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Rethinking the Post-Pandemic Business Model – Futurum Tech Podcast

This week’s episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast focuses on Rethinking the Post-Pandemic Business Model. I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Fred McClimans as we take a look at this topic that is likely on the minds of most business leaders today. Clearly, we are full on in the midst of the coronavirus COVID-19 driven pandemic business model, and Fred and I wanted to take a look at what rethinking our tried and true, and in some instances, decades old, business models look like. We think it’s important to rethink and rework those business models, right now, as we are living through these times, before we turn our focus on rebuilding and recovering.

With that in mind, we decided to highlight just a few business categories with a view toward how they might rethink and rework their post-pandemic business models. Our focus in this discussion was on five categories: Education, Retail, Manufacturing, B2B Marketing and Sales, and Entertainment (Travel, Destinations, Sports). Here’s a look at we think is important to consider when rethinking the post-pandemic business model, and where we go from here.

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Rethinking the Post-Pandemic Business Model

Education. The impetus for the post-pandemic business model focus for this video podcast was actually driven by a message Fred received from his local school district. He shared that he started thinking about how school districts the world over are wrestling with the digital divide, from internet access to computer access, to how grading should happen to how students and teachers can connect and pivot to online learning. In the education realm (and elsewhere), we are experiencing this massive transition and re-shifting of everything we know about education and as we think about post-pandemic practices as it relates to learning, there’s a great opportunity here to shift, and to create a different new normal.

Retail. It’s not exactly news that retail has long been on somewhat shaky ground, so businesses in the retail sector must focus now more than ever on what’s next. What role can technology play? What role does customer experience play? How can we make the retail experience more efficient, more personalized, and more effective than ever before so that all customers don’t just give up and flock to Amazon for what they need? The new retail model must be customer centric and data driven, from all perspectives: Strategic, Operational, Customer, and Financial.

Here’s but one example that I shared of how a retailer could, and should, reshape operations using data that is already at their fingertips:

I’m a lululemon customer. I am a regular customer, mostly online but also in store and I’ve got a physical location less than five minutes from my house. I have two styles that I prefer, and anyone looking at my purchase data could easily see that. I like high necked tanks and I like running leggings without pockets. I trend toward purchasing the more expensive leggings over the lesser expensive lines. If the brand is looking at my data, and they should be, the minute the store gets something in that the data suggests I would like, I should get a phone call, an email, or a text message. I shouldn’t have to work to find what I like — they should alert me when they have merchandise that I’ve already told them I’m going to buy — every single time.

Retailers need to rethink everything: How they approach customer acquisition and retention, how they capture and use data, how they engage with customers and what steps they are taking to build strong customer relationships, what their fulfillment and delivery operations look like and how to compete more effectively against Amazon. Bottom line, Fred and I both agree that rethinking the post-pandemic business model for retailers is all about having a foundation of data, and then using that data in better, more efficient, more customer-centric ways than ever before.

Manufacturing. And now we land on Manufacturing — a critically important part of the equation. The COVID-19 global pandemic has shone a very bright light on issues like logistics in the supply chain, how we get components, and how we assemble them. The current pandemic has shown us that we have a lot of improvement we can make in those areas and that just-in-time manufacturing with a promise of real-time overnight shipping isn’t the answer that we might have once thought it was. We are seeing issues with things we would have never dreamed would be a problem: Like Coca-Cola having issues with getting syrups for some of their products or problems procuring drugs that are commonly manufactured in China or elsewhere.

What needs to happen? We think that organizations need retain more control than they have in recent times over the supply chain and we need to rethink things like local manufacturing capabilities or how we integrated 3D printing capabilities into the manufacturing process. Most importantly, in the post-pandemic business world as it relates to manufacturing, we definitely need more insight into and more collaboration with various components of the supply chain as well as in the manufacturing process. We also need redundant suppliers, way more sharing of data, shared throughout the supply chain partners, so that we can prepare no matter what unexpected crisis hits next.

