Sunday, May 31, 2020

Take Your Webinar Marketing to the Next Level

(For the past several weeks, my posts here have focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marketing and on how marketing leaders should respond to the crisis. All fifty U.S. states have now begun the process of reopening their economies, and the job of marketing leaders is now to plan and execute marketing programs that will be effective during the recovery phase of the coronavirus saga. So, I'm returning to more "normal" B2B marketing topics beginning with this post. I'll deal with COVID-19 topics in future posts as developments warrant.)

Webinars have become an extremely popular marketing technique at many B2B companies. There is no reliable way to determine how many marketing webinars are conducted each year. ClickMeeting recently indicated that over 627,000 events were conducted on its webinar platform in 2019, but this appears to include all types of webinars, not just those used for marketing purposes.

While marketing webinars have been growing in popularity for the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a dramatic increase in their use this year. ON24 recently reported that the number of webinars hosted on its webinar platform jumped by more than 330% in March. Virtually all in-person B2B conferences, trade shows, and other marketing events have been cancelled through the end of this year. So it's likely that 2020 will be a record-breaking year for webinars.

If you're new to webinars, or if you're looking for ways to improve your webinar marketing program, I recommend that you review four recently-published webinar "benchmark" reports:

  1. The 2020 ON24 Webinar Benchmark Report
  2. The Big Book of Webinar Stats by GoToWebinar. (Note:  This report was published in 2019, but it is based on data from 2017.)
  3. The 2020 State of Webinars Report by ClickMeeting
  4. The 2019 BrightTALK Benchmarks report
These reports provide a wealth of information about webinar attributes and webinar marketing practices, including:
  • The most popular days of the week and the best time (of day) for conducting live webinars
  • How far in advance people tend to register for a live webinar
  • The best days of the week to send promotional emails about an upcoming webinar
  • The most common webinar lengths and the average viewing time for webinar attendees
  • Registrant to attendee conversion ratios
  • Use and popularity of on-demand viewing
Webinar Marketing Success is Getting Harder
While it's clear that webinars are a powerful marketing tool for many companies, it's also clear that webinar marketing success is becoming more elusive. A few years ago, simply offering webinars would enable a company to stand out from the crowd. But now, the "low hanging fruit" is mostly gone, and companies will need to devote more time, energy, and money to achieve above-average performance from their webinar marketing efforts.
Successful webinar marketing has become more challenging for three reasons:
  • As more and more companies have started using webinars for marketing, the number of webinars available to potential buyers has increased exponentially, and so has the competition for buyer attention.
  • As the benchmark reports show, we have developed a substantial body of knowledge about how to do webinar marketing effectively. But as more marketers adopt these "best practices," webinar marketing programs start to look alike, which makes differentiation more difficult.
  • While some companies are still producing boring webinars, there's also a growing number of good webinars available in the marketplace, which allows potential buyers to be more choosy about the webinars they will attend.
Think TV for Better Webinars
To address these challenges, marketers need to apply a dose of "outside-the-box" thinking to webinars. For example, who says that a webinar has to be an audio presentation based on a slide deck. In a webinar earlier this year, Mark Bornstein, Vice President, Content Marketing at ON24, predicted that webinars will become more like TV shows.
They will make much more use of streaming video showing the moderator and speakers. Any graphics or slides will be shown along side the video of the speaker, or the webinar will switch from the speaker video to the appropriate graphic and then back to the speaker video - just like we see on TV news programs every day.
Webinars can be structured to mimic a newscast, or a Sunday morning interview show (e.g. "Meet the Press"), or an informal talk show. The objective is to have the webinar provide a TV-like viewing experience and make it pleasant and entertaining to watch, while also providing useful information and valuable insights.

Image courtesy of jules via Flickr CC.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

It's Time to Reset Marketing for the Balance of 2020

After languishing in coronavirus purgatory for the past three months, the U.S. economy is coming back to life. All fifty U.S. states have now begun the process of reopening their economies, and there are early signs that economic activity is beginning to pick up.

