Tag Archives: Marketing

  • 0

Why focusing on value-driven digital marketing could be the key to your brand’s survival

Tags : 


As a digital or social media marketer looking to appropriately guide your brand messaging through the pandemic, your most important job throughout this sensitive period is to strike the right tone. The solution: focus on value-driven content.

At this unprecedented and challenging time in our world, people are deciding what’s truly important to them. Your consumers are eschewing frivolity and what’s not necessary in favor of emphasizing truth in their lives; they’re getting back to basics when it comes to their purchasing focus.

By reframing your messaging on the importance of the key values that are most important to your audience, both right now and as they move forward, you maintain their loyalty, strengthen their bond to your brand long-term, and message ethically. These are all pillars that will allow your brand to further thrive.

What points are most important to focus on so you’re truly speaking to your audience’s needs? Put your team’s full attention on the following five essential areas:

Simple, solid messaging and graphics.

Value-driven digital content consumption needs to be of high quality, according to Wunderland Group. Taking this fact into account, you want to streamline your initial campaign or single ad strategies to emphasize your understanding of what your consumers are grappling with.

Stating points you know to be true from social listening or customer surveys are ideal messages. For example, “We know you need to make every dollar you spend count, and we’re here to help you do it.”

Clear, streamlined graphics and a warm, humane touch from your voiceover narrator are the right ways to drive your point home. Take out the flashy visuals and loud music: focus on simplicity and lead with class and a sense of quiet authority in your messaging. This will reassure your audience you’re genuinely looking out for them.

Making your ad a conversation.

Thirty-five percent of consumers don’t want ads right now and will pay to avoid them, according to the Deloitte Digital Media Trends Survey, 14th Edition. Obviously, you don’t want your ad to be the one even one consumer will do this with, so get around the aversion by making your outreach a two-way street.

Ask for feedback across your platforms in a casual, friendly way. State clearly, “We don’t want to stress you out by ‘selling’ to you — tell us what you need so we can give it to you instead.” This approach can be the perfect way to get some truly invaluable dialogue started. In turn, it can lead to an eye-opening reframe of your entire marketing strategy. Plus, it fosters a genuine, strong give-and-take connection with your customers that can continue well beyond the pandemic.

Keeping it real.

Social Media Today finds that rawness and reliability are now expectations of brands on social rather than just an audience preference. Your audience wants to know you, your CEO, your team, and your employees as people. Take down the curtain and show them an unfiltered, unvarnished, relatable view through direct communication.

How do you accomplish this quickly and effectively? Try video feeds from your employees’ kitchens as they demo new products in real time (cooking a meal with your products if you’re in that sector is a perfect example). Unedited video content is relatable, friendly and highly desired by many demographics right now.

Maintaining total truth in advertising.

Don’t play pricing games, cut deals short, or make your messaging opaque. Focus on honesty in your sales approach. Integrity is non-negotiable.

Accomplishing faultless follow-through.

Immediate responses to consumer complaints and questions across your platforms and via your website, as well as easy contact options for customer service, are crucial. Always think about the exact way you would want to be treated by your brand if you were a consumer reaching out with an issue for the first time.

Lead with what you would expect in that situation, then go one step further to make your strategy even more helpful! It’s humane, it’s brand-boosting, and most of all, it shows your audience that you stand with them at the toughest of times.

Share This:

  • 0

7 smart tips for nailing a virtual pitch

Tags : 


The coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing have forced millions of Americans to work from home. That goes for startup founders and CEOs and sales teams, too.

And that means ditching the in-person meeting and pitching potential investors and prospects remotely via Zoom, Skype and other video conferencing platforms.

But problems with video equipment, as well as the awkwardness that comes with trying to impress prospective investors or clients remotely, can make pitching via video chat more challenging than a traditional face-to-face meeting, says Luis Vasquez, associate director of Venture Capital Collaboration at UC Irvine Beall Applied Innovation.

“A face-to-face pitch gives the presenter a better opportunity to show their personality and communicate intangible attributes like confidence that are important for any CEO or founder of a startup company,” Vasquez says.

Another important key for successful pitching, whether in person or via video chat, is clarity, says Dennis Leonard, an innovation consultant for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA). The EDPA operates Alabama Launchpad, an entrepreneurial support program that hosts startup competitions throughout the year.

“You want to come across with clarity,” Leonard says. “You want the people you’re pitching to understand what your business is about, why they should invest in you and understand that their investment will lead to a return.”

So, because meetings by way of video conferencing will likely be commonplace for the foreseeable future during the pandemic, Vasquez and Leonard offer the following best practices for nailing a virtual pitch.

