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Years ago back in Woodsfield Ohio, that’s a little town in SouthEastern Ohio and if you know where Marietta is and Wheeling is, it’s nowhere close to either but it is in the middle somewhere. 

It has a strange traffic circle that I now miss and George’s Pizza that I can still taste and on Friday nights if the football game was away… the last person to leave turned the town’s lights off. I was in the band and I feel like so was everyone else I knew because I think we had about 45 people in our class. It was the type of town that you couldn’t wait to leave but shortly after you did, you realized that you kinda had it made… but you just didn’t really know it. 

Most of my Dad’s side of the family lived in the area and we had a big farm the next little town over where we spent most evening and weekends getting dirty, chasing bugs and frogs, and sometimes tending to the cows and the horses… but mostly looking for barn cats.

It’s one of those towns where everyone knew everyone and if you did something dumb then Mom nd Dad knew it before you even got done doign it AND WAY before you ever made it home. And they were waiting. Especially if your mother was a teacher.

Now I actually loved the fact that my mom was a school teacher. THis may sound strange but it meant that we were at school early and we left late and all the faculty knew us because of whose kids we were. It meant early and late access to the playground and the gym and I can remember sweeping floors (more like annoying) with the janitor, the town doctor’s Dad, while waiting on Mom to finish up so we could head home for dinner. 

And on Friday nights it was Dad’s turn to cook which meant IGA broaster chicken, pizza or fish and chips from the Belmont Grill…. Some of you on here may remember that as Katy’s Place where we used to eat lunch (they had the best apple dumplings) and I think it’s a Mexican spot now maybe? Not sure.

Anyway… one of my other memories of “back home” was a middle school class with Mr. Moore. Now Mr. Moore was not only my teacher but also a friend of my parents… as most folks were really so I knew him… or felt like I did. I was friends with his son, too. He also taught ¾ the county how to swim I think down at the park. 

Now remember middle school… you are a weirdo. You aren’t little anymore but you aren’t old but you want to be but you don’t know how to be and it’s awkward. It’s just an awkward, weird age. Mr. Moore was a great teacher for that age. He helped lead us through the awkward… at least that’s how I remember it. One of the things that he did was start the day off with a question from The Book of Questions. Maybe you have heard of this. I think there is a kids version too, but as I recall he used the grownup book and we discussed tough questions. 

Questions like..

How would you react if you learned that a sad and beautiful poem that touched you deeply had been written by a computer? 

Would you completely rewrite your child’s college-application essays if it would help him get into a better school? (I think you go to prison for that now)

And of course the meaning of it all—If you were handed an envelope with the date of your death inside, and you knew you could do nothing to alter your fate, would you look?

These were tough questions… They were tough questions then and hell they are tough questions now. I can remember sitting in that class thoughtfully trying to figure out if I would rather have a million dollars or never get to go to the beach again and really thinking and thinking and going back and forth and very often realizing… I am not sure I have the answer. THIS. IS. HARD.

I bring this up because I think we all sorta feel that way right now at least a little bit. I feel awkward, not really sure how to fit in, like we are back in 6th grade trying to answer the tough questions, except they aren’t hypothetical anymore and it’s not really all that fun. But it is what we must do. The bell just rang, we have taken our seats, and now we begin.

Here are today’s tough questions…

What do you do for your customer? Is it necessary?

Ugh… some of you are struggling with this right now and it’s why you have seen some places just shut down and wait out the storm.

But let’s dig into that for a minute. What do you do for your customer? Is it a luxury? Is it a nice to have? Or is it mission critical? Is it essential?

Food, money, transportation, etc. all these things are obviously essential and “must haves”. If you are outside areas of those it starts to get a little scary.

But what if you aren’t asking the right question? Or aren’t asking enough questions because ssee we aren’t in middle school and this isn’t a hypothetical question… this is real and it’s important. It’s your business and it’s your life.

One more question… how can you frame what you provide as essential? Isn’t it in the messaging? Gourmet popcorn isn’t essential just on it’s own. BUT… normalcy and distraction and something that makes you feel NORMAL as a treat… may sound a little more essential and necessary and something I should buy. “You Deserve” messaging is perfect right now.

Is there a way to change your messaging OR YOUR OFFER in a way that positions you as more essential? Can you attach yourself to essential services? You may even need to re-evaluate what service you even are capable of offering? Distilleries are making sanitizer and a vacuum cleaner company invented a new ventilator.

Here is a local example… I see a ton of restaurants offering family meals to go… now some of these places are expensive and date night type places… but what have they done?

THey identified that their markets’ needs have changed. $35 river trout isn’t necessary today. But quickly and efficiently and SIMPLY feeding my family IS. And if I can do that from my favorite date night spot economically and simply… then they just shifted to essential. They just positioned themselves as part of my mission.

Can you do that?

Here is what has happened. Your audience very likely hasn’t changed. BUT their immediate needs, their immediate pain points, their problems they need solved, AND THE REASONS that they will have. So you need to alter your messaging and offer to align with their current pain.

Now here is the really stinky part. They still may not buy right now. They may not be in a position to. That’s OK too although it isn’t great for cash flow. THere is still a ton of opportunity in that void. In that case sell certainty and stability.

The worst thing that you can do is freeze up.

The most valuable thing you can give someone is your time… but no one wants your time until they know you. So get them to know you.

