Why now is the time to double down, with Stephen Woessner

Episode 1000

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Good Morning Onward Nation — I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host.

Welcome back, and today’s episode is going to be a solocast — it will be just you and me exploring a topic with some real depth.

If you’re new to Onward Nation — I tend to record a solocast every 5 to 6-weeks to share some insights, perhaps some research, or examples I gathered from hanging out and talking with agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants just like you.

Or sometimes — I’ll pull some data points and results from the most recent experiments we’ve been running inside the Predictive ROI Lab so you can take and apply the new strategies or tactics to fill your sales pipeline with right-fit prospects.

Okay — let’s shift our attention to today’s topic. I titled this episode “Now Is The Time to Double Down” for several specific reasons. Almost exactly to the day — one year ago — I shared with you a distillation of over 400 pages of research around how business owners marketed their way through a recession like what we were facing back in March 2020…and candidly…are still facing right now in April 2021.

But — the data I shared with you then wasn’t focused on the survival of business owners of just the last recession but the last six recessions.

If you listened to Episode 933 — you and I would have walked through all of that data…and more specifically…how the owners doubled down and made progressive decisions so they could navigate their business through the choppy waters and be in the exact right position to come roaring out the other side of their respective recession.

The last 13-months have certainly taught us many lessons about navigating ourselves through a crisis — painful lessons personally — and of course — inside our businesses.

We learned what it feels like to hurt — and to hurt in a big way — to hurt as family, as friends, as a country — to just hurt and to not feel like there was anywhere to turn.

What it means to truly have grit.

What it means to be compassionate and to take a stand for what we know is right.

What it feels like when we can’t hug a loved one when they need it most.

What it means to look into the eyes of your team and tell them everything’s going to be okay — when you know behind the curtain — you’re struggling to keep your head above water.

In 2020 — we learned so many valuable lessons. And my hope is that through all of the mess that the year was — and the challenges that still linger today — that you also saw some silver linings.

That you took the most overused word of 2020 — which was most likely “pivot” — and you put it to good use.

That you reinvented.

That you asked your clients, prospects, and audience how you could be even more helpful — and you stepped up — and showed your teammates what leadership is all about.

That you jumped into the trenches — back to back — and you dug, slung, and moved the same mud as your team. And that you were open, you were honest, and you let them see you cry when you needed to cry.

We all had those moments. You didn’t — and you don’t have to have all the answers — because you’re human.

So for this solocast…we’re going to take a step back. I’m going to walk you through a small slice of the data from 12-months ago for a couple of reasons.

One — I want you to see how far you have come…how you moved along that path…to reflect on the decisions you made…and the result outcomes. And yes — nothing is ever perfect…but you’re still here. And there’s victory in that.

Two — we’re going to celebrate a few businesses and their owners who really crushed it. And I don’t mean necessarily from a revenue perspective…but I mean from the perspective of being the beacon of hope when we needed them to be.

Being there every time their clients or customers had a question — and oftentimes a difficult one — there they were — being helpful.

Let’s celebrate that because in good times — or in bad, like a global pandemic — it’s a great recipe for us to follow.

And three — as we see the economy recovering — and we see momentum beginning to come back — what are some things you could be doing right now to fill your sales pipeline with right-fit prospects?

I’ll share some insights that you can take and apply.

So you see? Now’s the time to double down.

Now’s the time to push even harder. Now’s the time to say to your team…“We’re going to plant our flag of authority in this niche so that during the next crisis — we will have even further future-proofed our business.”

Now. Right now. Now’s the time to double down.

Okay…deep breath.

I have one more thing to share with you before we dive in.

And it’s a really big, super awesome, and very sincere THANK YOU! If I could give you a big hug — I would.

Today’s episode is number 1,000 of Onward Nation. And that doesn’t happen by accident.