Make your slides simple.

Keep in mind that unlike an in-person presentation, your audience will watch your virtual pitch on their laptops or some type of external monitor. Consequently, your slides are going to look a lot smaller to them than what they are used to. Therefore, avoid making slides that look cluttered, Vasquez and Leonard say.

“Don’t put too much content on the slides,” Vasquez says. “Make sure there’s enough white space on each slide, and make the text large enough so audience members don’t have to read each slide furiously or squint during your pitch.”

And Leonard warns against displaying slides loaded with technical information.

“If you have highly technical slides,” says Leonard, “use only the ones that are critical for the overall impact of your presentation. Move the rest of the technical slides to the appendix and reference them only if you need to.”

Invest in quality equipment.

For any video conference event, you need a strong internet connection and the right systems and equipment, including a fast computer processor, a high-resolution webcam, video conferencing software, and a laptop or desktop monitor or some other external screen like a television monitor.

Several experts recommend using an external webcam and USB microphone in particular for a crisper sound and image quality.

“For a few hundred dollars,” says Leonard, “you can have a really nice webcam and nice speakers. Your presentation will have a higher quality look and sound to it, and, you’ll look like you’re there to succeed.”

Also, think about lighting. For your presentation, you’ll want to choose a well-lighted room for the pitch, Leonard says. A space where the lighting is too dim could distract from your overall pitch.

Fixing the problem might be as simple as using daylight LED bulbs, rearranging lampstands in the room or buying video conference lighting kits that are available for under $100.

Use the videoconferencing software your audience uses.

“If, for example, you’re presenting to investors, ask what software they would like to use,” says Vasquez, “and, as a CEO or entrepreneur, you should be able to adapt to that software rather than imposing your own software on the audience.”

Leonard says software programs like Zoom Meetings, Microsoft Teams and Skype all have advantages and disadvantages.

“But you want to make it easy for the audience to connect,” he says. “After all, it’s not about your ease. It’s about their ease because if they’re frustrated with connecting with you, they’re probably going to remain frustrated.”

Watch your background.

Plan ahead and make sure the background in the room where you will be presenting is clean and uncluttered, Leonard says.

“Beforehand, take pictures or video of where you’re going to be sitting and look at what’s in your background view because that’s what other people will see,” he says.

If, however, changing up your background isn’t an option, video conferencing apps like Zoom offer virtual background features as an alternative, Vasquez says.

“But, if your background isn’t distracting,” says Vasquez, “I recommend not using a virtual background. With virtual backgrounds, you can lose some of that high definition so it can look a little ghostly around your head. That can take away from the connection that you’re trying to make with your audience.”

Don’t read from a script.

“There’s a greater temptation to read from a script when you’re presenting virtually than when you’re standing in front of people,” says Vasquez, “because when you’re in front of people, it is human nature to want to make that eye contact. But when you’re presenting virtually, the temptation is to forget to look at the camera and, therefore, the audience.”

Instead, learn your script beforehand, he says. Then, during the pitch, maintain solid eye contact with the camera so the audience feels like they’re connecting with you.


It is also important to smile during your presentation, Vasquez says. “When you’re on a call and you’re by yourself, sometimes it is natural to not smile unless you find something funny or amusing. I try to remind myself to smile at the camera because that helps you to make that emotional connection with the audience. That’s the whole goal.”

Practice. Practice. Practice.

“One of my pet peeves is when a presenter asks, ‘Can you see my slides?’” says Vasquez. “That tells me that they’re not confident in the technology that they’re using. Practice using the equipment before the presentation so you look confident to your audience.”

Leonard recalls watching a presentation by a startup entrepreneur who reported having practiced his pitch more than 40 times in front of a mirror and even in front of his wife and children.

“He was a great example of someone who really understood the pitch,” he says. “If you’re going to give a presentation virtually, it’s even more important that you practice, practice, practice.”

Share This:

  • 0

How to work with a resistant client

Tags : 


If you’ve been in business a while, you’ve inevitably encountered a few resistant clients along the way. It’s one of the most challenging aspects of being in business. Sometimes, the resistance is so strong, it can even make you question why you’re still in business.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking a client’s resistance personally and start second-guessing yourself. This is often based on the old-school premise that “the customer is always right.” This is not always the case, as my example below shows.

A few years ago, I worked with a consulting client that from day one, my presence ignited a huge wall of anger and resistance from one of the staff members of the organization. Literally, when I walked into the building to begin some on-site work, this staff member regarded me as if I was a sworn enemy.

