“Business need” starts the B2B buying process

B2B Buying Process – Step 1- Business Need by StratoServe

If you research “B2B buying process” you’ll come up with the steps that a business goes through in the B2B buying process. These include (1) Business need recognition (2) Developing specifications of what will meet the need (3) Request for proposals (RFP) (4) Comparison of proposals/bids and negotiate with suppliers (5) Purchase order placement (6) Delivery and receipt of goods or services (7) Evaluation of suppliers.

Sure, the above process occurs in some form but it is not sequential. Neither does it account for the marketing and sales efforts of vendors. This series of posts explains each step as it really plays out in organizations. We believe that understanding the B2B buying process helps everyone understand the customer’s context. We start with “Business Need Recognition”.

Here are three ways to think about Business Needs

Business needs are not whimsical. As a consumer we can buy small ticket items on a whim. We like something because we saw it on the shelf, saw an ad – we like it and buy it. In contrast , for more expensive products like cars, consumers put in more research friends and family members can be involved. Businesses are not whimsical even for small ticket items. As a business team leader you can buy cake with your P-Card to celebrate a team member’s birthday.Chances are that company policy encourages spending on team building activities and most teams at that location celebrate birthdays. Similarly if you are the manufacturing manager it is unlikely that you’ll pick up hardware spares for your main machine on your next trip to Home Depot. Why? Because a 10 cent hardware piece might be so critical that your factory might shut down in case of failure. The hardware will go through the buying process.

There is a business purpose. The business has its own customers. It’s success depends on its customers continuing to buy. Thus the biggest focus of any business is Direct Materials including equipment,software that goes to make the product. That finished product is what gets them paid by their customer. Then there is a lot of goods and services that support the main purpose of the business. These include buildings,furniture,stationery,travel and transportation etc. These supportive purchases are often called “indirect materials” where the Supply Manager or Purchasing Manager has the biggest role. Why? because these items are like commodities and are easier to compare on feature and price.

  • When Business Purpose is Continuing – Repeat Buy. Imagine a cookie brand ( eg. Oreos) where consumers keep buying the same brand. The ingredient suppliers to the Oreo factory like flour, baking soda, chocolate powder are in a repeat buy process. See our Buy Task post. It’s hard for a new supplier to get in because the incumbent supplier is working for years and has deep relationships across the buying organization.
  • When Business Purpose Changes- Modified rebuy. Modified rebuy can be thought of as a modification in the final product. Let us think of Oreo in a new flavor like strawberry. First the Oreo factory will ask their existing flavor suppliers if they can supply strawberry flavor. And most suppliers in B2B markets are eager to please and there is only a little chance for a new supplier to make inroads.
  • When Business Purpose is New- New Buy. A “New Buy” happens when the Business is facing a challenge and needs to find new suppliers. For example, before the Coronavirus grocery stores and restaurants had no suppliers for face masks and sanitizers. Today, after eight months of the pandemic an entire industry has grown around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Any business or organization that has a physical place of business has PPE as a prominent”New Buy”. For many heavy PPE user businesses like facilities maintenance these items have become repeat buys. Just like the Coronavirus has (sadly) opened up the market for face masks and sanitizers, there is always some change in the lives of customers that compels businesses to go for a “New Buy”.

Startups and Innovators face an uphill task to inject their product or service into the buying process. The marketing process for such companies is made much easier if they place themselves in the shoes of a business in their target market. The target market frequently has their own marketing challenges. For persistent marketers of innovation, who truly understand their target markets problems – an opportunity to showcase success soon comes along.

How Strategic is the Purchase? Even among direct materials, some items are strategic and quite literally “the family jewels.” See Risk-Value Matrix. These are critical components or ingredients where even a minor variation can affect the end product quality adversely. When anything is strategic, the line managers have a big say on what will work. Supply Managers or Purchasing Managers always work closely with the user department to ensure that they buy what will really work.

In the next post we will discuss the second step of the B2B Buying Process of exactly how specifications are developed.

Wish everyone a Happy and Safe 2020 ThanksGiving!

