Competing in Uncertain Times

Inflation is down over the past several months but is still 6% higher than last year as of February data, well above the Fed’s goal of 2 – 3%. Consumer sentiment was up 6.7% year over year as of March 2023 numbers but fell 5.4% month over month to 63.4. Jobs increased by 311,000 in February while the unemployment rate rose to 3.6%.

But most of those numbers were released prior to the failure of Silicon Valley and Signature Banks. Now some market watchers are predicting a possible slowing in the Fed’s stance of continuing to raise interest rates to bring inflation down and slow the economy.

The Conference Board now predicts a recession in the US starting in mid-2023, lasting 2 to 3 quarters.

Talk about uncertainty! And then there’s the war in Ukraine and Russia and China closing ranks. And the looming 2024 elections.

This kind of environment often leads to caution for both consumers and businesses. Reduce risk exposure by deferring or delaying major investments and spending. And cut headcount to improve efficiency to weather the inevitable revenue slowdown. Especially among tech companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Meta.

So, what to do if you are a well-established successful mid-sized business with several viable Brands and enviable market share?

In addition to putting spending on hold and reducing discretionary expenses, this may not be the best time to launch new items or line extensions. Or spend heavily on a marketing campaign to increase share. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

Do what you can to keep your core consumers happy and well served. Leverage social media to showcase rave reviews from your loyal base and to build awareness of usage ideas, or tips and tricks. Do you have an active message board where you can sustain engagement? How about some new videos on YouTube or on your own web properties?

No doubt you have gathered with your executive team and reprioritized initiatives for 2023. Examined the list of must do’s and added to the list of “stop doing.” All while doing your best to hold your revenue forecast as close as possible to your original budget. No question, competing in uncertain times isn’t much fun. But working through adversity can bring teams together if you have good leadership and you work hard to gain alignment to a common set of modified goals.

But don’t sit on your hands and do nothing! Get after cost reduction projects like product reformulations or operations enhancements for better throughput. See if there are some lower cost things that you can do to strengthen your Brands positioning. Maybe a logo refresh or a design facelift.

Then get ruthless on eliminating non-value add projects or even “nice to have” programs. Yes, you can expect some employee push back or negative comments. If you can show how enduring a modest amount of pain can set you up for renewed vitality 6 – 12 months down the road, you should be able to rally the troops. Hey, taking a pay cut temporarily is better than losing your job, is it not?

This is also the time to reduce complexity in everything that you do. Do you have too many SKUs, too many or too complicated promotion programs, too many items that may not be viable to keep alive? Yes, tough decisions to have to contemplate. No doubt, some passion from program or product owners to argue their case. Get all the facts on the table. Talk openly and honestly, and then make decisions.

Should you take this opportunity to step back and question your go-to-market strategy, your play book? I guess it depends on what may have changed, or if your sales trends have taken a turn for the worse. As they say, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But if you and your team get the strong sense that your business model is in fact flawed, or you have fundamental deficiencies in your products, that’s a different story.

A sound strategy that is grounded in consumer insights and anchored in facts is a winning formula. No matter what the economic backdrop.

At Forge, we thrive on helping clients uncover those insights that shed light on how to win. We are here to be your partner, your conscience, your devil’s advocate. And we will always bring the conversation back to strategy. Who is your primary target audience going forward? How does your product meet and exceed their needs? How do we maximize the market opportunity and optimize return on investment?  

Importantly, we are pragmatic, focused, and energetic. We get assignments done well, and quickly.

Take the first step to a more successful business today.

1.    Hit “LET’S TALK” to schedule a free 30-minute discussion. No pressure – we promise.
2.    We’ll provide real-world case studies showing the process in action.
3.    If we’re a fit, we finalize details and get started!

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