This wouldn’t have been an issue except that I was told by the woman who had hired me in as a consultant that I needed to work with this person. Because of this, I was determined to find out what triggered such an unpleasant response to my being there. After a couple of in-depth conversations, I learned that this staff member had been doing the work that I had been contracted to do, and he resented me because I was, in essence, “taking that away from him.” His anger wasn’t at me but at his boss. Once he admitted what the anger was about, he no longer took it out on me.

It took some inquiry and exploration on my part to determine why anger was being directed at me without cause. What was most important was that I approached the conversation without judgment or criticism, so the staff member wouldn’t become defensive, thereby fueling his anger.

Instead, I spoke to him with a sense of curiosity and genuine interest, which diffused the intensity of emotion he was feeling and allowed us to reach a place of authentic connection.

With resistant clients, business owners, of course, do need to do a bit of assessment to see if the resistance is a reaction to a flawed product or service, poor customer service or some other in-house issue. But once that’s been assessed, and either corrected or found to not be the source of the resistance, then it’s necessary to see that it may truly be a reaction coming from the client’s own (often skewed) perception of the situation.

While unpleasant, resistance can be a wonderful teacher. It requires that we slow down, tune in, listen and take the pulse of the situation. It calls upon us as business owners to become teachable and open to discovering new and better ways to improve our client relationships.

To assist you with that process, I’ve compiled some tips that might be helpful when you next encounter a resistant client.


  1. Pause and assess the situation to see if the resistance is based on something that needs attention in your business.
  2. Tune in and listen to the client, approaching the resistance in a spirit of inquiry so you can see the situation from his/her perspective.
  3. Focus on how to resolve the disconnect with solutions, instead of focusing on the problems and difficulties.
  4. Set clear, healthy boundaries so that you and the client both know what to expect going forward.

Ideally, when you encounter resistance you want do what you can to build a bridge of connection and trust with the client so it’s a win-win and all parties get what they want from the encounter. If one side of the relationship is contracting and withdrawing from the connection, it strongly decreases the chances of a successful outcome for everyone involved. In some cases, even after following all the above steps, you’ll still encounter resistance and may even have to end that client relationship.

Business is built on relationships. To be successful, business owners need to attain a certain degree of mastery in this messy and unpredictable terrain. Knowing how to navigate resistance is a great place to start.

Share This:

  • 0

Baby boomers deserve a lot of attention from businesses, too

Tags : 


Jill Filipovic argues in her new book, “OK Boomers, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind,” that millennials have been going through tougher economic circumstances than any other generation since the Great Depression. I am neither a millennial nor a boomer, but the media coverage about Filipovic’s arguments got my attention.

The fact is, no matter if we are in the position of supporting or challenging Filipovic’s propositions, we cannot deny that we need boomers to boost post-pandemic consumption. Besides millennials and Gen Zers, baby boomers also deserve big attention from businesses.

Boomers have time and money

Boomers, now aged between 56 and 74 (or 77, depending on which cutoff point we are using), make up of 71.6 million of the U.S.’ population, according to July 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center. Boomers are now behind the millennials in total population, whose population has reached 72.1 million.

While COVID-19 has pushed more people to delay retirement, about half of the boomers may have retired. Many of them are empty nesters, too, although 35% of Americans in their 20s are now staying with their parents or grandparents. Back in 2006, less than 24% of Americans in their 20s did so. The share of those in their 30s remains unchanged in the same period. Regardless, boomers need not devote as much time to work or to their children as the younger generations do.

Before the pandemic hit, reports showed that older workers make more money than younger ones. Starting at age 36, for example, workers’ median total income reached $50,000 a year. Their income increased to $67,500 at age 67.

COVID-19 has indeed made devastating impacts on the global economy. Still, the retired boomers are more likely to have a stable source of income (retirement) and more accumulated savings. The empty nesters tend to have more time for leisure activities.

Boomers can fuel leisure travels

The pandemic has significantly disrupted the travel and hospitality industry, but people want to travel. For coomers, 2020 was “a lost year;” they have been waiting for safe air and cruise travel.

Many boomers have postponed their trips. In some cases, they do not want to wait any longer simply because they are afraid their age or health conditions might not allow them to handle long trips anymore.

According to STR, the U.S. hotel weekly occupancy ending on August 1 was at 48.9%. That was a major improvement from the 22.0% occupancy back in late March and early April. The average daily rate for the week was $100.04.

Furthermore, weekend occupancy between July 31 and August 1 was 57.4%, much better than the weekday occupancy. Additionally, resort hotels were able to charge higher rates than non-resort hotels of the same scale/class category.

The above data suggests that people have begun traveling for leisure purposes. Business travels, which usually occur during the weekdays and in city centers, have not shown signs of recovery yet.

