During the early days of the pandemic, many organizations were in a “wait and see” mode, monitoring (maybe even hoping for?) the possibility of a rapid return to normal. As we find ourselves nearly three full quarters into a COVID world and as we look ahead to 2021, we believe data-driven scenario planning – and making a couple of big bets – can make a difference in your company’s growth trajectory.


What Has Changed in Your Customers’ Behavior? Are Those Changes Here to Stay?

For most businesses, the world came to a standstill during March and April. Uncertainty loomed, stock markets plummeted, and enterprises and consumers alike hit pause. Eventually, an equilibrium seemed to return. Local economies implemented phased reopening strategies, businesses adapted, and, in the U.S., stimulus checks offered consumer support.

As a business leader, it’s critically important to understand your customers’ behavior during the COVID crisis – including how they responded during an initial “restart” and during subsequent phases of the pandemic. Has the pandemic created clear winners and losers within your customer base? Has it impacted behavior or buying patterns? If you have observed any material changes in recent months, consider shifting your resources and efforts to focus delivering products and services to support those who have benefited from tailwinds. Chances are this behavior reflects your customers’ “new normal”, and your marketing messages and sales motion should reflect this understanding.


Create Different Scenarios with Clear “If – Then” Statements

These days, the only certainty seems to be continued uncertainty, and as a result, forecasting has become more art than science for many growth-stage companies. Budget plans from the beginning of the year were replaced by “COVID plans”, which were, in many cases, replaced again by a new COVID reforecast, sometimes with multiple iterations. With continued lack of clarity on the days and weeks ahead, planning for the next year may seem like an impossible task.

We recommend beginning with a seemingly simple approach to scenario planning: create different “If – Then” statements that imply varying levels of impact on your business:

“IF we have mass-distribution of vaccines and COVID-related restrictions are lifted in early 2021, THEN…”

“IF there are no widely available vaccines and significant COVID-related restrictions persist for the full year in 2021, THEN…”

While your outlier scenarios may not represent a likely outcome, understanding both will help you to better define parameters of your team’s planning conversations and quantify level of business impact. Incorporating key levers of your business such as pipeline generation, competitive dynamics and customer retention into these “If – Then” statements will likely yield larger variances between the “floor” and “ceiling” scenarios and offer additional insight into your planning conversations. Consider continuing this exercise with additional scenarios (that are between your two extremes) and identifying both controllable and uncontrollable factors. While you may not be able to control changes in customer budgets or buying behavior, or dictate when vaccines will be available, you can reallocate investments and resources to areas less adversely impacted by the pandemic.

Double Down:

Key Bets Can Yield Big Results in 2021

Many organizations leverage a new year to implement changes and new strategic initiatives. Consider the learnings from your customer analysis and scenario building – what behavioral changes may be here to stay? Which scenarios may be achievable with the right decisions and investments? Chances are, your outlook for 2021 is significantly different than what you anticipated at the beginning of the year. We believe 2020 is likely to be a watershed period that changes trajectories of many businesses. Challenge your team to shift their mindset from “wait and see” to “let’s double down!” to identify new patterns in customer behavior or tailwinds to your business that – with sufficient, targeted investment – could help you achieve your “ceiling” scenario.

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