HubSpot Sales & Marketing COVID Activity Metrics

HubSpot has measured aggregated sales and marketing platform activity across its 70,000 customers since the pandemic began and benchmarking this activity against the pre-COVID level (January through early March).  Looking back at Q2, CMO Kipp Bodnar noted that “the data shows steady and sustained growth in buyer engagement, and that businesses with an online presence were ready to capture that interest.”

Marketing teams have risen to the challenge of keeping prospects interested in a messy, chaotic crisis and met an audience of buyers who suddenly spend all day at their computer,” commented Bodnar.  “While email volume has risen significantly — typically a no-no for teams hoping to keep their open rates up — open rates have risen faster than volume has grown, demonstrating that teams have been successful at providing relevant and helpful content.”

Marketing email open rates are up ten to twenty percent above pre-COVID levels, with the last week of June running 18% above the baseline.

Sales teams have been less successful in their outbound communications.  While sales emails have risen 60% since mid-March, “response rates have been dismal. Marketing teams have been able to connect, but sales teams haven’t. This is a huge area of opportunity for businesses as they enter the next quarter of COVID-19.”

Sales email open rates are down 25 to 30%.  “As sales teams increased email sends, customers began to tune these messages out or even mark them as spam in their inboxes,” warned Bodnar.  “So far, it seems if email send rates remain this high, we can expect response rates to trend in the opposite direction.”

“Volume and quality is a tradeoff — the time a team saves by sending out email blasts is wasted if that outreach isn’t personalized, relevant, and helpful. These gaps are clear in the data. At this point, sales teams should be working closely with marketing to understand how they can improve their email engagement rates, and sending far less email.”

HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar

Website traffic increased during the pandemic as decisionmakers and influencers began working from home.  Global site traffic is up 16% in Q2 vs. Q1 with it peaking at 24% above the benchmark on April 20th.  Software industry site traffic is running at 40% above pre-pandemic levels.

Customer-initiated chat levels have also risen sharply during the pandemic.  Total volume is up 31% over the pre-pandemic baseline, with every measured industry seeing increased volume.  “Sales teams have pivoted to chat to grow their pipelines, while customer service teams are leveraging this medium to manage the increased demand for support,” observed Bodnar.

Call prospecting has dropped significantly during the pandemic as it has become more difficult to reach individuals who are now working at home.  Call prospecting fell as much as 27% below baseline the week of April 6th and now is down around 9%.  Before COVID, there was a rough balance between phone and email prospecting, but in Q2, email activity doubled that of phone calls.  “Sales teams will need to return to their pre-COVID balance in order to see improvements in response rates,” argued Bodnar.

Deal Creation has improved in eight of the eleven weeks since April 6th, with deal creation up the past four weeks.  APAC deal creation was down 5% in Q2, North America down 6%, EMEA down 12%, and LATAM down 12%.  Large companies have recovered deal creation activity faster than small firms.  Computer Software deal creation was down 3% in Q2.

Deal Won has improved ten of the last eleven weeks, after dropping to 36% below baseline the week of April 6th.  For the full quarter, deals won were down 11%.  Smaller firms did best at closing deals, with larger firms posting the weakest performance, likely due to large firms selling a greater percentage of high-dollar, strategic deals that would have stalled in their pipeline.  Computer software Q2 was 14% above baseline, but this probably overstates industry performance due to Q1 often being the slowest month of the year and the loss of many “hockey stick” end of quarter deals at the end of Q1 as the pandemic struck.  Some of these likely slipped into Q2.

Bodnar provided three suggestions for Q3: invest in chat, shift from quantity to quality in sales prospecting and communications, and invest in online discoverability.

Clearbit for Clari

B2B Marketing Data vendor Clearbit partnered with Revenue Operations Platform Clari to deliver enriched contacts into CRMs.  Clari identifies external contacts from emails and meeting activity, helping fill out the buying committee.  According to Clari, only 30% of sales-engaged contacts are entered into the CRM.  By automating the contact identification process, sales reps have a clearer view of the full demand unit, allowing them to target messaging by function and recognize potential gaps in their knowledge of the buying committee.