Boomers have time and money to spend on leisure activities. They can definitely help fill the empty rooms or empty airplane seats during the weekdays when the demand is low.

Retailers can benefit from the boomers, too

Major retailers have been forced to switch their focus to delivery and curbside pickup services. Some even decided to close during Thanksgiving and adjust holiday shopping hours.

Boomers can be very good at online shopping, too. According to a 2019 report at the Pew Research Center, there has been significant growth in tech adoption among Gen Xers and boomers since 2012. These two groups are not far behind the millennials regarding tech adoption in many measures. Marketing efforts that promote e-commerce activities should be adjusted to cover more than just millennials or young customers.

Gen Xers are ignored again?! They really should not be

Gen Xers, who are now between 40 (or 41) and 55, have an estimated U.S. population of 65.2 million. They are projected to surpass the boomers by 2028. Supposedly, Gen Xers are in their mid-career and make decent incomes. The older Gen Xers could be empty nesters, too. Most of all, they are still young enough to take on more adventurous leisure activities.

In the end, may I make a suggestion here? Instead of arguing which generation suffers the most, shall we embrace the differences among all generations? Let’s support one another, no matter if it is in good or bad times.

Share This:

  • 0

7 tips for managing a team remotely

Tags : 


In 2020, even teams who have never worked remotely are starting to embrace a distanced mode of operation.

However, remote work comes with its unique set of challenges, and if you’ve never embraced them before, you might find yourself struggling more than you expected.

We’re here to help you out, so let’s look at seven ways to manage your remote teams better.

1. Make sure they have what they need

Working from home (or even from a coffee shop or a park) is very different from working in an office, especially in terms of the equipment you may or may not have.

To ensure your teams do their best work, make sure all of them have the tools they need to perform: computers, fast internet, and all the software and other essentials they might require.

2. Communicate every day

Feeling isolated is acommon side effect of working from home, so make sure you try to mimic that community feel when working remotely.

Dedicate some time each week or each day to staying in touch (depending on the size of your team). Have team calls as well as one-on-one calls and encourage smaller groups and individuals to communicate with each other often. You can use automated calendar scheduling apps like Woven or Calendly to easily coordinate with your team if they are in different time zones.

Make sure your emotions and intentions are clear as well, by using gifs and emoticons in your chats. You might think this seems a bit unprofessional, but it will actuallymake communication much easier and more pleasant.

3. Trust is more important than ever

Trusting someone will get their work done while working in an office is one thing, trusting they will do the same remotely is quite another.

Instead of obsessing over who is working what hours and if they are working at all, try to hold on to the trust and believe everyone will get everything done on time. Don’t question your employees about their working hours or productivity, and don’t impose rigorous time and task tracking on them.

4. Measure outcomes instead of processes

While processes are incredibly important, when working remotely, it’s more about the outcome.

Let your remote employees work in their own time and on their own terms. You can, of course, set some office hours when everyone is expected to be in and available in order to facilitate better communication. But in general, let everyone figure out how they work best.

Focus on the results of someone’s work, and not how many hours they needed to get there.

5. Emphasize the importance of work-life balance

Talk to your employees about the importance of rest and relaxation as opposed to working flat out. Teach them how beneficial it is to unplug from work and pursue their hobbies. That way, they won’t fall into the trap of working extra-long hours, thinking this is what is expected of them.

Discuss topics like how the way we wake up affects our day or the harmfulness of blue light before bedtime, and talk about different positive habits that promote restful sleep.

6. Be perfectly clear

Since you’re not in the same room, effectively communicating your messages becomes even more important. Write down the main points of what you want to convey before you jump on a call, and make sure you say them as you’ve written them down, clearly and without improvisation.

You need to leave no room for misunderstandings. You can even write down the critical points of a meeting and circulate them via email or store them on the cloud, so everyone can reference them when necessary.

7. Offer praise

Remote employees can often feel a bit left out and like no one sees all of their hard work. You can easily remedy this if youoffer praise where it’s due, both to the individual doing a good job, and more officially by praising them in front of the entire team.

Try to offer more positive encouragement and praise than usual when working with remote staff, as this can have an incredibly beneficial impact on their performance.

Final thoughts

Managing remote teams can be quite the challenge, and you’re likely to make some mistakes along the way. But that’s all part of the process. Stick to the advice we’ve outlined, and you should have no trouble coaching your team to the top and ensuring everyone performs their best.

Share This:

  • 0

It’s fix it time: Making downtime work for associations

Tags : 


What do you do when an ongoing pandemic forces you to temporarily shut down your operation?

