Rockstar CMO asked me, “What does the post Coronavirus new normal mean for you, your organization, and marketing in general?”… It’s time to hit reset.

For people

I find myself outdoors taking advantage of this time to exercise even more than usual. I’m noticing these days that there are a lot of people that almost never got outside before that are out walking right now. Perhaps they used to get their exercise when they went to the store or to work, or they didn’t have time. Now they have nothing but time. Even if you’re working from home and working just as hard as you used to, you’re still not driving to work, so you’ve found some time. How will you use it? With the time we save not taking the daily commute, there could be more time to work on personal things you didn’t have time for previously, like learning Spanish (something that has been on my business partner John Andrew’s annual New Year resolutions list for 10 years), starting a workout routine or learning a musical instrument. Take advantage of that time.

I’ve talked before about the fact that things are going to change, and companies are going to realize how people can work remotely, be effective and get their work done. Truth be told, I think some companies are finding that people are being more effective at home. They are not being sidetracked and they’re not spending all that time traveling. Even if you drive just 20 minutes to work, that’s still 40 minutes extra a day of driving not to mention parking, stopping for coffee, and chit-chatting in the parking lot and on the way into the office, not to mention all the morning hellos and conversations.

For organizations

Out of necessity, companies must embrace new technology. Team calls at 9.00am bring people together to talk to each other. Have you noticed in your company that communications have been more efficient the past few weeks? Perhaps your team can save money on office rent. What if, once we get over this, you decide to get rid of the office and save all that money? You could have team meetings with Starbucks, at a park, or in any number of places. It’s not like you’ll never see people because you can set times to get together. Think of all the time saved without those multiple daily meetings that go on and on and on. Phone and Zoom meetings tend to have much more efficient start and finish times.

For companies, it’s a great time to try new things, such as exploring new technology. A friend suggested using private podcasts as a form of employee communication. Inter-office webinars and Zoom meetings are becoming the norm. All of a sudden, companies are being forced to try things that they knew were out there, but might have worried wouldn’t be effective, or would cost them some efficiency. They are trying them and finding that those fears were unfounded… and that in many cases they are substantially more efficient. When this is all over a lot of companies are going to divest of office space and the endless, throughout the day, team meetings. I think many more companies will be open to letting people work remotely.

How will retail change?

It’s already changing, but I think the biggest change to come is that we’re going to see accelerated movement to different kinds of retail. Many people had never tried storefront pickup before, and I bet that 20, 30, or even 40 percent of shoppers have now tried it. It has basically accelerated the curve of early adopters to the middle part of the adoption curve. Restaurants now have signs on their doors: “Don’t come in–we’ll bring it out to you.” How would your world change if they brought it out to you every time? Why not? It makes it that much easier, and anything that makes my life easier as a shopper I will probably do more often.

a network gives you reach, but a community gives you power. Networks connect… communities care.

Another thing we’re seeing is a view into who our corporate good citizens are. Companies like Walmart are helping their communities and their workers. Will all airlines extend our flyer status? Hilton has already sent out a letter telling everybody that they’re extending all their benefits by a year, as has Delta. You know that these companies are hurting but they’re stepping up. They’re recognizing that the only way they’re going to come back is to look out for their customers. The companies that step-up and do this soon are going to be recognized. It’s just like when you have a hard time in your personal life you find out who your real friends are, right? You’re seeing forward-thinking companies stepping up right away. You know this is not about profits first because we recognize that without our community, we’re nothing. As I have said over and over the past few years… a network gives you reach, but a community gives you power. Networks connect… communities care.

Some examples

I just had a company send me something I had canceled. When I initially called them, they told me I could return it, but I would have to take it to a FedEx store. So I asked them, “Let me get this straight. We’re all under stay-at-home orders, and you’re telling me that in order to get $100 back, I need to leave my house and go to a FedEx store?” Suddenly, they have me hold for a moment and come back with, “You know what? We’d like you to keep it, and we’re going to credit it anyway.” How easy is that? I give them kudos for recognizing that, but it should have been immediate. There was a disconnect with the circumstances. How easy would it be to start a very simple communication with your customer? After this is over you’ll have gained a loyal customer forever!

The problem is that there are bean counters who are not thinking about the company’s reputation. They’re thinking that most people aren’t going to pay attention, and the company probably only has to refund a small percentage of people that take the time to call, and then take it further even when they are refused. They think this is a win because they are not taking into account the downside. So it’s amazing when you see companies like Wegmans that just gave all their employees a $2 raise to take care of their people – the folks who are on the front lines. You may have seen that Starbucks is now giving free coffee to health care workers. Helping people who are helping others is going to impact their business.

Whole Foods is another example. They are doing an amazing job. There’s someone up front counting how many people are in the store, they’re cleaning off carts with Clorox wipes, offering pickup services, and making shopping at their stores a little bit safer for everybody. And ramping up via Amazon Fresh their ability to deliver to your door. Making it easy and simple will not only help people, but accelerate the conversion to delivery for so many. I doubt I will ever visit a Whole Foods store again on a regular basis… I am ‘all in’ on delivery. Amazon has even upped its discovery game when searching Whole Foods products… I have been offered and tried many more awesome vegan products since I have been getting home delivery.

Lowe’s has given all employees an unquestioned four weeks of paid sick leave. Now an employee has one less thing to worry about. They’ve been doing a really good job of well-thought-out communications—not just pushing out things nobody needs. It’s attitude – and mindset. Yes, we need to take care of our business, but we also need to do the right thing, RIGHT NOW, starting with employees… because they are the people taking care of our customers. Then take care of our shoppers, which our employees do better if they are taken care of, so shoppers feel safe and have access to what they need.

Lets hit reset

We are all learning how the current post Coronavirus environment will impact us, both personally and professionally. For some, it’s a reset button introducing time that we didn’t think we could get back. Precious time with family, time for personal development.

This is also true for companies, who have needed a reset button for a long time. Getting back to basics with customer experience, thinking outside the box for solutions to problems, and finding new ways to help our employees help our customers… we should be grateful for these opportunities, so let’s exercise that gratitude by learning, evolving and creating something better for us all.

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