About StratoServe

Service Recovery: The secret to retaining loyal customers

Service Recovery-StratoServe

All organizations are ultimately in the service business. And when people are involved- mistakes do happen. And customers can become unhappy. This is “service failure”. How you make customers happy again, is “service recovery.” Happy customers are loyal customers.

Even when you supply a tangible product the customer is looking for a great “user experience”. This includes experiences of (1) ordering the product online (2) getting an order acknowledgement (3) Shipping info (4) Unboxing experience (5) User experience with the product itself. You can think of service recovery like a great product return policy.

It’s easier to think about “Service Recovery” in the restaurant business ( yes during dine-in before/after COVID times!). You order something and what the waiter brings is different or not upto your expectations. You complain. What happens after you complain is service recovery in action. Here are some ways this can play out:

  1. Deny,Deny, Deny : The waiter denies that there is a problem. Yes this is rare in restaurants but does happen in a variety of customer situations. Some organizational cultures simply do not want to admit fault. This could be because of a variety of reasons including (a) fear of lawsuits (b) fear of being questioned on the processes in place (c) overconfidence about the unique product or service provided (d) admitting failure always involves some costs that the system is not willing to take.
  2. Listen,Apologize but Do nothing: The waiter can listen patiently/respectfully but really do nothing. Possible and viable excuses could be “the kitchen is closed for the night” etc. If there is a genuine situation , eg. its really late night customers are quite happy with this approach. They may even come back.
  3. Listen, Apologize, and Delight: Organizations that understand the value of their customer,brand and reputation have budgeted for errors. Employees are empowered to replace orders immediately. Some restaurants make a big deal of this and the manager comes to your table, apologizes and delights you with a “free” small dessert. In many organizations , the frontline service provider is authorized to directly take action like replacing or offering a “feel good” small dessert! You can bet that the customer will come back and will tell friends about the positive experience.

Whatever, your organization’s policy from the above, its critical to learn from every incident of service failure. This learning can improve your process and keep reducing service failures.

We do advocate the third option of Listen,Apologize, and Delight for your good customers. Good,loyal customers are very hard to find.

About StratoServe.

The “S” Curves of radical and incremental innovation

The “S” curves of radical and incremental innovation-StratoServe

Following a 2014 LinkedIn piece Sharpen the Saw, cut the Tree or look for non-Trees?, here is some more detail on the “S” curves of innovation (first published in 2014 and updated 2020). The “S Curve” innovation thinking is attributed to Richard Foster (1986) and made famous by Clayton Christensen in the book “Innovator’s Dilemma,” where he discusses how each successive computer hard drive industry got wiped out.

[Note: Due to the great interest of our dear readers this post was updated in January 2021]

What are the “S” curves? Each of the above S curves represent a technology platform. Movement up an “S” curve is incremental innovation while stepping down on a lower new “S” curve now, may lead to radical innovation, as the new “S” curve surpasses your existing “S” curve. There is a risk that the lower “S” curve does not get better. We only hear of technologies that won and we don’t remember those that lost. So trying out a new technology when you are doing great in your current technology is scary!

The Cost and Performance Y axis, Time on X Axis: If you look at the Y axis you see performance going up and cost coming down. Just as time goes on. In other words over time a particular S curve and technology platform gets improved. This improvement is through factors such as experience, techniques like 6 Sigma, more adoption by customer. The adoption by customer mean higher sales volumes and costs keep going down. However there is a catch for each S curve.

And that is the limit to improvement on the same technology platform. This has happened in numerous industries where dominant players in one “S” platform refused to jump down to a lower “S” curve. And became extinct.

Why is it so difficult /scary to jump onto a lower “S” curve? No one wants to come down in life by choice. And a lower “S” curve can mean less efficient performance and higher cost. It sometimes means a complete rethink of your revenue model. In the example of the music industry records,cassettes, CD’s were sold in stores and a large number of people found employment just in the sales side of the industry. With streaming music on Spotify and Apple the distribution channel and employees have disappeared.

