Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chin to the wind

Everywhere I go, everyone I meet, from clients to collaborators to next door neighbors, they’re all asking that question: “How are you guys doing?” And always with a slight gathering of flesh in the center of the forehead, meant to denote that this is not just casual small talk.

Then there’s my LinkedIn in box, suddenly alive with colleagues suddenly in transition, suddenly very interested in linking in.

A soft economy will do that to a social circle. The storm is all around us. What do we do?

Well, we’ve been through this once before, at our previous company Cream. It was 2001/2002, and the Nasdaq money that had funded agency investment in new business activity (our specialty) went from an Eden of riches to a dreary salt flat.

We responded at first by fleeing for the exits. Not liking what we saw at the fire escapes (namely, them good ol’ traditional ad agencies), we decided instead to knuckle down and do whatever it took to stay in our preferred game.

So, we hit the phones hard. But more importantly, we decided to innovate our own offering to meet the new realities: Agencies still had to pitch new business. They had even less senior people than before to run those pitches. And they didn’t have any excess funding to pay for external idea resources like ours.

Our answer was some ‘disruptive pricing’. We went from arguably the highest price point to absolutely the lowest. We cut our day rates from the ceiling to the carpet, in exchange for a success bonus should the partnering agency win the new business pitch. The bonus would more than offset the bet that we’d made in slashing our fees, and it could be paid out in installments to tap into the new revenue stream.

The forward leaning agencies knew a great deal when they saw it (and incidentally, are still profiting from some of the new business we helped secure, years after our bonus schedule expired) and the stuck-in-the-quicksand agencies - funny story this - said ‘hey, love that idea… paying next to nothing, great! Only issue we have is paying a bonus. Can we nix that part of it?’ Oh how we laughed.

Well, we survived… and we ended up thriving, too.

Which brings us to today, and our forward-thrusting, begging-to-be-punched chins.

This is the time for creative thinking on all parts of your business. It’s the time for innovation, not just in the name of survival, but also for new growth in new directions. On our own business, aside from taking care of the day-to-day, and loving our clients like never before, we are suddenly in a purple patch of innovation – new partnerships, new product offerings, new ways of engaging.

Call us Pollyannas. Call us reckless idiots sailing headlong into a Perfect Storm. We just happen to believe in all that chaos/opportunity stuff. How about you?

Image by tommorowstand

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