I am writing this from one of three go-to working spots in my home. I have three spots because there is no one optimal place to work. When we purchased our home I did not think I needed a home office. After all, I had an office to work from. Under normal circumstances when I come home from my office, I am here for my family; any work needing to be performed while at home can be handled from a few comfortable spots scattered throughout. Needless to say, I never anticipated this being my sole working hub for six-plus weeks. It’s a good thing The Basement was already, technically, set up for it.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Those three paradigms of time take on a different weight right now, don’t they? What we thought we needed yesterday, what we need today, what will be needed tomorrow. Wow, the thought right now requires more, well, thought. Like my consideration regarding a home office a few years back, many businesses are facing similar challenges today, on a much grander scale.As they are waking up to the cold reality post-COVID-19, what they did not think they needed a few years back, they now need. I saw a cartoon by Tom Fishburne, linked here showing a group in a corner boardroom with the caption, “Digital transformation is YEARS away, I don’t see our company having to change anytime soon.” Outside, a gigantic wrecking ball with COVID-19 on it is about to smash through the wall. About now is when articles turn to say, “See? We told you, technology is what you need. Get your [fill in the blank with whatever technology will cure all your ills] and you will survive and thrive into the future!” No, that’s not where I am going. After all, I have been a marketing professional and business owner for the majority of my career. I am looking at this through that lens, and at a time like this when the whistlers and jugglers can peddle technological cure-alls — that’s not me, not now. We’ll get back to that cartoon in a moment.
My motivation for coming out of my bunker and composing this piece is something, I believe, that has always been important. It’s something that has been a cornerstone of my business relationship with Brian (which now spans almost twenty years), building our business, our company culture and something we bring to every client relationship: continuous progress. At a time like this, it is more important than ever.
To achieve this ongoing progress, we have spent our days examining our business, looking for ways to improve, looking at ways to innovate, looking for ways we can provide more value to our clients. This examination includes us spending a lot of time listening to our teams discuss our clients’ businesses. One of our biggest sources of accomplishment as advertisers and marketers is how progress plays an integral role in all aspects of The Basement’s client relationships. Like a marriage, for better or worse, the relationship is always moving forward, whether we realize it or not. This also includes challenges along the way — little failures, if you will — that create discomfort and uneasiness. Soon after, these are followed by an authentic and sincere effort to improve. Therein lies the progress.
Our daily execution of continuous progress includes the following:
- An understanding that everything we do, be it strategy, creative, media or analysis has to be collaboratively explored with our client. We are in this together.
- The Basement team and the client have to be active listeners and willing to accept the truths that are discovered. We must also be willing to act on those truths in the best interest of the brand and its customers, even when it creates discomfort or uneasiness. The truth has always been the best foundation for the most successful strategies.
- Not everything we execute together will be a home run, but we are examining data pulled from our efforts so we understand, together, how we can continue to improve and achieve the results we want.
- Murky reports, over-generalizations and unreported commissions do not equate to transparency. We have earned our clients’ trust by openly collaborating on strategy and creative, providing guidance based on granular reporting, specific strategies, clear and open media reporting, and consulting through results and billing.
- This is not easy. This kind of work requires a variety of specialists, some business intelligence, some creative, some management, a healthy amount of technology and associated expertise, and lots of collaboration leveraging a ton of focus.
- Ultimately this process yields growth — growth in results, growth in personal experience, growth in value and growth in our relationship. Growing often can create discomfort, but it is necessary to move forward.
In trade publications covering this extraordinary time, I’ve read many marketing executives exclaim, “We are fighting for our jobs!” My thought is, “When are you not fighting for your jobs?” That, to me, is not extraordinary; it is every day, all the time, year in and year out. This is not work to be taken lightly and this process is not easy; successfully marketing consumer or B2B brands in the twenty-first century is not for the faint of heart. To progress, to innovate and to remain authentic through the process requires the courage to follow the truth to success. However, when done properly, marketing executives have the data and results to prove their worth over and over again. We have been fortunate enough to see it happen with our clients repeatedly.
So, what about Tom Fishburne’s cartoon? If a culture focused on progress had been present, perhaps those folks in the boardroom would not be getting smacked by the wrecking ball? A truthful and clear recognition of the future, with or without COVID-19, could have driven them further down the path to innovative ways of doing business. Managing through the uneasiness of progress during the normal times could have not only helped them lessen the blow of the wrecking ball, but maybe, dare I say, helped them avoid that particular boardroom all together? Perhaps they would understand what they needed yesterday, today and tomorrow regardless of unforeseen wreckage. To be literal, very few can predict a COVID-19 scenario; however, when your industry is moving away from past paradigms gradually and moving into new ones rapidly, and a business chooses to keep its head in the sand, a situation such as COVID-19 inevitably expedites the next steps for that organization. Continuous progress has never been more important.