The music industry, as shown in the image above , is a great example to understand “S” Curves:

  • 1970’s Cassette Tapes: You had workers who specialized on manufacturing cassette tapes, there were specialized suppliers and of course the Sony Walkman that made music cassettes so special. Cassettes came in 60 minutes and then 90 minute formats. Avid listeners (the final consumers) tried getting the 90 minute cassette that must have involved a lot of incremental innovation by suppliers and personnel in the plastic music cassette industry. You can visualize six-sigma and total quality programs at cassette factories, that reduced waste and defects in the product.
  • 1980’s Music CDs :The next “S” curve involved CD’s.. Suddenly you had music on CD’s that improved quality a whole lot and “Sony Discman” became popular as the cassette industry started dying, just as vinyl records had died before that. The CD industry had its own players and supply chain. CD’s went on improving and you could buy rewritable CD’s. Cars had CD players and around 2006-7 had both a Cassette player and a CD player.
  • 1990’s MP3 Player: Next off course you have the MP3 player, iPod and literally thousands of songs on your device and then the iTunes store on the cloud. The MP3 players and cloud also require a new set of employee skills and a differently skilled supply base. This is not shown in the picture.
  • 2007…. iPhone, Music Cloud of Spotify and Apple: As Tom Friedman points out in his book, Thank You For Being Late, 2007 was a tectonic shift year starting with the iPhone. If you work in any part of the music supply chain you need to adapt to the new “S” curve of cloud music. Today’s new cars do not have CD players and will allow you to connect the car audio to your phone. Or your Spotify account.

If you think about each industry, it ignored the march of technology and refused to get started on the next technology “S” curve from the current technology “S” curve. This reluctance was because at the early stages, each new “S” curve looked unattractive from the existing “S” curve.

You see that the dominant players in each technology type became extinct just because they thought that the upcoming technology was too much behind- and will never catch up. And there was a lot of resistance to change from within. By the time the new technology ( second and third curves) became really comparable in performance and cost – the incumbents of older “S” curves were too far behind.

The takeaway for all types of organizations is to have the courage to invest time, energy (more than merely money) at successive “S” curves that seem less attractive today but have the potential to vastly surpass what you offer your market today. About StratoServe.

Is your Value Proposition Authentic?

How to make your value proposition authentic-StratoServe

The Coronavirus pandemic has all types of organizations reviewing their value proposition. Whether you are a bricks business or a clicks business. Because, interactions between employees, employees with clients and suppliers were all affected.

Traditionally, the value proposition has been about what you “tell” the customer.For example, here are 7 Best Value Proposition examples from WordStream. And a comprehensive academic article by Payne,Frow and Eggert (2017) summarizes academic work in the field.

Since marketing is (only) about customer value, it’s important to look at the idea of value proposition and why and how it can be authentic.

Why your value proposition needs to be authentic

Before the Internet and Social Media you needed to have a team dedicated to dealing with public relations. Others in the organization or value chain were not supposed to talk to the press about the brand. There were a large number of journalists employed by media organizations and ad revenue helped fund a variety of stories. Consumers were interviewed by journalists (eg. doing a holiday gift story) – and those comments could become widely available. But this was very rare. Sometimes journalists would put out expanded stories based out of PR releases ( and PR and journalists were two sides of the same coin). Yes in times of a product recall and health concerns the media would be on top of the story following the “if it bleeds then it leads” principle.

The above scenario has changed radically with social media. Now traditional media considers highly popular or viralūüôā social media posts as important sources of building a story. PR departments may become extinct as the recent announcement by Tesla suggests. Similarly advertising is becoming much more in tune with society’s current priorities. Why? Because it’s very easy to find what’s on everyone’s mind from social media and web analytics. Once brands have a sense about what their target market is thinking- they fall in place with their messaging for the brand.

We believe that the word “proposition” has become misleading. It sort of promotes the USP ( Unique Selling Proposition) idea. USP suggests that you say how you are unique and different from the competitor. Value proposition assumes that it is not essential for the back end value partners to buy in to the value proposition. The value chain partners include the distribution channel like retailers and distributors, the organization and all its employees, suppliers and the supply chain.