It happens because you and all of our subscribers around the world have shared feedback with us, asked questions, cared enough to point out ways we could be even better, and you shared our episodes with your colleagues, family, and friends. THANK YOU — it has been my honor to sit in this seat for the last 6 years and to have the opportunity to share the insights and wisdom from our guests…with you.

There is also a very long list of family, teammates, mentors, and friends who have made these 1,000 episodes possible.

They were there in the beginning — they prodded me along the way — they encouraged me when I was down — and they held me accountable to get done what I promised to do.

Needless to say — I have a lot of phone calls and thank you cards to write because what John Wooden said was so true — “You will never outperform your inner circle” — and I feel fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by rockstars.

So sincerely, Onward Nation…THANK YOU!


I built this solocast to act as a beacon around why — in my opinion — Now’s The Time to Double Down.

What can we do to rebuild — and if we work hard at it — could it be possible to come out of this recession in an even better position than when we went in?

I will — and will continue to argue — yes — it is possible.

And that is what drove me to do the research. To look back through past recessions, past recoveries…to study the winners and the losers…and to share with you what they did…so we can all take some lessons out of their playbooks and put them to work right now.

I’m going to give you the data points and examples to show it’s possible.

And — I’m going to share the next steps that you and your team can take to make it happen as well as share some free resources.

And all of the research citations that I will quote can be found in the endnotes section of today’s show notes on PredictiveROI.com.

With all that said — let’s start stepping through why Now’s The Time to Double Down.

Let’s start off by reviewing three research studies and articles published in the Harvard Business Review. Again all linked within today’s show notes.

The first article is entitled “Preparing your business for a post—pandemic world,” which was published by HBR on April 10, 2020 and was written by Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritter, both professors at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

I pulled golden nuggets out of Pedersen and Ritter’s work because of their emphasis on planning before and during a crisis — and how if your planning process was sound, Onward Nation — you will come roaring out the other side of the current recession and future proof your business so you’ll be even more prepared for the next crisis.

But in order to prep the proper response plan with smart strategic decisions, you must first understand the position your business holds in the market.

You can do that by asking yourself and your team some fundamental questions like, “who are we in our market,” “what role do we play in the market? (Are we price-sensitive suppliers, are we market leaders, do our clients and prospects see us as thought leaders, etc.?).” And — what if we double down make immediate course corrections…could we emerge as a market leader fueled by developments, new ideas, service offerings, or invest in new markets while the recession is still here — so that — we come roaring out the other side?[1]

Onward Nation — the right plan should not just map out the where but also the how. You need to map out your action steps and milestones for today, next quarter, and for the remainder of the year.

And it’s been my experience — this is where business owners get snagged. In fact — I just got home after several days in Chicago attending a live and in-person workshop for agency owners hosted by Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute.

Okay — quick detour — can I just say — holy frickin’ bananas — it was so awesome to be live and in-person with other owners. To sit, listen, share ideas…share a meal…oh…my…word. Amazing.

Alright — well — one of the exercises during the workshop was the one-year business plan. All it took was a quick show of hands for who actually had a one-page…or any length…written business plan. And only a few hands were raised.

Why? Business oftentimes — we owners create lofty ideas without any of the tactical detail our teams can challenge, make better, and then implement — or worse yet — there’s no plan at all because we rely on winging it. Winging it may work during good economic times — but what we learned in 2020 was that winging it falls super short during a crisis.

Like the former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Your high-level, half-baked plan quickly falls about without the right operationalized strategy.

And that is exactly why when the U.S. Navy SEALS create a mission plan along with 13 contingencies for each mission they execute. Yes — 13.

The SEALS anticipate that there will be an ebb and flow to the mission plan as the situation evolves and changes with new data points, variables difficult to predict, or sudden changes. They never expect to not encounter changes to the plan.

But if they didn’t have a plan – they wouldn’t know what gear to take, how much gear, transportation, extraction, and the litany of other things that need to be considered. The mission doesn’t change but how you accomplish it will most likely need to ebb and flow along the way.

