As Malaysia spearheads its short-term economic recovery with various initiatives including Penjana, are businesses better equipped to bounce back? In our latest Expert Insights content series, we gathered insider tips and solid advice from Michael Teoh, CEO of Thriving Talents to help businesses adapt and thrive in the new normal. Take a look at these six actionable tips to guide SMEs in their business recovery post-CMCO.
1. Adapt and respond to the changing needs of your customers
Michael Teoh: Most business strategies done in the wake of Covid-19 were lacking the ‘humane touch’ of vulnerability and engagement. Many were seen as wanting to make a ‘quick buck’ from their customers, rather than empathising with them. This was the defining moment the true colours of businesses are revealed through their messages and actions in coping with their customers during these tough times.
As much as business strategies should be rock solid in execution, I am also a firm believer that they should remain fluid. It’s important that SMEs adapt and respond to the changing needs and expectations of their customers, in order to wow them during such times!
2. Features tell, stories sell: Move beyond price promotions
Michael Teoh: Our world has become borderless and barriers of entry become low due to digital migration of many businesses in the wake of Covid-19. We are seeing a lot of businesses mirroring each other; in order to survive, people are going online for the sake of going online. But there’s more to digital transformation than simply being seen online.
Build your brand, engage with consumers and present appealing offers to attract customers in this age of digital disruption.
There is a clear way for SMEs to survive and thrive online — moving beyond competing on a price war that would wipe out healthy profit margins. I would advise businesses to start investing in building their storytelling online. Features may say a lot but stories sell better. Build your brand, engage with consumers and present appealing offers to attract customers in this age of digital disruption, rather than try to push product features only.
3. Consumers want to buy from brands and personalities they know
Michael Teoh: Throughout the MCO, I have coached business owners to ensure that their digital marketing and brand building work seamlessly. I also empowered these leaders to come up with holistic engagement strategies to engage their customers on multiple digital platforms.
As a brand, the actions you take can make or break your credibility with your audience.
These SMEs are not transacting with their customers yet—rather, just making sure customers keep them at the top of their minds by: creating value with tailored offerings, conveying empathetic support, exceeding their expectations through online engagement. Times have changed. We are at the age where customers purchase more out of loyalty to brands who care for them during challenging times—and not purchase from brands who are merely advertising to them. As a brand, the actions you take can make or break your credibility with your audience.
4. People want certainty in an uncertain world
Michael Teoh: One of the lessons I impart on SMEs who are looking to stay afloat in the new normal is to be a ‘leader’ to their customers. Many of your customers would want some amount of reassurance now, more than ever, as they struggle with the economic downturn. Businesses that go online post-CMCO would need to show their Brand Resilience & Results (B.R.R.) by showing track-records, testimonials and commitment that their products and services bring to their customers online.
The only way for you to stay relevant is for you to show how you have transformed your customers’ lives.
Remember this: Competition will intensify, prices will be slashed. The digital disruption in the aftermath of Covid-19 has resulted in businesses going digital and opened up an entirely new market for us globally. This disruption also means that competitors from advanced economies such as Europe and the United States to developing nations including Vietnam, India and the Philippines are much closer to us right now.
The only way for you to speed up business recovery post-MCO is to leverage on your previous track record and show how you have transformed your customers’ lives.
5. Be authentic in your communication with customers
Michael Teoh: Brand trust and customer loyalty have continued to erode since the pandemic outbreak. Why? Brands are either seen as standing alongside their customers during these uncertain times or preying on the impulses of customers to buy their products or book their services in advance. This reached a peak where Facebook started implementing stricter guidelines in their brand safety review processes—such a change has opened up the opportunity for brands to tell a different narrative—one that humanises the brand.
Consumers want to buy from brands who stay engaged with them and prioritise their well-being.
SMEs should tailor their communications to suit the needs of their customers and go one step further: show how the brand is contributing back to society in Covid-19 relief efforts. Consumers want to buy from brands who stay engaged with them and prioritise their well-being—bridging the trust gap.
6. Digital upskilling is a business priority
Michael Teoh: Is upskilling merely an option? Absolutely not! In the age of post-CMCO, digital upskilling is critical for SMEs to engage and persuade their customers online. If business leaders are not equipped with a diverse skillset of digital copywriting, web design and social media management, they are at risk of being left behind.
What tips would you add on to propel SMEs in their business recovery post-CMCO?
About Michael Teoh
During the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, Michael Teoh innovated and pivoted in his training business, Thriving Talents to offer coaching and consulting services to SMEs and business owners in migrating their businesses digitally, and build a resilient brand online. Since the start of MCO, Michael had helped over 100 small-to-medium businesses, generating over 6-figures of revenue during the three-month MCO period.
Michael has worked also in the world’s leading management consulting firms during his early career in New Zealand, before a stint in governmental works in Malaysia. He later founded his training company, Thriving Talents, which currently helps Fortune 500 companies across 41 countries in enhancing employee sales, productivity and leadership results.