Strategic Planning for Beyond the Curve
As economic conditions get tougher, vendors should look at investing in the COVID-19 recovery in the second half of the year.
By Larry Walsh
It goes without saying that the priority is flattening the COVID-19 infection curve. The second priority is taking care of each other; in the tech industry, that means taking care of our people, partners, and customers. The third priority, and probably what will have the most meaning in the long run, is planning for what we at The 2112 Group call “beyond the curve,” the recovery period.
As of this writing, U.S. officials extended the social distancing policies to April 30. Some epidemiologists say it will take until June before the U.S. economy and social conditions can return to normal. Other nations around the world are taking parallel measures and tracking against similar timelines. All of it depends on whether we – the world – can flatten the curve and stamp out the virus. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said, “You don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline.”
Economically, what we know today is that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to hurt. While many vendors and solution providers were reporting a robust Q1 revenue-wise, the pandemic brought that to a screeching halt. Economists now forecast that the U.S. economy alone will decline by 25% to 30% in the second quarter. The $2.2 trillion aid package and economic relief measures implemented by the Federal Reserve will provide the financial resources to help businesses and individuals survive the sudden and profound downturn.
While those numbers are devastating, the forecast isn’t entirely bleak. Economists anticipate GDP to return to the black in the second half of the year, rocketing 8% to 12% on the fuel of pent-up demand. The more optimistic models point to full-year 2020 GDP clocking in at 1% to 5%, which, under the circumstances, seems rather stellar.
In a recent survey by The 2112 Group, “COVID-19 Impact on the Channel,” channel chiefs expressed similar optimism, with 58% saying they will either meet or exceed their original 2020 channel revenue targets despite the disruptions. The survey found most channel chiefs are maintaining their sales, marketing, and incentives budgets.
Vendors and solution providers are operating under extreme conditions and circumstances to maintain some level of normalcy. Now, though, is the time to develop parallel workstreams to chart the short- and long-term course forward. Channel professionals need to do their daily jobs and, simultaneously, plan for the inevitable recovery that will come this summer.
A few things vendors should consider doing during the downturn:
- Catalog Lessons Learned: Everyone is learning how to do their jobs differently. As teams now operate out of home offices, we need to monitor and measure what communications, marketing, enablement, and sales processes work best. In some cases, channel chiefs may discover that some of the emergency alternatives produce better results than our traditional methodologies.
- Invest in Automation and Optimization: After years of talking about digitalization and digital transformation, it’s surprising how many vendors still have limited visibility into their channel operations and performance. Moreover, many channel programs suffer from antiquated systems and cumbersome processes. Now is an excellent time to review procedures, improve your ease of doing business quotient, optimize existing management systems, and invest in new tools that extend capacity and expedite outcomes.
- Keep Up on Marketing: This isn’t the time to skimp on marketing programs. Vendors need to provide partners with new and updated marketing materials and resources to ensure customers know what technologies, services, and support are available. Keeping communications and messaging front and center is paramount, as you want customers to think of your brand and partners when the recovery starts.
- Develop New Materials and Resources: While everyone hunkers down for the next few weeks, vendors should conduct new market research and develop new partner enablement programs and tools. With research as a foundation, vendors can create original content (in different forms) so everyone – from channel teams to channel partners – has the materials they need once recovery begins.
- Get Close to Partners: Understanding partner needs and perceptions is as crucial as ever. Take the time to stay in touch with partners through partner advisory boards and community discussions. And take the time to survey or poll them on their perceptions, experiences, and needs.
- Reimagine Go-to-Market Strategies: We’re going to learn many lessons from the disruption caused by this pandemic. These lessons should compel vendors and partners to look beyond their conventional thinking about channel structures and go-to-market models. Now is an excellent time to start thinking about what you’ll do differently when the economy comes back to life.
My team and I at The 2112 Group are dedicated to providing vendors with research, market intelligence, go-to-market strategies, and program enablement that result in better indirect-sales outcomes. Our friends and partners have the expertise and resources to help vendors through this crisis. Those companies include Channel Maven and Spark Your Channel (marketing); Is Inspired (channel systems support); 360insights, ModelN, and PerksWW (channel incentives and expense management); and Webinfinity, Mindmatrix, and Impartner (partner relationship management).
The world has not seen a global event of this magnitude in generations. No one is immune to this virus or its economic ramifications. Please reach out to 2112 and our partners for the help and support you need during this difficult time. We’re in this together. We’ll get beyond the curve together.
Larry Walsh is the CEO of The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm servicing the IT channel community. He’s also the publisher of Channelnomics, the leading source of channel news and trend analysis. Follow Larry on Twitter at @lmwalsh2112 and subscribe to his podcast, Pod2112, on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and other leading podcast sources. You can always e-mail Larry directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.