Up until about 8.03 pm on Monday, I had a different post planned for today. But that’s the thing at the moment; plans can turn on a moment’s notice.
Restaurants suddenly finding they wouldn’t be open for New Year’s Eve, even though all the produce would have been in their larders. Schools finding on Monday night that they were no longer planning a week of in-person teaching.
Planning is a mainstay of the syllabus on every business degree, in every marketing text and almost every bit of reading matter on all kinds of subjects, from content to your meals for the week.
Well, right now I say screw the plan. I think we need to employ what I’d call mindful reactivity. And here’s why.
Your customers don’t care about your plan
What customers want right now is for you to tell them something handy, preferably that they can use right now. My favourite local bakery and coffee stop, Town Mill Bakery, was on it at 6 am on Tuesday morning, reminding us what we could order and when to get it in for. They also reminded us about the extra things they offer during a lockdown.
As they said, they’ve done it before. So, in that way, they do have a plan. Just it probably wasn’t what they planned to post on Tuesday morning.
React in your way
When the world’s turned upside down again, you don’t just have to post information about your business. You could post things to give us a smile, a moment’s inspiration or reflection. When you know what your values are as a business, what you stand for, then you’ll have a good idea on what to react to and how.
Your response to lockdown 3.0 might be practical and focused on what you do, or can do to support your customers, your community. It might be that it’s appropriate for you to post links to support for people’s mental health. If you’re known for your wit and humour, then give people something to smile about.
That’s why it’s mindful reactivity, not just doing anything and everything. It’s what’s right for your business.
Check your planned stuff
Scheduling posts and emails, not to mention adverts if you’re that size of business, is standard practice. On Monday night and Tuesday, I guarantee that there’ll have been businesses caught out by content going out into the world that best looked a little tone-deaf.
The benefit of being a smaller business is you probably have more control over this. You know what you’ve got ready to go and should be able to react quicker to stop stuff. Sometimes it’s not even that what you were about to post was inappropriate. It just might not be the most helpful thing you could be talking to customers and your community about.
Mindful reactivity means thinking about things, and changing if it doesn’t feel right to you.
Gather as you go
When it comes to writing, there’s nothing worse than a blank screen. Apart from a blank screen when you’re on a deadline and have no inspiration.
Even if you’re not going to plan, then I’d encourage you to gather ideas as you go. Become a magpie of things that your community might get value from, then go back over them when you’re ready to put something out. Ideas can be anywhere.
The photo of a bit of a packaging disaster in this week’s newsletter came from a quick trip round the supermarket. Still, it struck me as something important for businesses to think about in their design process.
It’s still not all about you
No doubt that lockdown this time around will be harder. We’re all tired of it. Though we probably need to have a word with ourselves as it’s nothing compared to frontline workers, particularly in the NHS.
What characterised the first lockdown for me was a spirit of generosity. Businesses supporting other businesses, working with other businesses in ways none of them had imagined before then. It’s not hard to shine a light on someone else; it doesn’t make us any less of anything.
Silence is okay
Actually, I’d say silence is okay sometimes. And I’d probably just give your customers a heads up that you’re going to be silent for a bit. There will be too many businesses that sadly disappear permanently. By telling people you’re going silent for a bit, it might help to reassure them that your plan is to be back when you can.
It’s okay not to feel okay with any of this, not to keep fronting it out. None of us has a plan for this kind of event, and everyone can react in their own way. Be human and authentic about it. Never has that word been more appropriate. It’s where the big businesses fell down the first time around, and I imagine might do this time as well.
Don’t stress about the plan you had, or think you should have. There’s enough else going on at the moment without adding that stress into things. They may not teach Reacting 101 at Harvard Business School, but done in the right way, with the right intent, then reacting may be just the thing we need as smaller business owners right now.
When what comes next is something none of us has experienced before, who’s to say that planning is better than mindful reactivity?