3 keys for navigating COVID-19 from a CMO who survived the great recession
- Pivot fast and pivot smart: This might be the best time to think outside the box. Work through today’s challenges and identify opportunities to innovate your business.
- Be hyper relevant to your customers: Help your customers with what they need most right now. It will deepen your relationships, establish your value, and keep your business moving.
- Break down silos: Have the tough conversations needed to empower teams to face challenges head-on and get the job done as a unit.
In 2007, I was the director of trade marketing at Alfred Music Publishing. That was the start of the Great Recession for those of you who may not have joined the workforce yet, and from late 2007 to early 2009, I had to reduce spending every single quarter.
I learned a lot during that time. While that situation was quite different than the COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in right now, the principles of navigating economic uncertainty remain the same.
I hope what I learned back then can help you take effective and impactful actions for your business despite the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. History can help you at this moment—and it can better prepare you for other challenges that will arise in the future.
Pivot fast and pivot smart
Budget cuts are always challenging, but during the recession, they also forced me and my team to economize by thinking outside the box.
So, how did we do this?
We cut our printing costs in half by reformatting our music books. We cut down the number of CDs we provided in our books by loading more audio files onto fewer discs. And despite these cost-cutting measures, we maintained the quality Alfred was known for.
We’ve applied this thinking at Sendoso in response to COVID-19 by fast-tracking the release of our Address Confirmation feature.
With virtually no offices open nationwide, Address Confirmation enables our clients to ask a recipient to confirm their address before an item is sent so it arrives at the location from which they’re currently working.
This feature eliminates wasted sends to empty offices and allows our clients to continue building personal connections with their prospects while they work at home.
The lesson here is that as you work through today’s challenges, identify opportunities to innovate your business.
Be hyper relevant to your customers
At the start of the Great Recession, many publishers rushed to take their entire businesses to ecommerce in what was an increasingly digital market. But this type of move wasn’t that simple for our business model at Alfred.
I was responsible for marketing to over 5,000 brick and mortar retailers. These customers were the lifeblood of our business and a complete switch to ecommerce wasn’t going to replace them.
Due to the recession, school music programs were being cut (which were vital revenue streams to our retailers) so we had to help our customers supply these programs and keep them open.
To do this, we reinvested marketing dollars to help our retail customers supply these schools with program material packages at affordable rates. We also developed an ecommerce option for retailers by building a white-label website they could use to sell Alfred products online and compete in this realm.
Had we abandoned our retailers, there’s no telling how much it would have impacted Alfred’s business. And when business eventually returned to normal, our retailers remembered the work we did together to survive.
Currently, we’re helping our clients at Sendoso adjust how they use our platform for direct mail and gifting campaigns.
For example, when major events and trade shows were canceled due to COVID-19, we helped our clients pivot their event strategies to send personalized direct mail packages to the prospects they would’ve met in person.
The takeaway: Help your customers with what they need most right now. It will deepen your relationships, establish your value, and keep your business moving.
Break down silos
Throughout the Great Recession, we had to come together across all departments to keep our business moving forward.
Marketing was talking to Finance. Finance was talking to Operations. Any idea was worth discussing if it helped us push forward. All silos were quickly deconstructed.
Fast forward to today and we’ve once again had to break down silos across our teams at Sendoso. Because most deals these days require CFO sign-off, our sales team has had to learn how to sell to the C-level.
To help our account executives meet this challenge, we’ve encouraged them to connect with and learn from members of our own C-suite.
As CMO, I’ve had to break down my own silo and tell my team that I won’t always have the answers they’re looking for in the moment. These conversations are tough, but they’ve empowered my team to face challenges head-on and get the job done as a unit.
The long-term impact of COVID-19 is unpredictable. I don’t know what the future holds and I can’t make any predictions. But I do know we can get through this crisis by learning from the past. Every single lesson above has one thing in common — action.
Be bold. Test out new strategies. Don’t hold back. Action matters now more than ever.
Daniel Frohnen is a revenue marketer that brings over 15 years of experience across marketing and sales to his current position as Chief Marketing Officer at Sendoso. Dan is a marketing technologist at heart, always seeking to bring traditional marketing, data, and action together to run the most relevant and efficient programs possible.
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