Being a CEO is never easy. Over the past few months, it’s felt a bit like riding a bike – except the bike is on fire, you are on fire, and everything around you is on fire.
During times of crisis, CEO’s must quickly assess the situation, look for solutions, and make the best decision possible for their business - often without all of the information they need. Leaders know that if they wait around for all the data to be crystal clear, they are likely to lose opportunities and the support of their team, because employees want a decisive leader.
What should a smart CEO strategy look like right now? We conducted one on one sessions with dozens of CEOs over the past few weeks to get their thoughts about business and marketing strategy right now and these are some of the most important takeaways we heard.
Now is the time to have a call list of your top 10 or top 25 customers and to be in close touch with them. You should have a list of these customers and call them at least once a quarter to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep their business. Customers need to know that you care about them and their business. It’s old school research and customer relations, and it’s critical right now. Pick up the phone.
At the beginning of the pandemic, most companies cut back on their marketing, advertising and public relations. That made sense initially. But now is the ideal time to reach your customers and to be visible when others are sitting back and waiting to see how things turn out. You can use this opportunity to increase market share. That means fine tuning and then doubling down on your marketing and tightly focused customer or donor acquisition strategies.
Your public relations or marketing agency should not only be getting you in the news in a positive way, but they also need to act as strategist, interpreter, culture keeper, brand advocate, trend forecaster, message developer, and initiative driver. If they are not doing that, it’s time to move on.
Technology is upending business and consumer expectations. Consumers and business customers now expect that we will have increased efficiency and that the business cycle will move faster and with more touchpoints for the end users. If you’ve been avoiding adapting to new technologies or communication channels, now is the time to not just accept them, but embrace them. Your customers expect it and your competition is going to beat you if you don’t. So whether that is lead generation, customer fulfillment, operations, or other areas, don’t just think about it, do it.
I talk with CEOs constantly about the business environment and my ears always burn a little when they say “We’re hoping that ….” (insert “miracles will happen”). Hope is not a strategy, it’s magical thinking. It’s up to all of us CEOs to develop sound strategies to grow our business.
Hoping that your market segment picks up or that old customers come back to you doesn’t work. You need strategy and most of all, you need action. As CEO, your job is to grow your business and that means having a plan that everyone across the company understands and contributes to.
Protect your business reserves at all costs and reduce unnecessary expenditures. Cash enables you to take advantage of opportunities and adapt quickly to a changing environment. Funds from the Paycheck Protection Plan are running out for many companies, so you must have a plan to maintain your reserves, which sometimes means making tough choices.
If you’re facing tough financial times, you may have to have strategic layoffs. While this can be difficult, it will provide you the opportunity to look at those who are contributing most to the company and who will lead you into the future, and those who are holding you back. Or rather than layoffs, you might consider asking your leadership and even line staff to take voluntary cuts. You’d be surprised how employees will respond when they believe in your leadership and value their job.
We’ve helped many companies with mergers and acquisitions, layoffs, and other complex business issues, and we can assist you with the process and the internal and external messaging. I’d be happy to talk with you if you just need someone to discuss your plans with. While 2020 has been challenging, it’s also an exciting time. It’s given all of us the chance to rethink our positioning, our products, and the fundamentals of our business. Now is the time to take action and retool your business for the future.