So how do you make your value proposition authentic? Here are some thoughts: :

How to make your value proposition authentic

Stay with the value proposition with all stakeholders:Truth is simple but mixed messages to different stakeholders is complicated.As pointed out the value proposition is historically a “pre-sales” kind of thing. In fact, many organization from consulting, factory machinery and complex software projects the value proposition is handled by the pre-sales team. And then there is a different team that implements. Everyone has access to social media. This implies that if there is any mismatch between what the company says and does- you can expect to hear about it. More vocally for negative customer experiences. So it makes sense to stay with the truth of what you are promising your customer. It keeps things simple and if you communicate intensely your employees, suppliers, distributors and other stakeholders will hear you. And they will support you. Everyone understands that the B2C customer pays the bills.

Revisit your value proposition often: The company mission statement tends to be diffuse and generally derived from discussions within the company. It tends to be internally focussed. Everyone feels happy after a mission statement exercise but the customer point of view is not front and center. It’s probably better to have the value proposition guide all operations in every product line. And yes, the value proposition should align with your mission statement.Value propositions at the product line level is a good idea. Because, the same group of suppliers, production, distributors. ad agencies are involved. Thus, if you manufacture and market washing machines, it very unlikely that you would have different ad agencies for each model of washing machine. Also most suppliers of components for all the washing machine product line would be common.

Start and End all meetings with the value proposition for the product line: Whether you are meeting your ad agency, market research agency, production folks, suppliers start with referencing the value proposition for the product line. Why? because it reminds everyone of what you are trying to deliver to the customer. And addressing issues become clearer. If you end all meetings with the value proposition- people are likely to think how well a particular decision supports the customer value proposition.

About StratoServe.

Move from Perfection to Excellence

Perfection vs. Excellence- StratoServe

In the Coronavirus age (yes it’s just six months but seems like an age!) there are great challenges and no “re-opening” strategy seems to be perfect. Organizations can just try to do their best (be excellent) instead of trying to be perfect. The virus is invisible and thus it brings the “Excellence vs. Perfection” dilemma into sharp focus.

The “Excellence vs. Perfectionism” is a debate that is prominent in psychology Here is an article from Psychology Today that favors excellence over perfectionism. Brene Brown the “Vulnerability/Shame” guru puts it nicely in her interview with Oprah.

Our parents want us to be perfect, our teachers want us to be perfect, our spouse wants us to be perfect, we want our children to be perfect, at work the boss wants us to be perfect, colleagues want us to be perfect. Even friends want us to be perfect.

Or are these just our perception? If so, it is extremely limiting to our growth as individuals and companies. Here is why:

Excellence has a deadline Perfection is never ending: Think of your own social media behavior. Why do you hesitate to post something? Because you are worried about being judged. Most businesses keep trying to perfect their content and eventually it loses relevance. On the other hand, excellence is an internally focussed metric. You did your best and put it out there. One reason that journalists, TV writers are productive is because their job involves deadline. The show must air! The viewership and ratings may sometimes disappoint but the content is out there. On the other hand academics work on deadlines only for conferences. For journals, academics take a long time trying to perfect their work. The “blind peer review” of academic papers are ruthless and even Nobel Prize winners, as anonymous authors, are not spared ! But then the purpose of academic discourse is to advance science and you write up your research to try and convince your peers.

Excellence is internally focussed Perfection is externally focussed: The motivation for perfectionism is the fear of being criticised. Or the fear of ridicule. In short, “fear” drives perfectionism. Striving for excellence on the other hand, is competing with yourself for quality. If you do reach perfection by your own reckoning there is no room for improvement. You lose a learning orientation. In contrast, when you strive for excellence and do your best, you know that there is scope for improvement. You have a learning orientation.

Excellence has a Learning Orientation -Perfection is already perfect:By definition perfection is perfect! Organizations that have leaders who want “perfection” don’t admit failure or mistakes. Mistakes in anything, to anyone including themselves! This can lead to close mindedness at the organizational level. It goes away from a growth mindset and stops inter-departmental learning and communication. This in turn hinders innovation as this highly cited article by Calantone,Cavusgil and Zhao (2002) explains.

Excellence spurs innovation Perfection hinders innovation. As a striver for excellence you are ready to learn from all and improve. Innovation becomes possible as you are ready to experiment, learn and try again.Perfection is like the end of story. You get stuck on one “S” curve of innovation while new competitors come along with radically improved offerings.

