As we slowly return to the office and reawaken our marketing and sales strategies, new challenges lie ahead for all of us. We’re excited to partner with our fellow AMA Chapters in Iowa and Milwaukee for a virtual panel discussion on Wednesday, June 17, from 3:30-5:00 p.m.! We’ve put together a panel of three fantastic speakers to provide attendees with a Marketer’s Guide to Content, Branding, and Sales. Get your tickets today!

Our experts will each host a breakout session during the event; you can select which you’d like to attend when you register. Here’s a sneak peek at the panelists, their discussion topics, and how they’ve been dealing with the pandemic in their own businesses.

 

CONTENT MARKETING: Laura Gallagher, The Creative Company

Laura is President and Founder of the Creative Company, a PR and web development agency in Madison that represents nonprofit, B2B, and B2C brands throughout the United States.

Q:  How has your business been navigating the pandemic?

Overall, I’d give us an 8 or a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. We’ve stayed steady while adapting to the strong and steady winds adjusting our sails as we go. We had just moved The Creative Company to a temporary location (one block off of East Washington Avenue near the Spark Building) on February 28 while our new building is being built. We’re here for 14 months. We had discussed WFH at length, but felt we really needed to have room to be together and for clients to meet, even if it is for just a year or so until the new space is ready. Shelter at Home began mid-March, so we were disrupted twice in a matter of weeks. Some clients paused, while others needed more services. New business pitches were still presented but all were on hold. Finally, at the end of May, things began to open up again. Although I had presented a preliminary marketing plan to my team on March 12, we immediately pivoted towards crisis communications training, working with our partners at the Wisconsin Technology Council and Downtown Madison, Inc. to get the word out about how to communicate well with stakeholders during times of uncertainty and fear.

Q:  What have been your main challenges?

Working from home and not being together has been challenging. We all enjoy parts of WFH, but we’re more connected as a team when we’re in the same space. We miss being together and with our clients making ideas come to life. We’re all kind of Zoomed out at this point but the beat goes on. I would also say that we had a lot of expectations for this year and this neighborhood. We’re in a vibrant entrepreneurial community here, but the streets have been mostly empty. We thought we would be entertaining clients at nearby outdoor entertainment venues this summer and enjoying all of the fantastic restaurants in the neighborhood. As background, we were in this neighborhood beginning during the recession through 2015, so we were excited to come back for a season before we moved into our brand new space. Everyone seems to have a similar story about expectations and acceptance though, and that helps.

Q:  What realizations have you made (about your agility, crisis response, tactics, processes, etc.)?

This is my 31st year in a business that is constantly changing. Being agile is the only way to be.  In terms of crisis responses, I’m certified by the Public Relations Society of America in Crisis Communications, so I felt prepared. I know the triggers and what to watch out for both internally and externally. That’s been really helpful. We have a lot of processes in place and were already able to do remote work, so the systems were in place, just not used as often as they are now. I realize more than ever that we need to live in the present moment as much as possible, taking care of today, being good stewards of the resources we are entrusted with. Resiliency and commitment to stay focused on the good continues to guide us individually and as an organization.

Q:  What is a fun fact about you personally? 

I’m learning how to sail! I love the water and have lived on it for years. Because I haven’t been traveling as much or as busy at work, I’ve been able to learn more about the art of sailing! I’m used to driving my own ship. It has been especially nice during this season to be the first mate at least some of the time!

 

BRAND STRATEGY: Mollie Young, Nametag International, Inc.

Mollie founded Nametag International, Inc. in 1987 and has more than 30 years of strategic branding experience, working with many global companies across all sectors.

Q:  How has your business been navigating the pandemic?

Nametag International has been extremely responsive to our clients as they have faced a tremendous amount of change over the last 3 months. The concept of a 24/7 work mode was definitely in place throughout the early and mid-phases of COVID. We have a structure that allows for a nimble, innovative response style to help clients solve problems. We literally turned some projects around in days vs. what typically would take weeks in order to meet client needs.  Adjusting to the “new normal” and future normal is a daily activity we work on as a team at Nametag to ensure our communication and messaging is relevant and resonates with the current environment.

Q:  What have been your main challenges?

