Letter To The CEO: 6 Ways To Help Your Brand Survive In 2009

Imb_lettertoceo Several months ago, I was invited by Jeff Rohrs of ExactTarget to participate in a smart campaign they put together to get a few marketing minds to write a fictional "letter to the CEO" about what they would recommend to do differently in 2009. Jeff and his team have put all these suggestions together into an attractive PDF which you can download at http://www.exacttarget.com/letters. It features thinking from people like Andy Sernovitz, Ann Handley, Pete Blackshaw and many others, including myself. Here’s my contribution below – and you can download it in PDF format too.

LETTER TO THE CEO:
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I know you’re working on some big changes right now. You mentioned that you don’t plan to walk into 2009 with the same plan you had for 2008 and you’re looking for some ideas on how you might want to focus your attention. Here are some thoughts that might help:

  1. Don’t force a comparison between 2009 and 2008. If your team feels like the only way to explain something to you is in terms of comparing it to last year, they won’t try something new at exactly the time when they should. Give them the right incentive to experiment.
  2. Find a way to embrace your accidental spokespeople. In the social media era, anyone can be a spokesperson for your brand, from regular employees to passionate customers. Find a way that your brand can connect with these voices and amplify them.
  3. Measure effectiveness, not volume. Forget the days of reporting about the millions of impressions that you received and patting yourself on the back. You need to let your organization know that management doesn’t care about the impressions. What you do care about is sales and effectiveness, which sometimes means the numbers will be far smaller. To explain it, use this line: "I want us to reach the right 500 people instead of the wrong 5 million."
  4. Do whatever it takes to listen more. Your customers are talking online about your brand right now. If you’re not listening to them, your competitors will. And, they can use that knowledge to try to steal your customers. More importantly, your customers will leave for brands that ARE listening. So ask your team what’s their listening strategy, and if they don’t have one, force them to get one.
  5. Lock customer service in a room with marketing. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. Only good things will happen if you force these two groups to talk to each other in a way that they usually don’t. Maybe you need to literally lock them in a room, or change a seating arrangement, or set up a buddy system. Whatever you do, by getting these groups to communicate more, you’ll uncover (and start to fix) problems you didn’t even realize you had.
  6. Make authenticity a priority. At the base of most of these suggestions is a corporate culture shift that means you need to get your team to re-focus on authenticity. This comes from the top. So lose the corporate jets and find a more reasonable way to demonstrate you’re a real person. Start by taking a few employees out to lunch and go from there.

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