Data from Apple indicates that people are beginning to move around again, and the volume of debit and credit card transactions has been increasing for the past several weeks. Even the beleaguered air travel industry is showing early signs of recovery. On May 22nd, TSA screened 348,673 passengers, up from the low 87,534 passengers on April 14th.

The Economy - First Contraction, Then Growth

Most economists are still predicting that the U.S. economy will contract significantly in the second quarter of this year. For example, the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that second quarter real GDP will shrink by 37.7% on an annualized basis.

Most economists also believe, however, that economic growth will return in the second half of 2020. The CBO is forecasting that real GDP will grow by 21.5% in the third quarter on an annualized basis, and by 10.4% in the fourth quarter on an annualized basis.

The Pandemic Impact on Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on marketing activities for the past several weeks. Numerous surveys have shown that many marketers took dramatic actions in response to the economic lockdowns and the resulting collapse in revenues. For example:

Time for a Marketing "Reset"
As we enter the last month of the second quarter, the task now facing marketing leaders is to develop a marketing plan for the second half of 2020. This is a challenging task for two reasons.
First, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what the economy will be like in the second half of the year. While most economists believe that the economy will begin growing again in the third quarter, there is little agreement about the shape and pace of the economic recovery. In an earlier post, I discussed how marketing leaders can use scenario planning to address this uncertainty.
Marketing planning for the second half of 2020 is also challenging because it's likely that customer needs and behaviors have changed as a result of the pandemic. Many customers will be dealing with the same issues that your company is facing - unpredictable revenues, budgetary constraints, etc. A go-to-market strategy that was working well before the pandemic may not be nearly as effective over the next few months. Therefore, it may be necessary to "reset" your marketing strategy for the balance of 2020.
Under these circumstances, the first step in your planning process should be an assessment of the core attributes of your company's go-to-market strategy. Start by asking yourself a series of questions about how your customers may have changed:
  • Have the needs of our potential buyers  - existing customers and prospects - changed? If so, how?
  • Have the spending patterns of our potential buyers changed? If so, how?
  • Have the buying processes used by our potential buyers changed? If so, how?
  • Have the research, learning, and communication preferences of our potential buyers changed? If so, how?
Once you have answered these customer-related questions, you should assess how those answers should affect your business and marketing strategy and tactics. Again, ask yourself a series of questions:
  • Are our current value propositions still compelling?
  • Are the configurations of our products and services still appealing to potential buyers?
  • Has our competitive landscape changed? Have any of our traditional competitors become stronger or weaker during the pandemic? Are we facing new competitors?
  • Do the marketing methods and channels we were using pre-pandemic still make sense?
  • Is our existing go-to-market model still valid?
Many marketing thought leaders are now arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in substantial, long-lasting changes in the behaviors and preferences of both consumers and business buyers. Time will tell whether this view is accurate. There is little doubt, however, that economic realities will require many companies to "reset" their approach to marketing for the balance of 2020.

Image courtesy of Ged Carroll via Flickr CC.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Critical Importance of "Unrealistic" Thinking

In 1960, Theodore Levitt wrote a landmark article for the Harvard Business Review titled, "Marketing Myopia." When it was republished in 2004, HBR editors said the article, "introduced the most influential marketing idea of the past half century."

In a quintessential passage in the article, Levitt explained the decline of railroads in terms that have become part of the fabric of business:

"The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business."

In essence, Levitt argued that railroads fell into decline because they remained tied to their past, while technological and other developments gave customers more effective ways to meet their transportation needs.

The tendency to stick with what's worked in the past even as the competitive environment changes is one of the biggest dangers facing business and marketing leaders. All types of companies design and implement business processes and develop a set of values in order to accomplish certain objectives and guide operations. Over time, these processes and values become part of a company's DNA.

When market, competitive, or technological conditions change, most business and marketing leaders usually respond by making incremental changes to their existing processes and values - even if the real solution is to do something new. As Don Peppers wrote a few years ago, ". . . we go to greater and greater lengths to preserve our traditional routines, until pretty soon we're crossing an entire ocean just to be able to do things the way we've always done them . . ."

