Decision Vision Episode 67: How Do I Pivot My Marketing in a Covid-19 World? – An Interview with Branden Lisi, Object 9
What are the marketing challenges presented by a Covid-19 world? What hasn’t changed? Brand strategist Branden Lisi joins “Decision Vision” to discuss these questions and much more with your host, Mike Blake. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Branden Lisi, Object 9
Branden Lisi is a Partner and Brand Strategist with Object 9. Object 9 was founded in 1992, at the dawn of the internet age. Over time, they’ve developed a unique set of experiences which enable them to balance the demands of traditional marketing and sales channels while staying ahead of the ever-changing digital landscape.
Their primary customers are manufacturers and franchise brands—both of which require a steady flow of new customers to be successful.
For more on Object 9 and their work, go to their website.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
Visit Brady Ware & Company on social media:
Intro: Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decision, brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service, accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owner’s or executive’s perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator, and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: So, today, we’re discussing the topic of should I change my my marketing approach or maybe should I pivot my marketing? Maybe that’s a better way to describe this. But as we’re recording this, it is now May 12th. And we are, depending on where you live, I guess maybe zero weeks to six or seven weeks and to this mass house arrest that we are quasi-voluntarily imposing upon ourselves, thanks to the slow moving horror movie, that is the coronavirus. And as we all know, in an effort to save society that, frankly, to some extent, we’ve sacrificed parts of the economy in order to do that but, thankfully, more and more thought is now turning to how do we then help the economy get off the floor after the stroke punch that we’ve given it?
Mike Blake: And we’re thinking about that on a micro level as well. I think I think more and more people, especially by the time you wind up listening to this, are going to be thinking about, “Okay, we’ve done the sheltering in place. We’ve flattened the curve. It’s time to go back to work in whatever format work looks like going forward.” And that’s, of course, like the virus itself, going to be evolving and is going to differ based on what you do for a living and where you do it.
Mike Blake: And I think kind of at the top of that hierarchy is marketing and sales because in my view, and we’ll see if our guest agrees, marketing and sales are going to have to change. They have to change for a couple of reasons. They’ve got to change because, to some extent, ways in which we are used to marketing simply are not on the table anymore. If you’re the kind of person that is used to going to a corporate function or conference and collecting 50 business cards, then following up on with lunches, and cocktails, and golf outings, and baseball games and so forth, that’s just not on the table. You got to do something else.
Mike Blake: And second, I think, almost every customer is thinking about how they buy in in a different way, right? And we’re going to have a later podcast to talk about that. and the working title is Meet Your New Customer, which is your old customer but under COVID. And this is an evolving topic, and it’s going to evolve every day, and people are having to learn new ways of doing things, new philosophies, new approaches. And I’m actually doing a webinar tomorrow. It will have been several weeks ago by the time you listen to this, but I’m about to do a webinar that talks about restarting that marketing mojo in a COVID/post-COVID/COVID-adaptive world. I really don’t know what the vocabulary is anymore. I give up.
Mike Blake: And so, I hope you are of like mind that you’re now starting to think of the future and how do we get this thing going again because regardless of your ideology, it’s inarguable that remaining dormant for years is economically and financially unsustainable. So, how do we jumpstart this thing? And so, I’ve I’ve invited, and I’m very grateful he has accepted, a longtime friend of mine that, frankly, I do not talk to enough and it’s my loss. But his name is Branden Lisi, who’s founder of Object 9. He’s run and owned Object 9 for 28 years and has really paralleled the world’s migration towards a digital economy, starting with more of an old school marketing bent to, then, evolving along with the rest the economy to developing and implementing expertise in the 21st Century digital side.
Mike Blake: His work with consumer brands, specialty manufacturers and franchises offers insights into the many challenges and opportunities facing today’s corporate leaders. In addition to Object 9, Branden also owns a candy store located in Columbus, Georgia. And I’m going to pause there for a second. And that’s really cool, not only because I like candy, and I do but if you’ve listened to this podcast for any amount of time, you know that I’ve had a lot of friends come on, longtime friends, and I’m very blessed and fortunate to have the kind of network that I have people that are interesting enough to interview and actually want to come on this thing. But I would say one out of three, I read the bio, and I learn something that I did not know about them. And that ranges from people who’ve written books and didn’t bother to tell me. And I think one of them, at some point, was Prime Minister of Tasmania. But there’s always some sort of secret life that comes out of these things, which is really cool. So, maybe we’ll have time to ask Branden about that.
