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Plan Now to Exploit Post-COVID-19 Opportunities

By Geoff Giordano Contributing Editor, SME AdvancedManufacturing.org

While manufacturers grapple with the day-to-day demands of the COVID-19 crisis, some industry analysts assert that now is also the time for businesses to prepare to thrive postpandemic.

The companies most likely to succeed in capitalizing on emerging opportunities will excel in digital transformation, among other things, according to the April 9 webinar, “Market Impact of COVID-19: How to Respond, Reset, and Rebound,” by Aroop Zutshi and Mark Simoncelli of Frost & Sullivan Industry and Strategy Experts.

A more connected approach—across company functions, industries and geographies—will be needed to rebound from what Zutshi, global president and managing partner, said will be a global recession that will last until at least Q3 of 2021. He then expects a recovery to pre-crisis levels.

Near-term ways to combat the downturn, according to Simoncelli, senior vice president Americas consulting, should start with the creation of three teams to tackle crisis management, growth and digital transformation. Daily crisis management meetings should be part of a company’s initial “response” phase. They should then recalibrate expectations in the “reset phase.” The “rebound phase” should focus on long-term structural change and digital maturity.

“Each team needs to [have] a very clear focus,” Simoncelli advised. In particular, the growth team “must be mobilized early, and it’s got to be laser focused on identifying and revisiting growth strategies to prepare ways to pivot if necessary.”

Maintaining robust marketing efforts is another must during the crisis, Simoncelli added, despite the absence of in-person customer interaction and live events. The solution—apparent from the manner in which companies have turned to remote, work-at-home operations—is to:

  • Be relevant: Illustrate how your product or solution is going to help companies amid the crisis. “You might have to reposition your message. Communicate messages that address (customers’) needs and new pain points.”
  • Go digital: Implement unique digital marketing tactics and examine account-based marketing. Consider virtual events and webinars and video content marketing, such as video white papers, testimonials and interviews.
  • Act fast: As the workforce swarms to the online meeting app Zoom, executing digital marketing programs can be done quickly.

For the long haul, Zutshi urged, now is the time for your recovery teams to build a pipeline of growth strategies, identify your competitive edge, strengthen relationships with current and potential customers, and evaluate potential partnerships or acquisitions. Growth opportunities include:

  • e-commerce replacing distributors;
  • rapid adoption of automation, digital technologies and open architecture;
  • more remote inspection;
  • sensor-based, non-contact identification
    and authentication technologies; and
  • small-volume and agile bio-manufacturing.

While long-term planning may seem impossible in this crisis, Simoncelli stressed the need for a cross-functional growth team “to focus solely on the rebound” and “identify the portfolio of opportunities across different time horizons” then “figure out the appropriate go-to-market approach.”

Added Zutshi: “We will come out of this crisis. We’ve done it in the past. When we come out, we need to be prepared. … If you’re not prepared you lose on both ends—now and later.” So now is exactly the time to assess various scenarios, how industry segments might be involved, and how buying behaviors are likely to change—especially now that company leaders are working at home and available. “I suspect many of the current changes will be everlasting,” he concluded.

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