On this episode Josh speaks again with Jeremy Miller from Sticky Branding. They discuss crisis branding, especially in the current times.

Jeremy Miller is a brand strategist and bestselling author.

Jeremy’s path into branding wasn’t traditional. He fell into it out of necessity. After watching his family’s business nearly hit rock bottom, he was forced to take a hard look at the way the company was run and at their industry as a whole. Jeremy realized it wasn’t his sales people or marketing processes that were failing, it was the brand: their customers couldn’t distinguish them from anyone else. This insight caused him to rethink, reposition, and rebrand the business.

The strategy worked, and within a year the company turned the corner and rocketed into growth mode. And in 2013 Jeremy sold his family’s business to focus exclusively on what he does today: build brands.

In today’s episode you will learn about:

  • Crisis Marketing
  • How to recover revenue and customers taken by COVID-19
  • How to slingshot out of the crisis
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • How to market your business without being perceived as icky


Narrator:             Welcome to “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”, where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when an emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program and fund your retirement program.

When you do this, you’ll have a sale ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want in the way you want. In Cracking the Cash Flow code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning,   and   thinking   about   what   it   takes   to   make   a   successful   business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.

Josh:                      Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Today, my guest is Jeremy Miller. Jeremy is a repeat offender. He has an interesting business which is called Sticky Brandy. That’s where you can find them. Send me wandering on. Let’s bring Jeremy on so we can start the conversation.

Hey, Jeremy, how are you today?

Jeremy:                I’m great. How are you, Josh? Thanks for having me back.

Josh:                      My pleasure. We want to talk about crisis branding, correct?

Jeremy:                Yeah, crisis marketing. How do we recover from this moment in time that we’re all going through either every person, every company from around the world is going through the exact same thing at the exact same time.

We’re going to be dealing with this all through 2020, probably into 2021. I think now more than ever, we are dealing with a shift in strategy and a shift in value propositions and a shift and being just business owner entrepreneurs. I think a very prescient moment in time.

Josh:      I keep hearing about pivots that we need to pivot our business to be able to be relevant in what I call the Age of the Coronavirus. I’m a little curious on how a blue collar business is going to go about pivoting. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Jeremy:                Actually hate the word pivoting especially in this phase.

Josh:                      Good, good because do too.

Jeremy:                I don’t think it’s about pivoting. I think it’s about ripples. Let me give you a very specific example. We have a couple clients actually their family businesses. One is a distributor of hosing and parts and another manufacturer’s pump. What they both observe at the start of this crisis was that construction workers were walking off job sites because the porta potties were unhygienic.

We think about it porta potties are the last place you want to go anytime of the year but after Coronavirus, it’s actually dangerous. The CDC has said that human waste carries COVID and so construction workers rightfully so say like, “No way.” They were expecting these porta potties to be cleaned three to five times a day. Previously they were cleaned, say once a week. Just imagine the ripple effect that creates then.

Now, the construction company is bringing in a service provider to come in multiple times a day. That means they need to hire more people that needs potentially more valves, more hoses, more pipes, more equipment then they’re going to buy more trucks.

You can just imagine the entire supply chain is having a ripple effect right now where they all are responding to this. There is a septic company of the US has seen in the last three weeks a 640% increase in calls as companies reopen. What does this mean is I don’t think it’s about pivoting.

I think it’s about looking to the market of where these new needs, where these green shoots of opportunity and then trying to ride those waves. We’re mixing metaphors here, but its how do you find these new needs that are being established and then being extremely relevant and present. It’s not about changing your business because this is a fluid situation. If you’re going to be pivoting, you mean like a top spinning around constantly over the next two years.

Josh:                      That makes sense. What you’re saying is that finding new ways is the market that you have or understanding where the demand might be coming from. It’s something that’s really, really important.

Jeremy:                Exactly. The one of the things that I like to ask at Sticky Branding is, who needs your services or expertise the most right now? When you look around, you can see all these new needs are emerging. People are reopening their businesses. People are dealing with the crisis in many different ways. The first place to look is with your existing customers and your existing products.

How do you adapt your messaging, your value proposition or even your products to serve what people need right now? Retailers, for example, are offering curbside pickup. It’s the same customer. It’s the same product. They’re just adjusting it slightly. Then the growth opportunities start to be how you look to what I describe as the corner. How can you offer your same products to new markets?

How can you offer new products and services to your existing markets? That’s just about being helpful. How do you look at what’s going on right now and say, “Who needs our expertise the most right now?” Then adapting to serve that.

Josh:                      You’re in the marketing world, which means you’re in the world of helping your customers get found. If I have a retail store, and I’m just using retail stores for example, and I’ve always depended on people walking in my store, how would I go about pivoting or not pivoting but rippling over to curbside pickup?

