What Now?

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April 27, 2020

What Now?
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in our lives and confusion abounds. We are all dealing with turmoil, whether it is in our businesses or homes. Social distancing is for our safety, but we cannot let it keep us disengaged. It is more critical than ever to connect with others, listen and gain a shared perspective. We sat down with 3 executives to get their thoughts on what strategic ideas have merit, how to engage with clients and what they miss the most. Our panel includes Justin Ahrens, CEO, Rule29; Terry Marks, President, Tmarks Design; and Thayer Long, CEO, Association for PRINT Technologies.

What strategies are you using to switch your mindset from crisis to creative?

Ahrens: The main mindset after a few overwhelming days is to authentically live in the state that we were created to live in. If I learned anything from the last couple of crises, even though each one has its own unique challenges, is you can’t panic. Stay smart, focus on what you are best at, and be ready to make any decision that you have to make because you have a plan or you’re busy making one. Communicate. Be confident. Lean into your community and be someone that can be leaned on. Together we will make it, but it’s going to be challenging.

Marks: This switch is vital not only for business concerns but for the bettering of life as we know it. And life as we know it is weird at the moment. But that does not mean that it must only be doom.

All around us we see people mobilizing to help. It’s not merely for likes and societal approval. It’s to help, in whatever way they can because this challenge is one we all face. We do what we can and we do it to the best of our ability. That is a strategy to live by always.

Long: Alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Kidding of course. Look, our industry has been in “crisis” for a long time. If you haven’t already been in a mindset on how to create more value for your customers, it’s a wonder you are still in business, and your odds of going out of business are high if you don’t quickly adapt to a creative mindset like Justin said. Such a mindset requires you think entirely different about what you do, and what your purpose is. Businesses will need to bring a deeper meaning to their work.

What compelling ways are you inspiring confidence in your customers?

Ahrens: The first and most important is as old as time: simply asking how they are doing. Listening. Then ask what they need most. Because the most important time for their marketing plans was a year ago. The second most important time is right now. From there we lean into ways we can help them in the most impactful way possible, even if that is just checking in.

Marks: In Hamlet there is a line that says, “We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.” I am no scholar but I think it means that we are to drink deep of life: from the rich and sweet to the bitter, for that is a full and true life. So, I’ve got a bunch of ideas cooking and am offering them to clients, despite much being put on hold. I just know that serving our clients to the best of our ability might inspire some confidence; it’s our hope to do so regardless of what happens in the world.

Long: Confidence is built on a foundation of trust. Be honest with your customers and your team. Tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Tell them how you are going to deliver value. Then do it.

What are you missing right now?

Ahrens: Now is the time to get your personas nailed and get your marketing campaigns going. But you can only do that if you’re asking questions, listening and providing solutions with context. The more personalized and targeted is always going to perform and competition is going to push us all to be better!

Marks: We are all missing our normal. We are all missing the chance to prosper. But that does not mean we cannot flourish. In fact, some of us might be at our best in this moment.

Long: Human interaction. After 9/11, people came together. To pray. To mourn. To comfort. To serve. We cannot do that in the exact same way but the spirit remains the same. We will persevere and we will reconnect!

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