Category: mark schaefer

For business to win in the coronavirus crisis, head to the bottom of the pyramid

coronavirus crisis

The only discussion in business circles these days is, “how do we survive in this coronavirus crisis?”

Understandably, this is a confusing and unprecedented time. But the answer to the question is actually fairly straight-forward (not to be confused with easy!). Let’s use my blog as a very simple example of a coronavirus pivot.

I put a ton of work into my blog. Every week I create content that is timely, relevant, and entertaining. Here is a list of the posts I had scheduled to publish in the coming weeks:

  • The best way to jump-start your speaking career
  • An updated formula for content that stands out
  • Top 5 reasons why marketing leaders won’t change with the times
  • Social media essentials for your next event

These are really interesting and helpful posts. My audience will love them.

Someday. But not now.

This content is no longer as relevant as it once was due to the consumer psychology of the coronavirus crisis.

Let’s look at what’s happening, and what you and I need to do about it.

Upside-down psychology

You’re probably familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Some psychologists suggest we need to tweak this model, but for today, let’s use the tried-and-true Pyramid for our discussion:

coronavirus crisis

Think about your own business in the context of this model. Where would you place the type of products you’re trying to sell right now? Are they at the top of the Pyramid?

But where is the psychology of our world right now? At the bottom.

Everybody I know is locked-in at home and concerned about running out of food or essential living supplies. Many have had a dramatic loss of income — millions are without employment. Many others are sick, or fearful of getting sick. I have friends who are isolated, bored, and lonely.

This is where most of the world is psychologically residing today. We’re trying to attend to our basic human needs.

Unless you’re David Geffen. Then all bets are off …

coronavirus crisis

 

So if you’re still in the business of yachts and caviar, you’re good with David Geffen.

Me? I’m locked-down with illness and I’ve run out of fresh fruit and vegetables. Like most people all over the world, I’m dwelling at the bottom of the Maslow Pyramid.

The psychology of marketing now

I see a disconnect among my marketing friends right now. They seem to be in stubborn denial about our current situation. An actual quote:

“People are still buying like always. Content and social media marketing is more important than ever.”

Buying like always?

Obviously this is a quote from somebody who SELLS content and social media marketing services!  And of course, in some circumstances, that might be true. But in general, in this moment, people are trying to STAY SANE after the 150th game of Chutes and Ladders with the kids.

Is your social media and content marketing relevant right now?

This is an easy question to answer. If you’re marketing products that serve the top of the Maslow Pyramid, the answer is probably no.

If you’re marketing products for the bottom of the Pyramid, the answer is probably yes. In fact, double down on your marketing.

The content pivot

So let’s get back to my problem. What do I do with all this content I had prepared to publish on my blog?

Again, a simple answer. Becoming a better leader or event manager is important, but probably not right now. I applied the brakes and I shifted to topics relevant to the bottom of the Pyramid.

For example, here are five recent bottom-of-the-Pyramid posts that I published:

I’ve also been creating a series of Facebook posts called Embracing the Chaos (also on YouTube) where I try to provide sympathetic, rational advice that is relevant to this moment in time.

On one level, you might be wondering … why would I do this? I don’t sell psychological consulting services. I’m not selling courses in motivational speaking.

Right now, the long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales. Read that again, please.

Almost every business needs to send their social media and content marketing to the bottom of the Pyramid … immediately.

I made a pivot to my content because my mission is to teach, and the subject matter I need to teach about has suddenly changed in a dramatic fashion. I need to be relevant at the bottom.

The good news

Watch what the biggest brands are doing with their marketing and messaging. With breathtaking speed, all the best-managed companies have stopped in their tracks, ended the “normal” selling, and re-directed their advertising to the bottom of the Pyramid.

coronavirus crisis

We’re seeing this pivot occur with almost every television and digital ad. This is especially impressive since almost all advertising production shoots have been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. Nevertheless, the best brands are using simple stock images or words over music to tell people that they care and they’re relevant at this moment.

Why are we seeing this dramatic change? You guessed it.

The long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales.

I could have kept on publishing my blog posts as planned. That would have been the easy thing to do!

But when I adjusted the theme of my content to focus on my near-term customer needs, the traffic on my site increased by 50 percent over the normal level. How will that impact me in the long-term? Who knows. All I can do right now is be relevant and helpful. We are in uncharted territory.

I totally understand why some small businesses are desperate right now and might feel compelled to sell, sell, sell … even if it’s not relevant. Our dreams have been dashed by an invisible enemy.

But no amount of advertising, discounting, or content marketing will matter if your audience is at the bottom of the Pyramid and you’re still selling at the top. You’re irrelevant. You need to stop.

Winning in the coronavirus crisis

I have a friend who has a real estate company. Buying a house right now is a top-of-the-pyramid aspirational activity when you’re locked-in and laid-off. Sales are way down. There is no Sunday open house right now.

During this time, she has started an effort to rally people in the community to sew masks to meet hospital shortages. Her coronavirus mask group now numbers 800 people.

Now, when we get to the other side of this coronavirus crisis, nobody is going to remember her for any house she sold. But nobody will ever forget her (and her brand) for what she doing for our community right now.

A local cattle rancher who provides steaks to high-end restaurants is offering to deliver his meat to our homes. He is moving from the top of the pyramid to serving the un-met needs at the bottom of the pyramid.

There are probably hundreds of examples like this in your community, too.

One other observation: Several marketing gurus have pointed out that the explosive increase in web traffic is evidence that this is the very best time to pump up the content marketing jams on whatever product you’re selling. Again, this advice is wrong and misleading.