Mike Blake: But anyway, when Branden is not solving some marketing problem, he can usually be found serving his community while wearing a scout leader’s uniform. Just like my wife, she’s a troop leader. And finally, on a personal level, he’s been happily married for over 23 years to a talented artist, Margaret, who is lovely. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her. And together, they’re busy raising two good sons. And Branden is also an accomplished musician in his own right. And someday, when this whole thing breaks down, we can get back together and jam again. Branden, thanks for coming on the program.
Branden Lisi: Thanks for having me, Mike.
Mike Blake: So, Branden, I want to get a very banal question out of the way first because I think there’s a lot of misconception about the nature of marketing. And I think, in particular, it frustrates marketing people that the question is still out there. But I think it’s extremely important because I see the mistake being made all the time. And that is, what is the difference between a marketing function and a sales function?
Branden Lisi: Well, I think the simplest answer is the job of marketing is to figure out what the customer wants or needs, and then help that company deliberate. Sales is a way of promoting the fact that you have it. It’s just one channel, just like social media is a channel, just like public relations or traditional ads or whatever it might be. Or a marketing speak level, the job of the marketing team is to figure out what differentiates or adds value to the customers’ lives in some meaningful and relevant way. It’s the job of the salespeople to go tell people about it. So, one function, marketing is more strategic in nature, and the other function is more tactical in nature. Now, salespeople will argue with you that what they do is very strategic, but the reality is their job is to communicate that value proposition through their channel.
Mike Blake: Well, it doesn’t have to be an either or, right? I mean, you can sort of have a slider, if you will, that’s a combination of the two.
Branden Lisi: Yeah.
Mike Blake: Go ahead.
Branden Lisi: Most people, I mean, Marketing 101, man, is find a need and fill it. It’s that way for thousands of years and it’s not going to change because of COVID-19. The channels will change, the customer behavior will change, the tools will change, the talent level of the people around you, whether it’s in-house or external, will change. But the simple premise that I’ve got to figure out what people need, and I’ve got to figure out a way to get it to them is not going to change. It’s been that way for a long, long, long time, and it’s going to be that way of a long, long time before.
Branden Lisi: The challenge, I think, for a lot of people and a lot of entrepreneurs, business leaders, corporate leaders is people come into a job, come into a role with a set of skills, and it’s very, very difficult to maintain current skills or evolve your skill sets while you’re trying to do your job at the same time. And most people that are productive and successful stay quite busy doing the job for which they were hired. The challenge is, whether you’re in marketing, or you’re in sales, or public relations, or advertising, or accounting, or whatever it might be is the tools keep changing, the channels keep changing, the customer mindsets keep changing it. If you’ve got to spend time thinking about all those changes and incorporating that change into your team, to your team skills, your team actions, then it’s just easy for people to fall behind.
Branden Lisi: You saw that back in 2008-2009. Everybody started cutting expenses and cutting headcount, just like they’re doing now. Things still had to be done. The machine keeps rolling on. If you’re into digital marketing, you have to produce content, and you have to distribute it, and you have to manage it, and you have to track it, and you have to process it. And that just gets spread out across a smaller group of people who have even less time to evolve their skill sets. So, it’s part of the challenge, I think, with marketing and the challenge with sales is just keeping up with that rate of change.
Mike Blake: So, you referenced the ’08-’09 recession. That’s a good segue because I want to talk about that. And maybe if you can remember back that far, the dot com bubble of 2000, two big recessions we had before this. Can you remember kind of how did marketing change then and other parallels or important contrast between how marketing changed in the wake of those recessions versus this one? This one truly is different an animal has a lot of us maybe think it is.
Branden Lisi: Well, 2000, I was still in Louisiana. I started my business in ’92. We’re founded in Baton Rouge. We had a lot of industrial manufacturing clients down there. And that section of the world is very much tied to the oil patch. And so, financial metrics around the dot com didn’t impact Louisiana and East Texas quite as much as they did, I think, here in Atlanta. Living through 2008-2009 though, the parallels between those two things is both cases, I would say there was a massive acceleration of the migration of digital. And the digital tools, the digital technologies, and the digital channels as people were trying to figure out how to get technology to generate more leads, create more opportunities or make more connections, or automate those connections with customers because they didn’t have the headcount, because in both cases, you just lost a lot of people that were doing things.