And yet – I know many business owners who bristle at the thought of planning because they don’t want to feel boxed in or the constraint on flexibility. The Seals would tell you that it is because of how they double down on the planning process that they can be more flexible on the battlefield.

Because of their planning — they have already anticipated and thought through their options – and – have everything they need to quickly proceed with a new direction.

Your business can be just as nimble with the right planning.

Yes, COVID has been confusing. It’s been stressful. And there have been times when working with my leadership team at Predictive over the last 12 months when I felt overwhelmed and just wanted to start doing things to see if anything would stick.

But — we didn’t until we had a plan.

So as we start to see the end of this tunnel we’ve been in — I’m pushing you to take a step back…have discipline…look around…ask yourself and your team questions…look at today…this week…this month…and map out…IN WRITING…the steps you intend to take quickly for both the short—term — and — identify how those steps will set your business up for success in 12-months as it relates to your 3-year mission.

Now — another lesson about planning. The plan is no good unless you have shared it — taught from it — marinated your team in it — and then repeated the process over and over again. You need to communicate the details of the plan as well as the process used to create the plan — with your entire team.

If you or your leadership team works through the planning process in a vacuum and doesn’t share highlights, milestones, or progress as the plan is evolving — I’m telling you — your team will feel lost…they won’t know how to implement it…you will have lost your opportunity to create buy-in…and your culture will suffer.

Your team was just as confused, scared, and concerned as you were when COVID first hit. And now — many of them…if not all of them…are looking forward to the possibilities that await you and your business on the other side of this recession. And you building the plan will help them not only see those possibilities — but — ensure that they see your vision — and — they will know how to make it become a reality.

But to be clear — I’m not suggesting that your entire team needs to be involved in the creation of the core plan.

But what I am suggesting is that you take a lesson out of the book, “Extreme Ownership” where you and your leadership team create the core plan — brief your entire team on the objectives and intent of the plan — and then ask junior members of your team to meet and work out the tactical details for implementing the plan.[3]

Your job is to make sure you are clear on the objectives and the intent of the plan. Then set your expectations for the timing for the completion of the plan — quickly…like 24— to 48—hours — and have each of the junior team members present their portion of the plan back to you and your leadership team. Then everyone asks questions and in doing so – does some stress testing of the plan. It’s crucial to create space for the plan to evolve but that doesn’t mean your planning process needs to take weeks. It can be days and you will be off and running.

I assure you — your greatest challenge during the planning process will be to prioritize. You need to be careful that you don’t start numerous projects that all depend on the same critical resources. If you do — you will burn out your team and nothing will get done with excellence. Instead — take your five, six, or 10 great ideas…apply pressure to them…and distill them down to one to two great ideas with clear steps for the next 30-days. And then keep a list of all of the other ideas and come back to it in 30-days and re-evaluate what should be next.

And if you go to today’s show notes — you will be able to download a super helpful calendar from our good friends at Elite Entrepreneurs — it will help you visualize each and every meeting you should be having with your team throughout the year so that you can communicate the details of your plan.

Now let’s shift our attention to the imagination — because we need it now more than ever.

Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, both part of the Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute, wrote a brilliant article entitled, “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever” which was published by the Harvard Business Review on April 10, 2020. A link to the full text of the article can be found in the endnotes section of today’s show notes.

Reeves and Fuller put forth the argument that imagination — in the face of uncertainty, economic recession, and the historic challenges we’re facing right now — is exactly what we need to solve the problem. But it is difficult to apply imagination and all of its benefits when we are in full-on crisis management mode.


Because when something unexpected and significant happens our first instinct is to defend against it. Then we later move to understand and manage whatever caused the crisis so we can get back to the status quo.

