The Guarantee
December 17

Should Have, Could Have: The One Time I’ll Ask You to Be Hard on Yourself About 2020

Raise your hand if you’re breathing a sigh of relief because 2020 is almost over. I’ll wait.

Of course, I’m not an ostrich with my head in the sand – we still have challenges ahead of us in 2021. But just for a moment, let’s celebrate the ending of one…really…hard…year.

O N – D E M A N D W E B I N A R

WTF 2020: Making Data-Driven Decisions After a Roller Coaster Year

A 60-Minute, Candid Conversation Between Two Data-Driven Companies

With that, now comes the time to think critically about the year we just had. What did we miss? I don’t mean what did we yearn for about the old days. I’m talking about strategic misses. What could/should we have done to position our companies even better while we navigated complexity and mental exhaustion?

I know I’m not the only business owner whose harshest critic is the one who stares back in the reflection. So, this article is for us. Cheers.

Missed Opportunities in 2020. Did you let any of these opportunities pass you by this year?

DISCOVERING: In Search of Your Next-Gen Customer

How much time did your company spend in search of your next segment of customers in 2020? You know, to supplement the ones who were probably thinking about what they could do without this year.

It was a year riddled with nuance. Most owners, managers, and marketers knew they couldn’t be too pushy, or else risk appearing tone-deaf to the crisis. In acquiescence, new customer acquisition seemed to have taken a backseat. The American Marketing Association’s COVID-edition “CMO Survey”, a mid-year snapshot of the perceptions and practices held by marketing leaders in U.S. for-profit companies (both B2B and B2C), found the discovery of new customers lagged as a priority this year. Arguably, in normal times, customer acquisition is a top marketing function of most marketing teams.

The CMO Survey data show only 14% of marketers ranked customer acquisition as their #1 objective in May, at the time the survey was taken. Only another 22% placed it at the next priority level.

With just about a third of marketers out there focused on discovering new customers, this left a pretty open playing field for the competition to solve a customer need in a timely, relevant, and direct way.

(For tips on digital prospecting, revisit our blog post called “Just Follow the Footprints.”)

SELLING: Every Business Can Sell Online in a Health Pandemic

From the same CMO Survey, whose respondents represent companies selling both services and products, findings showed online sales jumped 43% in just three months. That’s quite an increase in a short amount of time. The survey also found marketers expect the increased online demand for their service or product to be a lasting shift in customer attitudes.

Online selling isn’t just for retailers with e-commerce websites. Sure, you might have to be creative, but an opportunity was probably there – even if you think it’s virtually impossible to experience your company outside of an in-person encounter.

If you missed out on selling online in 2020, the good news is you have another shot to seize this opportunity as we start the new year. Again, in many cases, creativity may be needed. The right agency partner can get you there.

PLANNING: Out of Improvisation Comes Preparedness

One day, 2020 will be remembered as the greatest improvisation act in business history. Never let a crisis go to waste. It’s now time to learn lessons from all of those tactical pivots, improvised plans, tumultuous situations, and sleepless nights.

Have you spent any time documenting your original 2020 plan compared to what you actually did and how the year turned out? If you haven’t yet, don’t miss the opportunity.

This is a good idea, for starters, because you should be proud of yourself – you’re still standing, and you did the best you could with a harsh change of events. It’s an even better idea to create stronger preparedness plans for your business for future use before the dust settles and the experience is a distant memory. Good lessons need the benefit of clarity.

Risk-mitigation planning is a sound business practice. And surely the last nine months have opened up our minds to the types of things that can go awry, even all at once, and their ripple effects. Get creative with your list of risks, but more importantly, get prepared to acquire new customers and keep selling even in the midst of a future storm.

REALITY CHECKING: Your North Star in Any Challenge

If you told yourself, your team, or your family, this business will prevail, I just don’t know how long it will take,” then you’re familiar with the Stockdale Paradox. Or, you may have counted on being “back to normal soon.” By many standards, “soon” has come and gone.

An excerpt from a powerful book explains the intersection of optimism and reality checking. The author is Jim Collins and this is excerpted from his 2001 book, Good to Great.

And then, it dawned on me: “Here I am sitting in my warm and comfortable office … and I know the end of the story! I know that he gets out, reunites with his family, becomes a national hero, and gets to spend the later years of his life studying philosophy on this same beautiful campus. If it feels depressing for me, how on earth did he deal with it when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?” “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” [U.S. Admiral James Stockdale, a Vietnam War POW] said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life.” … Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?” “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.” “The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier. “The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart … This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end … with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”


A RedRover and University of Memphis survey conducted in May showed us 66% of area business owners believed their companies would return to growth this quarter. In fact, these respondents had more faith in their own company to return to Q4 growth than they did the local economy. While we haven’t conducted a follow-up survey to see where these businesses are today, it would be interesting to learn if the respondents believe Q4 was their North Star, or their false hope.

Hindsight is 20/20. Never before has that rung truer. Happy new year, and let’s not let this crisis go to waste.

If you are in need of outside objectivity to review your 2020 sales and marketing plan, now would be the perfect time to go through RedRover’s Growth Optimization (GO) process. In collaboration with you, our GO team will conduct extensive internal and external research. These findings guide our recommendations for your 2021 strategic plan grounded in the deep insights of an industry insider while still preserving objectivity. This strategy comes with a predictable ROI. And while we can’t predict everything, like a global pandemic, this process gives us deep industry knowledge that allows us to pivot quickly when needed as we did for this client.

Lori Turner-Wilson is founder and CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy. A fast-growing agency of seasoned professionals, RedRover is the only Memphis agency to integrate sales training with marketing strategic planning and execution. RedRover has a uniquely intense focus on achieving measurable results for its clientele, as the only Memphis area agency to offer its clients a results guarantee. The agency’s diverse client roster represents nearly every industry vertical in greater Memphis.

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