Surviving The Pandemic


Geoff Bessin

Inspired by our own efforts to weather a challenging pandemic-induced business climate, we – at Intuiface – decided to host a “Leadership Summit” in early February.

More than 200 women and men from around the world – representing the executive suite for agencies and integrators large and small – gathered for a virtual deep dive into the business side of digital signage content creation and delivery.  

Although most sessions were comprised of pre-built educational content, the day concluded with a live roundtable discussion titled “Surviving the Pandemic”.

Looking back, it’s clear that participants were representative of a biased sample since only survivors were in attendance. Yes, there was a collective agreement that the previous year had, to use a technical term, sucked. But the mere fact of survival, coupled with evidence of vaccine-derived light at the end of the tunnel, led the majority to embrace at least some level of optimism.

Experiences certainly ran the gamut. Most companies needed to take advantage of government largesse if available. (For an unlucky percentage, home countries were unable or unwilling to provide.) Some were forced to reassess their business models while others kept sailing along, tolerating as best they could a decreased amount of wind in their sails. (In their sales?) All had looked in the mirror and asked themselves, were they built to withstand the pandemic, thrive beyond, and – heaven forbid – be ready for the next calamity?

What follows is a collection of actions and guiding principles determined to be critical for survival in lean times and a propellant in good. Most are not unique to the world of digital signage; they are best practices that would make any business school professor proud. However, as an old boss of mine once said, vision without execution is hallucination. You’ve got to actually do these things, not just pay lip service.

Spend a moment staring at this list and ask yourself, how well has your company adopted each principle? Where you lag, take action. Surely, inaction is the quickest route to failure.

  • Identify, package, and pursue modernization initiatives within your existing install base. How well are their current deployments able to minimize face-to-face interaction? How well do they accommodate touch alternatives for the portion of customers uneasy with physical contact? Virtually every existing client is a prospect for additional, legitimate, era-sensitive work.
  • Find (more) ways to automate business processes, freeing you to puruse activities more directly related to revenue generation. For example, how well do you take advantage of marketing automation? BI-based analytics? Yes, this means spending more money in the short term, but dividends will pay off in the long term.
  • Develop a robust and adaptable approach to virtual selling. With it, you can proactively accommodate health-cautious prospects while perfecting a sales pitch that differentiates. Perhaps even better, you eliminate travel expenses while increasing the volume of interactions. Across verticals and generations, virtual meetings are now considered acceptable and appropriate.
  • Create services and messaging that embrace the new normal. Yes, this isn’t a particularly novel idea, but your ideas may be innovative. Not only could this generate new opportunities, but it would exhibit your company’s awareness and sensitivity to existing clients and the marketplace. Let’s not put our heads in the sand.
  • Reflect on your company’s glaring weaknesses and play through what-if scenarios for adapting to a new crisis post-COVID. It’s very likely that aspects of your business either failed to adapt or at least made it harder to thrive. Perhaps it was focus on a down market, reliance on an inflexible resource, or some other bottleneck whose inefficiency only became apparent when circumstances cratered. Now or never, it’s time to pivot. Explore fixes for what seems to be broken, add flexibility to what was unyielding.
  • Consider establishing ecosystem partnerships that can deliver mutually supportive business prospecting and customer service. It’s rare for independence to be the key to survival, so rather than paddling alone, create relationships that deliver value for both parties. This could mean connecting with peer businesses or plugging into large enterprise channel programs.  Find resources and allies that can give your business greater ballast.
  • Explore the use of a subscription-based engagement model for at least some of your projects. One well-understood benefit of a more predictable revenue stream is its shock absorber affect in lean times. Yes, some clients would rather die on the perpetual model hill, and cash flow decreases in the short term but – again – we’re more concerned about the long term. And it could be an interesting competitive differentiator as many prospects are attracted to the idea of lower payment upfront and an incentive for the service provider to meet/exceed expectations or lose the client’s business.

Here’s the thing. We cannot assume (or hope) that everything will return to normal. The result of such an attitude is complacency, and that attitude solves nothing. What will be standard in the post-COVID era will be different from that which came before. (Trying not to say “new normal” but it’s very hard…) So whatever you decide to do – or have done – should be approached as a long-term solution. A permanent change. You’re not just patching a hole, you’re building a new dam.

It is difficult, and possibly a tad offensive, to look at our collective hardship as an opportunity. However, the old saw is right – what doesn’t kill us can make us stronger. The key is to be honest with our self-assessment and then make a sincere effort to pivot and grow. Survival is not guaranteed, but action is the only solution.

Naturalists tell us that forest fires can be beneficial to the environment, replenishing the soil and making room for healthy new growth. We may be nearing the end of a wildfire that has consumed the global community. Let’s humbly learn from it and grow …

About The Guest Writer

Geoff Bessin is Chief Evangelist at Intuiface, which means he thinks about the intersection of digital interactivity with signage and presentations.  Twitter – @geoffbessin