18 December 2009

3 keys to (continued) survival in 2010

At the beginning of 2009, we all knew a tough year lay ahead. We won’t repeat it all here except to say: housing bubble bursts --> credit market freezes --> financial institutions fail --> stock market crashes --> budgets get cut.

There is one more effect, actually. “Marketers seek results.” After budget cuts, every dollar must show a result. We’ve written about this here, here and here.

Ad Majorem is all about embracing the changes and challenges of modern marketing. The “modern” part is often the trickiest.

No one has all the answers, however, so don’t expect this of yourself.

Instead, here is some advice extracted from what Arthur Ashe, the great U.S. tennis pro once said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

1. Start where you are

It’s human nature to reflect upon a year gone by. We knew 2009 would be tough, and it was. Where does it leave me? What have I learned? These are simple questions, but not easy ones. The hard part is taking the time and having the courage to assess these questions, look ourselves in the mirror and honestly understand our individual situations.

For example, you may have a client who is more attentive to cost savings than ever before. You may have a customer who wants to remove your products from the shelf. A new product launch may not be going well. Writing these things down on a list often helps me face them more honestly. “The truth will set you free” – if you’re willing to face it.

Catalogue the good stuff, too. We won a new account (let’s ensure their first 90 days are so good they never look back). We hired an outstanding SEO expert (let’s put her to work on that new client).

2. Use what you have

There are two thoughts here that complement one another.

The first is to play your position. What are you charged with doing and delivering? Make sure you nail those objectives and let nothing distract you. For example, you may make TV commercials for a living and hear pundits deride these as Ye Olde Media. Consider that many consumers watch TV commercials on broadcast, cable, digital or mobile media. More than that, if a client is paying you to make a TV commercial, make sure it is the best dang TV commercial you can possibly deliver.

The second thought is to deliver added value beyond what’s expected. Chances are that you have smart, capable co-workers who can be part of a team that produces something of added value. To extend the above example of an agency that makes TV commercials for a client, the team can deliver a retail extension or a partnership with one of the broadcasters to feature the product more prominently. Other avenues may be a new product idea, a new claim or demo or an emerging media application. If you know your consumer and your client’s business well enough, you’ll generate good ideas.

3. Do what you can

Look around your organization. What other resources does it provide to you as an employee, manager or leader? What does it offer to clients or prospects? Many of us take a quick glance and complain that the company hasn’t made this or that investment, or that “no one” wants to push the envelope. Is “no one” really stopping you?

When Draft and FCB merged three years ago we suddenly had a long list of capabilities. The list was so long that nobody wrote it down. I walked around the newly combined hallways of Draftfcb, interviewed colleagues old and new, took notes, and eventually compiled that list. It was impressive (and we have filled it out a little more in the past three years).

The point here is not to have a long list of resources, but to fully assess the possibilities. Dream a little bit. Where can we take this business?

At minimum this kind of exercise develops your peripheral vision. In a time of change it is critical to understand what goes on around us. If we don’t know what’s possible, we’ll never make it a reality.

Start where you are: Honestly assess your situation going into 2010. Use what you have: Play your position – and add value. Do what you can: Push the envelope – stay abreast of the new possibilities that constantly arise in today’s changing and challenging marketing environment.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Feliz Navidad -- and have a happy, prosperous, change-embracing New Year in 2010.


  1. These are my 3 keys:
    1) Be honest about your competencies and qualification, not only to yourself but also to others!
    2) Say what you think, and do what you say. Political networkers and "blenders" will have more problems in future to keep their position. Honesty and clear positions will become more important. The last crisis led to a sound suspicion not to believe everything!!
    3) CONVINCE daily, LEARN daily

  2. Thanks, Erich, for this insightful list! -- Steve