For a lot of businesses, you use this time to make needed repairs and modifications — to do things you’ve been meaning to attack for a long time but never seemed to be able to get done.

Restaurants and bars are working on those remodeling projects they’ve put off for years. Airlines have started cleaning their planes to get a level of sanitation that probably should have been there all along. The New York City transit system has even been shutting down the system for a couple of hours overnight to clean subway cars — something that was probably decades overdue.

That works well for equipment or a physical plant, but what about associations? What should you fix, repair, or upgrade during this period?

Here are a few things on your marketing “fix it” list you can now take the time to check off:

Clean out old offerings. Go deep into the closet and pull out those programs and services you’ve been keeping around — just in case. If they haven’t been out in public for a year or more, why are they still there? Get rid of them.

Spruce up your website. Time to throw a fresh coat of paint on your website. Update the graphics. Streamline the copy. Make sure all links work correctly. Consider what else you can add to your site that will provide value to your members. While you’re at it, take a critical eye to your social media presence as well.

Remodel your marketing plan. It’s going to be a long, long time before we can have large in-person events again. And it may be just as long before we have the freedom and inclination to travel.

Given that, what are your new marketing goals? What are your plans to retain existing members? How will you attract new ones? What will you do to stay top of mind when you can’t physically be in the same room?

Repair your database. Do you have an up-to-date list of your members? Does this include all the information you need to effectively market to them? Have you deleted old and outdated data?

Sharpen your tools. There’s nothing worse than pulling out a tool when you need it only to find the blade needs sharpening or the handle is loose. Take this time to assess your member management system, e-commerce capabilities, lead management programs, survey and mail tools. Make sure they’re all running as expected. Are there upgrades to implement? Is it time to integrate new capabilities? Do that now, while you can.

Build a new addition to your product line. The world has changed. What kind of new offerings can you create to respond? Go beyond the ubiquitous Zoom meetings and webinars. What other creative ideas do you have to offer services to members who have new — perhaps critical — needs?

Get to know your neighbors a little better. We’re all in this together. How can you work more closely with other organizations or associations? Are there joint programs you can offer? Can you cross-promote each other’s offerings? Can you pass on a contact or resource that might be valuable to them?

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there while others renovate. Make the most of this time to create a more modern, updated marketing program. You’ll feel better about yourself and so will your members.

Share This:

  • 0

Creating a successful virtual fundraising event

Tags : 


As nonprofits scramble to reimagine their fundraising goals, many have chosen to cancel in-person events altogether. But without annual galas and luncheons scheduled for 2020, organizations risk missing an important opportunity to receive much-needed funding. Worse still, they stand to lose engagement from key donors over time.

Creating a compelling virtual fundraising event might feel like an uphill battle. But with a little creativity, an online fundraiser can deliver many of the perks of an in-person event. Organizations can also extend their reach further online and connect with potential donors across the globe.

Successful fundraising events must do more than simply share an organization’s mission and motivate attendees to donate. They also need to provide enjoyment along the way. A Zoom meeting with board members won’t replicate the experience of a sorely missed annual gala. However, a virtual casino night with home-delivered cocktails, appetizers, and table decorations might do the trick.

The key to hosting an engaging virtual fundraising event is to tell a good story and to remember how to entertain your guests. To keep donors engaged during your next virtual fundraiser, consider the following ideas.

Set the tone.

Pre-record or livestream footage of the VIPs of your charity making a red-carpet entrance. Or, invite guests to record and submit a short message of themselves at home in full cocktail attire before the event.

Rather than just signing onto another virtual meeting, streaming this footage beforehand creates a soft entrance that mirrors the staggered arrival of attendees at a typical in-person event. Not only will this lighten the mood, but it can also create an opportunity for guests to recognize and reconnect with familiar faces within their organization.

Give attendees a fun night out at home.

Swanky cyber-soiree attendees could enjoy an elegant dinner delivered to their homes by a local restaurant. Table settings, party favors, and décor can be pre-shipped or even personally delivered by a local representative in black-tie attire. Consider working with a well-known chef to create a custom menu for the event. This will make attendees feel like they got the chance to have a fun night out without leaving the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Use entertainment as a tool for both engagement and fundraising.

Just like a headliner draws people to a live event, booking a well-known performer can also attract potential donors to an online fundraiser. A renowned keynote speaker, musician, comedian, or magician can reinforce your organization’s message while entertaining guests.

For virtual auctions, pull in a local or national celebrity as the auctioneer to bring another level of entertainment to the fundraiser. Auction off a VIP “backstage pass” for a one-on-one video chat with the celebrity. Or, send autographed swag to the winner in the mail.

