There is a pose in yoga called dhanurasana.  Or, as we weekend yogis call it – Bow Pose.  You lay on your belly, bend your knees and reach back to grab your feet.  The shape looks like an archer’s bow.  The challenge with this pose is to use the right amount of tension to benefit from the pose but still be able to get up off your matt at the end of your practice.  Lately, being able to find the optimal level of effort has been quite the challenge.  Consumers are forced to find the right balance between effort and gain.

Many tasks that were integrated into our day required no effort at all pre-COVID, but now they require more forethought.  Is the place open?  Do I have to wear a mask?  Do they accept cash?  Should I have ordered ahead of time?  Can I see somebody for assistance?  The effort/benefit ratio has never before been challenged in this manner.  Businesses need to understand how their customers are measuring the amount of effort it will require to engage, so businesses can respond with enough benefit to tip the scales in their favor.

This is not a new concept.  Businesses have always had to offer more reward than the perceived risk, or more value than the price to sustain the relationship.

The wrinkle to perfecting the “bow pose” today is that the pandemic has created a significant level of uncertainty.  Even if you knew the effort/benefit ratio last month, that might not be relevant after the next announcement from the State Governor.  Expected attributes that didn’t fall on the benefit side of the equation (a clean and safe environment; meeting delivery deadlines, etc.) now have worth.  How much worth these new attributes have requires listening to the customer very carefully.

Customer experience research, journey mapping, and other qualitative research tools can help businesses understand the attributes that fall on each side the fulcrum.  Effort may now include a host of emotional weights (Are the personnel healthy?  Are COVID rules being followed?  Will they meet expected deadlines?  Will they have inventory?).  Maybe in the past, the answer would have been assumed and confirmation of these basic business practices would be unnecessary.  But the pandemic has shaken consumer trust.  (What? No Clorox wipes? No toilet paper?)

As the great Yogi would say: find the balance.  As marketers, we say: understand the balance.  Identify the elements that accumulate into the full weight of “effort” and offset that by fully communicating the attributes of the benefit.

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