The authors believe – and I agree – “that your capacity to imagine…to create, to evolve, and to pursue ideas — is a crucial factor in seizing and creating new opportunities, and finding new paths to growth.”[4]

But the challenge is — and my guess is when I impressed upon you the importance of planning a few minutes ago — you may have said to yourself “Stephen…there’s no time for planning – I need to double down and take action now.”

Same thing with imagination — because of the pressure of COVID— it will be one of the hardest things to keep alive in your business — both now and into the future.

However — imagination — rethinking how you can double down in what you deliver to be helpful to your clients and prospects is exactly what can help you come roaring out the other side of this recession.

For example — in recessions and downturns, 14 percent of companies outperform both historically and competitively because they invested in new growth areas.

Apple released its first iPod in 2001 — the same year the U.S. economy experienced a recession that contributed to a 33 percent drop in Apple’s total revenue. Still – Apple saw the iPod’s ability to transform its product portfolio so the company increased R&D spending by double digits, which sparked an era of high growth for the company.[5]

But — let’s shine a bright light on some non-Apple companies because sometimes it’s super easy to discount these types of case studies because most of us don’t have several hundred billion lying around that we can invest toward R&D.

That said — if you were to take a look inside the communities of Agency Management Institute, Elite Entrepreneurs, and Smart Real Estate Coach — you could find business owner after business owner who had their best year in history during 2020. I know many business owners who doubled sales, team size, and profit in the last 12-months.

How on Earth is that possible? Were they just lucky — in the right place — at the right time — with the right silver lining?

It would be lovely if it were that simple — but no.

They re-imagined the possibilities.

They doubled down on being helpful.

They asked their clients and prospects what they needed?

They shared their insights and wisdom by teaching generously.

And — they didn’t just focus on service delivery. They marketed. They created content. They stepped up in a big way to be a solution. They rolled out new offerings. Retired old offerings. And they made it even easier to do business with them.

They reimagined every aspect of their business, Onward Nation — and you can too.

And there’s still time.

If you can rally your teams — create an imaginative plan that everyone buys into because they had a hand in building it — you will likely be way ahead of your competitors as we come roaring out of this recession.

Right now — because of everything that has happened over the last year — you might be the only one serving your niche who is actually thinking about how best to double down on being helpful.

The rest of your industry might be thinking about that next promotional push…something…anything in order to get a few dollars in to make Q2 look promising.

But — I’m encouraging you to IMAGINE a completely different path.

A path where you generously share your smarts, your insights, where you teach the best of what you have and how it aligns with the business issues and challenges your clients, prospects, audience face — in good times or in crisis. You do all of this while everyone else is simply reacting.

You’ll be on a completely different level. Why? Because you allowed yourself the time to imagine the blue ocean of possibilities — and — you worked your butt off to make it happen.

Okay — so let’s dial this in a little further.
How do you do all of that?

Let me help by giving you a push from the authors. Instead of asking yourself and your team passive questions like “What will happen to us during this recession?” — flip the script — by asking active, open questions like “How can we create new options?”

Or — “How can we double down and be even more helpful to our clients and prospects during this crisis?”

What could we teach?

What research and strategic insights could we share?

What online event, webinar, or forum could we host for our clients, prospects, and audience that would share the best of what we’ve got to help them navigate what’s next?

And yes — I agree with you — there are no easy solutions or silver bullets. This is a ton of work.

My Predictive team and I have wrestled through many options when we were building out our 1-year Strategic Plan. We’ve worked through everything I’m recommending to you…I have seen it in action. So yes — it’s hard — the discipline you need in order to essentially force yourself to imagine the possibilities — create a plan — and see it through — will — no doubt — be challenging.

But — all of this work — I assure you — will help you plant your flag of authority in the niche you serve — and — you will be of greater service to your clients, prospects, and audience…and…when you do this the right way…and your heart is in the right place…you will attract an abundance of right-fit prospects into your sales pipeline.

And you will come roaring out the other side of this recession.

