The optimist in me trusts that we will get through this. Sometime in the near future we will be able to stop worrying about our communal health and forget the term “social distancing.” Sometime in the near future we will return to our offices and brainstorm together in conference rooms. Sometime in the near future we will make travel plans and celebrate with our tribes face to face in giant convention centers. But when this will happen is anyone’s guess and begs the question, “what do we marketers do in the meantime?”
Well, in the interest of keeping things simple, allow me to suggest a few things that we marketers can do to help our collective stakeholders get through this crisis. This list is drawn from a number of recent conversations I’ve had with CMOs, many of whom have already made dramatic changes to their marketing plans. While I dislike the inherent cynicism behind the expression, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” I do think this moment creates a unique opportunity for courageous leaders like yourselves to step up and meet the challenge.
Take Care of Yourself
This may feel like an odd place to start a conversation on leadership but frankly, you’re no good to your organization, your team, your friends or your family if you aren’t in a good place mentally or physically. Since going to the gym is not an option, replace that with a home exercise regimen or perhaps now is the time to try yoga (free online courses here). If you were a commuter, then why not use that time for personal maintenance? Recognize that sitting on couches gets old fast so make sure you have a chair as supportive as the one in your office. Your back will thank you. Oh, and don’t forget to breath in between the constant water sipping and hand washing.
Take Care of Your Team
Keep in mind that your team members who are new to working from home are facing all sorts of new challenges, from kids or pets joining conference calls to slow internet access to unsupportive desk chairs to getting their own routines together. [Not to mention the hellacious worry that they or one of their family members might get the virus.] Here’s where you the leader can shine, not only acknowledging these challenges but also embracing them. The trending hashtag #WFH is yours too, so encourage group sharing of their new situations and newfound workarounds. Encourage everyone to have video on during conference calls and to be present. Finally, if you’re not on Slack or your team’s chat software, then now’s the time.
Take Care of Your Organization
This area can be tricky for the CMO especially if you have a territorial HR peer. Nonetheless, effective employee communications are critical right now both to maintain business operations and customer satisfaction. Whereas town halls used to be the way to deliver important news and rally employees around a common purpose, your tool set is suddenly reduced to virtual meetings. Here’s where your creativity is desperately needed. Lots of CMOs are already holding virtual coffee breaks and happy hours with their teams via Zoom or other video conferencing tools. Some have set up Slack channels just for funny #WFH experiences. The point here is – put your communications skills to use over every available channel to ensure these efforts are clear and motivating.
Take Care of Your Customers
“Business continuity” is suddenly a term of importance and just about every B2B company I’ve encountered has already sent a reassuring email to their customers that they’re still open for business while operating remotely. Now the big question is what you can do for your customers, especially the ones hardest hit by the pandemic. Those companies on particularly strong financial footing are reducing or waiving fees, opening help lines, providing free remote training courses and/or brainstorming with their customers to help them get through the crisis. How your company treats your customers in a time of crisis will leave a lasting impression. At minimum, pick up the phone and call the customers you know and just have a human-to-human moment of empathy.
Take Care of Your Brand
What was acceptable just a month ago in terms of messaging and images may seem tone deaf today. Don’t hesitate to retire images of crowds, shaking hands, or references to the Zombie apocalypse (we had just such an image for one of our clients and it was funny last Halloween!). Next, be very careful not to come across as a profiteer if you happen to be an industry that is currently enjoying surging demand. For brands with a clearly defined brand purpose and associated brand values, let that continue to be your north star. Abandoning your purpose now would send the wrong message to all your stakeholders (i.e. it was really just a marketing ploy!).
Final note: I’d love to hear what you’re doing in the face of all this chaos.