This is the first part of our #LeadAwayFromCovid 3-Part series, which will be dedicated to helping businesses recover from COVID impact. The article you are now reading is the first part and today we will talk about planning for your recovery.
No one knows exactly how long the pandemic will last or the scale of the economic damage that is going to result from it. The best prediction we now can offer is actually a comparison.
In 2003, the world faced a SARS outbreak which was much smaller, but still, it cost the global economy a whopping $40 billion and China several months of economic contraction.
Since then, China’s economic output has multiplied 8X, from $1.7 trillion to nearly $14 trillion; this growth is tightly intertwined with the global economy.
The point is, it doesn't matter how rapid the downfall is, things tend to bounce back at the end of the day. And this ongoing crisis is going too. Ultimately, that means your business will eventually recover as well.
But here’s the trick: when the things bounce back, they will do so for everyone. So you’ll face even stronger competition during your recovery. To stay ahead of it, you should think strategically and plan for your recovery ahead of time.
Reading this article, you will explore the principles and necessary mindset to build an effective crisis recovery plan. The theory is never enough, so all the conceptual things will be followed by actionable pieces of advice. No time to waste, let’s get down to business!
Step 1. Do some learning
Creating an adequate crisis recovery plan requires a whole lot of smart strategic decisions from your company’s management team. For that, you will need a good balance of rational and creative thinking.
At an emotional time, the issue of making your decisions ‘rational’ can be solved by an approach that we've been promoting for at least 3 years now - a data-based approach. You will actually need to dig deep into your business’ data, structure and analyze it at least on a monthly basis.
If you have started analyzing your data just now, you can kickstart this process with some aggregated reports on sales, marketing, operational hours and expenses. Monthly data can’t provide you the bigger picture, and that’s exactly what you looking for. For starters, try gathering and aggregating 6-12 months' worth of data to make sure you can see the most prominent trends of your core business processes.
By doing so, you make your decisions way more solid and realistic.
But what about creativity? How can you cultivate this thinking style? To start your engine of creativity you really need to fuel it with new ideas. That is why you have to take learning new concepts seriously. Especially during a crisis. At times like this, the world is changing rapidly and you either reflect those changes in your marketing/business strategy or fade away.
Consuming new perspectives and others’ experiences will actually broaden your strategy toolkit, providing you with more space to maneuver (which is always a nice thing during a crisis).
Understanding the need to learn something new, our CEO Iurii Znak recently completed a course called Ruthless Management. We interviewed him and collected a must-read list of the most influential books to consume during a crisis.
What led you to make the decision to enroll in this course?
“I felt like I was stuck in routine, living in the same information bubble. [I felt] that’s [the reason] why I couldn’t initiate significant changes to my business, being unable take it to the next level. I chose this particular course, as it was quick enough to match my rapid lifestyle, and informative enough to give an overview of my blind spots so that I can focus on them.” - Iurii Znak, Founder of Respect.Studio
What is your biggest take away from this course?
“Even when the business is working "fine" for you, there are still dozens of important things that you might be missing. It's important not to ignore them, but constantly seek them and fix, improve, develop. Otherwise, you risk one of those things growing so big, it will be both impossible to ignore it and...handle it.” - Iurii Znak, Founder of Respect.Studio
What business leaders should read right now.
This is Iurii’s must-read books for every entrepreneur who’s willing not only to survive now but to develop an adaptive mindset.
- “No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits: No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Really Getting Rich” by Dan S. Kennedy.
A read that will stand a lot of conventional business advice on its head. Most business theorists and entrepreneurs preach creating trust amongst your team to increase accountability and performance. Kennedy believes that expecting accountability is futile: employees must be heavily managed and monitored if you want to get results. As he puts it: “you must inspect what you expect.”- every business should use some sort of mystery shopping to find out what customers experience. Sometimes, you have to be the ‘bad cop’.
2. “Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization” by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright
In this read, Logan holds that culture is the most important determinant of a business’s success. Every company consists of tribes, which are the most basic social units in which humans evolved to function. The quality of connections between members and each individual can influence how well or how badly a group functions. In essence, to change a group, you must influence and change the individual first.
“Tribal Leadership gives amazingly insightful perspective on how people interact and succeed. I learned about myself and learned lessons I will carry with me and reflect on for the rest of my life.”
—John W. Fanning, Founding Chairman & CEO at Napster Inc.