Branden Lisi: And that’s what’s happening today. We have many clients in the world of manufacturing or franchising because of kind of where we’ve built our client base that are using this opportunity to grow. Though they cut headcount, they still have to achieve the same goals or try to achieve the same goals, which means doing the same things, if not more of the things that need to be done. And whether it’s 2000 or 2008-2009, the same kind of dynamics have played out as the expectations have come down a little bit, but not necessarily in line with reality. So, people are just trying to figure out how to get it all done and trying to figure out how to cobble these tools together on top of everything else they’re doing.
Mike Blake: That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought of that, but that observation makes a lot of sense to me that, at least, in the last recession, you did see an accelerated migration of technology, and you’re doing it here, and you may see it even more widespread because, now, as our food supply chain is being impacted, there’s going to be even more of a clamor to automate because machines don’t get sick and they don’t contaminate food. But that’s really interesting. And are you seeing that now too? And I guess we are, right? We work from home, maybe additional automation by the marketing side. Are you seeing that, too, where there’s now another push to see what can be automated or what can be leveraged in terms of marketing activities and technology?
Branden Lisi: Well, and the core function of marketing, it’s digital marketing, lead generation, which is generally how we get out. If someone says, “I want to get more business and I’m not happy with my sales team’s results, I need to augment that. I want to feed those beast some leads. And I need to figure out how to use digital technology, paid search, paid social, display, whatever it might be to try to get more eyeballs on my brand, start more conversations.” All that’s been done remotely for years and continues to be done remotely.
Branden Lisi: I think in the short term, what some of our manufacturing clients and franchise clients are dealing with is their salespeople can’t go out and do their job. I mean, I think you’re dealing with this as a salesperson or business development guy. I deal with that. You can’t get someone on the phone. You can’t get kneecap to kneecap with people anymore. So, you really are forced to use some technologies that right now, for the most part, is replacing face-to-face, which is the Zoom stuff that we’re using or GoTo Meeting or whatever the platform is. But the underlying marketing technologies behind paid search, paid social display, or if you’re into the long-term game of SEO content marketing or whatever, that’s not really changed.
Branden Lisi: I think where I see this particular crisis affecting the marketing piece is actually on the product development front. And people can’t pivot within six weeks or whatever, but I think where you see innovation is in the product portfolio around touchless, right? It’s not just the marketing stack that we’re talking about. It’s how do we deliver experiences where people don’t necessarily have to touch physically each other or touch things? And those businesses that are so dependent upon a group experience, a restaurant, or amusement park, or a live concert, or a sporting event are really struggling to figure out how to do this and involve the customer experience in a way that keeps people safe because in the past, the crisis was financial. People were going to lose their jobs. People lost their jobs. People-
Mike Blake: They lost wealth.
Branden Lisi: The financial hit, right?
Mike Blake: Yeah.
Branden Lisi: This is a hit where they’re still trying to figure out like who’s going to get sick and how many people are going to die? And six weeks ago, I told my entrepreneur group, I’m part of the EO network, which I know you’re familiar with, I predicted that there would be 20,000 to 50,000 people dying in the next couple of months, and I missed my mark. I predicted that, I think, on March 22nd. And I undershot that. We were over at 80,000 today, right? So, I think the challenge for, not just the marketers, but the companies that the marketers represent or work for is, how do we evolve our product mix to meet the needs of the customer?
Branden Lisi: Because a lot of times marketing gets kind of pigeonholed as – going back to our discussion with your marketing sales – as a marketer, my job is to figure out what we can deliver that people want. And how I communicate that are the tools that everybody assumes marketing. That’s what marketing is. It’s advertising, or sales, or whatever. But really, the job is, as I said, find a need and fill it in. The need now is to be able to create products and experiences where people don’t have to touch stuff. Or products or services that demonstrate or deliver real value.
Mike Blake: Well, let’s touch upon that too. I’m going to kind of rip up the script a little bit because I think that’s a really important point is the word, the term essential business came into the lexicon six weeks ago, right? And I can only imagine if, all of a sudden, the government, and by extension, I guess society, I’m going to keep the ideology out of it, just said you’re a non-essential business, right? And we’re seeing that Elon Musk is already pretty pissed off about this. He’s threatened to move out of California. And as of this podcast, he’s basically given the middle finger to the California government and opened his factory anyway. So, we’ll see what happens there.
