Forest fires are enormously destructive forces, but even the worst forest fire is quickly followed by new plant growth in the form of green shoots. These new growths are the promise of future forests, and rebuilding from the disaster of the fire.
The same is true of business, every disaster brings with it new opportunities for growth in the future. In the CoronaVirus crisis, one of the hardest hit industries has been Cruise Lines, struck by travel restrictions and the fear of on-board infections. However, even in the midst of such an acute crisis there are green shoots for the Cruise industry. Celebrity Cruises is one of the largest cruise companies in the world, and in the early days of the crisis they identified that there were some customer segments who were still buying and, in fact, buying more cruise tickets based on promotions they were running. An example is below:
Since the market changes dramatically during a crisis, these green shoots can appear in unexpected places. It is almost impossible to know where they might pop up, so the most important thing you can do is be prepared to look for them and find them quickly so you can help them grow into major business drivers.
How do you find green shoots? Here are some ways:
- Survey ALL of your data. Since green shoots will appear in unexpected places, you can’t rely on your intuition to know where to look for them. Surveying the entirety of your data is critical, since the larger the net you throw the more likely you will catch them. For example, some of the best green shoots for customer growth might come from customer support requests, since anyone engaging for help with your product is still engaged. That can tell you a lot about what types of new customers you should target. Outlier finds the unexpected in your data automatically and quickly. In this new normal, it is imperative that your resources be focused on the most optimal outcomes for your business.
- Think differently. One of the most important mental shifts you can make during a crisis is to view problems as opportunities. Something that is hurting your business now, might be an opportunity if you start to operate in a different way. For example, if customers aren’t buying your product but existing customers are still upgrading their accounts you might want to start offering a free version of your product and rely on upgrades for new revenue.
- Talk to your customers. Quantitative data is important, but qualitative feedback from customers can reveal things that are not obvious on the surface. For example, if some segments of customers are still buying your product during a crisis it’s possible they are using the product in an entirely new and unexpected way that can be a new market opportunity for you. To get this feedback, you’ll need to do more than offer surveys and gift-cards, you need to build customer discussions into your buying experience. While the friction can reduce sales in some cases, the new information you gather is will pay huge dividends in the future.
The best thing about green shoots is that they are the fuel for future competitive advantages. If you find green shoots before the competition, you can get a head start on a market recovery and build growth engines for the future while they still struggle to make their old approach to business work. While this is generally good advice, during a crisis it becomes a secret weapon.
Quote of the Day: “Even a poor plan is better than no plan at all.” – Mikhail Chigorin