B2B Marketing and Sales. This is an easy topic for us, as digital transformation is at the heart of everything we do. We are firm believers that now is the time for all businesses, especially in the B2B sector, to embrace disruption, change, remote work, and focus on how they can build and develop strong relationships with customers and prospects that don’t rely on face-to-face events. We think that this is where rethinking and reworking how B2B marketing and sales are done, and how we transition to the digital space is key. And just hosting more webinars? Not going to cut it.

Video is the new F2F and teaching your sales teams to embrace video, to teach their customers to embrace video, and to learn a new normal as it relates to connecting, engaging, teaching.

I saw a product launch yesterday by the team at IBM and it was really cool. They posted images of the team working remotely, getting ready for the launch, then shared live-streamed video that replaced the “big event and announcements” that would normally come from the stage. The key here is realizing that customers are people. And they are dealing with the same challenges that all of us are, remote work, business interruption, workplace stress, family stress. When vendors realize the new reality of business challenges these customers face, and can bring real-world solutions to the table, in new and innovative ways, that can make a big difference — both in their ability to sell and in their ability to survive.

We discussed the fact that it’s likely that sales teams might well be reduced as businesses weather the post-pandemic months. That’s where those folks who get that customer relationships can be developed digitally, and that business can continue and thrive, are likely to do well. Digital superpowers and the beauty of building your network before you need it are going to serve B2B marketing and sales teams well in the post-pandemic business world. Moreover, rethinking and reworking everything about how B2B marketing and sales teams operate is a smart business strategy, and one you would do well to get started on now.

Entertainment (Travel, Destinations, Sports). We are, we believe, at the beginning stages of seeing the impact of digital already on B2B marketing and sales teams, but what about entertainment, travel, destinations, and sports? Can virtual events replace the real thing? Can e-games replace the real thing? It’s all about transitioning what you’re doing from a face-to-face, in person gathering to a form of entertainment. If your sporting event or virtual event is entertaining, immersive, compelling, interesting, fun — you’ve got a good chance of them being successful. One important thing that Fred points out here is that audiences, whether business audiences or entertainment audiences, are looking for collaboration. They don’t want to be pitched or sit behind a screen watching a sporting event, they want to be a part of it. Always able to make a quick pivot, look at what WWE is doing in terms of how they are adapting into the no-fans-in-the arena approach. It’s about telling stories, humanizing your events, making gathering together, even online, an event in and of itself — find a way to make your events compelling, have a great storyline, and invite participation — and people will be all in. Also, monetization is possible — people aren’t reluctant to pay for things they find valuable.


Bottom line, the post-pandemic business model is all about rethinking and reworking. Being strategic and not reactionary as much as possible. Once you’ve got a plan for rethinking and reworking, regardless of what area your business operates in, you commence with the rebuild and recover part of your business continuity efforts. But as with anything, execution without a strategy is never the best approach. Thanks for hanging out with us on the Futurum Tech Video Podcast – see you next time. And if you’ve not yet subscribed, let’s fix that.


Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m your host, Shelly Kramer, and I’m joined today by my colleague and fellow analyst, Fred McClimans.

Hello, Fred. Welcome.

Fred McClimans: Hello, Shelly. Welcome back. Good to see you today.

Shelly Kramer: Same here. Same here. It’s always nice to see your smiling face, so, today, before we get started, I wanted to be sure and start with our standard disclaimer that the Futurum Podcast is intended for informational purposes and entertainment purposes only, and we might talk about publicly traded companies. We might share our thoughts and opinions and insights. Those are not to be taken as investment advice in any way, so remember that as you listen to us, and, with that behind us, we are going to talk about rethinking the post-pandemic business model and what that means and what we’re looking at moving forward.

We’re in the… full on in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic business model right now, and so we wanted to take a look at what is going to be necessary when it comes to rethinking our tried and true and, in some instances, decades old business models, what that looks like, why we think that’s important to rethink and rework those business models as we’re living through these times and also why it’s so important, we think anyway, to do that, that rethinking and reworking before we actually turn our focus on rebuilding and recovering, and, with a nod to Fred, this concept, this topic focus today was Fred’s idea, so, Fred, do you want to talk about… a little bit about how you got to thinking about that being an important topic for us to cover?

