Searching for the origin of the phrase, “every cloud has a silver lining,” I was of course disappointed that there was no linkage to my hero Ben Franklin. Nope. None at all. Turns out, John Milton penned a similar phrase in 1634 and four hundred years later, we’re still using it to evoke the potential upside of nasty circumstances, like say our current pandemic. And yes, though it’s really nasty out there in marketing land, there are several silver linings worth highlighting.
Separation has brought us closer
Talk to any CMO and you’ll hear stories about how they know more about their employees than they ever did. Zoom meetings are regularly, and now happily, interrupted by the appearance of kids, dogs, roommates and partners. No meeting can start without a round-the-horn check on everyone’s wellbeing. Bosses who once tried to maintain “professional distance” are suddenly human, actually demonstrating empathy for their peers and staff.
Murky forecasts have increased transparency
Even if the peak of the pandemic is behind us, it is extremely difficult to predict how quickly business will return to pre-COVID normal, if ever. Maybe there’s a new normal without big events, without fully staffed offices, without double-digit growth plans. The response to all of the uncertainty has been remarkable transparency. Many leaders are sharing everything they know and don’t know with their staff, having weekly all-hands meetings (versus monthly) and hosting “ask me anything” sessions. Over-communicating is a new normal.
Cessation has encouraged action
Through no fault of their own, many businesses saw their revenue streams literally dammed overnight. Budgets were cut. Employees were furloughed. But remarkably, those in the position to maintain some staff have put them to work to find ways to help in this crisis. Some have done this by creating useful content, others by creating free apps that address COVID-related challenges and others by cheerleading those on the frontline through social media. No doubt, this charitableness also serves to keep these brands top-of-mind which is not a bad side effect – karma being a boomerang and all that.
Disruption has inspired agility
A remarkable number of Silicon Valley-based companies launched new products or services shortly after the pandemic took hold. These were not ambulance chasers but in fact solutions that addressed new “business continuity” challenges like security, communications and data storage inherent in the work-from-home era. Others rushed out “freemium” products that lowered trial barriers in the face of budget freezes. Now, the rest of the business world is seeing these actions and asking how they too can bring such agility to their organizations. There’s actually a great, regularly updated site with software designed to help businesses that is now free, or is offering a free extended trial, definitely take a look here!
Uncertainty has tuned up plans
Strategic plans created before March 2020 are being tossed out the window as past assumptions have become irrelevant. All—and I mean all—messaging is being revisited. If you’re a B2B brand without a promise that includes dramatic cost savings and/or massive improvements in efficiency, good luck getting anyone’s attention right now. In light of this reality, many savvy CMOs are focused on addressing customer experience shortcomings and developing new “value” based products/services that can launch when the crisis starts to subside. Think of this as a thorough tuning up of your car before the race begins anew.
Renegotiating works both ways
With revenue sagging across the board, most businesses are looking for ways to save money. This has led to innumerable renegotiation dances as the buyer seeks to defer or reduce payments. Savvy brands are asking for something in return like extending the length of the contract and getting previously elusive brand testimonials. And while better case histories won’t improve short term cash flow, they certainly will set your company up for success when the green flag finally comes up.
If you’ve uncovered any silver linings in your world, I’d love to hear from you.