What are people using the Internet for right now? Bottom of the Pyramid activities. And Netflix, of course!

This crisis will pass. The world will come back. But for now, tune your marketing to the power of the Pyramid. Head to the bottom to survive.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post For business to win in the coronavirus crisis, head to the bottom of the pyramid appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Coronavirus in the house

coronavirus

One of my favorite urban legends involves author Ernest Hemingway who bet his friends over lunch that he could write a novel in six words. After penning these words on a napkin and passing it around the table, he collected his $10 bet:

For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.

Today, I think I can beat Hemingway. I can write just two words that will evoke just as much drama and emotion:

Tested positive.

Makes you shiver, right?

Six months ago that phrase did not possess the universal and evil power it evokes today. It is a phrase every person dreads. And, unfortunately, it is now my story.

In some ways, it is weird to be revealing a personal illness on a blog post, but covid-19 is the world’s illness right now, I suppose … a public conversation. I tested positive after my wife struggled through, and overcame, the virus over a period of about three weeks.

I decided to let you know because most of you follow me across the social media streams and I’m grateful for your attention and support. But content needs context and I’ll probably be showing up in a different way over the next few weeks.

I’ve been writing a lot about the ways we need to be dealing with the current economic, marketing, and personal challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis. It’s probably fair for you to know that the content is coming from a guy who is currently dealing with the illness in his family, and now in himself.

I also wanted to post this because I’m taking a step back from most business activities at least for a week or two so I can devote my full body and mind to healing. I’ll probably be on social media to pass the time, but that will depend on how the next days unfold.

Right now, my symptoms are annoying but manageable:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Pressure on my chest (this is weird and unnerving)

My doctor told me the typical pattern to expect is 3-4 days of mild symptoms and then probably worsening symptoms. Since there is no treatment for the disease, the idea is to address the symptoms as best you can and let it roll through your body until you fight through it.

I’ve cleared my schedule with the help of some very understanding business partners and I’m preparing for total bedrest, which is something I have probably never done in my life.

I am in a positive mental state. I have a lot of good things to focus on:

  • I’m so fortunate that my wife got through this before it hit me so we weren’t both sick at the same time.
  • I am strong and healthy
  • I’m not alone
  • I can delay work activities to focus on rest
  • Chances of recovery are high
  • We have supportive family and neighbors (one just dropped off a box of food unannounced!)
  • We have a loving Christian church community behind us

So that’s the story.

Stay home. Wash your hands. Spread love. Be patient. Dispense hope.

See you on the other side.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post Coronavirus in the house appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Big, huge, massive, surprising social media trends

surprising social media trends

Each year I enjoy digging into the Infinite Dial report, the longest-running social media study that is conducted by Edison Research. I always find a few surprising social media trends that raise an eyebrow and this year was no different.

It’s a Marketing Companion tradition to explore some of the big ideas from this research report and on the newest show, Brooke Sellas and I explore questions like:surprising social media trends 2

  • Why Facebook is seeing a rise in teen usage.
  • Why podcast listening us up, but the average number of shows consumed is down.
  • Why Pinterest is in an apparent nose-dive.
  • How the idea that older folks are taking over TikTok is a myth.
  • Why the war on smart speakers will have long-ranging eCommerce consequences.

Oh my gosh, this is a juicy episode. If you’re a social media geek like me, this will be your best content of the week. Enjoy!

PS Could this be the best Marketing Companion intro ever?

Click on this link to listen to Episode 186

Other ways to enjoy our podcast

Please support our extraordinary sponsors. Our content is free because of their generosity.

Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here: fullmontyshow.com.

Tim Washer is contributing creative direction to the show and he’s has worked for Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, among others. He helps corporations build more creative cultures.

It’s hard to ignore — millions of business professionals are active on LinkedIn. They have twice the buying power of a normal web user. If you’re in business, you need to be exploring advertising on LinkedIn. Brooke and I have both had tremendous success with this marketing platform and to help you get started, LinkedIn is offering Marketing Companion listeners $100 in free ad credit. That can go a LONG WAY! Take advantage of this opportunity today by visiting linkedin.com/companion

RSM Marketing provides an indispensable outsourced marketing department! Why struggle with turnover and staffing when RSM clients receive a marketing director and all the resources they need under a flat fee monthly subscription?

RSM employs dozens of specialists and experienced marketing directors who assist companies ranging from startups to market leaders with thousands of employees. Companies across the country from all categories are choosing this model to overcome marketing complexity and outpace their competition. The typical outsourcing client uses 11 RSM subject matter specialists but pays less than the cost of one of their own employees. RSM provides breakthrough marketing for clients and has been named twice to the INC 5000 list. Visit RSM for special Marketing Companion offers including $5,000 in free services.

The post Big, huge, massive, surprising social media trends appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis

business uncertainty

Uncertainty can be terrifying. And chronic business uncertainty like we’re experiencing now could have toxic implications for your health, mental well-being, and the ability to make the critical decisions you need to make for your career and your family.

As I compose this post in March of 2020, we are in an unknowable, unprecedented situation. The world that we love will come back from the coronavirus crisis — But when? When do we go back to our lives, our jobs, our friends, our schools? And what about the economy?

I’ve been doing Facebook Live sessions with lessons on “Embracing the Chaos” and have also been posting the videos on my YouTube channel. In my last episode, I covered seven practical ideas to deal with uncertainty and put you in the best possible mental state for your life and your business.