To summarize, it’s far better for organizations and individuals to strive for excellence rather than try to be perfect. We do hope that the pandemic will be behind us soon.

About StratoServe.

Why marketing is about customer value – and not social media

Marketing is about value-Labor Day 2020 -StratoServe

Ask anyone – What is marketing? And you’ll get answers like advertising, social media or mobile marketing. Others, who have taken a formal marketing class, will say 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). This is surprising and at the root of any marketing effort that fails or provides a less than hoped results. And as anyone who has tried to market anything has learnt – marketing results tend to disappoint. Unless, the marketer is razor focussed on the customer and their perceived value.

The American Marketing Association has spent enormous hours in defining marketing. And this definition is in every marketing book starting from high school. And yet…. the confusion…

Why this acute confusion? Here are some thoughts:

Advertising and Social Media are more visible? : Social media is everywhere, all the time. If anyone has lots of social media followers- it’s because they provide value to their audience. Just look at at the “Table of Contents” of any marketing textbook. There is a reason that Advertising and Social Media appears towards the end of the book. The target market,product,price,place all have the value baked in. The last step is promotion which includes social media, and depends on the previous steps. Thus, the advertising agency must truly understand the client industry and domain. When you as a customer do buy something because of an ad, the product must provide you value. If so, you would buy again and recommend it to your friends-often on social media.

Marketing evolved from Sales: Marketing in its “value” form evolved from age old “sales”. In sales, the salesperson tries to sell what he/she has already got to sell. Here the sales mantra is to “sell what is selling”. And denounce what is not selling! More commissions and hailed as a hero, it makes more sense to sell products that have value clarity.

Top sales performers are rainmakers and respected as heroes across the organization. Except when consumers value perception changes…

Recall the famous case of Encyclopedia Britannica in book form that sold door to door. When the PC (personal computer) emerged in the mid 1980″s the customer got a free one compact disk “Grolier encyclopedia.” Folks at the Encyclopedia Britannica realized that the computer was going to change the game. And yet no salesperson could make the $600 commission on a CD. Resistance from the sales force was so high that Britannica was unable to change its business model. The internet was to come over a decade later and then there was Wikipedia and Google.

The consumer is always changing: Effective B2B sales people know about value in marketing. They can understand early in the sales process whether the client sees value in the product offering. Then they spend more time with prospects who are more appreciative of their product’s value.

Driving B2B is B2C. When consumers change, B2C changes and B2B must change as well. Clayton Christensen recounts about the computer disk drive industry. Given a choice consumers would prefer a personal computer that does not occupy a lot of desk space. And that preference drove the preference in B2B supply chain for smaller disk drives. The legacy large disc drive manufacturers became extinct.

There are many examples of changing consumer behavior. A widespread change in young people is that they prefer cell phone text/social media messaging to a phone call. Think of how many times you see young people “talking” on the phone? At the other demographic end are the elderly. It’s astonishing how much people adopted the mobile phone, apps and social media during the Coronavirus pandemic.You may be old and high risk but once you set your mind to it, you can (and do) order groceries through the grocery app!

You can be sure that all the technology enabled processes like apps, family zoom meetings will augment life after COVID.

There always will be some folks who see value in your product

Remember that there will always be some customers who think that your product is of value. And today digital marketing allows you to reach those loyalists online. Thus it is possible for a singer to find a thousand listeners on iTunes or Spotify. The challenge is whether your market is big enough to generate enough revenue for your goals.

We wish our dear readers a very Happy Labor Day weekend in the US. We ask everyone to follow local public safety guidelines. We will soon put the Coronavirus behind us!

About StratoServe.

Direct Mail through USPS -why now?

The heart gladdens to see the USPS van although there might be a few direct mail pieces and some bills.

People are at home. And now that there is agreement that incoming mail and packages don’t bring in the Coronavirus, it’s time to look at dear old direct mail again. And the time is now for all US businesses.

This blog is a strong supporter of the USPS. Because the postal system workers have always been “essential workers” deeply embedded in the community. The Coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the great community service that the postal employees do.

