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Top marketing and business writers: Advice on surviving the pandemic

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Over the years, I have had the privilege to meet and get to know some of the nation’s most respected business and marketing writers. While we try to focus our attention on Delaware businesses, I thought it might be valuable to ask some of them to answer a simple question: Can you offer one or two suggestions to help our Delaware businesses “pivot” and position their businesses to be more successful today and when the economy inevitable begins its recovery? 

Here are their answers. And we have more coming soon, including Gini Dietrich, Todd Henry, Scott Stratten, Tom Morris, and David Burkus: 


There’s no better time than a crisis to run a pre-mortem: imagine that your company fails to survive over the next few months.  Have a discussion with your team about the factors that caused you to fail.  Contemplating that future is the best way to prevent it. 

Adam Grant has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years and has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers and Fortune’s 40 under 40He is the author of four New York Times best-selling books: Give and TakeOriginalsOption B, and Power Moves.  



Jumping fearlessly into the unknown is why most of us become entrepreneurs. As a grizzled boot-strap entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley for 32 years, we’re been through eight reinventions. You have to reinvent or reshape your business because the market is in constant flux. Customer sentiment changes quickly and you need to make sure you are at the right place in the future where your clients will be. But, some of the most company-defining decisions ever made were counter-intuitive moves made in the middle of economic crisis. For example, while the dot com bubble burst, I cut four out of five of our services so we could be experts in just one thing. I published my first book and launched a training business in September 2008 just as the crash hit and the business was not impacted by that downturn. In fact, decisions I’m making this week are wiring the company DNA for the next hundred years. You’ve got this! 

Nancy Duarte has “cracked the code for effectively incorporating story patterns into business communications.” She’s written five best-selling books, including slide:ologyResonate; HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations; Illuminate; and her most recent book, Data Story.  



The most urgent thing from an analytics perspective is to look at your digital marketing analytics from the day of the shelter at home order in your locality. Everything you know about your business prior to that date is effectively invalid; pretend your business just started on the day of shelter at home. What do you see? What’s working to still attract audiences? What’s no longer working? You may find renewed importance in things like email marketing, SEO, etc. Focus on those channels and market to them as best as you can. 

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. He has shaped four key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, modern email marketing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning in marketing. Christopher is co-founder and chief data scientist for Trust Insights Inc.  



Now is the time to focus on building an audience. It’s no secret that the next few years are going to be challenging for almost all businesses, so now needs to be the beginning of a two-year ramp up to creating an audience that truly wants to receive the information you have (in your expertise area). This could be a podcast, an amazing e-newsletter, a regular Facebook show…whatever. Focus first on the people who already know you. What are their needs? What keeps them up at night? Then, deliver something great, consistently, to them that isn’t pitching your product. Be of service to them. Help them. If you do that over the next few years, you’ll be in an amazing position to generate multiple lines of revenue from this audience when the smoke clears. 

Joe Pulizzi is the Amazon bestselling author of Killing Marketing, Content Inc. and Epic Content Marketing, which was named a “Must-Read Business Book” by Fortune Magazine. His latest book is The Will to Die, his debut novel. He has founded three companies, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and has launched dozens of events, including Content Marketing World. 



I was an advisor to several companies during the great recession and here’s what I took away from that challenging time. 

  1. Take amazing care of your employees.  Tell them you appreciate them, give them all of the help and support that you can, celebrate every when big or small and let them know that they hold the future of your business in their hands. 
  1. Now is the time to deliver the best work your company has ever produced.  You have to be so good they can’t ignore you.  The most powerful marketing you can do is to create extremely happy customers who tell lots of people to support your business. 
  1. Get closer to your customers than you ever have been before.  Talk to them, ask them how they are doing, see how you can add more value.  People will remember for a long time after this how you treated them now. 
  1. Focus on your numbers but don’t be paranoid.  Look at your numbers while you are calm and be thoughtful about the difficult decisions you have to make and then create red flags to alert you when it is necessary that you make some of those hard decisions. 

Focus intently on the first three items and hopefully you won’t have to worry too much about number four. 

John Spence is recognized as one of the top business thought leaders and leadership development experts in the world and was named by the American Management Association as one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch. His books include Awesomely Simple. 



You constantly hear financial analysts talk about diversifying your income. That works for a business as well as an individual. Fortunately, the Internet gives even local retail business owners the opportunity to become what I call “Alsos.” I own a local retail clothing store, but am also a fashion blogger, or I am also a small business expert. By taking your knowledge and experience and channeling it into thought leadership type content for social networks, you expand your audience and open new opportunities. Thought leaders in the online space can wind up speaking at conferences (for money), writing books (for money), creating online lessons or lectures (for money) and beyond. The opportunity and the knowledge to do it is out there. The trick is normally having the confidence in your own smarts to think people might want to learn from you. Trust me. Many do. 

Jason Falls is a digital marketing author and strategist at Lexington, Ky.,-based advertising agency Cornett. His website is jasonfalls.com. 



How can you lower the barrier to trial?  Rather than telling potential customers how great you are, make it easier for them to experience what you’re offering and allow them to see the value themselves. Easier to try means more likely to buy. 

Jonah Berger is a Wharton professor and bestselling author of Contagious and The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind 




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