There are a couple of segments that have not been affected by “the worst economic crisis since the great depression.” If your business is in one of those, congratulations and please try and keep it to yourself.
It is our nature to spend most of our lives on cruise control. Just as you do in a car, once you decide where you’re going and how to get there, you just point and instinctively react to what is before you. To continue the metaphor, the problem right now is that all the cars have stopped moving. Cruise control doesn’t work. You know you can’t get to where you are going unless you are moving. And that sooner or later someone in your car will get hungry, thirsty, need to pee, or you’ll run out of gas and freeze to death.
- Do you sit there idling?
- Do you change lanes only to find the problem is in that lane?
- Do you forget your destination, jump the median and make a uey?
- Do you wait for the next exit and set off on some unknown, longer alternative way in spite of the risk of getting lost or ending up at Bates Hotel?
- Do you cheat the others by taking the emergency lane to pass as many as you can for as long as you can and hope you don’t get caught?
- Do you abandon your car and start walking without fear that you’ll probably be eaten by roving bears?
- Do you poll the others in the car for their opinion knowing you can blame it on them when things get worse?
- Do you turn on the radio hoping to get some information from the news?
- Do you get out, look to see if you can find out what’s wrong or ask some other drivers?
- Do you pick up your cell phone, call someone who is not stuck in the same traffic, get them to find out what’s going on, and recommend the best way to get around it, think about it, discuss it, maybe get a second opinion and then act on it?
Most of us know that this crisis is real, that things have changed, that our future depends on the decisions we make right now. We waited as long as was prudent. We have used that time to listen to the pundits, check all the sales reports, review and amend contingency plans, meet and get input from all the staff and update our LinkedIn and Plaxo profiles. We have cut back about as much as we can. Preserved as much capital as possible. And are wondering what’s the smart thing to do and when to do it.
I have spent my life studying decision making and why it is so easy to make decisions for others and so difficult to make them for me. Mind you, I never, well, almost never, take my role of influencing a company’s marketing and communications lightly. Quality decision making is so much easier when you have a measure of informed objectivity and are less influenced by fear of what could happen when the fortunes of many depend on it.
While not on every marketing bookshelf, Dr. Roberta Temes writes in her book about grief, Living With An Empty Chair, the three stages of behavior that most of us in business identify with:
- Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
- Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
- Reorganization (re-entry into a more ‘normal’ social life)
We are all grieving. We’ve felt the numbness and the disorganization. It is time for reorganization and re-entry into a more ‘normal’ business life. To restructure to profit on the business that is there. To communicate with stakeholders that expectation should be realistic. If you have the capital for patient investment, it is time to buy market share and hold, using the time to restructure that investment. But, it is not the time to invest in the same strategies and expect the same returns. Your customers have changed forever. So must your marketing. Cruise control no longer works. Regis would suggest, that this is the time to call your Lifeline and seek objective independent counsel for new ideas on ways and messages to increase share and reach new markets. Call me at 404-625-5848 (or email).