Here is why/how you should consider Direct Mail/Advertising Mail in the pandemic world:

USPS in the news

USPS is in the news for mail in votes in the November US Presidential Elections and here is a BBC story that summarizes the issues. We were delighted to note that there talk of USPS funding of $25 Billion. This will probably help with additional infrastructure that would allow USPS to provide improved delivery times.

As our previous USPS-Direct Mail posts over the years indicate, this seems to be the first time , that everyone realizes the importance of USPS. In the past, before Coronavirus, it was that Direct Mail “is dead.” It was only digital going forward.

Digital Marketing owes a lot to Direct Mail

If you think about it, most digital marketing principles originate in the world of direct mail. The notification alerts for social media, email and messages on your phone grew out of AOL’s famous “You’ve Got Mail” chime. The digital world was trying to capture the anticipation and excitement of new mail. Today there are so many notifications that you need to turn them off. This deluge of digital messages is our argument for another look at direct mail.

Direct mail starts with a prospect with a known mailing address. This data comes in when you ship a purchased item to the individual. Before the digital world you had no way of tracking someone who entered your physical store but did not buy. Now you can remarket to a web visitor because they leave a digital but anonymous footprint on the website. In addition, there is profuse data about individuals browsing behavior that can help narrow down your prospect. For example, if you know that certain sports lovers buy from your e-commerce store, you can target advertising to those sports lovers as they visit sports sites. At the core of all this is the direct marketing mailing list and a history of past purchases.

If you have digital analytic data for your website it is possible to narrow down a mailing list that is pretty effective.

What is the number of direct mailers per day?

In the US about 182 million pieces of mail are delivered every day. Estimated US population of 328 million in 2019 has about 78% adults over 18 or about 256 million adults. By this calculation the average postal mail received is less than two pieces by every person over 18 in the US. Okay some days a household might have more postal mail but it would rare that an individual would get 10 or more letters in a day!

Contrast this with email. People get at over 126 emails a day. That is about a hundred times more than direct mail. We are far more likely to read a direct mail piece than an email. Just the brand hanging around the house for an estimated 17 days is great for the marketer. Some more interesting data on direct mail is here.

To summarize, now is the time for you to try Direct Mail if you had exited that platform. People are at home and adirect mail piece, properly targeted can do wonders for your B2B or BC product.

About StratoServe.

B2B opportunities after COVID

B2B opportunities after COVID- StratoServe

COVID 19, the Coronavirus, will eventually go away. But consumer behavior would have changed forever. And all B2B opportunities will change for all B2B exists because consumers (B2C) does. If you are a B2B marketer there is a consumer down the line who pays. This applies to B2B marketers of aircrafts to small hardware.When consumers change behavior and preferences change B2B offerings need to change. The best old B2B product becomes irrelevant when there is no consumer at the other end. See our Derived Demand in Marketing post to understand why B2B depends on B2C.

States like New York have started to reopen after reaching low COVID infection rates. Here are some thoughts about opportunities for B2B marketer:

Helps Covid Coping

Does your product/service Help Covid Coping?

Then you have great demand for the next year or so. These include manufacturers of masks and sanitizers. Our friends in the facilities maintenance industry are very busy as different organizations try to re-open. Cleaning and sanitizing buildings seems to be an unending cycle. Similarly, COVID testing services have booming demand as have the COVID vaccine makers and manufacturers who can scale the vaccine.

There are also a multitude of technological solutions and apps that try to keep track of individual Covid exposure, testing (Update December 2020 Vaccination )results. These give comfort to all kinds of organization from healthcare to education that are trying to minimize risk for all. Then there are numerous process changes which will endure after COVID. As an example, if you buy auto insurance you are encouraged to get your own printout of the insurance card that must be kept in your vehicle.

If you filed tax returns through tax software like Turbo Tax you would be used to uploading scanned documents. However, if you used an accountant- the chances are that you needed to provide scanned copies this year and also 2021. Why? because everyone was working from home. And it’s too hard to open the office and access the high speed scanner. By and large individuals got used to scanning and printing at home. The phone apps for scanning work surprisingly well. It’ll be interesting to watch if printing and copying reduces within organizations as everyone becomes more comfortable with digital documents.