1. Be aware of the panic and respond

When we feel anxiety and even panic, your limbic system responds with a knee-jerk fear reaction. This is the same response we have when we jump because we thought a tree root on a forest path was a snake. It’s useful protection for short decisions but toxic if we have to rely on this for days at a time.

People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of the irrational fear that triggers a limbic system response and quell it as it begins to surface. They realize there is no snake in the path.

In this way, they contain a panic response before it spirals out of control.

One of the things that I saw repeatedly in the research about this topic is the therapeutic impact of positive thoughts.

Finding some small thing to stay positive about turns on a different part of your brain. If you stop your brain from being reactive and afraid, you’ll make better decisions.

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking.

There is also a lot of research that shows that positivity spreads to other people. So creating positive thoughts in others can suspend that limbic response on a work team.

2. Identify the facts at hand

When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s hardly ever the case.

People who excel at managing business uncertainty start by taking stock of what they know and what they don’t know and assigning a factor of importance to each.

Dwelling on something impossible — like trying to figure out how long a recession might last — takes away your power to make good decisions.

What are the factors that are unknowable and out of your control? Let them go. Focus on what is certain.

3. Acknowledge that business uncertainty is not a personal failure.

This is a big one for me.

I come from a proud Germanic stock of people who provide and protect.

I realize that could be seen as an old-fashioned notion but hey, centuries of conditioning are hard to un-do. I’d guess that for you, there is probably some little voice inside of you saying “How did I let this happen? Why wasn’t I more prepared?”

Look, I have virtually no business right now and I WAS prepared for something like a recession.

But this level of uncertainty and loss? This is not on me. This is not my fault. And just saying that out loud is empowering … and true.

I have to live in the real world, not be wedded to some historic sense of responsibility right now.

Don’t be afraid to exert self-compassion and say, “Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still.”

The only thing we control in an uncertain world is our response and the decisions we make.

4. Focus on three known priorities 

When I worked in the corporate world, I used to collaborate with a quality control executive. And he was obsessive about getting people to focus on “The Big Three.” Over and over, he would challenge his colleagues to see if they were focused on the three most important things to their role in the business.

Not four. Not 25. Three.

One of my customers sent me a message last week. He said, “Right now in this crisis, I am focusing on conserving cash, responding to customer’s immediate needs, and taking care of my people.”

Those certainly are three critical goals, and the right ones, no matter what uncertainty there is in the world.

How about you? What are your Big Three?

Is it keeping your children comforted and sane in a lock-down? Exploring new business strategies? Committing to a period of wellness and new habits?

Pick three. Focus like a laser. The uncertainty will fade away.

This is liberating because if you try to respond to every distraction you’ll be completely sapped of energy.

By the way, I’m convinced this is a solid business practice at any time. Every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty. So focus on the three priorities you can control.

6. Focus on positive actions – even if they are imperfect

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance.

When you focus on actions, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves mental performance.

In the early days of this crisis, I wrote about how I felt disoriented.

Whether I’m writing a blog post, giving a speech, developing a strategy, or writing a book, I’m a teacher. That’s my purpose. And then BOOM! The teaching stopped. All of it.

I spent a few days in a funk trying to determine a new normal. What is my place in this crisis? What is my purpose?

And then it dawned on me that I’m still a teacher. I just need to teach something new.

I can take action to deeply connect to people where they are right now. I can’t be on a stage talking about the Marketing Rebellion, but I can teach through a blog post. I can teach through live streaming and videos. I can help people through personal phone calls.

I didn’t follow a plan, because there is no plan for this. I trusted my gut.

By immediately focusing on positive action — even if it was imperfect — I felt like I had some structure in a universe of uncertainty.

I have not even tried to be perfect. My videos are so plain, and I even had a minor audio problem with a live-stream. But, I showed up. I applied my skills to the situation at hand.

A friend sent me this message after my last video session:

“My personal life has crashed. My business has crashed. My investments have crashed. And I’m in isolation and running out of bourbon. But your words of encouragement on your video saved my day. Never underestimate your impact, sir.”

Yeah. I’m still a teacher dammit.

Taking positive action, even when you’re winging it — and we’re all winging it — provides footing in an uncertain time.

7. Stop asking “What if?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you’re focused on the Big Three and your plan.

The what ifs will answer themselves. You can’t change that. You can’t dwell on the unknown and business uncertainty or you’ll go nuts.

Every now and then my mind wanders back to “what if” because I’m a planner.  But every time my mind goes there I feel stressed, so it has to stop!

The virus is not in your control. Unemployment is not in your control. The economy is not in your control.

What’s in your control are the decisions you make and taking positive actions on those decisions.

Does this help?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post 7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

The core idea for your business strategy now, in this time of crisis.

business strategy now

I’ve been hosting a series of Facebook Live videos talking about personal and business priorities as we try to embrace the chaos and make sense of this world. Here is the full 30-minute video of my latest, where I discuss the core idea that should be driving every business strategy now.

Below the video is an edited transcript of the discussion (transcription help from the awesome otter.ai) Would love to hear your thoughts, as always my friends.

Edited transcript

I think it’s important to briefly review what I covered on the first episode of this series. We talked about embracing the chaos and how the history of business has been a series of chaotic events. The businesses that survive are the ones that transcend these chaotic times.

We talked about the importance of first embracing the chaos within yourself. You should not feel guilty or ashamed that you’re feeling fearful right now. We’re in a period of grieving. These are legitimate feelings. And that’s the filter we need to use in our businesses right now, too.

