own lives
It seems to me the pandemic has made all of us – involuntarily – expats from our own lives. We have left our familiar way of living and doing business without physically changing our location (in most cases). This blinds us to the impossibility of going “back” while we increasingly yearn for that very outcome.
But there is no “back”. “Back” no longer exists. It’s the past, not the future. The future will be different.
So what: We need to focus on crafting an even better future, not settling for a return to a past that exists now only in our memories. This is true for our professional and personal selves.
How we can help
How do we prepare for this evolving, partly-here future?
For companies to be present for their buyers as they evolve to the “next normal” from the “now normal”, marketers need to take the lead by bringing a deep understanding of what is driving their behavior.
That means going beyond the obvious to the real, underlying beliefs, perceptions, and motivations. That is the only way marketers can anticipate where their buyers will go (“skate to where the puck will be” as The Great One said).
We have developed a portfolio of ways to help you get to the truth underlying surface behavior… and facilitate a consensus within your organization about an effective response to the marketplace.
- Prospect Personas that help you get beyond the obvious to what really drives the people you want to attract and retain as your customers.
- Decision Driver insights that uncover the real reasons competitive solutions have been chosen over yours (including doing nothing).
- Buyer Sprint to quickly and inexpensively jump-start customer-consciousness in your organization by getting your team working on buyer insights in as little as a week.
Some of these ideas come from discussions with other B2B “Marketers in Houses Getting Coffee.” Please let me know what you think.