Mike Blake: But the notion of what’s essential, right? I think that’s something that now requires a lot of thought. I think it requires a lot of thought not just in what are you offering to the market. And as you’re saying, let me kind of paraphrase back to you, you tell me if I’m crazy, but at the end of the day, you can only market well something that does, at least, some fundamental demand for the market, right? If nobody wants or needs it, the best market in the world, and I don’t know who is in the marketing hall of fame, maybe you or I don’t know, right? But even then, they’re not going be able to do that much with it.
Mike Blake: And I was thinking about this yesterday because I’m starting to write a paper on working capital and. And one of the things that I’m thinking about and I think you’re seeing is companies are also simplifying their product lines. You can’t afford to keep the marginal products going just because, now, you feel like that’s what creates … or at least I think this way, that creates a complete product line. I think, now, in terms of preserving working capital, in some cases, sort of cutting off the limb in order to save the body, it’s not just about staff reductions, but it’s also got to be about product reductions that that product that generates one percent of your process but consumes 10 percent of your time of working capital, that’s part of the equation too, isn’t it?
Branden Lisi: It is. I think so much of that though varies from company to company and culture to culture. In smaller companies, where there is a lot of emotional attachment to the product, for example, it’s your baby, it’s hard to let it go, it’s hard to pivot. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. In larger companies, sometimes, there’s just momentum that you’re fighting. And also, fear. And I would say that’s kind of, I think, the biggest driver right now that I look at and see that paralyzes people is the fear of uncertainty and doubt about if they make the wrong decision about pivoting. And so, they just don’t do anything. And so, if they kill that product, and then someone else become successful with that product line, it makes them look bad, right? It’s a little sort of fallacy of sunk cost. I think this plays into it, use a gambling analogy.
Branden Lisi: But really, it varies so much from client to client to client in terms of what drives that. But I would agree with you and say companies have to take a hard look at what they’re manufacturing, are they actually making stuff that people want. I used to use this analogy of kind of trying to explain differentiations. You can make the best green grams on the planet, but if everybody wants to draw fire engines, someone’s going to buy your green gram, right? People want to buy what they want to buy. And the types of wealth and luxury and excess, they’ll buy more things than they would when times get lean.
Branden Lisi: And regardless of what’s going to happen in the next year or two, I think you’ve been around long enough to know and lived long enough life to know that this is really unparalleled, right? I don’t think that this is even close to being a 2008-2009 kind of thing or certainly a 2000 dot.com kind of thing because it’s hitting everything, right? It’s not one or two sectors. It’s literally every aspect of your life is being changed and it’s introducing not just product discussion issues, but risk discussion issues.
Mike Blake: Yeah. It’s World War II, the Great Depression, and the Spanish Flu Pandemic all rolled into one nice little burrito.
Branden Lisi: Yeah. And he other part of it too, and I mean, I’m old enough to live through the early stages of AIDS because I graduated high school in 1984. And back then, I mean, nobody really knew what caused it, how you get it. It had some pretty horrible ramifications. It turns out being sexually transmitted or through blood transfusions, it wasn’t this very virulent. But there is the fear that I’m going to get this thing, the fear that my children, as a parent, that’s my big fear, my kids are going to get this and get sick.
Branden Lisi: And then, balancing that with the fear of, “Okay, I have a business. I have multiple businesses to run. And what’s the risk that I want to take on? Do I want to have my businesses open and take on the risk of health? Or do I want to keep my businesses closed and take on the risk of going out of business, which means everybody’s out on the street looking for a job, and has no health care, or whatever it might be? So, I mean, I made my decision a long time ago on all of this stuff because I’m not going to live my life in fear. But I think a lot of people are still grappling with those two very challenging things. I know I’ve gone off on a little bit of a tangent there, Mike. Sorry about that.