3. “It's Okay to Be the Boss: The Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need” by Bruce Tulgan
A great read to help managers shape up their management style and focus on delivering tangible results. It challenges you as a business owner to spell out expectations, tell employees exactly what to do and how to do it, monitor and measure performance constantly. I believe that this book can be a great tool to transition to a more ‘hands-on’ management approach to lead any type of team.
4. “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies” by Geoffrey B. West
A fascinating study that reveals universal scaling laws that can be seen in all living organisms, as well as in the life & growth of cities, economies, and organizations (companies). Brilliant, yet very accessible & understandable, analysis from the microscopic to the macro, seen through the prism of physics & biology & economics.
5. “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach” by Martin Reeves, Knut Haanaes, Janmejaya Sinha.
When it comes to strategy, one size doesn’t fit all. This read guides companies to tailor their strategies to their specific business environments, whether you’re trying to grow in a mature industry or require nimble innovation in a turbulent environment, this book provides frameworks for you to evaluate which is the best strategy for your business right now.
6. “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters.
This book reads like a worksheet to help you develop your idea; it’s not a recipe for starting a small business but talks about the approach to start “small” and then dominate the micro-market. It provides an inside look at Peter Theil’s philosophy and strategy for making your startup succeed by looking at the lessons learned from founding and selling PayPal, investing in Facebook, and becoming a billionaire in the process. It’s even useful even if you’re not a startup, just a ton of knowledge and experience in an easy to read book.
7. “How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business” by Douglas W. Hubbard.
This read claims there’s no intangibles you can’t measure. Hubbard claims that the definition of measurement is the reduction of uncertainty. This means that measuring is not about finding the answer, but to reduce the uncertainty of what the answer is. He provides techniques on answering whether you should measure something and how to go about measuring them.
This is not a short list, not a long list, but definitely a powerful list of new ideas to inject into your current environment and business thought process on ways to plan your recovery during and after COVID-19.
Step 2. Develop an adaptive mindset
While consuming new information will provide you with more creative material to tailor your marketing strategy, it will only be a random list of ideas unless you have a solid model.
And if you can’t come up with your own list of principles, your best bet is to learn from the best. This article created by 6 experts from McKinsey&Co. suggests a mental model for Rapid Revenue Recovery. According to McKinsey&Co. experts, the most effective marketing strategies go according to SHAPE, an approach based on five core elements:
- Start-up mindset. The start-up mindset biases action over research and testing over analysis. Start-up leaders establish an agile cadence through daily team check-ins, weekly 30-minute CEO reviews, and biweekly hour-long sprint reviews.
- Human at the core. To drive rapid action, companies will need to rethink their operating model, building it around how their people work best. Enabling people will clearly require a new set of skills and capabilities, from facilitating working with tech to working remotely.
Successful pivots to a remote sales model, for example, will require an entirely new level of collaboration and coaching between front-line sales reps and leadership in order to meet consumer expectations.
- Accelerate digital, tech, and analytics. Remember our data-based approach advice? McKinsey experts agree that the crisis has become an inflection point in the shift to digital. The best companies are successfully using advanced analytics to combine various sources of data, analyzing trends both industry-wise and on micro-level. Combining those insights enables them to see “recovery signals” clearly.
- Purpose-driven customer playbook. Putting customers at the center of the business is a long-established principle, but post-coronavirus businesses will need a deep recalibration of how they thought customers make decisions.
Companies will need to rethink decision journeys to understand what customers now value and design new use cases and customer experiences based on those insights. That means a more nuanced approach to segmenting customers.
- Ecosystems to drive adaptability. The disruptions in supply chains and offline buying channels have made adaptability crucial not just to business survival but to accessing opportunities quickly.
In the short term, adaptability may mean how companies work with agencies and partners, but in the long-term, it will require new partnerships and non-traditional collaborations, including strategic M&A.
Sticking to this mindset and constantly infusing it with fresh ideas - will lead you to having an impressive advantage in planning your recovery marketing strategy.
Step 3. Take proactive leadership responsibility
Completing two previous steps will potentially make your strategic thinking skyrocket. However, having a clear innovative image in your head is not enough when it comes to crisis recovery.
For a business owner, it is crucial to seek innovative crisis management models, broaden your worldview, and radiate confidence. This way, your team’s morale will not be damaged by the downfall and you’ll have the capacity to recover.
It’s difficult to find a better examples of leadership during a crisis than military commanders. These individuals are exposed to high-stress conditions and still need to radiate confidence and make sound decisions.
