Archive for 2020

What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to your business?

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by Lara August
I called and texted clients last week to ask what they were planning to do to address the movement that was triggered by the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police while in custody in Minneapolis on May 25th. While most had discussed current events with their leadership teams, very few had decided to take any direct action. I don’t believe it was out of apathy. I believe it was because they just didn’t know what to do.

Some of the responses were:

  • “We are just trying to get through the coronavirus.”
  • “We don’t take political positions as a business.”
  • “I don’t see how this relates to our company.”
  • “I don’t think that as company there is anything that we should do.”
  • “I am very concerned and acting personally.”

Many asked me what I saw other businesses doing and I thought this was as worthy list of information to spread further. There are lots of things you should consider doing internally and externally.

It Does Affect YOUR Business
If you are feeling paralyzed as a business leader, and if you are struggling with whether this issue affects your company or not, know that it does affect you if:

  • You have customers
  • You have employees
  • You have vendors
  • You work with human beings

While police brutality may not feel like a business issue, racial discrimination and human rights are issues to all citizens of this country, and we have reached a critical boiling over point as a nation. If your business is made up of people, or works with people, your silence will be interpreted one way or another. Whether you assign credit or blame to social media, to millennials or to the media, our new reality is one of action.

Take Care of Your People
Consider the effects that current events might be having on your employees. Check in with your Black employees to see how they are coping. But also consider that you don’t know who might be affected by these events based on the color of their skin alone – close friends and family may be affected. Check in with all of your employees. If you have an HR person, company or team, they should have access to mental health resources and be able to address struggles. If the emotional part of this hasn’t reached you yet, consider that it might be affecting attendance and performance and just do the right thing.

Want to take that further?

  • Create a facilitated discussion group to help people talk about their feelings.
  • Create a committee to propose ways to get team members involved.
  • Hire an expert to help educate your leadership team.

Then Look Closer at Your Organization
I would personally love to see businesses making tough calls to choose human rights over profits, but if profits is the language you want to speak, you might still consider the transparency that has been created with Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn. It’s not just public companies that are under scrutiny for their hiring, promotion and pay equity right now.

  • Do you need to change your recruiting practices?
  • Do you need to work on more diversity among your leadership teams?
  • Do you need to address pay equity within your company?

It’s a great time to reflect on where you are and to use it as a baseline. From this point, do you intend to do anything better or differently? Do you feel strongly enough to put a stake in the ground and set some goals? Maybe a committee of employees particularly close to the cause can help you turn that into a reality.

Should You Take Further Action?
While most business leaders can see the need for internal action, many wonder if they should be taking additional public action. If you checked in with your team, you probably already know the answer to this question. If you just aren’t sure what you can do, here are some ideas:

It’s easy to make donations to credible organizations who are affecting change, and some people feel that seems meaningless, but it’s not. They need support, and if you aren’t sure how to get started, you can do a lot to help what is already well underway.

  • Match employee contributions to those causes.
  • If you have political influence, you can use it.
  • If you can vote with your dollars, your contracts, who you choose to work with as clients, or how you invest, you may be able to create change through financial pressure.
  • Take a public stand. We have seen an inspiring wave of companies confessing their lack of diversity, committing to plans, and supporting organizations who will affect change.

Should You Message Externally?
While the action you are taking internally and externally will have the most direct impact, consider making your plans public. Your message won’t be lost in the massive outcry… it will join in the chorus. It will also strengthen your leadership position with your workforce and customers. If you are committing to significant change, this will add a layer of accountability.

I am not a huge fan of copying and pasting messages, and would love to see each company use their own unique voice and speak to their audience in the appropriate tone, but that can be easier said than done. There is a lot of eloquent messaging out there, that authors would love to see shared. Ask their permission. Give them credit. Include a link. It’s the message that matters right now as much as the voice.

Don’t Be Afraid
I’ve heard some people express fear of retaliation, of losing customers and of alienating themselves from what might be a sizable demographic in Texas. Even incredibly conservative political leaders and media have denounced the murder of George Floyd. You don’t need to condone protests, destruction of businesses or looting to take a stand for equality and human rights. Which way do you see this issue heading? Which side of it do you want your business to be on?

It’s Not Too Late
While social media did see waves of immediate responses and action plans from companies across the country, you are not too late. Your commitment to change and your plans for action will become a lasting part of your company messaging. Many businesses, especially smaller ones struggling with coronavirus-induced challenges will need time to deliberate internally, to develop thoughtful plans and to take action. This isn’t a last week thing. Please keep the momentum going at a pace you can sustain.