Fred McClimans: Sure, Shelly. It’s interesting, because the phrase post-pandemic is not anything that I think any of us ever, aside from some of the virologists out there ever really considered that we would be talking about or trying to weave into a discussion about business and technology. At the end of the day, this is… It’s really about behavior, and that’s something that, when we do talk about businesses and we talk about technology and we talk about consumers and brands, everything from consumer desires to corporate narratives and the way they present themselves and the products they present, it all comes down to an issue of behavior, and this pandemic has really demonstrated that, if nothing else changes, our behavior will change and, even if it doesn’t necessarily change the way we think it should, it has to change.

I mean, that’s an important thing. This has highlighted I think just how vulnerable we are. I mean, we like to think we are the rulers of the world, we are the top of that food chain, but the reality is there’s a lot of little pieces in that food chain that are just as hungry as we are, so, this particular idea, it started to come about actually with a message from our local school district that talked about what they were trying to set in place for education moving forward, and they had a number of plans. The initial one which is still in effect today is we’re going to educate, but it’s mostly reinforcement. We’ll give you things that we think the students should take a look at, but we’re not grading, we’re not delivering new material here, and I started to think about that, and I understand the rationale why they’re not getting to that point yet.

There’s a digital divide. There’s a gap even in our county where we live in Loudoun County, Virginia, students that don’t have access to Chromebooks, which the school is now distributing very widely, but they don’t have access all across the board or they may not have high-speed internet access, and it’s unfair to one student to expect them to be graded if they don’t have that access yet, so the other aspect is they’re trying to figure out what do we do with courses and how do we actually teach in this kind of a model, so I started thinking about it, and it became really clear to me that there’s an opportunity here to not just rebuild what we’ve had in the past, which is where everybody has been traditionally thinking. How do we get back to normal? Instead, there’s an opportunity to rethink and rework the way we work.

When I was thinking about it from an education perspective, the idea was pretty simple in my mind. We’re going through this massive transition. We’re pushing distance learning. We’re pushing remote learning out there. Once we get those systems in place, think of this as a massive proof of concept straight into production, what if, when the students go back and we don’t put that aside and we leverage that and we rethink the way we can educate our kids so that, my kids, they may go back to school five days a week or maybe four days a week, but, when they’re in class, maybe one of their classes next year isn’t a teacher down the hall, but it’s a teacher across the county or across the state or around the world somewhere, give them access to a lot of the E-learning opportunities there, so we’ve been having conversations about this, about business, and just the idea of rethinking how we behave in business just became really an important aspect, so, hence, the discussion today. There’s the 30-second times five explanation of how we got here.

Shelly Kramer: I think that’s great. I think that’s great, so one of the things that we did as we started to map out this conversation today is we decided we would take a look at a number of different areas, and we’re going to cover five of them, six if you count education, but we’re going to come from five of them today, but we also know that there are many more than this, so what we’re going to do right now is we’re going to dive into the topic of retail, and so, while it’s not exactly news that the retail sector has been on somewhat shaky ground, I think that the retail sector now more than ever has got to focus on how we rethink this business model and how we rework it.

It’s hard to get your mouth around it sometimes so, and I think that one of the biggest drivers here is to think about what role technology can play, and, while certainly there have been many retail businesses, large and small, who’ve integrated technology very well into their operations, I think it’s also safe to say that there are quite a few who haven’t, and I think that they need to be asking themselves questions like what role can technology play? How can we take what we’re doing now and make an even deeper dive into how technology can reshape our operations? What role does customer experience play? We’ve done a ton of research for and with our clients on the topic of customer experience and what it is customers are looking for, so we very much agree that that’s an important, important thing to think about.

We need to talk about and think about how we can make the retail experience more efficient, more personalized, more effective than it ever has been before, and, really, I think a lot of that is so that customers don’t give up and just go the easy path, which is, and I think that’s probably more important now than ever before, and the new retail model has to be customer-centric and data-driven, period, customer-centric, data-driven as it relates to strategic operations, operations in general, customers, financial operations, so all of that really is all about customer-centric and data-driven.