To entertain guests and raise money, host a virtual casino night. Or, offer attendees the opportunity to purchase tickets to join various virtual breakout sessions, like cocktail-making classes or a meet-and-greet with a local celebrity. Get creative and know your audience.

Keep it professional by hiring a professional.

Technology is great — when it works. However, we’ve all experienced technological malfunctions and user error. This can be embarrassing and seem unprofessional, especially in front of a live audience. Instead of trying to do everything on your own, hire a producer or production company. They are excellent resources for all aspects of your event.

In addition to technical support, these companies can provide event talent and create custom written speeches for the executive director, board members, and others. Trained coaches can help your team look and sound their best in a virtual setting. This will leave you more time to focus on the guests and the fundraising, making the event more worthwhile for everyone.

Don’t let the party end after guests log off.

Virtual platforms allow event organizers to keep track of their attendees. Be sure to follow up via email to get feedback on the event and to provide actionable ways for attendees to assist your charity during these difficult times. Consider thanking participants by mailing them gift bags with custom masks, hand sanitizer, or other branded items.

Before too long, you will be able to rub elbows again with your generous donors in person. Until then, virtual fundraising events can help you keep donors engaged by bringing entertainment right to their door.

Share This:

  • 0

5 ways entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in a VUCA world

Tags : 


“Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” When the U.S. Army War College first introduced these four words in 1987, it drew on the leadership ideas of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus to describe the effects of the end of the Cold War on the world.

Since then, both world leaders and business strategists have applied these terms (which often go by the acronym ”VUCA”) to reflect the relative chaos and instability caused by other world events, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Great Recession of 2008-09, and now, the coronavirus pandemic.

As world crises evolve, change is inevitable, and yet we hear references to the “new normal” as each situation settles down, and people adjust and get back to their lives. For example, after 9/11, our new normal included new security procedures at airports around the world. After the Great Recession, it included lasting effects for each generation, such as a fear by baby boomers that they wouldn’t be able to retire on time; fear by Gen Xers that they would be unable to purchase a home; fear by millennials that they couldn’t cover emergency expenses, and fear by Gen Zers that they might not ever be able to make ends meet.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, some have speculated about what our new normal will look like this time. Are large, in-person events gone forever? Will wearing masks become second nature, like wearing clothes or shoes? Will we ever get to travel again? Which businesses will survive?

If you are an entrepreneur, you tend to deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity on a daily basis. There’s no “new” normal here, because challenges are inherent in starting and running a successful business. And while psychologists advise tapping into emotional intelligence to tame personal stress, I’m offering five practical ways to inoculate your business against future VUCA events:

1. Conduct a “state of the business” audit.

If nothing else, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to test the completeness and reliability of your policies and procedures. Now is a perfect time ­­— while the latest VUCA event is still in progress ­­— to gather feedback from your team about what’s working and what isn’t.

2. Update (or create) your business continuity plan.

If you created a plan early on in your business and checked it off your to-do list, it may have been buried on your server or gathering dust on a shelf as the pandemic spread. With the successes and failures of your company’s response still fresh in your mind, create an action plan that includes:

  • Updating emergency contacts for all employees.
  • Appointing a Pandemic Point Person to keep up with COVID developments and disseminate employee communication as you reopen or react to a second wave.
  • Updating (or creating) your succession plan.
  • Cross training employees.
  • Developing “outage” scenarios (critical software failures, supply chain failures, etc.) and plans for workarounds.

3. Work with your financial adviser to assess cash-flow problems and create contingencies.

An interpretive adviser, one who can both provide you with critical information and help guide you to the best decision to address your needs. And don’t just focus on the business: Your adviser should consider your personal financial situation as part of the overall picture.

4. Update (or create) your crisis communication plan.

How well have you communicated with customers, suppliers, regulators or other key stakeholders about how your company is operating (or not) during the pandemic? What would you do differently in another crisis?

One way to create an actionable crisis communication plan is to anticipate a variety of scenarios that could trigger the plan (think natural disaster, criminal behavior, or the death of key employee). If you’ve never created such a plan, HubSpot offers free templates and other advice to get you or a team member started.

5. Review and update your supplier agreements.

As the coronavirus outbreak spread, the nation watched as both federal and state authorities, desperate to shore up supplies of personal protection equipment and other medical supplies, turned to untested sources. How well did your suppliers meet your needs? Do you have reliable backups in place in the event of another, or a different emergency?

At some level, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will always affect entrepreneurs, but anticipating difficulty and knowing what to do when it strikes can mean the difference between success and failure.