The Need for Clean Slate Thinking

The most effective way to combat this dangerous tendency is to periodically analyze the market environment and fundamental business issues from the perspective of a new business. In other words, you need to step away from your existing strategies and practices and ask:  What would we do if we were starting our company from scratch in today's market environment? What would we do to maximize our chances for success given current market conditions?

Thinking this way is difficult because it doesn't come naturally to most of us. Plus, some people will question the value of this approach because it's inherently unrealistic. No existing business ever works with a truly clean slate; it always has resources, processes, and values that define what the business is and limit the actions it can take.

Nevertheless, this "unrealistic" way of thinking if vitally important because:

  • It brings vulnerabilities to the surface and makes them visible. If there are significant differences between your current strategies and practices and those you would use if you were starting from scratch, those differences likely constitute competitive weaknesses.
  • It will frequently reveal the importance of adopting new business and marketing strategies, and thus provide the impetus for making difficult changes.
Don't Waste the Crisis
When Winston Churchill was working on the creation of the United Nations after World War II, he reportedly said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."
The economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been significant and painful for most companies and for most marketers. Many companies froze marketing spending a few weeks ago, and it's not yet clear how much spending will recover over the balance of this year. Regardless of spending levels, however, it is clear that the marketing environment will be fundamentally different for at least the next several months.
So as painful as the pandemic has been, marketing leaders should use it as a catalyst for rethinking their entire approach to marketing. Not everything will need to be changed - at least not permanently - but it's likely that some changes will need to be permanent.
Under these circumstances, the best way to chart an effective path forward is to reevaluate everything without being tied to your past.

Image courtesy of Affen Ajlfe ( via Flickr CC.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

How to Approach Marketing Planning for the Balance of 2020

Developing sound marketing plans is never easy, but it becomes a herculean task when a global pandemic turns the business world upside down. Scenario planning enables marketing leaders to manage marketing effectively in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.

The momentum for reopening the U.S. economy is steadily building, and it now appears the process is likely to begin within the next few weeks. On April 16th, President Trump released guidelines for restarting the economy. These guidelines lay out a set of conditions for reopening the economy, but leave most of the specific decisions (including timing) to state governors.

So far, three groups of governors - one involving six Northeastern states, one involving three West Coast states, and one involving seven Midwestern states - have announced they will work together to coordinate plans to restart the economy in their respective regions.

The reopening of the economy marks the beginning of the "recovery" phase of the coronavirus saga, and the task now facing marketing leaders is to develop a marketing plan for the balance of 2020. The challenge is, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about how the restart of the economy will be managed and how quickly economic growth will recover. For example:

