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Choose to act, or choose to lose.

Etai Beck
,
April 1, 2020

Two weeks of WFH may have seemed like an eternity but, in reality, the business world has already changed immensely during that time - and it's just the beginning. Here at Folloze, we have been working closely with customers and prospects nearing their quarter ends, and  observed a mix of fear, stress, confusion and heroism.

Specifically, we’ve seen three core behaviors arise in this rapidly evolving situation:

  • Ignore: “Maybe it won’t affect me, will come and go, let’s wait.”
  • Freeze: “OMG, the world is coming to an end, can’t do anything right now, everything stopped. Let’s build a new budget, over analyze and debate.”
  • Act: “OK, things have changed, let’s move fast, do something, then iterate.”

Ignoring is a natural response. Fear of the unknown and risk of taking the wrong action combined may lead to denial and inaction. Prospect Theory, introduced in 1997 by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (Nobel prize winner), demonstrated that people tend to stay away from making changes, since the fear of pain far outweighs the anticipation of joy.

One of the most famous examples of this behavior deals with organ donation. In his 2008 Ted talk, Dan Ariely, a professor for Economics and Behavioral Psychology at Duke University, presented the strong correlation between the tendency of people to donate organs and their role in the decision (i.e. whether the default in their country was opt-in or opt-out… spoiler: the countries on the left were opt-in, those on the right were opt-out).

So, yes, it’s normal to avoid making a decision. But these times are anything but normal, and we can’t ignore that fact because the economic impact of doing so will be catastrophic. It's hard to believe there will be any business out there left unimpacted. Unless you produce medical supplies and essential food, your business will be impacted - and not for the better. Therefore ignoring the situation is not an option.

And although freezing and cutting are admittedly at least taking action, in the end they’re not much better than inaction.. The risk of freezing is a  death spiral - cutting to the bone but not making fundamental changes required to accomodate the crisis can be as dangerous as ignoring it. In their 2009 HBR article, “Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis”,  Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky said:

Hunker Down—or Press “Reset”

The danger in the current economic situation is that people in positions of authority will hunker down. They will try to solve the problem with short-term fixes: tightened controls, across-the-board cuts, restructuring plans. They’ll default to what they know how to do in order to reduce frustration and quell their own and others’ fears.

People who practice what we call adaptive leadership do not make this mistake. Instead of hunkering down, they seize the opportunity of moments like the current one to hit the organization’s reset button. They use the turbulence of the present to build on and bring closure to the past. In the process, they change key rules of the game, reshape parts of the organization, and redefine the work people do.

And therefore we are left with only one effective option - Act immediately. Be proactive, make decisions. The show must go on, we are still expected to drive pipeline and revenue, the oxygen of our businesses. Yes, you may need to make some significant budget cuts. But at the same time there are surely many opportunities to be seized in the new situation. Some are market opportunities, others are internal decisions you may have been sitting on for a long time; regardless, now is the time to make bold moves. Ideas that were unacceptable just yesterday may become the heros of today.

And therefore we are left with only one effective option - Act immediately. Be proactive, make decisions. The show must go on, we are still expected to drive pipeline and revenue, the oxygen of our businesses. Yes, you may need to make some significant budget cuts. But at the same time there are surely many opportunities to be seized in the new situation. Some are market opportunities, others are internal decisions you may have been sitting on for a long time; regardless, now is the time to make bold moves. Ideas that were unacceptable just yesterday may become the heros of today.

Where to start?

1. Initial response:

  • Form a crisis team immediately and work closely on a very short timeline to make decisions. Start with the goals in mind - how much pipeline and revenue are we targeting with our revised plan? What are the key roadblocks to overcome?
  • Identify what’s working, what’s not, and brainstorm a new balance of people and budgets to support your revised financial plan.
  • Form a skeleton of plan and financials, make fast decisions and execute rapidly. Do not delay - days matter massively.
  • At the same time, remember to treat people with as much empathy as possible - both people who are negatively impacted and those who remain secure. There is nothing more difficult than being negatively impacted in such a terrible environment so you have to help as much as you can. Remember, you may have to make changes, but these people’s worlds have been turned upside-down.

2. Prepare for a bumpy road:

  • A crisis of this magnitude will create ripple effects, and it’s hard to predict what will happen.
  • Prepare your team for ups and downs, prepare them for rapid learning and change.
  • Agility and flexibility will be the most important attributes for success throughout the crisis.
  • Carefully evaluate your vendors and suppliers, but differently from the past. It's not only about technology and skills, rather very much about who do you trust to rise up and work with you side by side to help you survive and even thrive today and in the future.


3. For marketers, go full speed on digital - and ABM is key:

  • Accept it, there will be no events any time soon. Any gathering over 15-20 people will be considered an event and simply won’t be possible.
  • It will also be a very long time before salespeople are able to meet prospects in person, and travel of any kind is going to be hard to justify financially for a long time.
  • That leaves us with digital engagement, but it’s the same for everyone else as well. Broad and flat campaigns will meet an ever more noisy environment, and continue their already well-underway march to uselessness.
  • Instead, it’s time to embrace micro-targeted, ABM quality, engagements. And you have to find agile and scalable ways to do that even with limited resources. Fortunately the tools with which to do that are readily available if you do the research.

Robert Collier said, “if you don't make things happen then things will happen to you.” It was true then, and it’s infinitely more true in these challenging times. Act now - really, now - because inaction is a luxury none of us can afford.

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By the way, every Friday we're hosting the very well-received "Re-Route Your Marketing" workshops. These are NOT webinars or pitches - they're simply the marketing community coming together to discuss important topics and help each other through these times. Please join us for what is sure to be a vivid discussion. folloze.com/reroute