I wanted to give you just one example of what I mean from my own life about that, and it’s so easy. I think about it, and I know that, as you’re listening, you’re probably thinking of things like this, too, like retail experiences where you go, “Oh, this would be so easy for them to make this better or for them to do this differently,” so here’s my personal experience.

I’m a Lululemon customer. I am a regular customer. I buy things online and I buy things in the store. I’ve got a physical location less than five minutes from my house. By the way, I wear leggings and workout tops every day of my life, so, instead of buying business suits, I buy Lululemon gear. I’m a professional work-from-home person, but, anyway, I have two styles of clothing items that I prefer. One of them are high-necked tank tops and another of them are running tights that don’t have any pockets. They’re very difficult to find, either one of those things.

Every single time Lululemon comes out with a product that is a pair of running tights with no pockets or that is a high-necked tank, I buy them. I buy them in multiple colors. I don’t care how much they cost, I buy them, so, if the brand is looking and they have all of the information on my customer history, my customer purchases, how easy would it be, instead of leaving the discovery process to me, taking the data that they already have and very easily reaching out to do what they can to drive sales? Oh, by the way, I can email her. I could call her. Please don’t call me. I could send her a text message. I really don’t want a text message either, but there are so many ways that they can say, “Hey, Shelly, we know you love these kinds of leggings. Here’s a new pair, and would you like us to hold you a pair at the local store?” Do you know how much more I would buy?

That’s what I mean when I talk about a retail experience and how, instead of treating our customers as anonymously as we tend to do, and many, many, many brands do this, when you can take that data, use technology to help you gather data and then take that data and apply it and make that experience more engaging, make it more personal, really touch your customers in a way that says, “Hey, Shelly, we know what you like, and we’ve got it, and we want to sell it to you and make it easy,” so, anyway, I think that retailers do need to rethink everything, how they approach customer acquisition, how they retain customers, how they capture and use data, how they engage with their customers, what steps they’re taking to build those strong relationships that I just described and really what their fulfillment and delivery operations look like.

The reality of it is, I mean, I know that we all have options to buy online and pick up, but sometimes if you can also give the customers a reason, “Hey, if you pop over to the store this afternoon, we’ve got a special thank you.” You know what I’m saying? Doing things to build stronger relationships is really I think the key to how we rework and rethink retail, so what do you think?

Fred McClimans: Yeah. It’s interesting because I agree that there has to be a much stronger emphasis now on building that customer relationship, and you mentioned Amazon. Amazon drives loyalty because of their efficiency. They don’t drive loyalty because of their engagement. They are very much focused on how can we get a transaction complete and get it shipped to you as quickly as we can, and you made a reference to this earlier, but we recently did a study with a SaaS looking at the whole customer experience today and looking forward a decade from now, and when it comes to loyalty, things like overnight delivery, right at the top of the list in terms of what people are looking for, but I think there’s also that component of personalization and engagement that an Amazon just can’t offer, but a brand can potentially offer because they know the customer and they know the product so well.

When you start thinking about technology, for me, it becomes almost an issue of, once you’ve got that foundation of data, that predictability and you know what the customer is looking for, how can I show and demonstrate this product to the customer now digitally, because I do think there will be a shift away from that singular in-store focus to much more of a shop online, figure out what I want, can I see what it looks like, can I get a feeling for how it operates, how it works, how difficult it is, how it’s going to improve myself, my life, my kids, my family, and then pick it up at the store or maybe use the store as that final destination, and then, when I get to the store, the same technology that I use online, the augmented reality, the different… Maybe it’s holographic technology that we’re looking at to demonstrate products or maybe it’s interactive AI chat. When I get to the store, continuing that experience there so that I’ve got a little bit more comfort that I’m not face-to-face necessarily with somebody that I don’t need to be for at least the foreseeable future here.

Shelly Kramer: I think there are a lot of really cool ways that brands can do this, and, now, I think it becomes a matter of necessity, not a good-to-have, good-to-do. It’s we really need to transition here and understand how embracing these nuances, these changes, and especially technology I think is going to make a big difference, so let’s talk about manufacturing a little bit and how manufacturing needs to adapt.

