The Dog Days of Summer and the CMO

This is the second in a series of articles about planning for 2011.

We are in the Dog Days of Summer, a hot stagnant period marked by a lack of progress.  Not surprisingly, this is often the time when many take well-earned vacations and when the wheels of commerce slow.

How does this impact the B2B CMO and how can he/she best use this time in planning for 2011?

First, quantify the knowns and givens.  For example:

  • Macro view –
    • Economic growth will be slower during the second half than in the first.
    • Un and Underemployment rates will not change before the end of 2011.
    • Inflation is low, and there is a risk of deflation.
    • There will probably not be any additional stimulus money, from either the Federal or State governments.
  • Micro view –
    • Half the year is gone.  Unless your company is dependent upon on providing services during the holiday season, you have a good idea what the year is going to be.
    • You probably know where you stand vs. competition.  Relatively few companies introduce new products during the second half.  What is is.
    • Growth, i.e., increasing market share will come from taking sales away from competitors vs. a general growing demand.

Second, make some assumptions (of course yours will be more specific):

  • Depending upon how well you have done against plan, your budget for the balance of the year will be constant or cut.  It is unlikely that it will increase.
  • At least one competitor will attempt to grow share (or remain in business) by cutting prices.
  • The buying cycle is going to stretch out.
  • Reaching buying decision makers is going to be more and more difficult.
  • At least one key employee will leave.

Third, develop action plans for Management review late in August, early in September before all thoughts turn to making the month/quarter.  Examples of plans that would fit the assumptions above are:

  1. A plan to involve management in reaching out to the installed base/key customers…showing them the love.
  2. A plan to pre-announce products/features that are planned for the first-half of 2011.
  3. A plan to “repackage” current products and services that addresses customer complaints and provides something new, providing an answer to competitive price cuts.
  4. A plan to increase social networking/media focusing on key product differentiators.
  5. A plan to hold a series of training webinars for the sales force, led by Product Management, that reinforces the corporate message, reviews the differentiators and address customer objections.
  6. A contingency plan outline.  The CMO cannot plan for what is unknown, but knowing that there are unknowns allows for shorter reactions.  For example, no-one knew that volcanic ash was going to disrupt air travel to Europe, or that oil in the Gulf of Mexico was going to impact shrimp prices.  But those firms that have contingency plans are better able to ride out the storm.

With the exception of the “repackaging” effort, implementation of the other plans requires people’s time.  Since in the Dog Days things are moving more slowly the CMO has some time to put these plans together, sharing them with management at the end of the month.

How are you spending the Dog Days of Summer?


RHM  8/4/2010

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