Jeremy:                The thing that is so interesting at this moment, Josh is that the world wants you to succeed. Your customers want you to succeed. Rather than trying to to fight it, ask the community for help and service. One example is an ice cream manufacturer called Central Smith.

Their retail store was closed. What they did, two young employees, Gillian and Megan, they put up a Shopify store in a span of a week. They put up all their overstocked ice cream. Then they went to the local Chamber of Commerce and two food bloggers and said, “We’re offering curbside pickup, could you let the community know what’s going on?” What was so shocking is that their first week of sales during curbside pickup exceeded last summer’s peak month.

Josh:                      Wow.

Jeremy:                That was just the community supporting them. They had people. This is the crazy part. They were selling overstocks supply that they would sell to the restaurant trade. 11 and a half liters, big tubs of ice cream and people would be literally driving up and they’d be putting two tubs into their trunk and they’d be driving off. They’re like, “Where is that ice cream going?”

Josh:                      I think people are gaining a stupid amount of weight during this whole thing.

Jeremy:                I think the central says that the 19th and COVID is going to mean something very different at the end of this thing like the freshman 15. From a marketing perspective, maybe we could do a partnership between Central Smith and Peloton. You can work out and eat at the same time.

Josh:                      [Laughs] The interesting thing there, I’m wondering, many, many business owners are in their 50s and even 60s and what you describe, they don’t even have a clue how to start getting that stuff done.

Jeremy:                That’s what your employees are for?

Josh:                      Well, this is the thing I’m going to say. Some of your employees know most of your employees don’t. I’ve had a bunch of millennials working for me over the years. They’re not especially clued in when it comes to how to do online marketing.

They know how to use Facebook and Instagram and quack or whatever, other site they want to get themselves involved with, but they’re not really good at saying, “How do I get the word out?” I’m rebuilding our website right now, one of my Coronavirus activities.

Frankly, I have a millennial who should know all about this stuff. she knows nothing about it. She’s a wonderful assistant. She’s great at doing our financial stuff, but when it comes to online marketing, she’s not especially useful.

Jeremy:                You’re raising a good point, though, which is, online marketing or marketing in general is a craft. It’s no different than accounting. It is a trained, learn skill. People are not necessarily because of their age, going to know anything about Facebook, or Facebook marketing, but that’s also like saying, because you’re 35 you should be good at sales. That’s not the correlation.

These are developed learned skills. What I do think that all people inside your organization have, especially right now is an ability to contribute ideas. That doesn’t mean they can execute on them, but they can help get there. In the case of the Central Smith example, Brett Stevenson, who’s a CEO says they have transitioned from an and or culture to an and culture.

People used to say, “This is my job or that. I wouldn’t do that. This is my job, and what else do you need me to do?” With the Shopify example, they just saw an opportunity and they went for it. They’ve also hit other things along the way where they need to hire outside marketing services, operation services, whoever it is. Eventually, you’re going to need support to get through this.

The question is, what is the need that you’re trying to solve? Then how do you go about solving it and it may be inside your organization? It may be external, but this is the entrepreneurial opportunity we all have is, how do we move forward to serve our customers? Because if you do that, you’re going to generate sales, which will generate cash which will give you that lifeblood you need to exist through all of us.

Josh:                      Yeah, I mean without cash, you’re not going to make it through. Okay, that’s interesting. What else would you recommend people be doing right now?

Jeremy:                I think the other one I look at very carefully in this world especially from a business to business context, is most marketing is basically not working. One of the things that have happened is middle management, the people who used to make decisions, whether it was procurement or managers, other people that you could sell to before have lost their autonomy in terms of decision making.

The sales and marketing processes very much looked like 2005, or before the pre social media era where you actually had to pick up the phone and call people or email and do direct solicitation. What that means today in our marketing is, we have to be hyper relevant and very clear that we are selling to executive decision makers because the only person that’s going to write a check is someone who believes that there is value to the company especially when they’ve cut all their budgets.

Josh:                      You’re starting to move into the world of sales away from the world of marketing a little bit which is always interesting. It seems to me is what you’re talking about is what I call the Complex Sale which means there’s more than one decision maker involved.

Jeremy:                Correct? Is there more than one decision, the business owner is the decision maker right now, at least in b2b like you need to sell high. From a marketing context, this is about getting your value proposition and your messaging and your service offering crystal clear for what it’s like to be marketing in a post COVID world. The other side of it is spending a bunch of money on Facebook ads to the business owners never going to see why. You have to recognize who your customer is and how you’re going to get to them.

Josh:                      If my customer is a business owner, and that is my customer, how do I get them to talk to me?