Mike Blake: Well, but I think it’s wrong. And it actually does segue into next question, which is I think what I’m wondering as a business owner and as an advisor is as I look at what’s going on today, how much of this is temporary? And there is a rubber banding. And how much of this, whatever this is, I’m being deliberately vague, is permanent, right?. And talking, now, back about marketing, pivoting, how do you tell or how do you make … You don’t tell. How do you make an educated guess that you can kind of live with that that says, “Okay, here are the three things that we’re probably just never going to do again. And let’s let’s kind of just move forward. Burn the ships and move forward. And here are the three things that we’re just gonna kind of put on ice or gonna put in the freezer for a year or two, but it’s gonna come back. So, we’re not going to completely forget about it. We’re just gonna move in the background because we don’t need it right now”? Does that make any sense?
Branden Lisi: Yeah, yeah. Off the top of my head, I think the uncertainty timeline is gonna be tied to, when can I go in and get a shot or take a pill and take away the threat of death, right? When does the fear go away?
Mike Blake: Right.
Branden Lisi: The thing that … and I have always been a student of history. Had I made a different choice in my life, I probably would have been a history professor. I mean, I still read a lot of history. One of the truths about all of this stuff that nobody really talks about is that the threat has always been there. This isn’t a new threat. In fact, millions and millions and millions of people are still dealing with the threat of malaria, and cholera, and dysentery, and dengue fever, and all of these other diseases. We’ve just been sort of this intellectually safe, financially safe health care bubble in the US for a long time thinking that we were invulnerable to all of this stuff. And Mother Nature reminded us that we’re not.
Branden Lisi: So, from the very beginning of all of this stuff, which I should say the first week as I thought through this, I always believed that if I lived hundreds of years ago, I would have been on one of those guys on one of those ships that would have been sailing to try to find the new world. And that had a hell of a lot more risk associated with it than this. I think, what people are going to realize the next … and people are already doing this. People have made the decision that they’re going to agree with Aristotle in philosophy that luck is when the arrow hits the guy next to you, and that they’re all immortal, and they’re going to go out, and they’re going to live their life, and that they’re not going to get sick, and they’re going to take their chances.
Branden Lisi: And that’s not driven … for some people, it’s gonna be driven by some political ideology. But I think for most people, it just comes with a rational, fundamental decision that it’s like, “I got to go live my life. I got to provide for my family,” just like every other generation of humanity has had to do going back to cavemen, right? It wasn’t a rational decision to go out with a spear and try to kill something. It was a risk. So, we’re still doing that.
Branden Lisi: I think in the short term, people who are afraid, going back to the fear issue, I think they’re going to stay away. They’re going to make different decisions. I think the people who’ve lost their jobs, 30 million people, ain’t that what it is right now, that’s a massive chunk. It’s 10 percent of the population of the US just lost their jobs.
Mike Blake: Right. 20 percent of the working population.
Branden Lisi: Lumping all the kids in, right?
Mike Blake: Yeah, well. And so-
Branden Lisi: How many more are not productive right now?
Mike Blake: Yeah. Well, yeah.
Branden Lisi: But going back to try to answer your question about the timeline and what’s going to be put on the shelves, I think, eventually, people are going to want to get back together again and do things together because we’re social animals. We always have. And we’re eventually going to feel more comfortable over time. There’s a lot of fear that’s being pushed out through the channels that people watch. There’s a lot of misinformation being pushed out through the channels that people read, which is also an interesting marketing case study in its own right now.
Mike Blake: Yeah.
Branden Lisi: And eventually people are going to have to make a decision based on what’s right for them. And I think people are going to go back to restaurants. I think people are going to go back to rock concerts. And I think people are going to go back and do the things they always used to do. But I don’t think, personally, it’s going to happen for the next couple of years to a regular degree until there is a magic pill because that’s kind of how Americans operate, at least. I can’t speak for the rest of the world. Americans will take a magic pill.
Mike Blake: So, it sounds like that you’re in the camp that we’ve got what we’ve got now, but this notion that we’re kind of never going back to that doesn’t sound like something you agree with. So, don’t completely cut off those marketing tools because at some point, you are going to want to go back into the attic, open up the chest, dust them off them, and come out again.
Branden Lisi: Yeah, I do. I think companies are going to want to go back, want to present their products in the most efficient way. And some of those people are going to go to trade shows to present their products to buyers. I think people are going to want to go back and live their life to a certain degree the way they’ve always lived their lives because it was a pretty good life. And if you believe the math, which math is all over the place but it’s somewhere around the neighborhood of 97 percent, maybe 95, maybe 98.3, I don’t know, bit the vast majority of people are not going to be substantially impacted by this if you believe the models. The reality, going back to your comment about flattening the curve, is for a percentage of people, they are going to be susceptible to this, and it’s going to be a bell curve within that group of people who go from being really sick to dying.