We need to connect with people as though they’re grieving, like they are at a funeral. How would you connect with somebody … how would you sell to somebody … if they were at a funeral? You wouldn’t offer them a coupon or a discount.

You would say …

  • “How can I help you right now?”
  • “How can my business serve you at this time?”
  • “How can we help get you through this loss?”

… because there is a lot of tragedy going on and it’s almost overwhelming to hear the stories of my friends and their struggles.

Re-framing and relevance

Another main point I made in the first episode that is key to business strategy now was this idea of reimagining your business offering — In this moment.

I provided examples that showed that whatever was our core competency, our skills, however we served our customers … may not be relevant today.

I gave an example in my own life of how I was doing consulting for a business in Miami.

We had a call scheduled to review a social media strategy. And we never got it scheduled and I asked them what happened. And they said well you know our, our supply chain is up in the air now, we’ve lost 50 percent of our business, and we’re in crisis mode.

So I was relevant to them a week ago. I’m not relevant to this company today.

I have to rethink what I do, and rethink what are my core competencies and be relevant to people in this moment of crisis. We all need to consider these realities.

The priority now

Now let’s talk about this new idea of the number one vision for business strategy now.

Some businesses are going to be doing great in this crisis. Amazon’s going to do fine (they’re hiring 100,000 people!). Walmart’s going to do fine. Almost anybody that’s in the medical business, or if you’re delivering food, you’re probably going to be okay.

But if you’re struggling like most of us, what is the business strategy now?

I want to tell you a story from my past that illustrates this concept very well.

Early in my career, I was a sales leader for a big company called Alcoa. At that time, Alcoa was a Fortune 100 company, a Dow Jones Industrial blue-chip company, and a very well-run company. I had a great experience with my career there and learned from great leaders.

One time when I was a sales manager, we were having terrible quality problems with one of our customers. In fact, it was so bad that we were shutting them down. They were missing their delivery shipments.

And so I had lunch with the president of the company. And I said to him, “We are doing such a bad job for you right now. We’re struggling to keep you supplied. We appreciate that we have 100 percent of your business, but at this point, why aren’t you going to a competitor?

And he said, “Well let me tell you about our history with Alcoa. My company was started by my father. And during World War II, we almost went out of business because the products we made were not relevant anymore during that crisis. We had to retool and reinvent ourselves for the war effort.

“We were running out of cash, we were running out of time. And Alcoa, our aluminum supplier at the time, came to our rescue, and they helped us in this moment of crisis. They helped us retool our plant. They gave us the technical support to pivot in this time. They even helped finance some of the equipment that we needed to survive.

“My father, the person who founded this company, as he was dying in the hospital, said to me, ‘Never leave Alcoa. They brought us to the dance. They made us who we are today.’

“And that’s why we stuck with you, even when we were having hard times.”

That was a very powerful lesson to me. Through generosity in hard times, Alcoa had built loyalty that spanned decades and generations.

The business strategy now

I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. I’m not that kind of person. There’s a lot of “rah-rah” stuff out there about, “don’t be afraid and don’t be frightened and if you’re afraid you’re just playing into the victim mentality.” The fact is, there are people who aren’t going to make it to the other side.

But here’s the opportunity, and here is the vision of this time we’re in for any business. We have to put ourselves in this mindset of fighting to the other side but doing it in a way like Alcoa did.

Fight to the other side, but fight with grace.

We have a choice.

We can be greedy and opportunistic, or we can fight to the other side and do it in a way that’s caring and human-centered, full of compassion and grace to our customers.

That’s what people are going to remember on the other side.

If you want to survive and be stronger and be a leader when things turn around, you’ve got to demonstrate that now. We’re in a crisis and we might be in the fight of our lives. That includes cutting our costs, reserving our cash, reassessing our products. We’re making gut-wrenching personnel decisions.

And we need to think very carefully about our marketing. The research shows in a very compelling way that the companies that thrive and survive in this type of crisis, spend more on marketing. This has been seen across different recessions.

Obviously we’ve never seen anything like what we’re in right now. But if you have a business model that is truly relevant right now, it might be time to double down on your marketing, as we fight hard to make it to the other side.

Not in a way that’s greedy, in a way that is sensitive and appropriate and compassionate.

Fight with grace

I have a friend who has to cancel an event with a big hotel in Chicago. The hotel is holding him to tens of thousands of dollars in cancellation fees and they’re not budging.

Let me tell you something. I’m going to be around after this crisis, and my friend will be around, and that hotel will be around after this crisis, and people like us will never do business with a hotel like that again, right?

So part of the survival strategy is, we’ve got to treat people in a way that will help enable loyalty in the long term, help each other fight to get to the other side, fight to enable undying loyalty right now.

Do the right thing, even if it hurts.

Should we offer discounts as a business strategy now?

This was the main message of my session and then I took some questions.

A friend of mine offered a 95% discount on our Instagram course in Spain and man she has had some nasty comments which I can understand. It just doesn’t seem appropriate right now.

We have to be careful about promoting products and services right now in a way that seems tone-deaf.

I need to emphasize that every single person we are working with is grieving. They are in crisis. I mean it’s unimaginable.

This week I’ve been on the phone almost nonstop, coaching people and lifting them up. There has been a time or two where both of us have been emotional because of the profound suffering and loss that’s going on right now.

Our businesses have to know this reality and can’t be tone-deaf in our marketing or advertising when people are grieving. They may not need a discount or a coupon. They don’t need leadership classes if they are trying to find food for their families in the moment. You must be aligned with the context of this day.