By expanding knowledge of the demand unit, Clari can identify the broader set of decision-makers and reduce deal risk through multi-threaded relationship building.  Relying on one or two contacts has multiple risks:

  • The sales rep may not be messaging to the full demand unit
  • Their point of contact may be sidelined or leave the firm
  • Multiple points of contact may be set up dealing with different vendors, each providing a siloed perspective on the deal.
  • Post-sale, if users and administrators weren’t involved in the decision, adoption rates might be low, leading to higher churn rates.
  • The project champion may depart before renewal, forcing the rep to scramble to re-establish relationships at renewal time.

The expanded knowledge also helps marketing teams identify the key personas involved in deals and customize content and messaging.

“Now all the contacts that showed up for a sales meeting, even the ones that were added to the invite by the prospect, are automatically associated with the opportunity without your rep needing to lift a finger.”

Clari Marketing Programs Manager Maggie Kullman

Clearbit enriches the contacts with title, job function, and level. Firmographic and technographic details are also appended.

“As budgets get tighter and operating plans are reworked, having your prospects’ finance team involved early on is critical to accelerating the deal toward close,” wrote Clari Marketing Programs Manager Maggie Kullman.  “With the combination of Clari, Clearbit, and a little bit of automation, you can trigger an update to an opportunity field any time a CFO gets added to a meeting with the sales rep.  Now you can easily track which of your deals are missing a critical decision-maker and take actions to drive that relationship.”

Demand Units are a term coined by SiriusDecisions a few years ago when they updated their Demand Waterfall model for B2B sales and marketing. Each opportunity is associated with a set of decision-makers (e.g. technical, financial, functional directors) and influencers (e.g. users, admins). Demand Unit discovery is still in the early stages of development, but looking at email headers, out of office messages, and meeting attendees is a promising approach for organically identifying buying committee members.

Quora: What are the most typical ways in which a salesperson will push self-interest (and decrease trust) onto a prospect?

The Full Question

What are the most typical ways in which a salesperson will push self-interest (and decrease trust) onto a prospect? ‘Wanting to talk about their product’ is common, but what other less obvious ways crop up?

My Response:

Not all of these are self-interest, but they all are ways that sales reps undermine trust and fail to establish a relationship with their customers and prospects.

Bad mouthing a competitor — it shows a lack of belief in your own offering. If the statement you make is incorrect, you look dishonest and you have blown the deal. I generally suggest that when reps are asked about competitors that they say something positive (but not highly relevant to the prospect) about the competitor and then pivot back to their offering by highlighting an area where their product offering excels). This allows them to stay above the fray, avoid badmouthing the competitor, and quickly shift back to their value proposition.

Misrepresentation — if you don’t know the answer, don’t wing it. Be honest and follow up quickly. Reps aren’t expected to be technical experts, but they should know the basics of their offering.

Likewise, if your products are not well suited to meet their current requirements, then don’t push solutions that will leave them disappointed. Either they will figure it out after wasting a lot of your time (and theirs), or they will purchase your product, be disappointed, and never buy from your firm again. This kills future deals at the company when their needs shift (or your product capabilities are deeper). It also kills future deals at other companies when they change jobs. Honesty may not win you the deal today, but dishonesty will kill future deals when you are a better fit. You can’t win back trust once it is lost.

Not being prepared — There is little reason not to know the basics of your customer and prospect. You have access to LinkedIn and the company website. You can also gather firmographic information (size, industry) and industry information from subscription services (e.g. D&B Hoovers, InsideView, First Research, Vertical IQ, etc.).

Failing to listen — Good selling entails listening to their needs and concerns.

Pitching too early — It is ok to talk about the product, but only after understanding the customer’s needs. You should start by listening and understanding their requirements and then discussing your value proposition and how you can help meet their needs. Focus on value. When discussing features, tie them to relevant benefits, but avoid a feature deep dive unless that is what the client wants. Reps often are too quick to demo.

Slow Follow up — If you offer a client samples or a service trial, turn those around immediately after the call (or within a few hours if you have other calls). If you need to get back on technical items, send them a list of the open items and cc or bcc the technical team. If you offer a quote, SOW, or RFP response, then let them know when they will be available. If you can’t close the loop when selling, what confidence will they have that your firm will deliver on time, swiftly support technical issues, or provide proper training?

