It is easy to picture the worst happening and to react by trying to prepare for those rocky times ahead. In most of the companies I have worked with, we’ve designed a crisis plan in case things were to turn bad. This includes anything from a moment of bad publicity, to a rogue employee and anything else in between.
Large corporations have crisis plans that they can put in to action in hours (if not less) at any time of the day or night. However, most of these large businesses don’t really prepare for opportunities that are coming from the market.
Risks and opportunities are 2 faces of the same coin, and just as quick as one appears, the other can appear as well. A recent Amazon Prime hiccup could have been a great example for online businesses:
What happened to Amazon?
On July 16, Amazon had their day and a half of sales for prime members. Today, Amazon represents 50% of online sales in the US. They’ve had anticipated this day for months. The date of the 16th was a strategically planned day because it coincides with the time when most of the US employees get paid. People had some dollars to spend and were willing to spend it online.
Amazon’s website went down early on the 16th, which I know because I had my card ready, so I could buy some stuff for my kids. It went down for half a day and people could not order on the busiest spending day of the year. There were thousands of angry tweets by customers ready to spend with their card in their hand; they were mad because they could not buy.
I can picture the teams at other large retailers making fun of Amazon’s technical team struggling to fix this execution mistake. Yet regardless, Amazon still made an extra $1 billion that day in sales.
Marketing is about leading the charge when it comes to taking advantage of these types of opportunities. Just like a crisis management plan, you will need to go through the following steps:
- Brainstorm: Lay out all the potential positive things that could happen for your business.
- Organize: Organize your ideas into big buckets. One will probably be the potential challlenges that your major competitors are facing (technical, quality, customers support).
- Create: Generate an open plan of communication as well as design templates that will be ready to go with minimal customization.
- Prepare: Make sure that your team know therole they are supposed to play and what they are supposed to do.
I believe that there are more opportunities in the world than risks, and risks most of the time can be turned into something positive, or into a valuable lesson. By having these positive opportunity plans in place, it helps one to be more aware of these opportunistic moments. For that, you can use social monitoring websites, such as tweetdeck, and Google Alert for your most important keywords. When a major opportunity presents itself, you know when to call your team or your favorite agency, and everybody knows what they are supposed to do.
In French we have a saying: La nature a horreur du vide. Literally, it means that nature hates emptiness. When there is an opportunity that opens up, the market around you will race to fill in this gap. Opportunity windows can be wide or narrow, but when one comes, you can be sure that people will do their best to take profit from the situation.
In the case of Amazon, their system went down for about 6 hours, and yet no other brands have been able to launch a spontaneous social media campaign during this time, when the #PrimeDayFail started to be trending on Twitter, no other brands were ready to offer a coupon that would say PRIMEFAIL and offer 20% off and launch an aggressive acquisition campaign. I was sure that most of the big players would have something out in an instant, and yet only Target pushed a soft picture on Twitter.
Hello Best Buy, hello Walmart, hello Etsy.
Considering that Amazon processed 100 million orders in about one full day, I am sure that other brands would have been able to get a piece of the pie, had they known what to do.
It took me 2 minutes to create this Amazon ad. I would have blasted it on all social networks, called a few influencers, recorded a few videos, and everything would have been out in an hour. I was really expecting brands to send me an email with this type of messaging to redirect my online spend. They didn’t.
Having been in large corporations before, I understand that it can be challenging to innovate and launch unscheduled campaigns based on what’s happening now rather than in the future. Retail marketers could have generated millions out of this misstep, and could have become the heroes of their organizations, but at the down time, I picture them making fun of the Amazon failure by the water cooler, chatting as calmly but not acting. Again…, Amazon still closed $1 billion in sales, and their stock price keeps climbing.
This story is also true for other industries, such as with the Experian hack, or with the Wells Fargo scandal. Customers were left on the side and nobody was able to offer them an alternative.
So don’t forget to prepare for both: Be ready for the best opportunities, and prepare for the worst.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!” – Rudyard Kipling