Industry Specific Advice in a Time of Crisis from the Chief Outsiders CMOs
These are challenging times. The actions you take now and in the coming weeks will have a huge impact on what happens to your company, your customers and your employees. Some of the challenges we will face during this crisis will apply to all sectors, but some will be industry specific.
To help you decide where your focus should be, we assembled panels of Chief Marketing Officers from our Tribe at Chief Outsiders who have spent their careers working in your industry with companies like yours, to discuss what CEOs need to think about doing, right now.
The following summary encapsulates the highlights of our panel discussion for the Professional Services industry, hosted by Art Saxby. Featuring CMOs Paul Sparrow, Mark Coronna and Don Lee. For the full benefit, view the discussion video in its entirety (35 minutes). Short of time? See the discussion highlights (6 minutes).
Professional Services Panel Discussion – Summary
This discussion covers practical advice and suggestions for business planning, communication, rethinking your marketing strategy and working remotely for Professional Services organizations.
Say it and mean it; we’re going to do the right things!
- The most important thing that a CEO can do is to put a message out to the marketplace saying "We're aware of what's going on. We're sensitive about it. We're concerned about you. We're going to make the right decisions for our customers and for our employees”
Customer Challenges will vary
- Calling your contacts to check in and show you care is more important than ever right now. Ask them about the challenges they are facing. They may not be the ones you expect.
- You may not have all the answers to their challenges but being open and supportive may give you an opportunity to help on professional level
Broadcast the Plan
- Communicating internally and externally is really important, but when you communicate externally you want to let your customers know that you have a plan. You're going to support them in whatever ways you can
- Plan to thrive not just survive. Get your people engaged, get the outlines of the plan done. Give them something to look forward to and to work on instead of worrying about what tomorrow's going to look like
- Establish your short-term, the midterm and long-term plans. Take the time now to start digging into the details and setting the right strategy: the midterm will be easier to execute. Long term, you'll be better positioned competitively to take advantage of opportunities to come.
- Don't be afraid to be disruptive. Don't be afraid to take risks. This as an opportunity to get closer to people, closer to clients and closer to your core values
- Create a task force - regularly send out a new, frequently asked questions. Send out communications so that when your people are calling customers, they know what to say and they know how to respond. Be specific about the communication cadence, provide a script, the FAQs and turn them loose
Communications requires a new level of sensitivity
- It is important to be sensitive in your external communications, make sure that your employees have the right talk track as they're reaching out and talking to customers
- It all starts with leadership. Are you practicing what you preach? Are the company’s core values being adhered to? From the top down, compassion, empathy and the way we use our words is so important.
What can you give away?
- How do you drive revenue? How do you keep costs in line? Are there processes, services or access to platforms that you can share with your VIP clients? Maybe on a trial basis?
- This is a great time to experiment with SAAS tools that you can be employing or sharing with your clients as alternative solutions that may solve immediate problems
Rethink your marketing
- The impact the crisis is having on industry conferences and trade shows presents an opportunity for all businesses to rethink their trade show and conference behavior.
- Look at re-investing trade show spends in other targeted marketing programs that support lead generation, advertising or product demonstrations
- Now is an ideal time to check and refresh your value proposition and see how well it fits into where you think the market's going to go when it starts to pick up again. The same goes for your website
Differentiate between threats and opportunities
- It's important that CEOs recognize what the threats are and what the opportunities are as they relate to what's going on. Think of it from a strategic standpoint before you get into the tactical event of pulling those specific levers.
- If trade shows for example are a huge revenue generation tool, what does that mean to the business? What's that threat? What are we talking about? And based on what we know about our competition, how do we think they're going to react and what is it that they're going to do?
- How can we be innovative? What can we do that is unique and different from what's been done before? And if we do it quickly and execute it efficiently, we're the first ones out of the blocks.
Experiment with future opportunities, based on data
- Start really sitting down in a room and looking at your financials, and what's driving your revenue and what segment is driving it the fastest?
- This is a time to take some risks too, and really looking at that growth curve of your current clients
- The key to what you're talking about is really digging into the data, digging into the guts of the business. This is a time where you could just be very instinctive and reactive, and you might make the right move..
Begin to reassess the markets you serve
- It is a great opportunity to sit back and look at your historic business and say, okay, well where do we make our, where's our margin come from? Where does our bottom line come from? Who really is your ideal customer? And then start to think about how do I get more of those?
- The idea is not to just kind of survive through this crisis, but it's actually to come out stronger than when…
Where can you add quick value?
- Take the marketing stuff out. What value can we offer? Can I give you a tutorial on how do you do Zoom meetings? There's tremendous value we can offer because even if it's an industry that's going to be hurting and you're not going to be billing them for a while, showing values, showing concern, showing you're thinking about them might be able to get you the business on the back end.
- If your professional organization can become known as the ones who are there for me, who understand my business, who went the extra mile, that's what can turn it around
Internally, share intent and demonstrate value of your people
- People feel better when they know there's a plan and they feel like the company is okay, we may have to change the plan, and maybe only the plan for this week, but we have a plan and we're acting on it. That our intent is to preserve everyone's position, preserve the business as best we can. And yet recognize that there are people within the business with extenuating circumstances
- Show your team that there is a future and there is a plan, and show them that you care for them and you're concerned about them
Working remotely requires new processes
- If a company has never done it before or a person has never done it before, it can be difficult. It can be a little isolating and lonely
- Skype or Zoom - start small, start with a meeting. Have a meeting every day for a half hour, business as usual. Try to keep your cadence of your meetings the same.
- The importance of making sure that people still feel tethered to the mothership.
- Supervisors need to take the time to do what they would normally do in a physical setting and have a conversation. Just, how's it going? What's happening? How's your life? How's business? You can easily get in this mindset of only business. And there's a bigger picture than just that.
If you enjoyed this summary and would like to hear the full discussion, watch the video in its entirety (35 minutes), or the discussion highlights (6 minutes).
Art Saxby, CEO & Founder, Chief Outsiders
Paul Sparrow, Area Managing Partner & CMO, Chief Outsiders
Mark Coronna, Area Managing Partner & CMO, Chief Outsiders
Don Lee, Partner & CMO, Chief Outsiders