Need Help?
We are not experts on the subject of diversity and inclusion. We are a small business and a work in progress, like so many others. However, if we can connect you to resources or help you with your company’s messaging, we would be thrilled to help. Give us a call.

8 Weeks and Counting. PPP…Now What?

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Over the past few weeks, my go to word has been “whiplash”. Business owners have been thrown challenge after challenge – from closures to remote work to new regulations to products/service adjustments. Topping the list of stress was the PPP loan process. Nothing seems to get under a business owner’s skin like an inefficient process over which they have no control… except maybe one with big bucks riding on it.

Most businesses are now well past that chaos, and the mood seems to have lightened considerably with eight weeks of runway in the bank. I wouldn’t exactly call it optimism. It probably feels more like one part relief and two parts exhaustion. No matter how you process the emotions of the situation, it’s time to move on to the things that you can control.

Here are some highlights of the conversations that I’m having with business leaders every day:

Now is the time, and we are counting down
You have time and capital. Your competitors may not. How will you use this time to gain an advantage? You need a week by week roadmap that puts you exactly where you want to be on the other side of this. Eight weeks is going to go by very quickly. You are exhausted, but it’s not time to let up.

It’s not business “as usual”
You have a pause in business as usual. Patterns and routines can be very difficult to step out of, even thoughts can become deeply rooted. This is an opportunity to examine those patterns with a critical eye, and plan to build new ones. No one expects things to operate the same after this.

Everyone is out of their comfort zones
Not everyone loves change, and rapid change at that, but they are being forced to deal with it now. Changes which might make clients, vendors or staff “uncomfortable” won’t require the same level of explanation amid the current state of chaos. Consider it a kindness to the change-averse around you to just rip the bandaid off all at once. You can make long-needed changes or deal with things that the current situation have brought to light.

Has this been a wake up call?
How have your systems withstood this pressure test? Have you found something broken that needs to be addressed? It might be your IT systems, it might be your financial forecasting, it might be your marketing systems, or your HR processes. There may have been so many alarms ringing all at once that it was deafening. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from the experience. Take a moment to write down the pain points, or brainstorm with your team. That becomes a to do list with things you can prioritize or choose to put off.

Did your brand feel the love?
Have your phones been ringing or silent? This pandemic has been a great measure of brand affinity, and a reality check for a lot of businesses. Restaurants and retail have clearly felt the pain, but even B2B businesses that use a direct sales approach or event marketing have seen their brand awareness in a new light. Do you need help with your branding?

How concrete was your marketing plan?
The marketing plan includes who you are going to reach and how. You might have needed to adjust what you were saying, but the who and how shouldn’t have changed significantly. When you have a solid plan, you can make adjustments quickly. How did your plan hold up? Were you able to rapidly adjust?

Is your audience clearly defined, or just a concept?
We hear it all the time, “we know our customers”, but the real question is, “can you reach them?” Were you able to quickly activate communications without missing a beat? Did you know which channels to use and were you able to adjust reach and frequency to adapt to your new challenges and changing goals?

Are you planning for alternate futures?
People skilled in planning don’t struggle to develop one plan, they effortlessly develop multiple plans with contingencies. If you aren’t a strong planner, consider hiring a coach to help you carefully plan out for longer closures, ongoing health risks, a struggling economy, mass unemployment, and longer term issues specific to your clients and suppliers.

These are a summary of our daily conversations, and we would love to have one with you. Whether we can refer you to one of the amazing business coaches we know, or if you would like to tackle a marketing pain point, we are here to help. Branding and Strategic Planning projects can take between 3-6 weeks, so contact us today to get started.

You have 8 weeks. Please make the most of this time.

Marketing Through COVID-19 – B2C Checklist

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How are you adjusting your marketing to deal with the coronavirus situation?
Whether you are dealing with shelter in place ordinances or still able to operate, ongoing marketing may not be top of mind right now, but in fact, it should be on your priority list. So, we have assembled a quick checklist of things to help you stay on track.