Currently the most valuable currency is attention, visibility.

You are in luck.

As you can imagine internet traffic is up, likely at an all time high. 

What are people doing? 

Home consuming content whether that be Tiger King, Facebooking, House Party, zooming, or trying to calculate their next big move.

Some Facebook usage stats from Social Media World

Total messaging increases of more than 50%, across both WhatsApp and Messenger

An increase of 70% in Messenger group video calls, and more than double the regular demand for video calls in WhatsApp

Overall U.S. traffic from Facebook to other websites has increased by more than 50% week-on-week.

So what does that mean? Have you connected the dots? Visibility is more important than anything and it’s on sale. You can get it on the discount rack.

See you’re looking outside and seeing no activity and it’s tricking you. All that movement and activity is shifted online. The entire world is at home consuming and learning and plotting their next move.

What happens when this is all over and your competition…. whoever is left… comes out of hibernation and says “hey look at me”… and you’ve been there all along. People want stories and they want to do business with who they saw during the bad stuff.

I will keep saying this… there are going to be 2 phases of how this outbreak affects us. #1 is who can withstand the economics of it all and #2 who can recover AFTER things loosen up. Again, there is no guarantee that people go back to how they were. If you look at folks that lived through the great depression and WWII they are different. It changed them, their buying habits, their living habits, how they treat possessions. Please don’t only look at weathering the storm… how will you get people back? Visibility… and it’s on sale. If you can, you should really be running ads to stay in front of your market. But… saying what? Promoting what? YOU. Really give people a peek behind the curtain and help them know you. Here’s an analogy…

You almost need to think of yourself as a publisher, not an advertiser, right now when it comes to online strategy. 

Think of your favorite show

Grey’s Anatomy, one of the Chicago shows, or I really like Blacklist… people are all over the Masked SInger, that’s fun.

Do you show up for the ads? Or do you show up for the show? Those ads are going to run and some will work and some won’t and so they will change. But no one showed up for the commercials. They showed up for the content. But the better the show, the more viewers, and the more expensive the ads. Right now you gotta be the show. Wrap your tools and offers and sales pitch up in the content, wrap it up in the show. This will then allow you to show up to your target market as serving them rather than selling them. Say that again. Show up as serving, not selling.

If you do this you will actually create more paths to entry to your business. THis is really what great marketing does. 

Have you seen the musicians that are doing concerts from their home in their bathrobes or the cell phone orchestras… they aren’t asking you to buy tickets to their shows are they? BUT… they sure are making me want to go when I can. Michael Symon, local celebrity chef, is cooking everyday with us on Facebook Live. Hell we have even turned the daily news conference from the governor into wine with Dewine. I will put a couple links in the comment because these videos are awesome.

Think of your product or service like a house in the woods on an island. 

Now it’s a brand new custom home. It’s gorgeous, it’s got everything. It’s the Tesla of homes. And you want to have some people over to show off your new house. A couple of things to unpack here.

First of all, the folks you invite are going to come for all sorts of reasons. If they don’t know you they are less likely to come over, if you aren’t serving alcohol you may have some people not show up, maybe they don’t like the menu, maybe they don’t like you. Now if you are throwing a successful party you probably ought to know why people would come and then give them reasons to show up.

Second… if they want to come can they get there? Did you remember to build a road? A bridge? A driveway? Is the entrance clearly marked? Now what if you build multiple bridges? What if you create multiple entry points to your compound?

This is where you should be focused right now. Ask the questions, the tough questions. Are you providing a destination that anyone wants to be at? Have you provided multiple entry points into your ecosystem. Maybe you need a ferry now or a helicopter pad because your normal points of entry aren’t working.

I am going to ask you to be kind and be sensitive but also to run towards the chaos. Get right in there like the hero first responders. Serve your audience now and you will build business later.

So to recap…

Ask yourself tough questions.

Align yourself with mission critical needs. You will likely need to pivot your messaging and/or your offers because you aren’t obviously seen as essential.

Become a publisher, not an advertiser. Visibility is the currency right now and you can get it on sale. Think in 3 layers. Create a ton of culture content letting people know who you are and that you give a damn, create educational stuff that is helpful, and then when the time is right people will buy from you… because they know you and they know that you were there and you care. The timeline of these stages is directly related to how essential your product or service is. 

Gain share of voice in your market now, while everyone else is waiting.

I have 3 things to offer you as potential solutions or at least help…

#1 tomorrow we are launching a free hosting initiative. I am partnering with my old company SearchActions to go on a mission to help 100 businesses over the next 100 days by offering free basic hosting and plugin updates if you have been affected by this outbreak. Message me directly to make sure you get the details for applying once that goes live tomorrow.

#2 as I mentioned it is extremely important to redo your buyer personas. I think this is so important that I am going to launch a 5 day challenge next week that will help you do this and at the end of the week you will have an actual plan to speak to your audience with clarity and simplicity and in a way they see you as serving them not selling them That is also free… but you have to listen to me for 15-30 minutes every day and do some work.

#3If you want to skip all of that. You know you need help, you know that you want to be aggressive, you can see the vision that you are either going to come out of this ahead or behind and you want to get started, then let’s have a discovery call. We can share lunch or coffee or whatever you want but let me help you position yourself a little better here.

Alright Facebook! Make it a great day. Stay well…

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