Ideas: How do we plan without a timescale?

Disruption is not a new thing, businesses and people have been dealing with dramatic change, war and crisis since time began, but the extreme change that we are all experiencing as a result of Coronavirus is what has almost every business and individual feeling pretty unprepared. Kirsty Ramsey, marketing and business development director at OPR, considers how businesses can plan for recovery in times of such uncertainty

If history tells us one thing, it’s that the businesses that succeed through any major change or crisis are those who are able to adapt quickly and in line with their market and changes in consumer behaviour.

And whilst it’s still early days for the UK to assess long term economic impact, consumer trends are starting to paint a picture of how some of our behaviours could change forever.

Trends are starting to show how our motivations to buy and what we will consider essential products is likely to change, how much importance we place on brands that have purpose and the things we are missing the most during lockdown. For the UK, the real positive is that social chatter is shifting to future gazing and we’re all talking about what we’ll do with our freedom, the things we’ll never take for granted again and the first places we’ll visit.

Whatever your current business situation, whether you’re entering survival mode, busier than ever or riding out a period of uncertainty, it’s essential we start to use the data available, listen to your consumers and think about how your products, services and communications will need to adapt long term to what becomes our new ‘normal’ and what will really motivate us to choose a brand.

Why plan?

This enforced period of change means we have the chance to take a step back and reflect on what has worked, or hasn’t, in our business. There’s time to invest in revisiting your strategy, but how do you plan when we don’t have a timescale?

This is where scenario planning is key, and is something our economy is based on. Successful businesses adapt quickly because they take time to plan for different outcomes, and there is plenty of data from the CBI, the Government and the likes of Kantar that should help us all to determine what paths the next few months might take, so now is the right time to look at the data and spot emerging trends.

If the current situation has done one thing for most of us, it’s slowed down our usual daily routine and created more time in our day, even if this is just a couple of hours from the lack of daily commute. In our personal lives we’re working out how to use this time wisely; we’re getting fit, learning new skills and bettering ourselves for the future so businesses should be doing exactly the same thing.

We are working with our clients right now to help them understand the data that is coming through, be mindful of the potential pitfalls in their existing plans that could need revisited and spot the green shoots that could lead to new ways of doing things or great opportunities.

The Five R’s for Recovery

Planning for recovery isn’t just for businesses that are facing financial challenges or those who have had to temporarily close, it’s also considering how we plan for economic recovery and how our consumers needs or motivations could have changed. Survival, success and growth will differ for each business and each sector over the next 12 months, but all businesses should consider five key strategies when planning for the UK’s comeback.


Maintaining brand awareness and reminding your customers (past, existing and new) why they chose you is key not only to survival, but to recovery, growth and your ability to take advantage of any new opportunities.

The strongest brands and those who are able to recover quicker are those who adapt their messaging and offering now, to have purpose and meaning throughout crisis and as the economy recovers. Consumers brand loyalty is being tested and so it’s the perfect time to remind your customers of your values, how your expertise can support them, how you are supporting your team, local communities and your industry.

The way in which consumers are interacting with businesses has changed dramatically and so its a good time to consider your tone and your messaging, how you communicate now and how you will communicate in the future. One of the consumer trends unlikely to shift back for any generation, is our new found trust and confidence in communicating online.

Restore confidence

Some of your customers may have been forced to abandon your your business or just to cut back, and whether this was for financial reasons or because you were unable to continue to trade, the challenge remains the same, how do you get them back on board when this is all over?

Or maybe you now have a product or service that can be marketed to a whole new audience or sector – how do you get them to choose you?

Restoring or building confidence in your consumers that you are the right choice is about positive and bold messaging, reviewing and adapting how you package and price your offering in line with how consumers are likely to feel about your business and what you are able to offer them. You can plan now for how you may need to restore confidence, what your marketing strategy may look like and how you identify high potential growth areas.

Re-establish differentiation

Trends globally are showing that the things we consider to be essential products, services or experiences are shifting dramatically, and that some of these changes are likely to stay. How we are motivated to purchase now and our emotional connection to brands are changing, and how we feel about brands could change forever depending on how they reacted to the outbreak.

Making sure that you have fully understood your market, your competitors and your customers and have re-positioned your business will help your brand to stand out in what is a very noisy market place, especially online. Your messages now and as we move forward should restore relevancy to your customer whether that is good value, innovation, a solution, a luxury or an experience.


You may need re-launch a service or product which has been repositioned or launch an entirely new offering, some may even consider whether their brand will be fit for purpose, but it’s important to establish why you are re-launching any of those things, what’s different and most importantly – why the difference matters to your customer?

At this stage businesses should be considering where their biggest opportunities for growth lie, how they target new customers, how they re-connect with existing customers and how to continuously evolve revenue streams.

Rally the troops

When planning for recovery, perhaps the most overlooked strategy is how businesses will engage their team and manage internal communications as we work remotely. As we do get through this, and we will, all businesses will need their teams to return back to work raring to go, more motivated than ever and full of company pride. As businesses look to recover lost revenues, re-build relationships or re-ignite projects they will need their team at their best and ready to support the company’s objectives.

Throughout remote working it’s so important that all leaders are transparent, share their goals and engage each member of their team every day, even in small ways.

Keeping your culture, living by your values and adding a bit of fun into your day will really help keep the team spirit going. Consider what your return to work may look like and how you can start now to ‘rally your troops’.