  • When will the reopening process actually begin in the markets we serve?
  • What conditions will be imposed on our business, and how will those conditions affect our operations, our ability to generate revenue, and our profit margins?
  • How quickly will the demand for our products and services return to more "normal" levels?
So how can marketing leaders create appropriate marketing plans in the face of these uncertainties? One approach that has been used effectively for strategic planning is known formally as scenario planning. With scenario planning, business leaders construct a set of alternative strategies that are based on a range of possible future conditions.
Given the current level of uncertainty, scenario planning is the best tool marketing leaders can use to approach planning for the balance of 2020, but to use it effectively, marketing leaders must be able to construct a set of realistic scenarios. And that requires a clear understanding of the major factors that will shape future economic and business conditions.
In normal circumstances, the first step in a scenario planning process is to look at estimates of future macroeconomic conditions such as GDP growth, employment levels, and consumer spending. Then business leaders drill down to estimate the growth prospects for their industry and company.
In the circumstances we face today, however, the most important factors to consider when constructing scenarios are potential medical and scientific developments pertaining to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and the processes used by states to reopen the economy. More specifically, the pace of the economic recovery will be largely dictated by three factors:
  1. The availability of an effective vaccine for COVID-19
  2. The availability of effective medical treatments for COVID-19
  3. How restrictive the reopening "rules" adopted by states are, and when the reopening begins
Vaccine Availability - The availability of an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is the true "end game" for the coronavirus pandemic. Most health experts agree that we can't really call the pandemic over until we have an effective vaccine, and many economists say that we will not get a complete economic recovery until a vaccine is available. Unfortunately, most health experts also agree that the development of a COVID-19 vaccine will require 12 to 18 months. Therefore, all marketing scenarios for the balance of 2020 should reflect that no COVID-19 vaccine will be available.
Treatment Availability - The race is already on to identify and/or develop treatments that will reduce the severity of COVID-19 and save lives. Having an effective treatment is important economically because it will make people feel more comfortable about returning to work, shopping, and engaging in other economic activities. Many health experts believe that we may have an effective treatment by late summer, but there are no guarantees. Therefore, when planning for the balance of 2020, marketing leaders should use three treatment scenarios:
  1. At least one effective treatment for COVID-19 is widely available by September 1st.
  2. At least one effective treatment for COVID-19 is widely available by November 1st.
  3. No effective treatments for COVID-19 become available in 2020.
Reopening Rules - As I noted earlier, President Trump's reopening guidelines leave most of the decisions about reopening the economy to state governors. Therefore, there will actually be multiple "reopenings" that begin at different times and have different rules. It's fair to think that most governors will be cautious about when to begin the reopening and how quickly to relax the restrictions they currently have in place. For marketing planning purposes, the baseline scenario should be that the reopening process will begin in many states sometime in May and will be implemented gradually at least until an effective treatment for COVID-19 is available.
All of this suggests that the recovery of the overall economy is likely to be sluggish through most of the third quarter of 2020, but may pick up steam in the fourth quarter. With these scenarios as a backdrop, marketing leaders will then need to analyze the growth prospects under each scenario for their industry and their company.
The most successful marketers in 2020 will be those who are best prepared for a range of possible futures. Scenario planning can help you be ready to respond quickly when the shape of the future becomes more clear.

Image courtesy of Dan Moyle via Flickr CC.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

When Can We Reopen the Economy?

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." 

Winston Churchill made this famous statement after the British defeated German forces at the battle of El Alamein in 1942. As Governor Andrew Cuomo observed in his daily briefing yesterday, Churchill's words seem to be a fairly apt description of where we are today in the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past week, there were glimmers of hope that the initial wave of the pandemic may be subsiding in some parts of Europe. Here in the U.S., New York may be near or at the apex of the coronavirus epidemic curve. On Friday, for example, New York's net increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations (daily admissions less daily discharges) was just 85, down from 1,095 one week earlier. A few other states appear to be in a similar position.
These developments have prompted a growing number of discussions about when and how the U.S. economy can be "reopened." Over the next few weeks, governmental leaders will be under increasing pressure to end or at least relax the "stay at home" orders and mandatory business closings.
The restart of the economy will be a critical milestone for marketing leaders because it will signal the beginning of the "recovery" phase of the coronavirus crisis. To maximize revenue growth, marketing leaders will need to be ready to launch appropriate marketing programs as soon as possible after the recovery phase begins. And that means planning must begin before the economy is reopened.
As with many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, the determination of when and how to restart the economy is a complex issue. There are already conflicting opinions on this issue, and the debate is likely to become more contentious before any decision is made. However, there appears to be an emerging high-level consensus - at least among most health professionals - about what preconditions should exist before the economy is reopened.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and was the Food and Drug Administration commissioner from 2017 to 2019. On March 28, 2020, AEI published a report by Dr. Gottlieb and four colleagues titled National Coronavirus Response:  A Road Map to Reopening
In this report, Dr. Gottlieb and his co-authors described how the United States can transition to tools and approaches that target individuals with the coronavirus infection rather than target entire populations in areas where the transmission of the virus is widespread and not controlled.
The report also lays out four prerequisites that should exist before any state ends or relaxes the "social distancing" measures currently in use. (Note:  The authors wrote that these prerequisites can be applied to localities in a state under certain circumstances.)
Prerequisite 1:  A Reduction in Cases - The first requirement for reopening the economy in a state is when the state reports a sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days. Fourteen days is the generally accepted incubation period of the coronavirus.
Prerequisite 2:  Sufficient Hospital Capacity - Hospitals in the state must be able to treat all patients requiring hospitalization (both COVID and non-COVID) without resorting to crisis standards of care. This means having an adequate number of beds, adequate staffing, and adequate equipment and supplies.
Prerequisite 3:  Adequate Testing - A state must have the ability to test all hospitalized individuals, health care workers, and workers in other essential services (e.g. first responders), the close contacts of individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and all symptomatic individuals. The authors estimate that the U.S. would need a national capacity of at least 750,000 test per week to meet this requirement.
Prerequisite 4:  Adequate Monitoring - A state must be able to identify all infected individuals (through testing), identify (through tracing) and test the close contacts of infected individuals, and actively monitor all confirmed cases to ensure compliance with quarantines.
Fully satisfying all four of these prerequisites will be a challenging undertaking. It will take time for any state or locality to meed these requirements, and not everyone will meet them at the same time. Therefore, restarting the economy is likely to be an uneven process, with some states or localities reopening before others.
It seems likely that most governmental authorities will adopt some version of these prerequisites. The key for marketing leaders is to monitor the progress being made on these four factors so that they can begin planning in time to have programs ready to launch when the reopening occurs.