Some parts of the economy that were given up for millennials are seeing an upsurge. Uber/Lyft is being partly replaced by car buying-just for perceived Covid safety. Similarly, millennials realize that working from home needs a decent home so home buying is up. Surprisingly manufactured food like cereal is up and cooking at home has picked up. Fintech and apps like Robinhood has given a boost to the younger investor.All these changes give hope to B2B suppliers who were experiencing negative sentiment from younger folks pre-Covid.

Hurts Covid Coping

Does your product/service hurt Covid coping in the short run? Then read on…

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected all activities that depend on people getting together for any purpose. All forms of travel and tourism, sports and musical events, schools and colleges, churches and places of worship, malls and retail are hard hit. Within each category- establishments that have no space for social distancing are hardest hit like bars and pubs in crowded cities. B2B opportunities and upstream supply chains are completely disrupted. Thus, the beer that goes into beer kegs for bars had to be thrown away, just as school milk .

If you are a supplier to anything that involves low social distance you can expect things to get better only in 2021. It’s a good time though to look at new ways of working digitally. Restaurant owners are still not allowed to have indoor dining in large parts of the US. Food delivery services (like GrubHub and Uber Eats) demand a large commission from what is only a take-out business. Local restaurants take direct phone orders and if you pick-up yourself they are grateful. Direct restaurant order and payment software would see an uptick, going forward. Just as, grocery chains have accelerated online order and delivery.

In both teaching and medicine, online processes have accelerated during the pandemic. After COVID we can expect online learning to remain as an important pillar of teaching and learning. Telemedicine is likely to augment doctor/s visits and provide for a better overall patient experience.

In retail, Amazon is looking to convert malls to distribution warehouses. Since closed malls will reduce local employment Amazon is offering local logistical partner opportunities. In other words, brick mall retail seems to be nearing its day of reckoning much faster after COVID.

The Coronavirus misery will continue for a year or more, but it has speeded up digitization in a big way. Changes that might have taken 10-20 years anyway, will happen in a year or two. All businesses and their supply chains will be able to decide what parts of their business model can be moved online.

And it is in digitization that every B2B Marketer will find new opportunity.

About StratoServe.

Content Creators: Would Mark Twain have written 4000 words a day during the Spanish Flu of 1918?

One of the most delightful places to see in Hartford, Connecticut is the Mark Twain House. This is where Mark Twain did the bulk of his writing. There is an upper floor where you see the writing table and ink pens that he dipped in ink and wrote. Twain apparently wrote 4000 words a day according to our tour guide. The word counter blog suggests that he wrote between 1400-1800 words a day. That’s a lot if you need to dip the pen in an ink pot after every few words.

This blog has been somewhat sporadic ever since the March Coronavirus shutdown. To get inspired we looked at the Mark Twain wikipedia page just to check if Mark Twain was around in 1918. Alas, Twain died in 1910. But given the intrepid nature of the legend, we are sure that Twain would have kept pushing out content, had he been around in 1918 and the Spanish Flu.

The Coronavirus has challenged everyone globally. However, all content creators can get inspired by some popular nuggets from Mark Twain.

  • Get started: One of Twain’s famous quotes is “The secret of getting ahead is getting started“. Whether you run social media content, you tube videos, blogs there is a block to getting started. Once you start you can get it done!
  • Simplicity: ‚ÄúI never write metropolis for seven cents because I can get the same price for city. I never write policeman because I can get the same money for cop.” This one is quite incredible given that it is over hundred years old. There was no television, internet or social media yet Twain knew that you are writing to communicate. And not to win the Spelling Bee! The same applies to video, tweets and instagram or whatever.
  • Productivity: Mark Twain had a time and place i.e. daytime and a desk. And he worked from home, like many folks during the Coronavirus pandemic. He would complete his writing for the day in what seems to be a very disciplined manner.
  • The Twain White Suit and Marketing: Twain wore white suits on the lecture circuit and anywhere there was press. For newspapers were black and white and the white suit made him stand out. Twain was conscious and tried hard to market his work. Many more readers would know about Twain given the social media and Internet today!
  • Revenue model and copyright fight: Twain fought valiantly for intellectual property right. Copyright meant that he and his heirs could earn from his books over time. By 1909 the Copyright act brought the total period to 56 years. Finally in 1976 American Authors were given copyright for life and fifty years forward as this nice article from USPTO explains.