We need to be a real human, and connect where people are right now.

I would also say, let’s show some grace even to the people who are making mistakes. Everybody’s just trying to figure it out and stumble through.

The boilerplate emails

Businesses need to be more human than ever right now. From a communication standpoint, we’ve all had enough to have the boilerplate emails, communicate with empathy kindness, which means telling the truth.

That’s a beautiful sentiment and certainly very true.

One of the things that’s been so interesting for me to observe is how long it is taking for these businesses to adjust. Believe it or not, this morning. I saw an ad for a company that will like help you create your fantasy baseball team. I mean dude … Baseball was canceled a week ago.

That doesn’t help.

You know, and the thing is puzzling to me. It doesn’t take much effort to turn off ads. I mean really, I just can’t think of a scenario where you would somehow be encumbered, or committed in a way that you can’t turn off ads.

I think it’s more important to be sensitive than to commit these dollars when your advertising is tone-deaf.

The test of culture

We are fighting hard in Scotland UK getting our people to change pace and it is challenging. Why won’t these people change when they see what is going on?

I see this in every kind of business  — they are locked into the old way of doing business … even in the good times, right?

Sell, sell, sell, even at the expense of relationships or common sense. Always be closing. Abuse the customer with spam and robo-calls.

Marketing and advertising and doing public relations in ways that aren’t relevant to the way our customers connect to the world today was the norm even before this crisis.

I think this time will be a true test of the corporate culture. You know, every company says “customers are the heart of our business.”

Really? Let’s see what happens when times are this hard.

If you’re opportunistic and greedy and tone-deaf, people are going to remember that we are not going to be doing business with those companies when we get to the other side.

Is it appropriate to use humor now?

What do you think about companies using humor with their staff to get through this period?

I think that’s an important part of being a leader right now.

The number one thing we need to keep in our minds is that great leaders dispense hope.

When I was in the corporate world, the president of our company had only thing on his desk — a little sign that said “leaders dispense hope.”

When you get right down to it, in terms of transparency, in terms of effective communication, in terms of you know how you’re connecting to people — even in a virtual world right now — it really gets down to dispensing hope.

And I think one of the important things we can do right now is to use humor.

There are a lot of positive physical and psychological benefits to humor that we, we need right now. We need to make humor a part of our lives every single day and I think it’s not just a part of lifting people up psychologically. I think that’s an important part of leadership.

Should I offer my services for free?

I see many people offering free services and some say you should actually not start discounting your services. Hurts you in the long term. What’s the best course of action?

I received an email request yesterday from someone doing a roundup blog post and the question was something like this, “should businesses continue their Facebook advertising?”

This is an impossible question. The answer to every marketing question is, “It depends.”

There’s never a cookie-cutter answer that fits everybody when it comes to marketing. Everything depends on your business, position in your industry, customers, strategy, etc.

I want you to run your businesses in the world that IS, not the world that we wish it to be. And the world is crappy right now.

But the research shows that the companies that make it to the other end do spend more on marketing right now. Maybe that means advertising, maybe that means discounts.

As a small business owner, I’m cutting to the bone. I have to reserve cash to make it to the other side. I’ve had some of my key business partners offer to change contracts or ignore them. They’ve been very understanding and helpful.

And you know what, they will be the first companies I come back to when things return to normal. They are the companies I will be talking about for years.

The last thing I can say about business strategy now is, just be incredibly emotionally intelligent and think about your customers in the context of this moment.

Let’s embrace the chaos together as we plot our business strategy now!

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post The core idea for your business strategy now, in this time of crisis. appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

This is your war and your story. Write it well.

your story

We are literally living in one of the most important moments of world history, and we’re all playing a part in it.

Make no mistake, nearly every person on this planet is fighting a war for personal and economic survival, and, in the process, creating one of the most significant stories of our lifetime.

These are the stories we will be telling our friends, children, and grandchildren for years to come – the narrative of our life within this cataclysmic moment in history.

We are all suffering in some way and experiencing loss. How are you transcending this difficult hardship? The answer to that question is how you will define your story for the rest of your life.

Someday, I am determined to tell my coronavirus war story about:

  • Courage

  • Generosity

  • Innovation

  • Power of the human spirit

  • Dignity

  • Compassion

  • Teamwork

  • Resolve

  • Humor (we always remember the funny parts!)

  • Triumph

Think of your life in the context of the history that is being written before our eyes. What is the story you’ll be telling when this is over? What is the story others will be telling about you?

Don’t let this narrative just happen to you. This is your story. Take control.

Write it now, every day, without compromise.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

 

The post This is your war and your story. Write it well. appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Five ways to battle the psychological disorientation of coronavirus

psychological disorientation

Psychological disorientation

I love baseball … and this time of the year should be magical.

The playing fields — appropriately called “parks” — are emerald green, my favorite players train for their long season, and I can take comfort in the fact that my beloved team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are tied for first place because a game has not been played yet!

Since I was a baby, baseball has been a core part of my life. The Pirates won the World Series in dramatic fashion when I was five months old. My mother said when they won the game, she nearly threw me from her lap to the ceiling. They won the championship again when I was 11. I rode my bike around the neighborhood, hooting and hollering at the top of my lungs in a one-boy parade.

Normally, a guilty pleasure during baseball season is to take my iPad down to my boat dock, open a beer, and watch a Pirates game as the sun sets over the lake. Bliss.

Baseball is a life tradition. It is part of the fuel that keeps me going at this time of year.

