Let’s accept that things have changed in the country during the 2nd and 3rd lockdown. There is a new skill required which is mandatory for survival.
This is the ability to conceptualize what is happening in the marketplace based on insights into the data points. Be it media buying to developing distribution strategies of an organization does not give space to understand data, elucidate insights and then develop a strategy we find it hard to be relevant in today’s world. Let me pick up the key skills for Sri Lanka.
1) Move to targeted marketing activities Let’s not be arrogant by thinking that we can beat competitors by reducing marketing investment. It will not work. The consumer out there is getting bombarded with information from different screens. Be it the mobile, the computer, TV and the screen of life which is what happens down the lane. Specially in Sri Lanka where the ‘gossip’ or we can call it corridor talk is a popular pastime. In this backdrop, we see that consumers are making drastic changes to the brand they buy due to the increased cost of goods- sugar, rice, bread prices have increased. Do not cut your marketing investment. What is required is targeted marketing activities based on consumer insights
2) Invest to understand consumer behaviour
In order to do targeted marketing activities, we must continue to invest in understanding the changing dynamics of a consumer. We know how much each of us have changed our behaviour to working during the 3rd lockdown. Hence, we can just imagine the change that a housewife is going through. Strong companies do not cut research budgets but actually, they spend more. We have to understand the consumer psyche.
Lockdown 3 was a disaster for many families in Sri Lanka. A family member, a relative, friend or neighbour got infected by the Covid-19 virus. They had to be hospitalized. Some had to be moved to the ICU and then ventilator. 11,500 odd people died. Hence we see behaviour changing drastically. Dig deep and understand the behaviour changes.
3) Don’t make knee jerk decisions
Let’s agree that the country is under severe challenge. Getting foreign exchange for you to buy your raw and packaging material has become a challenge. People on the factory floor are getting Covid positive.
There is community transmission and it is a fact even though the government is not agreeing to this reality. In this backdrop do not make knee jerk decisions. Keep your pride away and think of the long term. Sri Lanka will come out of the woods. We have seen this in the last fifteen years- be it 9/11 downturn, tsunami, the last phase of the war, the commodity bubble burst, change of government in 2015, looting of the central bank and then the Easter attacks. Sri Lanka always fought back. Don’t make decisions that you will regret later.
4) Accept negative feedback
Value those who bring negative news. Don’t kill the messenger. Go after the idea that it is not conducive to your ego. Understand the truth and find out what needs to be done to correct it.
Do not focus on the ‘positive storytellers’ just because they make you feel good. At this time it takes guts to tell the negative news. Appreciate the feedback and as a team do the correction. Strong companies want good unadulterated feedback.
5) Listen deeply
Working from home needs a new skill set. You have no option but to empower people for decision making. It’s a tough skill to learn but you have no option. Central power will not work in the new setup. Trusting your employees and listening deeply is key to seeing your company through.
We have no option but learn the new skill set. If we don’t change we do justice to the organizations that we give leadership to. Stay safe.
( Rohantha is an alumnus of Harvard University. The thoughts expressed are his own and not the views of any organisation he serves in Sri Lanka or internationally.)