As an antidote to a VUCA world, entrepreneurial leaders can choose to turn VUCA’s meaning into a leadership strategy, such as the one developed by Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future: Turn volatility into vision, uncertainty into understanding, complexity into clarity, and ambiguity into agility, and make those your new normal. You’ll be better prepared for any situation the future might hold.

Share This:

  • 0

The 7 P’s marketing mix of home-sharing services: Insights from over 1 million Airbnb reviews

Tags : 


The 7 P’s marketing mix framework is a widely used managerial tool that helps businesses identify the principal components of a service product. The 7 P elements include Product, Promotion, Price, Place, Participant, Physical Evidence, and Process.

The 7 P’s framework can assist marketers in making decisions regarding segmentation, positioning, and differentiation. Even for the same type of products with different brands, marketers can still drive higher sales through the improvement of a product’s marketing mix.

The empirical study about 7 P’s of home-sharing services

Building upon the 7 P’s marketing mix framework, I led a research team in a big-data, supervised machine learning analysis of over 1.14 million English-language reviews of 37,092 Airbnb listings in San Francisco (SFO) and New York City (NYC). We aimed to discover meaningful new business intelligence through the analysis of an immense quantity of online review information created by consumers in the cyber marketplace.

We published the research in the International Journal of Hospitality Management. The report can also be accessed in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection.

The three research questions of the study

1. What does the marketing mix revealed from consumers’ online review data on Airbnb inform us about travelers’ experience of home-sharing products?

2. Do travelers comment on the similar element(s) of the marketing mix for their home-sharing stays with multi-unit and single-unit hosts? In other words, do travelers share similar experiences for their home-sharing stays with multi-unit vs. single-unit hosts through a comparison of the two product types’ marketing mix?

3. Do travelers comment on the similar element(s) of the marketing mix for their home-sharing stays with superhosts and ordinary hosts? In other words, do travelers share similar experiences for their home-sharing stays with superhosts vs. ordinary hosts through a comparison of the two product types’ marketing mix?

The data and the analysis

We downloaded the data from InsideAirbnb.com, an independent, nonprofit website that provides publicly accessible data collected from Airbnb.com. We picked SFO for its being a gateway city in the West Coast and Airbnb’s birthplace and NYC for its being a gateway city in the East Coast and a top tourist destination. We downloaded 233,070 reviews of 4,381 Airbnb listings in SFO and 1,047,337 reviews of 32,985 Airbnb listings in NYC in September/October 2018.

We then cleaned the dataset by removing all non-English reviews, retrieving 94.3% (219,833) and 88.6% (928,229) of the reviews that were written in English from the SFO and NYC markets, respectively. We used a sentence as a unit for data annotation under the assumption that people usually express one idea in one sentence.

Through a series of preliminary analyses, we concluded that most sentences expressed one of the elements in our coding schema, with about 3% of the sentences mentioned two or more of the elements. In the cases when a sentence can be labeled with more than one element, the most probable element was used in our analysis.

7 P’s marketing mix as the coding schema

We trained the model to annotate the sentences using the following coding schema before we applied the validated algorithms to analyze the whole dataset.

  • Service Product (PT): words that describe the overall impression of the intangible experiential product, e.g., “A great experience.”
  • Price (PR): words that indicate the price or value of the experiential product, e.g., “Rather than renting two hotel rooms, we split this 2-bed Airbnb and probably saved $300 per night.”
  • Place (PL): words referring to the location of a listing, e.g., “Short walk to the Bart station.”
  • Promotion (PO): words comparing what the traveler(s) observed against a listing’s photos or descriptions on the website, e.g., “The place was exactly as advertised!”
  • Participant (PP): words mentioning the host(s) or people/pets in the listing, e.g., “The hosts were also extremely friendly and accommodating.”
  • Physical Evidence (PE): words that describe the tangible aspect of the experiential product, such as the physical attributes and the facility of a listing, e.g., “Details like flowers, wine openers, Brita water pitcher, shampoo, added to our relaxation.”
  • Service Process (PS): words that emphasize the process where the traveler(s) received a service, with or without the interactions with the host, e.g., “[host name] left detailed instructions for us upon our arrival.”
  • Traveler (TR): words that are irrelevant to the experiential product (Airbnb) itself, e.g., “We had ice cream for dessert two nights in a row (The Best!) and walked home with our cones feeling very happy indeed.”

The results

Travelers in both markets mentioned PT (about 26%) and PE (about 25%) most often, followed by PL (at about 19%) and PP (at about 15%). PS (less than 10%) was usually about the check-in process and how the hosts handled customer service issues. Travelers seldom talked about PO (about 2%) and PR (about 1%).