Jeremy:                What we’re finding is fascinating trends happening right now. For example, what we have seen that sticky branding invalidated through several sales consulting training firms that we’re partner with is that executive access has increased by 40%. Business owners are actually answering the phone. The phone is one of the greatest tools that we have, like going back a generation that feels like now, but you can actually use direct solicitation and calling to gain access to people.

Many of them are answering the phone and talking because they’re open and looking for ideas. Whether it’s a cold call, but even better having a referral introduction and a relevant message is the fastest route to get there. You don’t need gatekeepers or anyone else. Chances are the gatekeepers are in the office anymore. The only person in the office is the business owner and maybe a skeleton crew of people.

Josh:                      When you seen they’re looking for new ideas, which means you need to be disturbing them in saying there’s a different way of solving whatever issue that is that they have.

Jeremy:                Correct. One of the things I like to coach people on is lead with a hypothesis. What is it that you may think they need? Ask them that question right out of the gate. For example, last minute training has lost 95% of their business due to this. They’re an event company, but they are transitioning their clients to virtual conferences.

They will talk to an event planner or to the business owner or an executive director and association and ask them, “Do you have a conference that you want to move online?” Then the second question is, do you have in-house resources to do that? That one, two question validates whether there’s worth having a conversation with them on it.

Josh:                      Interesting. Are they getting conversations about that?

Jeremy:                Absolutely. Think of it every association, at least 50 to 60% of their revenue is based on their annual conference. All of that revenue went poof. Now, how do you replace that? Also, you’re seeing companies such as software companies that would have annual user conferences which are key to their marketing.

The key is, is that the data demand is there, but the market doesn’t know how to respond. They don’t know how to Google and find these services and vendors yet. It’s too new. This is the issue that we have with COVID is that we don’t have established markets in many ways. The direct solicitation is very effective because you can ask the question. Do you have this need or this situation? If yes, I have an answer. If no, cool. Do you know anyone else?

Josh:                      Cool. With that particular example, because I happen to be on a board right now is thinking about a virtual conference. What’s the question they’re asking the business owner to figure out if they can help them or the association executive? I actually have an answer. I’m just curious what yours is.

Jeremy:                Well, I think one of the questions that the association has to wrestle with is, how is it relevant and how is it serving the needs of its members right now? They’re going through the exact same thing, but from last minutes perspective, the defining factor is, are you looking to put on a few zoom sessions?

If so, you can do that yourself? Are you looking to have a main stage production experience that people would pay for? If you are trying to do what is basically live television or a combination of a pre recorded and streamed TV on a live show with, say, some breakout sessions like you would in a conference, chances are you’re not producing that in house.

How do you execute that? How do you monetize that? How do you organize that? All become the conversations that they have their clients.

Josh:                      A question I would be asking them if it was me would be, what is the gross profit that you got? What was the net profit used to get from your live events? Then I would say, do you have any idea how to match that now?

Jeremy:                Brilliant question.

Josh:                      Actually the reason I’m saying that is I happen to be involved in the group right now. We’re going from live to virtual. The big question is, it’s again 50% of the revenue comes from this event. The question is, what are we trying to replace for revenue? How can we best go about doing that? It’s a question I’m not seeing many of these online folks asking themselves.

Jeremy:                I think you’re very right. What’s interesting is the virtual work has definitely reduced the cost because you don’t have food, you don’t have hotel, you don’t have travel and any of that kind of stuff, but you’re also not able to sell the same ticket price. You also don’t have the same sponsorship opportunities. The revenue model, the business model for associations and event companies is different.

Part of this for a board to recognize and be dealing with is, if this revenue stream is no longer as profitable or as viable, what else can it do? This has been an ongoing issue for associations for the last 15 years that they have been losing relevance as a market because millennials aren’t paying for membership. They are joining free communities like Facebook groups.

What is that place from that position in the market? I think the best thing that COVID has done is it’s forced transformation whether we’re talking about corporate transformation, or association transformation. We are all dealing with our new reality because we’re being forced to deal with it since we’ve been locked down and prevented to do traditional business. We’ve also been given a gift that we have access to funding.

We have shared experience and support that you can actually be a very vibrant and engaged entrepreneur. I really do believe that the companies who act first and adapt fastest have the advantage right now. They’re the ones that are going to lead us out of this and also likely the ones that are going to set the new expectations of what customers will have whether you’re a blue collar business or not. This is really that golden opportunity. What will your business look like in 2021 or 2022? The steps and actions you take today are going to totally transform what your business could become.

Josh:                      Here’s my last question, I think for us because I think this will take us to the end of our time we have together because it’s not a short answer, I don’t think. Here’s a challenge, I own a business, whether blue collar, professional cert, whatever business it is, I’m in an area where my sales has shrunk by 20 or 30% if I’m lucky, more if I’m unlucky.