And that fuel is gone, sucked dry by an invisible enemy.

Psychological disorientation

“I am worried about sports fans from a psychological standpoint because a lot of fans really do need this fuel. It fulfills their life,” said Paul Finebaum, a television sports analyst quoted in our local newspaper.

“I think we have reached a level of psychological disorientation.”

I am using a sports example here, but basically, almost ALL of my normal “fuel” is gone:

  • A hectic work life that revolves around preparing for new speeches and workshops
  • Community service work
  • Traveling, attending concerts, and live events
  • Going to a movie and a favorite restaurant on a date night with my wife

I’m sure you can make a similar list for yourself. And if you haven’t, maybe you should. I’m worried that in the corona chaos, we’re overlooking the serious psychological disorientation that comes from losing our life fuel.

The news is filled with stories of layoffs, panicked grocery buyers, and regulations meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and appropriately so.

But in the long-term, the grind of psychological disorientation will take a massive toll on our personal and professional relationships if we don’t acknowledge it and deal with it. Let’s talk about this.

Re-fueling

Everybody is focused on transitioning to online business models but talking to a screen all day won’t replace your beloved routines and lifestyle traditions.

Compound that with being confined to a small area, worries of getting infected, financial consequences, and loss of daily habits and you get a recipe for real psychological distress.

A recent review of the psychological impact of quarantine reports that locked-in subjects frequently experience confusion, anger, and post-traumatic stress symptoms, sometimes lasting even three years after the end of the quarantine.

We need to take this seriously.

Research shows that it may take six to eight weeks for people to adapt to a “new normal” like “reside in place.” I think one thing we can all do is mindfully consider what we can to “re-fuel” to shorten this timeframe and minimize the impact of psychological disorientation.

I don’t see many people addressing this issue right now. I’ve looked for online advice and found some ideas to reduce your stress from psychological disorientation.

1. Set new goals

This is a time when you must re-orient and focus on new goals and routines like losing weight, learning to cook, reading a book every week, or spending time on a hobby.

In my own experience, I am trying to focus on an idea for a new book and doing some watercolor painting each day. I’ve found that immersing myself in either writing or painting immediately puts me in a calm state far away from the bad news and worry.

But this particular idea has been hard for me. I like my work. And there’s no “normal” work right now. Talk about being disoriented. A work in progress!

2. Talk about it

It’s important to monitor your relationships and discuss emotional states with those confined with you, and around you. There is a real danger this psychological disorientation can lead to irritations and blow-ups.

If you’re locked up with a spouse or significant other you might be asking:

  • How are you holding up today?
  • What can we do to make things better, more fun, more interesting today?
  • What can we do to find new meaning and purpose to replace our routines?
  • Are we successfully accommodating our new work-from-home routines?
  • What DOES the “new normal” look like and how do we hurry it along?

If you have friends and family members who are locked-up and alone, stay connected and ask these questions.

My parents are locked-down and already getting bored and lonely from the loss of their normal life fuel. I’m staying in touch with them more often and will challenge them to find new, interesting things to explore online.

3. Pursue self-differentiated goals

Most of us receive some sort of psychological fuel from activities we used to pursue alone, like traveling for work, reading, or working out at a gym.

A research study showed that people are much happier in quarantined environments when they can pursue solo activities and are supported by their spouses. People who can follow this self-differentiated path are better able to tolerate situations in which they can’t have their normal needs met (all of us right now!)

In other words, you don’t have to do everything together!

Every day carve out some private time and private space as best you can.

4. Attack boredom

Across the globe, a coronavirus culture is emerging, spontaneously and creatively, to deal with restrictions on daily life and the tedious isolation of quarantine.

In China and Italy, where hundreds of millions of people have been in some form of lockdown, creative responses to promote connection have included:

  • Nightclubs do “cloud clubbing” where viewers watch D.J. sets on streaming platforms and send in messages to be read live.
  • Famously, the Italians serenaded each other from their balconies.
  • “Home Karaoke Station” features famous singers taking requests, engaging with viewers, and performing while self-quarantined in their homes.
  • Gyms and instructors offer workout classes online.
  • A third-grade teacher in China went viral on Twitter when she improvised to keep her classes going online after schools closed nationwide. Stuck at home, she used the side of her refrigerator as a whiteboard and with a blue marker, gave geometry lessons.

We are seeing the same sort of creative boredom fighters emerge in the U.S.

This is just the beginning. What creative online activities are you seeing out there? Let the community know in the comment section.

5. Get help

Staying mentally healthy in the eye of the coronavirus hurricane may be one of the hardest things we face in our lifetimes. We all might need a little help through this crisis.

Most psychologists are moving to an online counseling model so you can talk to a professional securely from your home.

Psychology Today offers a service to help you find a certified therapist that can help you through the rough spots.

Please be aware of what’s going on with your thoughts and feelings. Don’t ignore signs of chronic anxiety and stress.

I am working hard on reducing my own psychological disorientation and finding the new normal. Hope these ideas help you, too.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration: This came from an old poster for the movie “Vertigo”

The post Five ways to battle the psychological disorientation of coronavirus appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Everything is out of date because the world is new

world is new

It has been interesting to observe how SLOOOOOOW the corporate world has been to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

Most of this is understandable. It take months to plan, create, and schedule advertising for these big brands. But a lot of what is being published right now is so out of sync with the needs of the world right now.

How will the biggest brands pivot and when?

This is a preamble to sheepishly explain this week’s podcast episode.