  1. Talk to Customers – This crisis will definitely test the loyalty and the depth of the connection that every business has with its customers. If you or someone on your staff can take a few minutes to pull back from the operational challenges to speak with your customers, you might be surprised by what you learn from it. There might be ways that you can continue to operate or adjust to serve them. You might be able to strengthen your relationship by acknowledging the customer’s situation. It starts with listening and understanding.
  2. Outline Your Key Messages –  Make sure that you are communicating your most critical information. Do your clients know whether you are still operating and how things have changed? Start with a list of critical details and think about which communication methods you will be using to keep customers updated.
    • Location closures or adjusted hours
    • Ecommerce options
    • Best phone numbers
    • Curbside and delivery options
    • Reduced product offerings / limited services
    • Innovative packaging and bundling
    • Changes to ongoing or creation of new promotions
    • Gift cards and Pre-purchase discounts
  3. Use Your Email Lists – It’s fast, easy and practically free.  Do this now and do it frequently to keep customers up to date on the latest changes.
  4. Website Updates – Thankfully, the Internet is still working.
    • Update the header area or add a pop up to grab attention.
    • Do you need a whole page of information?
    • Newsrooms and blogs are easy places to add ongoing announcements.
    • Personalized messages or videos from the owner to customers brings a touch of humanity back into the situation.
    • Add a chat to your website and have it managed remotely to improve response times.
    • Add a pop-up with email capture or “follow us on social” links so customers can stay informed.
  5. Physical Signage – People are not out driving around much right now, but if your customers used to come to your location(s), do this just in case. If your brick and mortar location is temporarily closed, put up a simple physical sign with information on how to contact you and where to look for new and emerging details This will save you from having to continuously update the sign. If you’re offering curbside or pick-up services, directional signage and process instructions will help your on-location team reduce verbal commands to each and every customer.
  6. Social Media – Social media will offer a lifeline for many businesses.
    • If you still have a strong business offering, pay to promote your posts to ensure that you are seen.
    • If you haven’t built a social presence before now, you still can! Did you know you can upload your email database to create a custom audience and lookalike audiences in Facebook and Instagram?
    • Update hours and information in your about us section and post about it whenever something changes.
    • Use profile graphics and cover images to promote critical information and major updates.
    • Look for fan groups, associations and news outlets that are building lists of businesses to support and join the conversation.
  7. Text Messaging – If you have a text messaging system, use it. Include quick details on offers or links to the website or to social media for longer messages.
  8. Google My Business – Update your google business hours and location information.
  9. PR and Traditional Media – Send a release with hours, locations and offerings to local media.
  10. Adjust prescheduled advertising campaigns –  Don’t let prescheduled campaigns run on autopilot without reviewing messages, costs and audiences. You may need to pause anything that isn’t relevant given the current situation. Also consider reducing brand awareness campaigns while beefing up ad spend on platforms that directly drive sales in a measurable way.

Need help putting an emergency plan and messaging together for your business? We can we help! Start a chat with us or fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Marketing Through COVID-19 – B2B Checklist

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As businesses struggle to adjust to the current shelter-in-place orders, most marketers are able to work remotely and to help push out critical business communications. But are you just hunkering down or could you adapt to keep your organization relevant through this process? Below you will find a checklist of considerations specific to B2B businesses that are trying to adjust their marketing strategies during the coronavirus crisis.

STEP 1 – Make Personal Contact with Top Clients 
Many essential businesses are still up and running and even non-essential businesses are able to operate remotely. Some are going to experience incredible demand, but many are struggling. Use the 80/20 rule (top 20% of clients who make up approximately 80% of your revenue) to identify top clients, and begin a one-on-one outreach campaign to understand how this emergency is affecting your clients’ business, their employees, their clients… and don’t forget them personally, because their families and friends may be affected. Truly listen to understand each unique situation.

  • Do you have a solution to help them?
  • Can you be a knowledge resource for them? Are there resources or is there information you have that might help them through this period?
  • Will it affect your business relationship? (project delays, pushed contracts, late payments, lost opportunities)
  • Would communication from you now be viewed as intrusive or unwanted?
  • Would a pause in your product/services be the right thing to consider for the longevity of the relationship?
  • Conversely, can you offer any amended terms to help clients keep services on track and your employees working?

STEP 2 – Adjust Your Marketing Strategy 
Once you are armed with information, and better understand your clients’ needs, it’s time to take action.

A. Keep clients and prospects informed:

  • Announce operational changes
  • Update website
  • Post on social media
  • Send email newsletters
  • Think about physical signage

B. Adjust active messaging campaigns & advertising strategies:

  • Scheduled/planned marketing campaigns and events may not be appropriate
  • Make sure you are promoting relevant and timely offerings
  • Specifically, consider if the tone of your messaging is appropriate in this climate
  • Adjust PPC and search settings (and budget)
  • Don’t forget to review and update social media post language

C. Some additional tactics that you might consider:

  • Train sales teams and CSRs to be sensitive to the situation – even outline sensitivity scripts for your team to include in their outbound emails and calls
  •  Add a chat feature to your websites
  • Create a triggered pop-up on your website to capture email addresses
  • Set up e-commerce
  • Build stronger digital sales presentations
  • Rework customer journey
  • Create and use branded Zoom backgrounds
  • Deploy company-wide email signature advertising for key messaging
  • Create video presentations & demonstrations
  • Create webinars and other digital opportunities to connect

Do you need help?
If you need to fill staffing gaps on the marketing side – our team is all working remote and able to help. Please contact us if you need assistance.