We hope that content creators in the digital age will get inspired to keep plugging away. We will eventually work through the Coronavirus.

About StratoServe.

Happy July 4th: Why think about life after the COVID Pandemic?

 American Flag and Sparkler
Tomorrow is July 4th, 2020 the American Independence day.  It is a day celebrating hope and freedom for all people.Traditional firework displays have been cancelled in regions where there is an upsurge of COVID cases. However, there are some options to watch fireworks  and here is a nice list of virtual fire work displays.

Here is our July 4th post from 2008, in the midst of the great recession.It’s really important to start thinking about life after the global coronavirus (COVID) pandemic…. because like the great recession, we will overcome this.¬† Here is why we should all be hopeful this 4th of July:

  1. We adapt better after each catastrophic event: Call it the ability of the human species to survive and treat every dire necessity as the mother of invention! We tend to develop institutions and mechanisms after every catastrophic event. Thus, the United Nations after World War, Homeland Security after 911, quicker financial support actions after the great recession of 2008. It is the experience of 2008 that prompted the US Government to support people  much bigger and quicker in 2020 than 2008. In the case of the coronavirus, although cases are rising  the death rate is declining  according to the CDC.
  2. ¬†Rejoice -the death rate declining: As noted in an earlier post, the virus needs a host. If the host is too sick and can’t meet (infect ) anyone and the virus can’t survive. This is the reason public health authorities were locking down and that was killing off the virus which had literally – nowhere to go.¬† The other factor is that the medical folks have developed a great deal of expertise with the ailment and these include many treatment options that were unknown at the early stage of the pandemic. Older folks and people with pre-existing conditions are at greater risk of death so everyone needs to be particularly careful with this vulnerable segment.
  3. Face Masks, Hand washing, Social Distance and Outdoors help-a lot: Social Distance and outdoors help put some distance for the virus to travel and that reduces the chance of infection.Face masks prevent spread of the virus from an asymptomatic patient.It appears that 40-50% of the spread is from asymptomatic patients. Wearing a mask if you have no symptoms but are carrying the virus (i.e. asymptomatic) stops the spread.It turns out that  face masks also protect the wearer.
  4. Coexisting with COVID -assume that the Coronavirus is endemic: The idea of a disease being endemic is that is there and you have to learn to live with it. For example, if you visit parts of Africa and Asia that have endemic malaria, its good to take malaria tablets ahead of your visit and try and cover yourself with mosquito repellant and avoid mosquito bites. Similarly if the Coronavirus is going to be around and vaccines will take time it’s best to think of face masks, hand washing¬† and social distance as the equivalent of the mosquito repellant. Doing so, will enable us to¬† co-exist with the virus.
  5. The next pandemic will have much better global response:  Epidemiologists are convinced that there are many more different pandemics that will emerge due to the thousands of viruses that might jump from animals to humans and start spreading. We can be sure that that the global response will be far more robust. The global pressure on all countries where such pandemics originate is now such that, in the future you can be sure that such viruses will not leave the town where the virus originates.

In the meanwhile, here is a simple way to prepare for a post pandemic world in 2021 once vaccines are widely available:

Learn a digital skill relevant to your industry or functional expertise. For the coronavirus has truly unleashed the power of digitization in every aspect of life. Grocery stores and restaurants are taking online/phone orders and online/phone payments. This online/phone combination can be seen in banks, education, healthcare, manufacturing, movies, retail,  sport, public safety, entertainment  and everything else. There is a huge opportunity to perfect the digital channel in 2020 while folks are still in lockdown. Consumer behavior will change forever and if there is anything positive from the pandemic Рit is the acceleration of digital. It will grow all markets because the combination of physical/virtual will open up global markets like never before.

We wish our readers a very happy 4th of July!

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