The main challenges have been helping client teams remain calm and forward-focused during the early phase of the pandemic as everyone was moving to remote working. It was challenging for many clients that did not have that structure in place. Helping them think through how to set up their marketing teams to function cohesively at a very fast pace was challenging.  Interestingly, many clients feel they are far more productive working from home so many have decided to make it a permanent or semi-permanent move. We’ve been finding new ways we can support clients who are absolutely maxed out, experiencing temporary furlough, etc. and are looking to us for strategic advice.

Q:  What realizations have you made (about your agility, crisis response, tactics, processes, etc.)?

We found a need for new research tools for our clients so they can measure and assess how their current and proposed brand messages will be received in the current environment. We’ve noticed project team decision-making and prioritization fluctuate from one day to the next depending upon what leadership needs to focus on or tackle unexpectedly. Our goal is to help the teams stay focused, solve questions and navigate whatever challenges they are facing.

Q:  What is a fun fact about you personally? 

I love adventure. My favorite experience was riding horseback next to giraffes in Africa.

 

SALES STRATEGY:  Jennifer Simpson, Simpson Sales Solutions

Jennifer is a 20-year media and marketing sales leader and Chief Sales Strategist for Simpson Sales Solutions. She is a trusted consultant, coach, speaker, trainer, and aspiring author.

Q:  How has your business been navigating the pandemic?

The conversation around “how to sell or not to sell” during the Covid crisis was a hot debate amongst sales professionals, and my clients were not immune to this inner struggle. Everyone knew instinctively that sales couldn’t halt entirely, but customer conversations HAD to change—and change on a dime. My business was not excluded from this “what’s next” panic to the pandemic.

Several of my customers rallied in reallocating revenue and resources to keep absolutely every employee on staff. I witnessed employee retention plans kick in that required drastic efforts to restructure loan rates, liquify assets, access payroll protection offerings, and across the board salary reductions. I experienced projects push full steam ahead virtually, which was a complication but not a complete deterrent. I had long-term retainer relationships required to push pause for a season. I was also re-engaged to offer sales strategy and support by former clients revisiting mergers and acquisitions of complementing organizations.

Q:  What have been your main challenges?

As a lifelong sales producer, I had become accustomed to controlling my own destiny and that was abruptly no longer the case. As an external sales resource to a variety of different industries and organizations, there was a ton of unpredictability in how each client was going to (be forced to) respond. In some instances, I was invited into crafting the solution and in some scenarios, I had to wait patiently for revenues to rebound.

For me, the waiting is the hard part. As a solopreneur I am used to taking action to maintain my business’s trajectory. After this economic gut punch, I had absolutely no control over what revenue would stay and what revenue would go, it was a truly humbling moment.

Q:  What realizations have you made (about your agility, crisis response, tactics, processes, etc.)?

I quickly realized that the LAST thing I wanted was for downsizing of employees to fund my contract. My FIRST concern was helping my customers navigate the immediacy of their staffing and cash flow concerns. Similar to many businesses, I chose to donate several of my services whenever appropriate. Not merely because it was the right thing to do, but I trusted that helping others weather this storm and regain stability would be beneficial in the long run.

In the midst of this mess, I had to try and understand the CARES act, connect with the SBA about PPP and EIDL as well as apply for ISOG with required TSB certification. Oh, and I prepared my business tax return exponentially faster than planned all while trying to transition to SCORP tax status. Needless to say, I was SMH.

I think it is no secret that most businesses, mine included, are going to have to revisit their sales strategies. Ultimately, I decided to roll things back a bit and took a healthy dose of my own recommendation medicine. I hired a team of coaches, focused on restructuring my sales and marketing efforts with fresh content, revamped offerings, and honed in more tightly on what constitutes my magic client.

Q:  What is a fun fact about you personally?

At 9 years old I was named Little Miss Iowa County, a county fair contest that came with a homemade cardboard crown, sash adorned with glitter glue, and pickup truck parade tours.  Hold on, my county fair claim to fame didn’t end there! I had the honor of handing out ribbons and posing for pictures with pigs as the two-time Iowa County Pork Queen, and I have a not-cardboard crown to prove it.