Mike Blake: Now, let’s say that, and I imagine you probably have clients that are facing this, if you have historically had success with a high, physical touch marketing approach, right, maybe it’s been through conferences and trade shows, maybe it’s not-.
Branden Lisi: Product sampling.
Mike Blake: What’s that?
Branden Lisi: Product sampling.
Mike Blake: With product sampling, right?
Branden Lisi: A lot of food and beverage in my day, right?
Mike Blake: Yeah. And now, that’s off the table.
Branden Lisi: Yeah.
Mike Blake: What are you telling your clients about transitioning? What are you telling your clients to do now?
Branden Lisi: Well, so, most of the clients that we work with right now are manufacturing companies. some sell direct B2B. Others go through distribution outlets or retail outlets and whatnot.
Mike Blake: Yeah.
Branden Lisi: Because you can’t go to a trade show, you have resources, you have budget, you have allocations. You can go online where people are, go find the eyeballs where they are, and start driving more traffic to your website, and investing more in a digital strategy. That’s not just because we do digital marketing. That’s where the eyeballs are. That’s where the customers are today. That’s one of the things I always advise clients is they want to spend their money where it makes the most sense.
Branden Lisi: So, for clients, the challenge when clients need to touch it or feel it, some equipment companies, these guys are engineers or construction people, they want to feel it, they want to touch it. . Right now, all you can do is create virtual experiences, and that’s not always going to be as easy. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t begin to build the pipeline and start working towards that. And that’s what a number of our clients have been doing is using this time to build the pipeline and establish relationships with people who may not be able to close everybody, but you can build the relationships, generate the lead, so to speak. The pipeline might be a little bit longer, but you could sure as heck make the top of the funnel fat right now, especially if you do some digital marketing because there are a lot of people out there trying to figure things out.
Branden Lisi: We have one client whose primary value proposition right now is that they can save you money on IT maintenance. Every company out there that’s got a massive IT spend is looking to save money. So, the value proposition of that particular company is excellent right now. We have another client that sells so much … it is very dependent, historically dependent upon their retail distribution outlets. They’re using this opportunity to pivot more to a direct to consumer strategy.
Branden Lisi: And one of the things that they’ve balanced, I see this a lot, especially with manufacturers that sell through retailers, they’re afraid … or distributors, they’re afraid of upsetting that revenue cart and angering the money, and they don’t want to put their revenue at risk. But now, because that revenue has been inherently put at risk because people aren’t going into those retail stores, it’s given them an opportunity to go direct. And they’re not a client, but there’s been an interesting development recently. I don’t know if you pay attention to the movie industry, but some of the movies have been able to go direct to consumer now in terms of launching their movies through0.
Mike Blake: I saw that. AMC in particular, was really not happy about that. They went out of their way to attack one of the movie studios.
Branden Lisi: Right. And so, I’m a movie studio or I’m this person that manufactures a product, it’s like, “Well, you can’t sell this for me. I’ve got to take care of my core business. There are people out there that want my product. They’re not going to find it through you. So, I got to go find another way, right. Find a need and fill it. I can’t fill it that same way. I got to fill it a different way.” And that’s going to disrupt a lot of industries. I think the unsettling of established traditional distribution channels, retail and some of those experiential channels are going to take a big hit.
Branden Lisi: And I’m not going to say I’m predicting this exactly this way but while I like going to a movie theater and seeing certain movies, there is only a handful of movies that I really go, “I’m glad I went to the theater and saw that.” There’s a whole bunch of other movies out there that I’m perfectly happy to sit at home in my lovely home theater, and watch it, and pause it when I need to pause it or whatever I need to do. And I could see five years from now, movie theaters, being a little bit like the record stores in the late ’80s and early ’90s, one of those things that is just sort of a relic of a bygone day.