Okay – the last nugget I want to share with you was a game-changer for me. I have been a student of mindset, attraction theory, and the power of the mastermind for years. I’m a firm believer in that which we focus on we get more of. Perseverating over negative thoughts produces negative results and I have seen the reverse happen, too. And when blended with a great plan, intentional execution, and hard work – the details within the plan become reality.

However — what I learned from this article and wanted to share with you is how this actually plays out in the world of statistics, too.

For example — “when we lose hope and adopt a passive mindset, we cease to believe that we can meet our ideals or fix our problems. In statistics, what’s called “Bayesian Learning” involves taking a belief about a statistical distribution – the prior results in other words – and then updating it in the light of each new piece of information obtained. Essentially — the outcome of the entire process can be determined by the initial belief. Therefore Onward Nation — in a very real way — pessimism can become a self—fulfilling prophecy.”[6]

In the show notes — I cite the section of research from the article I just shared with you so you can do a deep dive into the justification for it if you like.

So let’s go high level for a minute — if you focus on being imaginative, being open to the possibilities, giving your team grounds for hope, encouraging them to be innovative…and all of this is done with the intent of being helpful to your clients and prospects in a way you never have been before…you will make progress.

Meanwhile – your competitors will be bogged down in the myriad of thin things and trapped in a short-term survival mentality that requires them to TAKE from their clients and prospects…and guess what…it won’t work.

There were many silver linings of the last 12-months if we look hard enough — and I will tell you that one of the biggest — is that we as people are even more attuned to generosity, transparency, truth, and it has become super easy to sniff out a fake.

So — imagine yourself generously playing the long game and your clients and prospects will love you for it because they will see you are genuinely playing the game for their benefit.

Trust me when I say that the trench you’re fighting in every day – that trench of pressure, doubt, fear, anxiety, and at times…overwhelm…yep, I know that trench well, too. And I’m right there — right here — with you…slugging it out, too…and working hard.

One thing I’m grateful for is that because of the last 12 months — at Predictive — we sharpened our leadership and planning skills. We were forced to quickly build a plan. My fellow leaders and I prioritized…we mapped out how we could be helpful to our clients and prospects…and we did all of that from the spirit of imagination.

And then we shared it with our team.

Now – taking you behind the curtain in full transparency…we did all of that in 48—hours.

This is not a 4—6 week process.

Don’t get bogged down. Get moving.

Let’s keep up the momentum of the planning process and begin to think about how you could deal with the myriad of business pressures right now.

Do you continue to look to cut operating costs.

Do you reduce staff?

Do you work to open new markets and invest in R&D, or some other combination of strategies?

And – is there an ideal combination or blend of the strategies – and if so – what have been the result outcomes from other companies as they worked to navigate past crises.

Thankfully – there is some excellent research available on all of the above.

With that said – it might seem a bit odd that I am going to now turn our attention toward an article / published study in the Harvard Business Review from 2010.

Why would I pull from an article that is 10—years old?

The article is entitled, “Roaring Out of Recession” and was published in HBR on March 3, 2010.

I’m encouraging you and your team to study it because the data points within the article provide a whole lot of context that will be helpful to what you’re working on today.

Back in 2010 of course – the country was looking for any and all help in pulling itself out of the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. But in order to make smart recommendations to their 2010 readers – the authors went back and gathered data from the past three global recessions:

  • The 1980 crisis (which lasted from 1980 to 1982)
  • The 1990 slowdown (1990 to 1991)
  • And the 2000 bust (2000 to 2002)

They studied 4,700 public companies, breaking down the data into three periods:

  • The three years before a recession
  • The three years after
  • And the recession years themselves.[8]

It took the researchers over 12-months to complete the research and they focused on publicly traded companies because of the availability and access to data.

Here are some of the strategic insights from the research…

17 percent of the companies in the study didn’t survive their respective recession.

About 80 percent of 4,700 companies in the study (3,760 companies) had not yet regained their pre-recession growth rate for sales and profits three years after the recession.