Fred McClimans: It’s interesting, good segue from retail into manufacturing, because a lot of the issues that we’re having in manufacturing right now deal with not just the manufacturing process, but the logistics in the supply chain, how do we get the components, how do we assemble it especially since a lot of factories are automated in some cases, but also person to person to person to person, shoulder to shoulder in an assembly line configuration, and we know those things need to change. We have a lot of improvement that we can make in those areas, and, if anything, I think the current pandemic has demonstrated that the emphasis that we’ve had on just-in-time manufacturing with real-time overnight shipping for delivery, that there are some problems with that. When you have an interruption in the supply chain, not having a warehouse where you do have some buffer of products or goods that you can rely back on has been very detrimental to a number of industries out there, and we’re even starting to see that now in the supply chains starting to impact things that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought about in a global environment.

Companies like Coca Cola last week said, “Yeah, maybe we’re having some issues with our syrups and with some of our products,” and we see it in drug manufacturing. People are now suddenly realizing drugs are manufactured all over the world, so, in the manufacturing space, in the logistics of the supply chain and the delivery management, I think there are a couple of things that we’re likely to see and that we need to see. First, organizations do need to pull back some of the control over the supply chain a little bit. If you can manufacture something locally, let’s go ahead and let’s see if we can do that. Maybe we use 3D printing as a way, for example, to distribute the manufacturing of products, and maybe we don’t necessarily need to manufacturer it somewhere else and then ship it. If we can actually manufacture that product and have it assembled locally, that’s a good thing, but I think there’s also a risk there, and we see it playing out politically with some companies or some nations starting to talk about, based on the trade wars that we’ve had, how do we actually pull all of our delivery in manufacturing back into our country?

I think the reality is we can’t do that. We are a global society. We are a global business, a global manufacturing organization, so what I think is we need to have a lot more collaboration in the supply chain and in the manufacturing process, redundant suppliers, a lot more visibility, sharing of data back and forth so that, when we do have any kind of event that disrupts the manufacturing cycle, whether it’s a pandemic or a hurricane, it doesn’t matter. When that occurs, we’ve got enough data flowing back and forth throughout the supply chain that we can start to identify here are the potential risk points, here’s what might be delayed, here’s our backup that is not just down the street from that other supplier, but perhaps all the way around the world. That gives us that kind of flexibility to adapt and be more agile in what we’re doing, and that comes all the way back down to data, collecting data, sharing data from the first supplier out to the end consumer so that you can make an informed business decision there.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense, and I think that we have been-

Fred McClimans: I hope so.

Shelly Kramer: I think you normally make a lot of sense. We’ve been living through times where there’s been a more nationalist flavor, and not just in the United States. I mean, across the world, I think we’ve seen people in countries embracing nationalism, but it seems to me that that’s a gigantic step backward, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have strong manufacturing capabilities in your own country, but they’re just so… I think we’re so much better, stronger, more capable when we function with a global mindset, with a global supply chain, and it really is like any other business operation. It’s a business continuity plan, a business crisis management plan.

None of these things are novel concepts. It’s just, sometimes, we don’t make time for them, time to develop those plans, time to test those plans and theories and everything else, and I think that one of the things this situation that we’re living through across the world is showing us is really the importance of doing that and having a… What is it that I was just listening to? I think it’s Intel that has a pandemic leadership team in place and how important that is, and, now, I think businesses especially in the manufacturing sector are going to be thinking about that, and I think that’s key, so another area that is near and dear to our hearts and our brains that really we’re seeing make a shift, that needs to make a shift is B2B marketing and sales, and our clients are normally large technology brands, and so what we’re seeing, whether you’re a technology brand or really any other kind of B2B brand, is that that digital transformation, hey, guess what, it’s not something that’s just a buzzword.

Digital transformation is actually at the heart of everything that we do and have done for a very long time, and now more than ever is the time for all businesses especially those in the B2B sector to really embrace disruption, to embrace change, to transition to things like remote work, which we’re all doing out of necessity, and to understand how to build and develop strong relationships with customers and prospects and colleagues that don’t rely just on face-to-face events, and so many brands rely on gigantic, maybe it’s multi times a year events to announce the products and just to touch base with our customers and things like that, and so these events are canceling and people have to figure out a new way of doing things.