I need to hire a marketing professional and there are two problems with hiring a marketing profession. One, they want to get paid. Two, I have no idea whether they’re competent or not. How do I find out whether my marketing professional is competent? If I have no cash, I really can’t write a check. How do I get a marketing professional interested in working with me?

Jeremy:                Let’s do it the second question first. The cash question, if you’re down 20 to 30%, and you know, you need to rebuild, you’re going to have to make investments. We can see in every state and I’m in Canada, the province there is there are funding programs available that you may be able to tap into to save your cash.

I think of this as a spectrum of issues. We have some companies that are leading and some are bleeding. In the middle, there are a few that are stable and some that are slipping. So if you’re in that 20 to 30, or even 40%, you’re in that middle ground. And so you’re going to have to dig deep and prioritize where you need to move forward.

If you can’t afford a marketing person then where do you need to spend your money? Because you need marketing, you need sales, maybe you need a salesperson. The challenge of justifying this really boils down to your strategy. What is your path forward? What resources do you absolutely need? I think the biggest mistake that people make in marketing or in any hiring is they think if I put this body in, this marketing person, that’s finance person, a salesperson, they will solve the problem. Doesn’t ever work that way?

As an organization, as a leadership team or as an owner, you have to empower people to be successful which means putting in infrastructure and systems that come around that marketing person and if you’re at Ground Zero, maybe that first hire is to build the starting infrastructure. That’s a clearly defined project and you can hire according to that and budget according to that.

Josh:                      Let me ask you in kind of a different way around the economics of it. When I’ve hired marketing people, they tell me, it’s going to be 90 to 120 days before I see anything. I have spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on marketing people. At the end of those 90 days, I have gotten nothing. Now in today’s world, I don’t have time to wait 90 days to see if something works. How do I know fast, whether I hired somebody good or not?

Jeremy:                I think that you have to set the actions that it’s going to come down for effort, indicators results. Do they have the right behaviors going out first?  That’s what we need to watch. Then, what are your early indicators? Within 60 days, you should be seeing early metrics, provided you’ve set them to move forward. Let me answer this in a bit of roundabout.

Let me talk what I am seeing specifically in the marketing work that I’m doing with clients right now. Within four weeks, I believe you can validate, develop a market and get a sale in a blue collar business today in this marketplace. What I do in crisis marketing is the first thing we want to identify is, what are the potential green shoots of opportunity, whether within your existing customer base, or just outside of that and build an offer. Get out and market message it and sell it as quickly as possible.

The first thing to recognize before you start marketing is it has to sell. If you need to pick up the phone and make 10 cold calls and speak to 10 business owners and pitch, if it doesn’t sell on that process, or it doesn’t resonate, all the marketing dollars in the world you spent to it aren’t going to matter.

The way I think of this as a sales sprint or a marketing sprint, identify a need, build your pitch, and then go out and sell it directly for the first 10 to 20 customers. If you validate that this need is there, and then the next question is, how do you amplify your marketing to get to more of these people beyond what you can do one to one, cold call, and email?

Marketing should simply build off of sales in a small and midsized company. It doesn’t go the other way around that what you’re really trying to do is take whatever that you’re selling and then amplify it so that you’re getting to the right person at the right time with the right message. If it doesn’t sell at the beginning, everything else doesn’t matter.

Josh:                      Cool, Jeremy that is great advice. Unfortunately, we are out of time. You’ve written a couple of books. You want to tell us how we can find them and how we can find you?

Jeremy:                Sure. I’ve written two books. The first one is Sticky Branding, and the second one is Brand New Name and both are available on Amazon or where books are sold. The best way to find me though is just Google Sticky Branding, the website is https://stickybranding.com/. I’m on all the social networks at Sticky Branding.

Josh:                      Cool, cool. I have an offer for you, too. One of the things I think is really important to say you want to become financially free in your business at some point, which means that you can afford to leave your business and retire doesn’t mean you’re going to retire. It just means you can afford to do so. I put together this little program called The Financial Freedom Project.

If you like to get our free eBook on what the Financial Freedom Project is and how it could affect you, go to https://sustainablebusiness.co/freedom. Get the eBook and let me know what you think. This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Jeremy Miller. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:             You’ve been listening to the “Cracking the Cash Flow Code” where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick   at   802-846-1264   extension   102.   Or   visit   us   on   our   website   at www.sustainablebusiness.co.   Or   you   can   send   Josh   an   email   at jpatrick@stage2solution.com.   Thanks   for   listening   and   we   hope   to   see   you   at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.

Topics: sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, jeremy miller, small business tips during covid-19, pandemic business marketing, crisis marketing, crisis branding

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