Tips for teams working remotely from the remote ROBOTS.

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We at Robot Creative have been remote working for weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a team, we’ve noticed some challenges and also some opportunities while working from home. Here are some tips and tricks we’d like to share to keep things running smoothly while sheltered in place.

  1. Over communicate!
    The best way to find out what process and channels are best for communicating, you may have to go through about a week of communicating over and over on many channels. The one thing you cannot do is expect others to see your message without getting confirmation. Next, as a team, it’s helpful to share what works for some or doesn’t for others. Then, a leader should lay down rules for the best means to communicate moving forward. Remember to be patient. Rules are reinventing themselves right now, but you may find better ways to communicate through this that you might elect to continue after the quarantine is over.

    At Robot Creative, we found it best to use organized channels in a chat tool called Slack to communicate on specific topics like IT issues, general work announcements, and even a fun channel to keep spirits up. Then we use the messaging function in our project management tool, Pro Workflow, to update each other on projects and even pass documents back and forth with edits and notes. Relying less on email and more on these mediums has cut down our need for Zoom video calls (which we do still use for some meetings when needed). We may very well continue these messaging practices and will cut down on face to face meetings in the future.

  1. Environment is key
  2. Do NOT work from bed or the couch if you can avoid it. Set up an area that will be your dedicated workspace. You can use the kitchen table or coffee table. Just take the time to get it set up each morning for work by removing the usual objects, so you have a clear space. You can also change up your surroundings during the day to freshen your perspective and inspire creativity. We are encouraged to do this in the office, but it can also be done at home. Finally, at the end of the day put the work stuff away and put things back to “normal”. This allows your space to be your home again, and no longer a place of work for the day.

  1. Save your back and eyes
  2. Ergonomics has been around for a while, and it’s true that sitting with improper posture takes a toll on your body. Sit in an actual office chair if you have one. You may want to ask if you can pick up the one from your office. This will save your back from agony after sitting for hours on furniture that is designed more for lounging. Also, protect your eyes and invest in blue light blocker glasses. We are all staring at screens now more than ever. Whiteboards, presentations, meetings, are now all done digitally. Plus, we are entertaining ourselves at home with all our devices. You can get prescription and non-prescription lenses sent to your house through affordable resources like Zenni Optical, Felix Gray and even Amazon.

  1. Suit up!
  2. Ok, maybe don’t wear a suit – unless that is what is expected for a video conference call. The point here is to get dressed. It’s tempting to work in your pajamas. When you dress up like you’re ready to work, you’re more willing to get to work. This might seem silly, but most of our team noticed they felt less motivated when they weren’t work-ready.

  1. Stick to a schedule
  2. Not only is this helpful as a part of communication to others when you are available, it also helps you differentiate work time from downtime. Set hours for your workday, and even better, segment hours- blocking out time for certain tasks. Make sure your online calendar is updated for others on your team to see. That way they know the best time to get ahold of you, and when to leave you alone. This will help you and your team better separate personal time from work time.

  1. Take breaks, and give yourself one too
  2. Something to remember, you aren’t just working from home, you are working from home during a pandemic. This is a very uncertain time and stress is high. There’s a lot of change, but you still need to get work done. And you might feel the pressure to overperform to keep your job, or because you feel a sense of guilt for still having yours when so many people in the world are losing theirs. Despite these feelings, to keep your mental health, you need to take breaks. Go outside for a walk. Get up and stretch. And forgive yourself for this learning curve. This is going to take some getting used to, and who knows how long it will last.

  1. Keep it casual sometimes
  2. There’s a lot of seriousness, and work is serious. However, it’s good to keep a channel open for some light and fun conversations. Even just chatting during breaks with co-workers to see how they are doing. Ask about their family, share struggles if you can, and share good things coming out of this situation. Our team started a weekly newsletter that highlights general announcements, and also features some of the shared photos, ideas and fun facts that we shared throughout the week. This has helped overall morale and has given us some great ideas to try with our families.

These are just a few things our team has learned in the past month of remotely working. If you have any ideas, feel free to share them with us through our social media channels, or contact us here.