Image courtesy of Levan Ramishvili via Flickr (Public Domain)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

It's Time for Senior Leaders to Begin Planning for the "Next Battle"

In his 1989 best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote that effective people practice the habit of "putting first things first." By this, Covey meant that highly effective people focus most of their attention on things that are truly important.

Covey used a 2 x 2 matrix to illustrate that we spend our time and energy in one of four ways. Below is my version of Covey's diagram.

In this matrix, Quadrant I contains tasks, issues, and problems that are both urgent and important, while Quadrant II includes things that are important but not urgent. Quadrant III issues are urgent but not important, and Quadrant IV issues are neither important nor urgent.

Covey argued that most of us tend to spend most of our time in Quadrant I, while highly effective people find ways to give more of their attention to issues that are important but not urgent (Quadrant II). Highly effective people also stay away from Quadrants III and IV as much as possible because, urgent or not, these issues aren't important.

When a major crisis erupts, the number of issues in Quadrant I increases quickly and drastically. Issues or problems that were not particularly urgent or important a week or a month earlier suddenly demand immediate attention. Many of these issues feel like they are critical to survival, and some of them can be. Under these circumstances, most of us would be spending most - if not essentially all - of our time dealing with the urgent and important issues in Quadrant I.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health and economic crisis of immense proportions, and business leaders bear the responsibility for leading their company through the crisis. Most leaders are responding to COVID-19 by focusing most of their time and attention on the urgent and important issues that are critical for business continuity. But it's vitally important for senior leaders - including senior marketing leaders - to begin looking to the future as quickly as possible.

Anticipating the future and making appropriate plans is the particular responsibility of senior leaders. One of the best expressions of this truth can be found in Into the Storm by Tom Clancy and General Fred Franks, Jr. (Ret.). General Franks was the commander of the U.S. Army's VII Corp during Operation Desert Storm. Clancy and General Franks wrote:

"One of the greatest skills of senior commanders is the ability to forecast. The more senior you are, the farther into the future you have to force yourself to look. You must be able to see beyond what others see. You must be involved in the present to know what is going on, but you must also discipline yourself to leave those actions for your subordinates to handle while you forecast the next battle, and the one after that."

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, everyone in a company from the CEO down was working intensely on those issues that were both extremely urgent and critically important. That focus was entirely appropriate, first because immediate actions may have been necessary to keep the company functioning, and second because there was simply no visibility about how the outbreak would progress, which made it impossible to plan for the future.

There are still many unknowns about how the COVID-19 epidemic will evolve, but we know more today than we knew a month ago, and we should know much more a month from now than we know today. For example, as I am writing this on April 4th, there appears to be an emerging view among infectious disease professionals that the overall national peak of demand on hospital resources (beds, ICU beds, ventilators, etc.) in the U.S. will be reached sometime this month. If this projection turns out to be reasonably accurate, it's likely that we will begin to hear discussions in May about "reopening" the U.S. economy.