Slow Response — Likewise, slow response to website or chat requests can be a deal killer. If you are unable to respond immediately, then send a quick email acknowledging their request with anticipated follow up. Slow responses erode trust and provide time for them to consider your competition.

Being Creepy — Being overly familiar, contacting somebody five minutes after they’ve visited your website (unless they have requested to be contacted), being inauthentic.

In short, we are talking about honesty, authenticity, listening, good follow up, and knowledge about your products and prospects / customers.

Zoominfo Health Scan Analysis

Zoominfo, which is readying to IPO, launched a Health Scan Analysis to help firms identify “key segments for opportunities” within their Total Addressable Market (TAM).  The service identifies targetable market segments that are less impacted by COVID along with which segments to avoid.  Firms can then “quickly pivot their go-to-market strategy and focus their efforts on worthwhile prospects ready to buy.”

The Health Scan begins with a consultation where customers share details about their pipeline and business challenges.  Zoominfo’s data solutions team then analyzes the company’s pipeline and win-rate trends before and during the downturn.  The analysis includes “benchmarks to pinpoint where any pipeline degradation may have occurred.”

The Data Solutions team conducts a market assessment that identifies opportunities and sizes their TAM.  The report also includes a market segmentation analysis and a “hand-selected list” of targets from Zoominfo’s database of companies and contacts.

“Recognizing that current market conditions are extraordinarily challenging, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our customers are generating high-quality contacts for their pipeline.  We discovered valuable takeaways when examining our own position in this same manner.  As a result, we’re offering our clients these data-driven insights on how to optimize their go-to-market strategies so they can continue to hit their numbers and thrive in a changing market.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

From the initial interview through report delivery [Sample PDF], Zoominfo promises a five business-day turnaround.

Zoominfo is not the only firm that provides pipeline analyses. Dun & Bradstreet offers a similar analytics service which combines firmographics with industry risk data and InsideView offers Apex.

D&B: Pipeline Health Analysis for Risk Reduction and Targeting Ideal Customers

Dun & Bradstreet, which has been running pipeline health analyses for its clients over the past three weeks, assessed over 35 million accounts across 125 pipelines.  They found that 21% of accounts were subject to high financial risk based on several factors: slow payment, bankruptcy, unpaid debt, and business viability, a statistic which VP of Product Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet Sales & Marketing Solutions Dennis Olcay called “jarring:”

“We continue to keep a close eye on this number, but that is a jarring statistic that demands attention as it relates to go-to-market strategies,” wrote Olcay.

“The dominant theme of our customer conversations today is how to be both sensitive and impactful in the new environment.  We have found the new environment has unleashed entirely new forms of sales and marketing campaigns – far less driven by self-positioning and more characterized by seeking to meet customers where they are.”

Digital Marketing Solutions CRO Michael McCarroll

Dun & Bradstreet offered a high-level risk segmentation based upon SIC codes and each industry’s risk profile (see chart on the right).  Industries were stratified across five categories: Essential businesses (e.g. food supply, hospitals), Supports Remote (i.e. businesses which were able to transition to WFH), requires contact (e.g. hospitality, entertainment), delivery-based retail (e-commerce, e-delivery, logistics), and central production (e.g. manufacturing, natural resource extraction). 

Dun & Bradstreet cautions that simple SIC analysis is only the first pass in performing a risk assessment.  Firms may be in the same industry but have different go-to-market and operational strategies that impact their risk profile.  Another factor is their exposure to supply chain and customer risk.

“Despite the promise of MarTech to enable speed and scale for your go-to-market strategy, this is a time to hit the pause button and rethink your go-to-market approach,” cautioned Olcay.  “Don’t sacrifice tailored messaging for the sake of scale and speed to market – the additional thought you put in now to think about fit, intent, and risk will pay dividends when your audiences notice you’re empathizing with them and offering real value that aligns to the specific challenges they are experiencing.”

And Dun & Bradstreet isn’t the only firm that is promoting pipeline analyses for its clients. Zoominfo is offering a similar service which I will cover in my next blog. If you don’t know where to find revenue in June and Q3, a pipeline analysis is an excellent place to start.