40 percent of the 4,700 companies (1,880 companies) hadn’t even returned to their prerecession sales and profits levels by the end of the three years post-recession.

For the majority of the companies – the financial impact of the recession were long-lasting.

Only 9 percent of companies flourished after a slowdown and did better than they had before and outperformed rivals in their industry.

Interestingly — companies that cut costs faster and deeper than their competitors didn’t flourish.

In fact – these were the companies in the study with the LOWEST probability — 21 percent — of pulling ahead of their competition when the economy rebounded.

Counterintuitively — the company leaders that decided to double down and boldly invest more than their rivals during a recession also didn’t fare well.

They only enjoyed a 26 percent chance of becoming leaders after a downturn and then into an economic rebound.

And most surprising to me when I studied the research was learning that 85 percent of growth leaders heading into a recession were toppled because of the crisis.

So if you’re not currently the leader in your niche – then right NOW could absolutely be your perfect opportunity if you lead your team correctly, plant your flag of authority, and be the expert your clients, prospects, and audience need you to be.

The post-recession winners were companies that mastered the art of making progression decisions and balancing cutting costs to survive AND investing to grow tomorrow.

And the proof is in the results with 37 percent of the post-recession winners breaking away from the pack.

“The post—recession winners were the companies that cut costs selectively by focusing on increasing operational efficiency — meanwhile — they invested relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets. This is the best antidote to a recession.”[9]

The researchers called the segment of companies that had taken this strategic approach, “Progressive.”

Okay — so let’s define that a little further.

Progressive companies deploy the optimal combination of defense and offense.

Conversely — the “prevention-focused companies” in the study were the ones whose leaders quickly implemented policies that reduced operating costs, shrunk discretionary expenditures, eliminated frills, lowered headcount, and preserved cash. They also postponed making new investments in R&D, developing new businesses, or buying assets such as plants and machinery to expand their capacity.

Prevention-focused leaders cut back on almost every item of cost and investment and reduce expenditures significantly more than competitors.

Focusing solely on cost—cutting causes executives and employees to approach every decision through a loss—minimizing lens and pessimism permeates the organization.

Prevention-focused companies did exactly what Brett Gilliland, CEO of Elite Entrepreneurs, warned us against back in Episode 929 when he shared the lessons around flee, fight — and the most harmful to business owners — and that’s freezing and doing nothing.

Prevention-focused companies were the ones that suffered the most during the recession – and – took the longest to recover. Or – never recovered to their pre-recession levels for sales and profit.

So let’s flip that — is doubling down on promotion the right strategy…right now?

No – it’s not that simple.

When companies in the study focused purely on promotion — essentially having the mindset of we’re going to advertise our way out of the crisis by just shouting more often that our customers need our stuff — it developed a culture of optimism that led companies to deny the gravity of a crisis for a long time.

They ignored early warning signs, such as customer’s budget cuts, and were steadfast in the belief that as long as they innovate, their sales and profits will continue to rise.

They didn’t notice that because the pie was shrinking and that they must capture an even larger share from rivals to keep growing. And this typically leads to intense price competition and a zero—sum game.

No one wins in a race to the bottom.

However — progressive companies — which is where I’m urging you to begin thinking, Onward Nation — they are the companies that cut costs by improving operational efficiency rather than by slashing the number of employees.

Only 23 percent of progressive companies cut staff — whereas 56% of prevention—focused companies do—and they lay off fewer people.

And the offensive moves by progressive are even comprehensive.

Progressive companies developed new business opportunities by making significantly greater investments than their rivals in R&D and marketing, and they invested in expanding their capacity.

Progressive companies developed new markets and invested to enlarge their asset bases. They took advantage of depressed prices to buy property, equipment, etc.

All of that combined is why the post-recession growth in sales and earnings by the progressive lead companies was the best among the 4,700 within the study.