This edition of The Marketing Companion was recorded on March 9, 2020. It is a SUPER FUN episode but one of the things Brooke Sellas and I discussed was an experiential promotion based on the NCAA March Madness tournament, one of the most popular sporting events in America (maybe my favorite!)

The episode went live exactly one week later — and by then the NCAA tournament had been canceled — as had the baseball season, the Kentucky Derby, and every other sporting event and concert in America.

One week.

Between us, Brooke and I have more than 50 years of business experience. We have seen a lot, we have done a lot. And yet we blew it. We couldn’t see one week in front of us.

But who can right now? An interesting lesson in unprecedented times.

So … this week’s episode is a little on the weird side. But it is still AWESOME.

First, I talk about the recent Social Media Marketing World conference and something really weird that happened to me out there.

Hey. You’re locked in and working from home. Put on the headphones. Tune to a movie for the kids and enjoy the show:

Click on this link to listen to Episode 184

Other ways to enjoy our podcast

Please support our extraordinary sponsors. Our content is free because of their generosity.

It’s hard to ignore — millions of business professionals are active on LinkedIn. They have twice the buying power of a normal web user. If you’re in business, you need to be exploring advertising on LinkedIn. Brooke and I have both had tremendous success with this marketing platform and to help you get started, LinkedIn is offering Marketing Companion listeners $100 in free ad credit. That can go a LONG WAY! Take advantage of this opportunity today by visiting linkedin.com/companion

RSM Marketing provides an indispensable outsourced marketing department! Why struggle with turnover and staffing when RSM clients receive a marketing director and all the resources they need under a flat fee monthly subscription?

RSM employs dozens of specialists and experienced marketing directors who assist companies ranging from startups to market leaders with thousands of employees. Companies across the country from all categories are choosing this model to overcome marketing complexity and outpace their competition. The typical outsourcing client uses 11 RSM subject matter specialists but pays less than the cost of one of their own employees. RSM provides breakthrough marketing for clients and has been named twice to the INC 5000 list. Visit RSM for special Marketing Companion offers including $5,000 in free services.

The post Everything is out of date because the world is new appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

How do you sell in a coronavirus environment?

coronavirus environment

I’ve received several variations of this question in this tumultuous time. So it’s probably on a lot of minds. Here’s my view of selling in this coronavirus environment.

First, let me suggest that we need to view our businesses and our customers through a lens of grief.

That may seem like a weird word to use in a blog post about selling. Grief is usually associated with the loss of a loved one. Every single person I know is experiencing loss in this coronavirus environment. It could be the loss of …

  • economic security
  • freedom to travel
  • a workspace
  • a social life
  • a job
  • weddings and celebrations
  • support network
  • sports, entertainment, and dining
  • the ability to work without children hanging all over you

… and I’m sure there is a lot more. We may be in the planet’s most disruptive period since World War II.

Everybody is working through some stage of grief due to these sudden and dramatic losses.

So what does this have to do with selling?

Everything.

The tone of the country (and much of the world) right now is somber. It’s fearful. It’s a nation in grief.

How would you sell to somebody at a funeral? That is the mindset you need to take right now in this coronavirus environment of anxiety and grief.

Would you put a hard sell on somebody who is grieving? Of course not. Here’s what you might say to a grieving friend:

  • What can I do for you?
  • What do you need right now from me and my company?
  • How can we ease your pain in this time of loss?

In my mind, that’s what selling is about right now. Which is not selling at all. It’s about helping, showing sincere compassion, and building relationships that will last far beyond any stupid virus.

Make sense?

Here is a Facebook Live video I did to explain the idea behind today’s post in more depth.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post How do you sell in a coronavirus environment? appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

7 Non-obvious coronavirus implications for marketing

coronavirus implications for marketing

As of this writing, the world is teetering on coronavirus calamity. Entire countries are shutting down, economies are stalling, households are imperiled. There are a lot of obvious implications for consumption, travel, eCommerce, and advertising. But here are seven non-obvious implications for marketing I am considering right now:

1. Are relevant in this moment?

Please take a long, hard look at the goods and services provided by your business. If you are not absolutely relevant to the world as it is RIGHT NOW, simply putting your business online or holding a webinar isn’t going to help the situation.

This is the right now:

  • Many people are in, or will be entering, a state of shock and panic.
  • They are trying to figure out how to manage the kids at home and entertain them for hours on end. Unexpected time with kids produces new psychological and financial stresses.
  • They are isolated and bored.
  • Their routines are disrupted.
  • Thousands of people are being laid-off.
  • They are experiencing deep anxiety and even depression.
  • Important symbols of normal life — sports, festivals, concerts, conferences — are gone.
  • Millions of people no longer have viable businesses right now. They are losing their financial buffer quickly. For many people, the focus is making ends meet.
  • Our customers fear for what is next.

Here is a quote from The New York Times trying to capture the nation’s mood right now:

“This is life in a pandemic, when the emergence of the potentially fatal coronavirus has spawned strains of uncertainty: about the progression of the new virus, about the government’s response, about the open-ended nature of our altered lifestyles. About one another.

“The collective mind whirls. Will my mother in her quarantined nursing home be all right? Will my children get sick? Will there be enough hospital beds? Will we see the same high death rate as Italy’s? Do I just have a slight cold, or is it a sign of something else?

Now, that is our world and those are your customers. Ask this question with icy cold precision: “Does my business still matter in this environment?”

My guess is that for many of you, the answer is “no.”

