Economists are telling us that the business confidence is returning to the levels that existed when the UK officially entered the recession back in 2008.
Yes, not just a couple of years ago but over half a decade has passed since we were last seriously considering driving our businesses forward with unfettered abandon, unaware of the winter chill that we were about to encounter.
But, of course, not much has changed since 2008 has it. Has it? We had the internet then, the same recognition that business had become more transactional and some of us were exploring the latest social media fads with bemused intrigue.
Wrong. Totally wrong.
The world has changed exponentially since 2008 and the business development routines used then are no longer fit for purpose. Those businesses awakening from the slumber of the recession, hoping to reignite business activity with the same sales approach they had employed in 2008 will be, at best, sadly disappointed.
So what has changed?
When you take the time to think about it, this shouldn’t be a surprise but there are 3 key social trends that are shaping how people and businesses view the world and the impact of these factors has changed markedly since 2008. As a result, both individuals and businesses are evaluating new products and services in a very different way.
The 3 key trends and their associated impacts are:
1. Too much information.
Whilst ubiquitous in 2008, since then social media has exploded into the lives of the vast majority of working people with nearly 1bn active websites globally (nearly six times more than at the start of the recession), available via more platforms and for more purposes. There are now more active mobile phones than people on the planet, and the adoption of new technology is happening at breakneck speed – over 40% of UK adults now have a tablet compared to 6% just 2 years ago. Twitter was in its infancy in 2008 and Facebook was celebrating a paltry 100m users compared to nearly 1.2bn users now.
Impact: We are bombarded by information and are overloaded by choice.
2. Insufficient free-time.
Notwithstanding the recession, the separation between work and home has become less clear with the average adult experiencing less than 3 hours of free time each day. The UK average working week is higher than ever at 43 hours per week and higher still when one includes work completed at home. A third of us are only getting 5-6 hours sleep, up from a quarter in 2010.
Impact: We do not have the time to make informed choices.
3. Energy levels at an all-time low.
There has also been a detrimental impact on our energy levels with a marked increase of those of us who are overweight (with a quarter of us clinically obese) and less of the population exercising regularly. However, we are surviving longer and by 2047 there will be more adults of 60 and above than children under 15.
Impact: We do not feel inclined to expend energy making choices.
So what does this mean?
The 2008 sales model depended on a mass targeting of a specific market, perhaps using a variety of channels and approaches, with a focus on increasing the conversion rate until a sale was made. This “sales funnel” approach was beginning to falter towards the beginning of the recession but now it is totally broken. Because there has been such a massive increase in social media activity, a mass marketing approach is akin to shouting in a crowded room – you won’t be heard and if you are, you won’t develop any relationships.
The cruel reality is that both individuals and businesses have access to so much information and they have so little time or energy, that their default position will be to do only two things:
1. Use a search engine to narrow down the choice
2. Check with their networks (friends, families, colleagues) to get a second opinion
Ultimately, this means that if you are a business and you are hoping to attract new customers, you are unlikely to be successful unless:
1. You have a social media presence – in fact without it you are invisible; and
2. If your existing customers aren’t complimentary about your product, even with a social media presence, you risk losing out to the competition.
So what do you do?
The new sales funnel requires a new mindset and new skills. 3 key steps will help create a new foundation for a post-recession world:
Finally, as a glimmer of encouragement, for those of you that were more comfortable in the days that developing real rapport with real people was valued more highly, your day may have returned...but only if you can grab their attention in the first place.
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Chris Lorimer is an
experienced management consultant who has helped many owners, Directors and staff to achieve more.