In a time of crisis, there is a premium on bold leadership and decisive action. Military-command structure—the management system used by armed forces during major conflicts—is a framework explicitly set up to handle issues that represent true danger and that escalates at an enormous and unpredictable pace.
According to another piece from McKinsey&Co. blog, there are three main insights provided by military crisis management that can be used in your marketing and business strategy.
- A military-command structure can help reduce confusion and enable faster, better, decision making in your organization.
- Managing simultaneously across all time horizons (current operations, near-time planning, long-term planning) based on an integrated, strategic crisis action plan is fundamental to reducing chaos and accelerating decisions.
- Age-old principles of war (maintain morale, stay flexible, foster cooperation) can help keep your organization focused and motivated, improving its chances of achieving objectives.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Section 4: Start from building your ABM
Ok, so let’s assume you have adopted the new mindset, empowered it with data-based information, and upgraded your leadership model to become crisis-proof. What are the exact actions you need to take in building your marketing strategy?
According to the SHAPE model, personalization and humanity are here to stay. The first step you can take is to make sure your marketing strategy reflects those principles. When it comes to building personalized human-like communication with potential clients, there’s nothing more suitable than account-based marketing (ABM). Only the ABM approach that will enable your marketing strategy to develop and nurture long-term relationships, growing Lifetime Value (LTV) of each current and prospective client. Shifting your focus to ABM practices should enable you to build more meaningful B2B communication, instead of wasting a ton of budget on customer acquisition.
During a crisis, you should focus your resources on converting leads who are here to stay, rather than one-time-deals.
1. Secure organizational ABM alignment.
This means getting all internal stakeholders on board with the various factors related to your account-based marketing strategy. In doing so, it’ll be easier for your business to create consistent experiences for accounts and make sure your strategy is as efficient and streamlined as possible.
2. Build your ABM team.
VPs of Marketing and Sales will likely be leaders in the discussion regarding how you’ll build your ABM team. They, along with managers on their respective teams, will need to identify a minimum of one marketer and one sales rep who will be completely dedicated to the accounts you work with. These people will create and publish content for accounts as well as work to manage and close business deals with each account’s buying committee.
3. Define Your Strategic Accounts.
Marketers are used to defining personas, but account-based marketing isn’t about distinguishing between “Chatty Cathy” and “Enterprise Eric.” Rather ABM is about marketing to a whole organization rather than an individual.
For instance, define the industry, company size, location, annual revenue, upsell opportunity, profit margin, etc. for each account that can yield your business the highest long-term profits. Those are the types of accounts you want to go after.
4. Create Personalized Content & Messaging
Now it’s time to put your investigational knowledge to use with content that speaks directly to these stakeholders and organizations. You should understand these stakeholders’ specific pain points and needs, appealing to how you can solve with your messaging and imagery.
Here’s our complete guide to help you on how to create an effective B2B Messaging strategy.
5. Decide on the Best Channels for your Marketing Strategy
Your research and content will be useless if you’re not promoting your campaigns and creative in the right places.
You need to understand where your prospects spend their time online, and what their state of mind is when they’re on social platforms. Be sure to go beyond the conventional B2B marketing mix of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Some of your prospects might be looking for answers on Quora, some of your prospects might even use Reddit.
The point is that you need to be present and active on every platform your prospects are using to search for answers to their pain points.
To sum it up, effective post-crisis planning should include:
- Developing lateral thinking by being open to learning new concepts and approaches.
- Forming an adaptive mindset to keep you flexible for the changes this crisis is throwing at you.
- Developing a general-like leadership culture to radiate confidence and keep team’s morale at the highest level possible.
- Aiming your marketing strategy objectives at building meaningful long-term B2B connections, thus cutting customer acquisition expenses.
However, we all can agree that planning is never enough. You’re here to actually fight the crisis by taking proactive measures (that’s the spirit!). In fact, this article is only an introductory piece of out of our #LeadAwayFromCovid series. The upcoming articles will cover:
- Recovery plan implementation:
- The most necessary elements to include in your digital marketing strategy
- List of tools to use to execute your marketing efficiently
- The most prominent trends of SMM
- The best-performing (and unconventional) digital marketing channels
- Selling during a crisis:
- Developing your authentic voice to stand out
- Tools you need to sell online efficiently
- LinkedIn Lead Generation must-haves: a complete guide
- How to leverage LinkedIn’s organic reach
- Case Study: how to generate more than 1 SQL per day using LinkedIn.
Search for #LeadAwayFromCovid hashtag to find more useful info! Stay safe and inspired!