I think this is among the most important coronavirus implications for marketing — your customers may not be interested in you right now no matter what you do. Working harder may not make a difference.

The world is sliding into a collective retreat, with tens of millions of people waiting for solutions to the problems caused by an invisible threat.

The next step is to dig deep and figure out what skills you can apply to the current situation and help find those solutions. How can you help people in an insanely helpful way with the resources at your disposal? I have some ideas below.

2. Safe, familiar, comfortable

In a time of unprecedented global stress, people will reach for the familiar to soothe themselves. As the psychological stress sets in, people will reach for comfort. Look for marketing opportunities in:

  • Baking, cookies, candy, and comfort food
  • Nostalgia
  • Blankets, pajamas, sweat pants
  • Comedy
  • Old television shows and movies
  • Hobbies
  • Anything that represents a small, affordable luxury that can be delivered to the home

Concerned about our ability to keep the pantry stocked if we become locked in, we’ve subscribed to a service that delivers ready-to-cook meals through the mail. An affordable luxury that solves a problem!

A grocery store in Canada is making special accommodations to keep seniors safe.

U-Haul is offering free storage for college students who are being suddenly displaced.

A Portland distillery is turning their waste alcohol into free hand sanitizer.

These are examples of businesses re-framing their services to provide comfort and safety.

3. Content babies

Somebody observed that with so many people locked in, we will probably have a big surge in children being born nine months from now! Well, I see a similar thing happening with content projects that have been on the backburner.

With more time at home, one of the coronavirus implications for marketing folks is that a lot of passion projects that were on hold — a book, podcast, or video series — will become a priority. Look for a swarm of significant new “content babies” in the next weeks and months.

I’m not telling you to NOT pursue your passion project, but I think this is probably the worst possible time to launch something new … because everybody will be launching something new. I would consider it this way:

  1. Is this core to my business (and if it is, why didn’t you do it before?)
  2. Is this sustainable once everything goes back to normal?
  3. Is this the best place to devote considerable resources right now?
  4. I am producing a product of substance or a product out of panic?

My friend Tom Webster of Edison Research studies podcast consumption trends and wrote this:

“I’ve seen people assume that podcast consumption will go up as we have all of this time at home. I wouldn’t make that assumption.

“COVID-19 represents a giant disruption in people’s patterns, and those patterns include how podcasts fit into their typical day, which for now doesn’t exist. If you used to listen to podcasts on your commute, well, many of us aren’t commuting. And while we now have all of this time at home, many of us (myself included) now unexpectedly have kids at home, which doesn’t exactly leave much time for podcasts.

“As we’ve seen with other significant world events and disasters, media patterns disrupt in unpredictable ways, like a snow globe being shaken up. 

4. Dressing down

As soon as the virus reality took hold, people were posting photos and videos saying “Look at me! I’m working from home!”

And they all looked … to put it politely … disheveled.

Working from home provides permission to not groom or wear makeup. To wear sweat pants and t-shirts. To celebrate unkempt. I recently posted an Instagram story about how I did not bathe that day. And it showed.

One of the coronavirus implications for marketing is that consumption of make-up, hair products, and grooming products luxury will take a big dive. But I wonder — coming out of this crisis, will there be some new fashion sensibility based on practicality and comfort? We were probably heading that direction anyway.

I just wonder if there is an opportunity here? What does the non-grooming market look like?

5. A desperate rush to produce

There are millions of speakers, meeting organizers, event planners, hospitality professionals, and consultants who suddenly, and dramatically, have no work.

Among my friends in this industry, there is outright panic right now. Survival mode is kicking in and there is a desperation to produce something — anything — that can be sold online.

Over the next few weeks, there will be an unprecedented number of online classes, webinars, and virtual conferences designed as patches for the problem.

We’ll be entering a period of online meeting overload. This will be very good for companies like Zoom and GoToMeeting!

So think through this carefully. The world is about to be inundated with classes, webinars, and online conferences. What is your role in a world of too much? How do you cut through this new clutter?

Another important thing to think through: People are accustomed to receiving content and webinars for free. With so many people suffering or out of work, will people pay for your content?

6. Explosion of innovation

As I was heading home on what will probably be my last airline flight for a very long time, I overheard a man on his phone. “We are going to have to re-think everything,” he said.

Indeed.

The beauty of our capitalist economy is its endless fortitude and inventiveness. When faced with business disaster, the most creative and competent will survive and thrive with new business models and services that will become part of a new post-virus way of life.

Pay close attention. In the next few weeks, people will combine online technologies in interesting new ways that will make you say, “Wow! I never thought of that.”

Don’t just use technology to do the same thing in a different way. Use technologies in creative new ways to dispense unique value.

7. Dispensing hope

Fear is contagious. So is hope.

One of my favorite leaders from the corporate world had a little sign on his desk that said “Leaders Dispense Hope.” He told me he thought this was the most important aspect of leading his organization.

A world of dramatic change and uncertainty will certainly spawn anxiety in an organization. It’s important to provide a steadfast vision and encouragement in that environment to get the most from your team. Being a great marketing leader might mean dispensing hope in the face of a constant hurricane.

I think being an effective leader in this environment means committing to a message of hope.

And with that, I’d like to share with you what is on my whiteboard today:

coronavirus implications for marketing

What I mean by “be the hand” is, don’t just “lend” a hand. Sometimes you have to BE the hand. You have to be the change.

The coronavirus implications for marketing professionals are daunting and scary. Be well and let’s stay connected. We’re all in this together.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post 7 Non-obvious coronavirus implications for marketing appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.