Dun & Bradstreet and DueDil (UK) are offering industry barometers to help refine your targeting. Vertical IQ is offering industry-specific pandemic analysis as part of its industry overviews. Experian is providing a regional and industry analysis by risk level.

And on the marketing side, HubSpot has been publishing weekly marketing metrics for their 70,000 customers. Data includes deal open rates, deal close rates, email prospecting, site visit rates etc. Users can even drill down by segment and country to benchmark their sales and marketing performance against peers. The most recent analysis is for the week of May 18.

Dun & Bradstreet Pipeline Risk Analysis

Dun & Bradstreet is offering a free Pipeline Risk Analysis to help firms better understand which opportunities are at risk due to the pandemic.  The analysis may also be used for supply chain or portfolio analysis.  The Health Scan takes a corporate family tree approach to opportunity analysis that leverages Dun & Bradstreet’s global corporate linkages.  Thus, it flags accounts where greater than 20% of their locations are in geographies with commerce and population movement restrictions.  

The analysis also identifies accounts located in geographies with restrictions, accounts in industries directly impacted by government restrictions, and firms deemed at risk according to Dun & Bradstreet’s predictive metrics (Delinquency Score, Failure Score, or Viability Rating).

“Our predictive models indicate that companies operating with limited margin are likely to face hardships when their normal operating environment is disrupted significantly,” stated the firm.  “Our predictive scores show these populations of companies are more likely to struggle to balance all financial obligations, especially if direct sales are compromised through a change in customer behavior.”

As Dun & Bradstreet delivers both risk (credit, supplier) services and sales and marketing solutions, they are better positioned to offer a hybrid solution that evaluates accounts based upon a series of risk factors.

“By adding ‘risk’ as an additional dimension for account selection in addition to fit and intent, organizations can identify accounts that have the highest likelihood of facing financial strain and potentially going out of business. This helps sales teams prioritize their time and helps marketing teams allocate their limited resources more wisely.”

Dun & Bradstreet VP of Product Marketing Deniz Olcay

Olcay also noted that there is an information asymmetry that benefits purchasers.  Buyers have a much better understanding of their cash position and risk profile than sellers, resulting in “adverse selection,” to the benefit of buyers.

When modeling for Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), collections risk is usually not a significant factor in the calculation; however, during a recession, collection costs and delays need to be factored into the CAC calculation.  Firms become much more guarded with their cash during recessions, extending payment periods to maintain liquidity.

“Marketers and sellers may not be measured on being able to collect payments, but it has a significant impact on the performance of the business,” said Olcay.

Dun & Bradstreet notes that the pandemic demonstrated how interconnected the global economy has become with problems in one region cascading into others.  As always, firms should be selecting target accounts based on fit, intent, and risk.  While diversifying your portfolio makes sense as a long-term strategy for hedging risk, it is a poor strategy when near-term risk information is ignored.

“As it relates to go-to-market planning, diversifying your target accounts to reduce risk can hardly be sound advice.  But, knowing the risk profile for your ‘basket of accounts’ may protect your organization from missing revenue targets.  Now more than ever, teams must keep their emotions in check and make sound targeting decisions based on risk.”

Dun & Bradstreet VP of Product Marketing Deniz Olcay

Dun & Bradstreet provided a set of recommendations for “protecting your go-to-market engine.”  These include maintaining a centralized repository of customer and prospect intelligence that is continuously updated, reassessing the Ideal Customer Profile in light of new risk factors, and reallocating marketing spend to focus on lower-risk opportunities.  Dun & Bradstreet also recommends identifying net-new accounts based on pipeline risk and concentrating on upsell and cross-sell opportunities at stable accounts.


Dun & Bradstreet is also offering Business Insights for Business & Government in the Age of COVID-19. I covered this service last week.

SalesLoft: Sales Engagement for WFH Sales Teams (Part II)

Continuing my conversation with Sunshine Levin (Part I), Director of Customer and Analyst Relations at SalesLoft. One of the key features of Sales Engagement Platforms is cadences (aka sequences) which automate a set of outbound, multi-channel communications and monitor the response.

SalesLoft Cadence & Activity Feed

Because cadences are automated, reps do not need to schedule most tasks.  Instead, next steps are automatically tracked, and current activity is recorded and synced with Salesforce.  Furthermore, SEPs monitor response rates and support A/B testing. Levin recommends that admins review reports and dashboards to determine changes in the efficacy of tactics and messaging.

Another benefit of activity tracking concerns management visibility into sales rep activity and prospect engagement.  In the current environment, where family members may be ill, and children are at home, managers need to be sensitive to each rep’s situation and not focus on traditional productivity metrics.  To assist with planning, SalesLoft offers prioritization tools such as Hot Leads and a Pipeline View, their newly introduced, native offering resulting from the recently acquired Costello solution: 

“For Salesforce users,  SalesLoft Deals can give you a holistic view of everything that matters when managing a deal.  Within SalesLoft Deals, Pipeline View will help your team prevent opportunities from slipping through the cracks, while Deal View can facilitate coaching and strategy conversations about opportunities during one-on-ones.  Finally, keep an eye on deal health by reviewing Deal Gaps to identify opportunities that may be slipping and what you should do to get deals back on track.”

SalesLoft Blog

Live Call Studio and Conversation Intelligence allows managers and trainers to listen in on sales calls, whisper suggestions to the rep, and join calls.  These tools are particularly valuable for new reps that may have had little face-to-face training before offices were closed and for target accounts where reps are looking for additional assistance on major deals.  Calls may be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed, providing a basis for call post-mortems and training. Automated indexing allows reps and managers to review critical points (e.g. Next Steps, Pricing, Competitors) afterward.  Analytics also assess engagement (was it a true back and forth or a few comments with long monologues) and calculate the frequency of filler words. Playlists provide a library of sales best practices, allowing new hires to listen to snippets around product, pricing, competition, objection handling, etc.  Should a rep have difficulties on a topic, she can forward a conversational snippet to the appropriate expert or subject owner (e.g. manager, product marketing, customer support) for feedback. Conversational snippets present the voice of the customer to the subject matter expert, providing an unfiltered view of the question or concern.

Leaderboards help encourage healthy rivalry between reps.

SalesLoft noted that home Wi-Fi connections could be spotty, so reps may need to connect through their router directly.  A second option is to set up call passthrough where the call is initiated from a mobile app or the browser and is handled as a mobile or landline call.  Call passthrough provides an alternate, higher quality channel while recording both sales activity and conversational intelligence.

SalesLoft’s platform has matured from a Cadence service to SDRs to a broader sales engagement platform that supports account execs, customer success managers, and WFH use cases.  The core cadence feature set is now accompanied by conversational intelligence, enhanced analytics, and deal management tools buttressed by a growing ecosystem of application partners.

SalesLoft: Sales Engagement for WFH Sales Teams

I had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of using Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) for work from home (WFH) staff with Sunshine Levin of SalesLoft.  Levin emphasized that many Sales Engagement tools assist remote sales reps and managers.  SEPs help with sales productivity, activity and account prioritization, sales messaging, activity capture, pipeline analytics, and rep coaching.

Levin was recently promoted to Director of Customer and Analyst Relations and had expected to be discussing SalesLoft’s new product positioning and product packaging at their March REV2020 conference.  Instead of greeting 2000 customers and prospects in San Francisco, the firm conducted its keynote session virtually and is now communicating their value proposition in a new work environment.

At the heart of Sales Engagement Platforms are multi-channel cadences that provide a multi-step approach to establishing an initial relationship with prospects.  Reps are not only working from home but so are most of their likely targets. Thus, cadences and messaging should be adjusted in the near-term. Reaching out to prospects via standard channels is likely to be low yield due to WFH, so diversifying communications across multiple channels such as phone, email, social, SMS, and tactile (swag and e-gifting) make sense.  

Also, with prospects at home feeling isolated, personalized one-to-one videos are likely to be even more effective.  Reps can insert personal videos into emails or social links. SalesLoft research indicates that videos from Vidyard, Videolicious, and VidGrid generate two to three times the email open rates versus general emails.

While Sales Engagement Platforms offer templated emails, they are more effective if  personalized. SalesLoft’s research found that 20% personalization is optimal.  Personalization helps refine the message for each client and conveys authenticity.  It also allows reps to modify their messaging around the current work, health, and economic environment.

SalesLoft, along with many of its peers, offers LinkedIn SNAP connectors, which are integrated into cadences.  Reps can send InMails, request connections, submit introduction requests, and conduct research from within SEPs and CRMs. 

“LinkedIn-specific steps help salespeople stay focused, do less application switching, and deliver a better sales experience.”

Sunshine Levin, SalesLoft Director of Customer and Analyst Relations

SalesLoft now supports LinkedIn’s Data Validation Flag, which warns users that a contact is no longer at a company listed in the CRM.  If the company differs between LinkedIn and the CRM, a “Not at Company Flag” is written to the CRM. The flag is displayed to the rep and available as a trigger for contact clean-ups and removal from marketing campaigns.  SalesLoft automation rules can then trigger workflows based on whether a buying committee member has left or whether an admin or champion at a customer has changed jobs. These insights help reps evaluate whether an opportunity may be in jeopardy, the likelihood of closing this quarter pushed out, or they need to move quickly to identify new buying committee members or champions.

“Customers leveraging LinkedIn Sales Navigator Data Validation are now able to use real-time insights to influence critical workflows when their prospects and customers change jobs,” said SalesLoft CMO Sydney Sloan.  “Ultimately, this saves time spent reviewing customer data manually, and it will increase the quality of all opportunities as salespeople progress through the buying cycle.”


Continue to Part II of this discussion.

Working at Home — Ideas from Tech Companies

Over the past few days, I’ve suggested ideas for maintaining pipeline and maintaining a positive and constructive outlook. This is now looking like it will last through the spring and potentially into the summer, so let’s be open to new ideas, practices, and routines.

I collected some ideas from those in the tech industry that I follow.

SalesLoft

In this morning’s team meeting the EMEA SalesLoft team discussed how we can keep the culture and mental wellbeing at the forefront while we work remotely…

We are having a daily stand up for 15 minutes, virtual team lunch on a Wednesday and virtual Friday drinks. We are making sure we put time aside for exercise and doing the things we love. We are being mindful of continuing to share ‘glass half full’ stories. We are also looking into what we can do to help with the bigger issue that people are facing in regards to the Corona Virus – local charities, food banks, the elderly.

Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft VP of Revenue, EMEA

TOPO

A TOPO study of 350+ marketers indicated that only 16% of firms see a significant impact to their pipeline, 64% see a moderate impact due to coronavirus.  The biggest impacts are due to canceled events (87%), corporate travel bans (64%), buyers working from home (53%), and prohibitions against face-to-face meetings.  Only 27% cited buyers not booking meetings and frozen buyer budgets (22%).

TOPO survey (N=350)

ClickZ

Research conducted in 2018 by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research  indicated that B2B marketers who participate in industry events allocated nearly 40 percent of their budgets to exhibitions and industry shows, almost five times more than the 8% spent on online marketing.

Even if only a small fraction of the events’ budgets is shifted to online marketing, it would translate into a massive growth in web marketing.

The major advantage of digital marketing, besides the fact that it does not require face-to-face interaction, is that it is measurable. Marketers can quite easily obtain a good picture of their spending return on investment (ROI), and of which activities generate the highest number of quality leads and at what expense.

Assuming that many marketers will have some extra free time, especially those who will have to go into home isolation, they are advised to use it to review their online marketing strategy and redefine their marketing messages.

Dan Gerstenfield, Interteam Content Services

David Brock

It’s time to pick up the phone. No texts, no emails, no social platforms. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. You are probably dealing with some of the same issues that come with physical separation.

It’s not the time to pitch people, it’s the time to show that you care–about them. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but ask them how they are doing, ask how they are keeping engaged and productive, share some ideas.

All of us share in this experience. Each of us is figuring things out. We can learn from each other, at the same time feel more connected.

David Brock, Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide”

Sirius Decisions (Forrester)

  • Create a task force. Except in very large companies or those with specific types of risks, most companies do not have a dedicated crisis response team, and many have never created even a bare-bones crisis communications plan. Now is the time to do so. Bring together functional leaders from across your organization to begin identifying and prioritizing issues, with all major functions and regions represented. The senior communications leader is usually at the helm, and in some smaller organizations, the effort may be led by the CEO. Other participants will likely include human resources, legal counsel, operations/facilities, sales and customer service leaders, and various marketing/communications disciplines that are either directly affected or will be involved in delivering information to audiences. Each individual should have a clear understanding of his or her specific responsibilities.
  • Prioritize issues of greatest urgency. Ensuring the safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders is obviously the priority, and external guidance from public health experts will be important to understand what these issues are…
  • Develop a protocol for emergent situations. Obviously the plan should lay out a set of actions the organization will take immediately, based on what is known today. However, the situation is fluid and it’s not possible to know with certainty what the situation will look like in a month or six months. That’s why it’s important to have a protocol for addressing new situations as they emerge… 
  • Prepare the communications engine. Providing transparent and ongoing communication is the hallmark of good crisis communications. The communications team needs to analyze the types of communication that will be needed to support a variety of scenarios. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis management is the need to create a wide range of critical content, have it vetted by legal and pushed out through channels as quickly as possible. Create templates for common types of content and stub content that can be built-out as needed. Set up an expedited legal vetting process and work with digital teams to identify how content will be conveyed through the company’s owned channels (web site, social, communities). Also prepare spokespeople – from the CEO to the receptionist, with concise answers that can be given without additional approvals or escalation paths.
  • Map communications strategies to audiences. SiriusDecisions always recommends starting with an understanding of the audience, and crisis response is no different…
  • Maintain open communications with employees. A large percentage of the workforce will face some kind of disruption to their normal routines or even their income…One of the first priorities should be to plan for how communications will flow internally: the channels and cadence that employees can expect, as well as where to go if the normal channels (which may occur in a face-to-face environment) are not available. Also remember that employees are a channel, and if you enable them with content, they can extend the reach of your information and credibility with audiences. [Full Text]

Resources

No Sports, No Office — Ideas to Approach our New Normal

Last week, I wrote about what businesses and workers can do to maintain sales and marketing during the Covid 19 crisis. I just wanted to give some quick thoughts around our role as members of society.

First off, social distancing is a bit of an oxymoron, but critical. We need to close our schools, theaters, and sporting events as they would be the locus of rapid transmission. Limit travel. Ignoring and complaining about the advice of health professionals and emergency planners isn’t a case of bravado, but stupidity. It places friends and family with compromised immune systems and underlying health issues at risk. If our healthcare system is overwhelmed, then we are all at risk for any medical emergency.

If you are sick, don’t go to the ER. Call ahead and see if your symptoms match. Then follow advice on where to proceed for a test.

Don’t Panic. Stay in the market, it will turnaround once we’ve passed the peak of infection. Selling now will just lock in your losses from the recent peak. Also, don’t horde. Plan for two weeks of staples and make sure you have sufficient medication. Things will get worse before they get better. Expect that and accept that.

Don’t Obsess. Stay aware of what is going on, but turn off the news if it is making you anxious. Find credible news sources only and ignore social media and email chain nonsense.

Check-in on friends and family. Offer to pick up meds or food for family and elderly neighbors. While delivery and curbside pick up are options, don’t expect that the operational bandwidth is in place immediately.

Be healthy. Eat healthy foods and get your exercise. Get on the bike or rowing machine in the basement. Go for a walk in the woods or a bike ride in your neighborhood. Play catch or soccer in your backyard with your kids.

Be forward-thinking. If you are at home, identify projects that you have been ignoring. This could include updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, home repair, spending time with your kids, reading a book, taking a Coursera course, etc. Not only are these good habits, but they are welcome distractions from the present news.

If you have the financial wherewithal, find ways to help out service workers and contingent employees. If you ate out once a week, use food delivery services once a week to keep revenue flowing to restaurants. Tip delivery people well. Donate to your local food bank and other social service organizations.

And as much as I hate to say this, ignore President Trump. If you don’t believe me, then watch how the market reacts to his speeches. Dr. Fauci and VP Pence are more reliable, but it is the governors and big city majors who seem to have the best handle on what is going on (Newsome, Inslee, Cuomo, Baker, DeBlasio). They are on the front-lines and planning ahead of the Federal Government.