Branden Lisi: It’d be sad for somebody who enjoys going to movies occasionally, but for a movie theater or a movie company to be able to bypass that middleman, and save all that money, and go direct to consumers, and market directly to the consumer, and hit all those desktops and devices, or sell through Netflix or HBO or whatever might be is probably a heck of a lot more profitable. And so, I think, for a lot of customers right now in our space, both … well, let’s just stick with manufacturing, how to go directly to their customers and look at valuating the middleman is a big discussion point. And I see that happening not just in our business, but other businesses where people are beginning to question the middleman because in the margins that they really add value.
Mike Blake: We’re talking with Branden Lisi of Object 9 about changing marketing in a COVID environment. We’ve only got time for a few more questions. So, I want to pick the ones I think are of highest value at this point. And one I want to throw out there is that I think there’s a temptation on the part of many companies to pare back their marketing strategies because there’s a sense of, “Well, nobody’s buying. So, why should we bother selling?” Can you make an argument that this is a time that you could actually go, you could kind of go against the grain or go against the trend, and maybe spend more on marketing while your competitors are retrenching, and maybe strengthen your brand, relatively speaking, and gain some market share? What do you think about that thought?
Branden Lisi: I think you could spend more or you could just spend differently. It’s not a binary choice. Going back to what I said earlier about building the pipeline, you may not always be able to close every deal, but you could set yourself up so that when the economy does start moving again and people start making decisions, you’re in the catbird seat, so to speak, in terms of being the one with the relationship with the people ready to spend.
Branden Lisi: So, for those companies that really haven’t figured out how to do digital, instead of spending the money on some of their traditional venues, i.e. trade shows or whatever it might be, that are going to really bear fruit right now, reallocating that same amount of money towards building out the digital stack that you need or maybe adjusting the staffing resources and skill sets that you have or the mix of internal and external resources, the answer might not be you need to spend more money, though that certainly could be the case. But you certainly should be spending your money differently. And that’s where I think a lot of people struggle because they may not always know how to make those decisions. And that’s where people like us come into play.
Mike Blake: Now, social media, obviously, by necessity/default, is now dominating a lot of the marketing landscape necessarily. There are a set of best practices that were widely accepted and followed, say, prior to February 15th? In your mind, have any of those best practices changed or evolved now in the COVID world? Social marketing, is the best way to use it and leverage it any different now than it was?
Branden Lisi: Well, one of the things I’ve seen, which is … and I feel like maybe it’s just me because it’s getting a little overdone is the whole communicate with empathy strategy. So many people are focusing this message around compassion, and empathy, and whatnot that they’re not even communicating their value proposition of why people should care and buy. So, one one thing I would say is if you are engaged in social media, don’t forget the reason that you’re doing it, if you’re doing it for marketing purposes, is to drive traffic to your website to engage people. So, give them something to engage with and have a call to action, not just tell them that you can sympathize with the fact that they’re stuck at home taking care of their kids. So, that’s one best practice that I would say people need to get back to because I see a lot of marketing material that will not work, man. . It’s just it’s like there’s no way that this is actually going to be effective. But it might be making people feel good to put those messages out.
Branden Lisi: I think one thing that I would also say about social media, the best practice that I want everybody to take from all of this is if you can’t answer the question of who is on the other end of the communication very, very specifically, then you need to stop spending money on your social media. In fact, really, on all your marketing. And really figure out who your primary and secondary customers are. All the marketing, going back to finding a need and filling it, is understanding who that customer is. And I see way too many people, especially in the franchising space, throwing away money trying to attract franchisees, and prospects, and customers without really even understanding who the primary audiences are. And the more nichey, your business is in terms of B2B or whatever, the more specific and more targeted you need to be.
Branden Lisi: So, again, the answer, going back to your comment about should you be spending more, you should be spending more wisely and maybe you need to be spending differently. But absolutely, you need be doing it in a more targeted way.
Mike Blake: Branden, we’re running out of time, but I’m sure there are folks that are listening that had a question that we weren’t able to get to today. Assuming you’re willing to make yourself available, how can people contact you if they want to ask your question directly?
Branden Lisi: They can always reach me through LinkedIn. It’s spelled B-R-A-N-D-E-N L-I-S-I. It’s a good way to get me. You can get me via email that email@example.com, or you can go to object9.com and reach me that way. We have a contact form. Those are three really good ways to get all of.
Mike Blake: All right. Well, thanks so much for the conversation, I think there’s a lot of information our listeners are going to find helpful. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Branden Lisi of Object 9 so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in, so that when you’re facing your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.