The key for senior leaders is to be prepared to respond quickly when business conditions begin to change. The most effective way to achieve this level of readiness is to be thinking in advance about how conditions may change and developing preliminary plans for each of those possibilities. In management circles, this is known formally as "scenario planning," and it becomes vitally important when senior leaders are working through a crisis.

So, senior leaders have two critical tasks to perform to respond effectively to COVID-19:

  • First, they must develop and implement the actions that are necessary in the very short term to ensure business continuity.
  • And second, as quickly as possible, they must transfer the management of the "very short-term plan" to others so that the senior leadership team can begin planning for the business conditions that may exist in the relatively near future.
Senior marketing leaders should play a major role in scenario planning, and I'll have more to say about that in a future post.

Top image courtesy of Naval Surface Warriors via Flickr CC.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Temporary Change of Direction

For only the second time in over five years, I did not publish a post here last week. Over the past few weeks, I have found it increasingly difficult to create posts that I truly believe are timely, relevant, and useful for my readers.

The reason for my difficulty is COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. One way that I keep myself on a regular writing and publishing schedule is to always have several topics lined up for future posts. So when February began, I had already identified what I thought at the time were several solid topics.

But over the past two months as we have been bombarded with negative COVID-19 news on a daily if not an hourly basis, the topics I was writing about began to feel, well, almost trivial in light of unfolding events.

When I work with clients to develop marketing content, I stress that the most important attributes of good content are relevance and usefulness. The core idea is that your content should be helpful to your customers and prospects.

My goal for this blog has always been to provide useful information and thought-provoking ideas, but the business and economic repercussions of COVID-19 have fundamentally changed what constitutes "useful" and "thought-provoking," at least in the short term. Therefore, the content of this blog is going to be different for the next several weeks.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, marketers will need to rapidly adapt their strategies and tactics to meet changing business conditions. Time will become a precious commodity, and many marketers will find it difficult to keep up with all the information that could be vital for making sound business and marketing decisions.

Part of my work has always involved finding information and insights from sources that most marketers would not routinely encounter and making that information more accessible to the marketing community. This type of information will play a larger role in my posts for the next several weeks.

Some of my posts will address topics that don't directly relate to the day-to-day practice of marketing. But during this period, it's important for marketing leaders to play a central role in formulating their company's strategic response to COVID-19. Therefore, one of my objectives will be to identify and communicate information that will help marketing leaders fulfill this critical role.

In this post, I want to provide a few basic common-sense guidelines for communicating with customers and prospects during the COVID-19 outbreak. These guidelines are not earth shattering, and they are far from exhaustive. But they do provide a good starting point.

Provide Relevant, Useful, Timely, and Concise Information

I've already alluded to this point, but its importance cannot be overstated. Every communication you send, and every content resource you publish should be measured by these essential attributes. During a difficult period, the most effective way to approach content development and communications is to constantly ask:  "What information do our customers need right now?" Relevance and usefulness are always essential for good content, but they have a shorter shelf life during a crisis period.

When stress and uncertainty are high and time and attention are limited, it's also important to use clear and precise language and to make communications as concise as possible. Make your content easy to scan by using bullet points and headers to highlight the most critical information.

Avoid Promotional Content

For the next few weeks, customers and prospects will be especially sensitive to anything that smacks of brand opportunism. Therefore, avoid using any messages or content that is self-serving or promotional in tone or substance. Of course, there can be exceptions to this guideline. For example, I've already received at least a dozen emails from SaaS software companies offering free use of their apps for fairly significant periods of time. If your company has decided to provide customers and prospects with something that has substantial, out-of-the-ordinary value, it's both necessary and appropriate to communicate that offer.

Stay Connected to Customers

The extent and contours of the COVID-19 epidemic are changing every day, and that will likely continue for the next several weeks. As the situation evolves, customer needs and attitudes will also change. So it's vitally important for company leaders to listen closely to customers throughout this event. For most companies, the listening will necessarily be informal. Now is not the time to run a large survey, and in-person focus groups are an obvious no-no. But by continuing to talk with and listen to customers and prospects regularly, business and marketing leaders can get valuable insights on how to communicate effectively.

Illustration courtesy of William Allen via Flickr CC.