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At 3Q, we’ve been talking a lot lately about the concept of fearless marketing. The idea was sparked mostly in regard to navigating the very strange times of COVID-19, but I believe being fearless in our marketing initiatives is something we should all live by at all times.

So what goes into “fearless marketing”? Before I jump into the components, I’ll say that these have been formed by my marketing experience over the last two decades, including the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and through the Great Recession of 2008. In those periods, and during what we’re going through right now, I’ve seen marketers make a lot of mistakes by acting out of fear. 

To help address this, I’ve launched a “Fearless Marketing” video series where I talk with some of the smartest marketing minds I know about how they’re dealing with the sea changes in the marketing landscape – including the changes to come.

Is it scary out there right now? You bet it is. Even in a profession where you can work from the safety of your home and keep your social distance, the undercurrent of change and the unknown has completely disoriented a lot of the smartest people I know. But there are ways you can ground yourself to get through this in the best possible shape. As I see it, the three most important things to grab onto right now are data, empathy, and opportunity.

Data

It’s obviously important to know what’s going on at a macroeconomic level and at your industry level. (If you’re an online medical-supplies shop, you have very different issues than a luxury beauty wholesaler.) And anything you can get your hands on to help you understand shifting consumer behavior is extremely valuable.

That said, the most important data you have is your own data. How are your customers behaving? How are your costs, engagement metrics, and sales cycles trending? Layer that onto an understanding of the competitive landscape, and you’ll be able to make smarter, more nuanced decisions than marketers who see the stock market drop and cut spend by 20% before lunch. 

Empathy

Marketing with empathy is always important; you need to understand your customers’ challenges and desires to be able to engage them effectively. These days, empathy has even more importance, especially if it’s backed up with something meaningful. If you’re selling something that can make work-from-home life better, offer free shipping to help more people get access. Offer something special to medical workers, postal carriers, and grocery store clerks as thanks for what they do. Donate a portion of each sale to purchase PPE supplies for a community that needs them. The more you can meaningfully address your users’ emotions with genuine gestures and responsibly disruptive creative and messaging, the more users (and brand ambassadors) you’ll earn for the long term.

Opportunity

It can be hard to talk about opportunity at a time when people’s lives and jobs are at stake. I’m not advising you to be ruthless or exploitative (even if you have an idea like hoarding surgical masks and reselling them for 10x the going rate, remember that your business won’t – and shouldn’t – survive the PR blowback). What I am advocating for is an approach that helps keep your company and team well positioned to thrive, especially when you can spot initiatives to provide real value to your users. 

In 2001, I negotiated a deal with MSN to get guaranteed top three placement for the search term “lawyer”, for an entire year, for $0.25 a click (which was about 1/20th of the actual value of those clicks). Instead of fleeing the MSN marketplace like so many other companies had, I was able to secure cheap, high-performing traffic because the data showed that it was a profitable play. With the fixed low costs, I was able to make sure I wasn’t cutting corners on things like excellent product development and customer service. 

 

Over the coming months, we’ll be producing more and more examples of Fearless Marketing and give you insights on how to move forward with confidence. Stay safe and well, and check back often.