I think that also is very true in just day-to-day operations, and I’ll give you an example. My husband works for a Fortune 100 company in the trucking industry, and one of the things, of course, that… and he normally travels about 90% of the time, and he works with people who own truck dealerships all over the country, and his customers are actually parts department managers and, of course, dealer principals, and his responsibility is to help them grow their businesses, and what I’ve watched him do other than run into my office on a regular basis saying, “I don’t know how you do this, working from home with this,” but what I’ve watched him do is transition from face-to-face interactions, which is what all of his interactions were, to WebExes and to video collaboration.

We were just talking about this this morning, and we were talking about doing meetings with training their sales. He is training sales teams of his customers, and he’s using Microsoft Teams, and I said, “Do you have your video camera on?” and he said, “Oh, no, I don’t turn my video camera on,” and I said one of the things that… I said, “You have to. You have to turn your video on. You have to look people in the eye. You have to.” I mean, this is how you… otherwise, you… You’re just some faceless guy on the other end of a phone line or something, and, now more than ever, I think sales people need to embrace the fact that video gives you so much more than a phone ever did.

Video is like the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting and in-person, face-to-face meeting because you’re still looking each other in the eye and you’re still working hard not to roll your eyes when somebody says something dumb or whatever, but it was funny because he was like, “You know what, I never thought about that,” but the one thing that he shared in our conversation about this migration of sales teams, the B2B sales teams, and, again, we, we’re in the technology business, he’s in the trucking business, but the concepts are still the same, but one of the things that he was sharing that he’s sharing with the sales teams he’s responsible for is that there’s no way that we’re not going to see a reduction in sales teams. It’s just not possible across almost every business and across almost every industry. It’s just that the realities of business is tightening, but, also, when you transition some of your sales efforts to the digital realm, all of a sudden, you need fewer feet on the ground heading in all these different directions when you realize you can handle things in a different way, and the crux of our conversation was this is how you win.

The companies who can develop sales teams or marketing teams, who really can immerse themselves in and embrace digital and who can show that they can be just as effective at developing close relationships with customers, great relationships with prospective customers, closing deals by way of video conversations, those are the people who win. Those are the people who have jobs. Those are the companies who position themselves for success, so I thought it was really… I thought it was an interesting conversation.

Fred McClimans: That is. I wouldn’t have thought of that in that particular industry, but you’re right, and when you talked about the idea of staff reduction here, that’s not necessarily an issue of the direct physical contact or things that we would necessarily think of with the pandemic, but I think, for many businesses, the economic downturn here, and I hate to use the R word, but recession, yeah, very, very real, and organizations need to become much more efficient with what they’re doing. That’s critical.

Shelly Kramer: One final thing that I thought that I would share, I happened to see this yesterday, I just popped over to Twitter for a minute, and I happened to see a product launch by the IBM team, and it was some… I think maybe it was a Dynamics 365 product. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but, for big-technology brands, when they release products, a lot of times those announcements come from a stage at an event, and this was a group of people working on this particular product development, this particular product launch, and they were sitting in front of their computers and they were doing it online. They were collaborating online and they were talking about… chattering back and forth, this happened to be on Twitter, about how exciting it was and how proud they were of their work and everything else, and it just really added such a human element to a product launch announcement that we really don’t ever see when you’re sitting in an audience and you’re watching it happen on stage.

I thought that that was really interesting, and I think that they posted images of their team working remotely, getting ready for the launch. Then they shared livestream video that replaced this big event, and I think some of the key here is just realizing that your customers are people and that they’re dealing with the same challenges that all of us are, remote work, business interruption, workplace stress, family stress. I mean, thank goodness, I remembered to kennel my dog before we started this podcast, and I think when vendors realize that the new reality of business challenges that these customers face are the same for all of us, and then, when you can bring real-world solutions to the table in sometimes new and innovative ways, I think it can make a big difference, but I do think part of that, the magic element there, is just being able to look people in the eye and getting comfortable with transitioning to digital interactions, digital events, all that sort of thing, and I think that’s our new normal when it comes to sales and marketing.