Research question two is to compare travelers’ experiences between multi-unit and single-unit hosts. We found almost no observable differences except that travelers would mention the host names more often for single-unit hosts. Such a finding suggests that multi-unit hosts are as competitive as single-unit hosts. Hoteliers should pay close attention to multi-unit hosts in the market because they are the micro-entrepreneurs and professional operators of home-sharing services.

Research question three is about the differences between superhosts and ordinary hosts. On average, listings managed by superhosts recorded more reviewers than the ones managed by ordinary hosts, a good indicator that travelers favor listings managed by superhosts. Travelers staying in the listings managed by superhosts commented more on their wonderful experience (PT) and the hosts (PP).

In contrast, those staying in the listings managed by ordinary hosts commented more on the physical evidence (PE) and the location (PL). Possibly, when travelers do not have as much to talk about PT and PP for ordinary hosts as they would for superhosts, they comment more on PE and PL instead.

COVID-19’s possible impacts on the research findings

COVID-19 is expected to change how people travel, and it will take a long time before we see a real recovery. Now more than ever, hygiene and cleanliness have become the top priority among consumers, hotels, and tourism companies. Travelers’ emphasis on the 7 P elements could have shifted in the post-COVID-19 era, such as about the upkeep and cleanliness of a place (PE) and avoiding direct human contact (PP & PS).

The implications

Besides this study’s theoretical and methodological contributions, the results provide valuable insights for the hosts who want to compete with superhosts. Meanwhile, hoteliers may refer to our findings as they seek improvement of their existing products or want to differentiate their products from home-sharing services. Lastly, we recommend the policymakers to consider restricting the professional operators or multi-unit hosts in the short-term residential rental market.

What do you think about the research findings? To what extent does the 7 P’s marketing mix reflect travelers’ experiences of home-sharing services?

Share This:

  • 0

Study:  A look at how consumers are making real-time purchase decisions during the pandemic

Tags : 


As a marketer, you understand that many factors go into the way families decide to purchase a product or not. Before COVID-19, consumers had ample opportunity to plan ahead for a large purchase.

Now? Changing conditions regarding employment, lockdowns, and budgeting stringently means millions of consumers must make many buying decisions on a day-to-day basis.

So how can you get inside their minds on a granular level to strike the right messaging tone — and do it with integrity? Fascinating new research can help.

A recently published study from researchers Flavia Cardoso, Pilar Rojas-Gaviria and Daiane Scaraboto, “Restoring balance: how consumers orchestrate family care following unplanned disruptions,” finds that during times of economic uncertainty, families pivot between so-called “grounding” activities and “aerial” action.

Grounding activities include maintaining day-to-day routines, and aerial action includes more creative thinking to solve problems that crop up and maintain inspiration when life is on shaky ground. You can see that as part of keeping balance and equilibrium in a family unit, a consumer can “ground” by preserving resources and making concrete financial decisions as a base for overall needs and budgeting.

At the same time, depending on changing day-to-day conditions during the pandemic, consumers are also dealing with unforeseen events, and families have to pivot and adjust to changing conditions in real time. The study focuses on how this “dance” is relevant to the issue of caregiving within a family when illness and changing conditions cause disruptions in normal family life and activities. These kinds of disruptions, obviously, can have a major impact on how family consumption strategies play out.

According to the study, one member of the family tends to orchestrate the “dance” between both “grounding” and “aerial” approaches to ensure their household has everything it needs to function as safely and as smoothly as possible. Factors related uniquely to the pandemic, such as upended careers and restricted income, play a huge role in how that family member will choose to proceed.

To support these families, the researchers feel they need support: flexible public policies and support from organizations that can offer help without telling them what to do. The goal is to help families “dance” in the moment as circumstances in the world change — and make sure they have the resources to do so.

Taking this information into account, how do you do your part in helping your customers accomplish this? First of all, it’s key you do not take advantage of your consumers’ circumstances in your messaging at this incredibly challenging time. Your business model must be humane and scaled down in terms of profit expectations. No manipulation; no hard selling.

At all times, you want to help your consumers by emphasizing how your products can keep them moving forward — providing energy, time, focus, and hope for the future — in a flexible way, as opposed to giving them static messaging that reminds them of the past normal. You also want to emphasize support and workability in terms of pricing and payment options, which is extremely key when their resources may be in flux.

Provide a wide range of “support tools,” as the researchers suggest. This approach will help you hold on to your existing demographic and attract new customers, even during these turbulent times. Reframe your brand thinking so that you see your consumers as “jugglers”…reading the tea leaves to decide how best to proceed as they fill their household’s needs.

Share This: