Week One

Goal-setting, communication, and brain trust identification

Your executives and teams undoubtedly expect that your buyers’ mindset – and your own competitive position in this new normal – need rapid and deep re-evaluation.

In marketing, as in life, times of fear and uncertainty are inflection points for leadership and strategic direction-setting. But while your team may sense the need to reevaluate, they likely feel rudderless about how to address the challenge in an efficient and skillful manner.

The two responses to disruption we’ve seen most are:

1. a mix of hasty best-guesses, submitted ad hoc across constituents

2. big ideas and untested theories that ultimately fizzle, leading to minor tweaking of positioning and legacy communications

3. Focusing on details when the big picture is broken

Not enough.

Let your team know that you’re taking this opportunity to bring together the organization’s best minds to efficiently and strategically reassess key messaging/value props, market mindset, competitive positioning, and other critical strategic and marketing pillars.

During the three-week process, you’ll be simultaneously and efficiently evaluating your offerings themselves, so that market need, product/service strategy, and messaging are in lockstep.

It might also be worth mentioning to the team that if your competitors are ad hoc tweaking or emailing wildly while you’re behaving strategically, massive advantage goes to you.

Your communication for the effort might sound like:

“We will soon emerge from a massive market disruption, one which will likely deeply affect our category, our customers and prospects, and our position and value within our ecosystem.

I am initiating a focused, strategic effort to efficiently identify, address and answer key questions about 2020 and beyond, and bring together the best minds within our organization to evaluate how the answers we discover might positively affect our value prop and increase the ROI of our near and long-term spend.

The effort will tap key stakeholders at appropriate times and depths, will take three weeks, and will include:
1) goal-setting
2) focused interviews with key stakeholders and category experts
3) an efficient, high-level team workshop, to challenge and align around critical strategic and messaging pivots
4) creation of a “north star” document to guide all internal and external marketing/messaging initiatives”

Confidently and efficiently communicating the need to reevaluate your role in your customer’s new world, and your position vis a vis your competition, will not only set the stage for an informed and high-ROI response, but will also create teamwide participation and confidence in the marketing group’s leadership and path forward in unsettling times.

Having aligned the team around the effort, it’s time to identify and
So use this week to appropriately communicate the urgency and the opportunity.

Goal setting and interview question development
Now is not the time to write headlines and mess around with sales decks. Now is the time to stay at a high altitude and decide which aspects of the business and messaging need to be aggressively and swiftly evaluated.

To make sure that the interviews and workshop are focused on your most critical goals, it’s important to evaluate and prioritize your high-level areas of greatest uncertainty. These will lead directly to the topics/questions for the interviews and workshop.

It’s our experience uncertainty is greatest in:

– Understanding shifted market needs
– Knowing your position versus your competition in what may be a whole new category mindset
– Adapting the “front line” to a new set of touchpoints and sales cycle
– Knowing what’s happening at the top of the sales funnel
– Understanding which aspects of legacy messaging will/won’t resonate with the shifted market

In a new normal, you want to know what’s “new” in your category, and what feels “normal” to your market as a response to the disruption.

To get you started on your short list of goals, here are some high-level goals related to the uncertainties above, common across categories in times of disruption. Which apply to you?

a) Articulating and testing theories about your buyer’s changing core needs, both functional and emotional, that will have shifted as we move further into 2020;

b) Challenging your category positioning (and your category’s shifted role in solving problems); where do you and your competitors now fit in the framework given buyers’ changing priorities as explored in “a”, above?

c) Laying out potential changes, forced by the disruption, and strategically devised by your team, to your sales cycle and buyer touchpoints in 2020;

d) Evaluating how your brand can flex to support a, b, c, and other conclusions and findings, without dilution or conflict, and where you may need nuance to adjust your brand to new market needs and emotions.

And so on. Because the goals are strategic, keep your list to four or five. You’ll use these goals to inform the upcoming interviews and workshop outlined below.

Identify the brain trust for interviews and workshop
Goals in mind, it’s time to engage the brain trust in structured fashion – who has the insight, experience, ideas, and accountability to supercharge this effort?

With you in the lead, a roundtable of potential participants, involved at an appropriate depth and place along the timeline, might include:

a) For 6-10 short pre-workshop interviews:
• Board members, both corporate and advisory. We’ve found that short, thoughtful, focused pre-workshop interviews with selected Board members provide incredibly useful input to the agenda and Summit itself.

Moreover, in our experience Board members have been unanimously satisfied with being utilized in this manner, in critical moments (they also become more bought into the ultimate outcomes, which they themselves helped shape).

• Your own customers. Yes, you were already going to do this, but just in case. They’ll be thrilled to hear that you’re taking action to ensure that you are working hard to understand their new normal, and serving them at the highest possible level in 2020 and beyond.

While the questions you’ll ask in your interviews will be specific to your situation, you can click here to see some cross-category questions we’ve asked across our 20 years, to get you oriented to stage your own interviews.

b) For the workshop. In our twenty years of managing this process, we find that with a good working dynamic we can comfortably handle 18 participants. A bad dynamic cuts that number down to 10, to add space/time for policing:

• Marketing and sales leadership, with selected sales front-liners tapped for their real-time insights and their input from current and prospective customers.

• Executives. This is a time for big brains to think big. While time will be tighter than ever for senior management, injecting your leadership team’s market experience and creativity into the workshop is a must.

Further, the C-suite must be aligned around not only the final messaging, but also around why the chosen course was selected above all other possibilities. The depth of team alignment and coherence around the ratified decisions is every bit as valuable as the messaging itself.

Next week, you’ll conduct the pre-workshop interviews, so get those scheduled for week two.

If you’d like to read the remaining articles in this series now, click here – otherwise we’ll deliver them every Tuesday.

Please drop a note here if you have questions or would like to discuss, and we’ll see you in a week for step 2.

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