Fred McClimans: Shelly, it’s interesting, when you talk about the impact of digital on that engagement, that marketing side of things, I really tend to think of a lot of that as being somewhat similar to what we see in the entertainment sectors, whether it’s travel, transportation, destinations, a resort, a cruise line or even a video game.

We’re seeing a lot of things change fundamentally in that space, and I know, when you were talking about watching a session with IBM, that’s a really interesting area there because, right now, if you think about the way brands communicate, whether it’s an Apple event, a Facebook event, an IBM event or Microsoft, in a way, that’s entertainment.

There are certain things that need to be present in that digital space there so that, when you think of the… What was it? The Apple? I forget the name of the Apple… what they call their Apple event every time they have it, but when we have that, that’s usually… It’s broadcasted and we don’t necessarily need to attend, and we don’t attend those kind of events, but when we’re watching it, we’re also on a separate video chat within Futurum, and we’re all talking and we’re collaborating about the event in real time, which is an interesting aspect there, and, if you think about that, as these events start to come up, which, again, I’ll liken it to a form of entertainment because it’s very similar to somebody watching a football game or watching a wrestling match or an F1 car race, it’s about the fans having the ability to experience with each other.

In this kind of situation in the pandemic here, we’re all sitting in our remote houses, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be communicating, that we can’t be on a Skype call, watching something together, or we can’t be on Twitch or on Discord collaborating and being part of that community, or maybe it’s Twitter that we’re part of there, but it’s important I think for entertainment entities, for business entities as well, to recognize that their audience, their customers, their fans, they’re still looking for validation of their ideas. They’re looking to collaborate with others.

They’re looking for insights and information, and they’re looking for takeaways that all now have to be in the digital space, but the challenges there… and I will say right now I’m not a fan of WWE wrestling and Vince McMahon and a lot of that stuff. My kids went through that phase a few years ago, but if you look at sporting events, in the entertainment space, the wrestling programs, they have adapted very quickly into this no-fans-in-the-arena kind of approach.

One of the reasons they’ve been able to do that is their narrative, the way they tell stories in the wrestling matches is just ideally suited to continue that story with or without the fans present, so they had already created this backstory environment where it was easy for them to say, “Look, we’re going to push the fans aside, and we’re going to have dedicated one-on-one matches, and we’re going to have the same kind of conversations that we always have before the match or after the match,” and I think there’s an important lesson there in the entertainment space, for not just sporting events, but entertainment in general. There has to be a strong storyline. We have to find a way to make these events compelling in some instances.

A friend of mine, who’s a big baseball fan, was messaging me earlier. He said, “Major league baseball,” just so that they might get back together without having an American league and a national league, “what are we going to do?” and I’m like, “Watch baseball the same way you always have.”

Shelly Kramer: Watch baseball.

Fred McClimans: Yeah, and if there’s a game on, let’s pull up a video connection and let’s watch the game together and let’s share and participate in that, but it’s definitely a challenge there. I think it comes down to that story. Brands have to tell a story to be compelling whether it’s in person or in digital.

Shelly Kramer: You bring up a really good point about sports, and I know that there’s the whole revenue generating side of, especially in major league sports, okay, I get that, but that aside, you can play a basketball game without an audience. You can play a baseball game without an audience. What you don’t do, if you’re a major league baseball or the NBA, you don’t sell season tickets, sell overpriced beer and hotdogs and all that sort of thing, but that stuff can happen, and so, when we talk about businesses’ need to transform, businesses’ need to embrace disruption and the status quo just isn’t going to cut it anymore, so do sports, and so do the things that we’re just used to, and I don’t have the solution. I don’t have the solution for what it is major league baseball needs to do, but what I do know is that there are a whole bunch of fans who are rabid, major league baseball fans, so figure out how to give them what it is they want. Figure out how to make it a different kind of experience.

The technology really actually exists to do that. I mean, smarter people than I can figure this out, but I think that’s a great example of we have a status quo of this is how sports has always been. They just need to do it differently and tell their stories differently and let fans engage in different ways, and I always… I think that my role for the last 20 years when working with clients of any kind has always been I tell people, when I come in, I’m a change agent. I’m going to ask why not? I’m going to push for change.

I love change, and I’m just grateful to be wired that way, not everybody is, and I very much understand and respect that, but I think this is a time that we’re living in when the people like me who are wired for change will do better, and if you’re not wired for change and if your company isn’t wired for change, you’ve got to be because that’s how, that’s the path forward. It’s change. It’s disruption. It’s throwing out the status quo and figuring out how to do things differently, and, really, want you to get started down that path, it’s not as bad as you might think.

Fred McClimans: No, it’s not. In fact, it’s an opportunity especially right now because those organizations that are a bit more agile, that are a bit more aggressive in carving out the future of their particular industry, whether it’s in electronics, whether it’s in travel, whether it’s in baseball, the organizations that can break new ground there, they’re the ones that I think will have the best chance to actually shape the future of that industry at large, and, right now, you want to be a leader. You don’t want to be a follower in these industries.

As long as you recognize that everything in every industry, the same value that people are getting today, they’re still going to want to get tomorrow. It’s how do you change the delivery mechanism of that value. Instead of having 50,000 fans in the stadium all clapping and cheering… and, by the way, they’re not just cheering because they’re saying great play, they’re cheering because they’re collaborating with the fans around them. If you can give that fan the same experience digitally, the ability to engage and interact and show their appreciation, that’s the kind of…

Shelly Kramer: They’ll pay for it.

Fred McClimans: … approach that you need, and they will pay for it, absolutely.

Shelly Kramer: They will pay for it, yeah, and I think that that really is the… That becomes the challenge.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. I just realized I scratched my face. I touched my face. I broke the cardinal rule of pandemics.

Shelly Kramer: I know that you were just cleaning up a grilled cheese sandwich mess, so I know that your hands are clean, so it’s okay. Fred, we’re going to wrap up our conversation here. I think it’s been such a terrific topic, and I thank you for thinking of it, and really rethinking this post-pandemic business model is all about rethinking and reworking, and it’s setting aside what our status quo has been, what it might be, and I think really the key is being strategic and try not to… to be strategic and not reactionary and to get a plan in place and sit down with your team and think about how are we going to rethink this, how are we going to rework this, no idea is a dumb idea, and just whiteboard some of those things.

Once you have a plan and… I mean this is… I’m a strategist, so I’m always looking for a plan as a starting point, but once you have that strategy and that plan mapped out, then I think is where you can take the next step, which is rebuilding and recovering and part of your business continuity efforts, but, as with anything, execution without a strategy really isn’t the best approach.

Fred McClimans: Right, and, Shelly, one thing I would add on that is, for every organization that says we can’t change or change is difficult, look at the amount of change that you’ve gone through in the past 30 days because…

Shelly Kramer: That’s right.

Fred McClimans: … that bad amount of change right there is… It’s an impressive thing that we have done in reaction to this crisis, so pat yourself on the back, realize that you can change and, now, figure out how to make that change moving forward.

Shelly Kramer: You know what, if you have children, look at your children, and this has not been easy for them, and I have teenagers. You have teenagers. I have friends who have young children. I have friends who have kids that are getting ready to graduate from high school. This has not been easy for young people at all, and we’ve… We are in a situation where they have to be cut off from their friends, which are the lifeblood of kids, and especially teenagers, and all they’ve ever known is a schedule and getting up every day and going to school, and, you know what, I mean, I look at my kids and I think, “You guys are doing such an amazing job.” The rug has been pulled out from under you in so many different ways and yet here they motor on, and so I think that, as adults, we can look to our children and think, you know what, they’re not perfect and they’re still struggling to, but they’re doing a pretty good job at adapting, and we can do that, too.

All right, Fred, thanks for hanging out with me today. It’s always a pleasure, and, to our audience, thanks also for hanging out with us, and we’ll see you again next time.

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Image Credit: Entrepreneur

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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