The air is cold and dank, cold enough to chill your bones. Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and now it’s time to kick-off the workweek. It’s the beginning of March and the 20th century is just getting underway. A man exits his home, slowing so as not to slip down the stairway that leads to his stable. His name is David McConnell, but the locals down at the pub call him Davey. As he saddles up his horse, he can’t help but notice the blooming city, and the sunrise. Surely, the sun would help warm this damp patch of earth known as New York City. He gives the horse a gentle kick and set off on his day.

“Good morning ma’am,” he said mildly with an earned Manhattan accent. “I’m David McConnell, the Avon man. I’d like to know if you’d be interested in purchasing some fantastic new books? I’ve got everything from Dickens and Whitman to Shakespeare and Twain.”

Let that sink in for a bit. …

That’s right, David McConnel started his business, the Avon company, by selling books door-to-door before turning it into one of the oldest and most successful marketers of beauty, household and personal care products in the world. Many of you may be familiar with the “Avon ladies” or Avon men” who sell door-to-door or the television commercials from the ‘80s. But truth be told, Avon is so much more than that; they are the fifth-largest beauty company and, with 6.4 million representatives, the second largest direct-selling enterprise on Earth.

When Smart Marketers Learn from Smart Marketing

The middle-aged woman showed little interest in his wares, thanked him kindly and began closing the front door when David reached into his pocket. That is where he kept his secret weapon, the piece de resistance of his sales presentation – a free bottle of perfume! He lowered his head, now drenched in sweat from the morning dew, stretched out his arm and offered up a small bottle of sweet lavender-smelling delight, a most delicious scent and extremely popular in those times. “Why yes, I would love to try it! That is so kind of you,” she said.

While David was showcasing true, ‘out of the box’ thinking; what’s more important is he was reading his audience and absorbing any intel that might help his business succeed. He was selling to women at home, and he noticed that they were far more interested in the perfume than in books. He also noticed that they were struggling to make ends meet and, many of them, had more social skills and better etiquette than their male counterparts did. He decided to think up a new strategy, one that would—on the short side, make him extremely profitable—and, on the long side, help him become an international phenomenon. A genius!

Different Times Call for Different Measures

Surely, you’ve read enough about the pandemic, so I won’t weigh you down with that. What I will do is tell you that everything will be different in “The New Normal” starting, NOW! It’s time for companies to assemble their greatest minds to turn over every, single stone of their business. It’s time for companies to question everything: their industry, their products and services, their distribution methods, their sales channels, everything. How can your company, your people, your facilities, your plants pivot—or full-on change  during these crazy times?

This might lead your company to partner with, or acquire another business to develop a product, service or technology that hasn’t been invented yet. It might make your company see verticals more clearly than ever before. Oftentimes, companies are made-up of employees who have been doing the same thing for years, even decades. Accountants look at year-over-year charts to determine their company’s successes and failures. That’s fine, for accountants. But, we’re marketers – and in the B2B space, it’s our job to create and/or expand on ideas. It’s our job to stretch boundaries, develop our people and serve-up the future. It’s our job to change the world!

Time to Put Your ‘Chameleon’ Pants On

‘The New Normal’ is here. Your company must learn to adapt, much like fish did almost 400 million years ago when they began developing bone structures more in line with a modern-day mudskipper. Mudskippers are amphibious, meaning they’re quite capable in the water and on land; they crawl on land to retrieve food from the mud before returning to the safety of the water. Over millions of years they physically developed to make the most of both environments. When your business adapts, it’ll be able to make the most of The New Normal, much like the mudskipper. So, stop sulking in the corner. Jump up, knock that ‘rearview mirror off’ your business strategy, create your own invention, eat up that market share and leave your mark on the world!

Surely, Mr. McConnell left his mark during his new normal, which included the Philippine-American War, the Ford Motor Company’s first automobile and, eventually, World War II. And shape-shifting from book salesman to perfume peddler wasn’t the only phenomenal thing he introduced to the world. He was also one of the first people, and companies, to offer women jobs outside the traditional agriculture, domestic service and manufacturing jobs – ultimately offering them a chance at financial independence. What will your company do?

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