Okay — let’s do a quick recap of what we have covered so far.

First — by the data — you need to have a plan that involves your entire team – you cannot afford to wing it through any crisis…and definitely not this one.

Second — you need to find ways to stay open to imagination and let it impact your R&D and how you approach doubling down on being helpful to your clients and prospects.

And third — if you want your business to make it through the other side of this crisis…and potentially…be in an even better position than when you entered it…now is the time to be progressive. Yes, reduce your operating expenses to boost efficiency…keep your team intact the best you can…and make investments in your marketing and R&D so you can be even more helpful to your clients, prospects, and audience.

Let’s take the ROI around marketing investments a bit deeper with some data points collected from a study commissioned by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).

“ASI studied 2,662 firms from 1970 – 1991 to determine the effect of marketing on a company during a recession. Firms that marketed during a recession increased in value and got more marketing bang for their investment. In some cases – up to three years after the recession had ended. It seems like common sense – if you market when everyone else stops marketing – your message is more likely to be noticed due to a less cluttered market and your business is more likely to be remembered once your competitors begin marketing again.”

In my opinion, Onward Nation — this NOW’S THE TIME for you not to be silent.

You need to be in front of your clients, prospects, and audience — and yes — that is marketing.

But — not pitchy and salesy.

Focus on helping. Drew McLellan and I mapped out a complete blueprint for how to do this — and how to do it well — in our book, “Sell with Authority.” And if you want a free paperback copy — all you need to do is send me an email at [email protected] and I will ship you a copy. No shipping fees — nothing. Just let me know you want a copy — and we’ll ship it straight away.

I want you to have a progressive mindset about how to lead your business to the other side of this recession — and — I want you to be very thoughtful about the content you and your team creates and shares.

This is why I also want to share some highlights from a special report from Edelman because the context here will help guide the context of your content.

You can access a full copy of the report from the Edelman website using the link at the bottom of today’s show notes.

Edelman is a global communications firm that partners with businesses and organizations to evolve, promote, and protect their brands and reputations. Edelman employs 6,000 people in more than 60 offices. And they have been studying, researching, reporting on the topic of trust for the last 20—years. Their report has become the standard for excellence on the topic.

Edelman conducted a 12—market study on the critical role brands are expected to play during COVID.

They interviewed 12,000 people in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the U.S.

I’m going to walk through a high—level overview of just a handful of key insights…

71 percent said if they perceive that a business is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that business forever.[10]

84 percent said they want advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic—related life challenges.[11]

77 percent said they want brands only to speak about products and services in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives.[12]

And the study showed that there’s a deep desire for expertise.

84 percent of respondents globally said that they want businesses to be a reliable news source that keeps people informed. They want to receive this information from multiple sources, in part because they are skeptical about any individual medium given the proliferation of fake news.

Taking that further — 85 percent of respondents want you to be an educator, offering your audience instructional information.

With that said — I’m not suggesting that you play doctor or infectious disease expert.

But what I am recommending is that you pick up the torch and lead the conversations in your niche about the business impact COVID has had — and is having — on your customers, your vendors, your industry as a whole.

And — continue to champion the distribution of resources, research, or anything else you think will be helpful to your community of clients and prospects who are desperately seeking answers.

If you’re on our email list – you likely received updates from me when PPP was first a thing — and then the series of resources, calculators, applications, tax resources, etc. that were all made available shortly thereafter.

Our expertise isn’t in the public health arena – but – we absolutely believed we could be helpful to business owners within our community by sharing resources we have curated.

And you know what? The response from our community was incredible because we shared the right resources, at the right time, with absolutely no expectation of return.

Helping, Onward Nation. Not selling.

The team at Edelman believes that COVID has — and will — fundamentally change how we think, behave, and consume.

Business owners that act in the interest of their employees, clients, prospects, and other stakeholders will reinforce their expertise, leadership, and trust and immeasurably strengthen those bonds.

Your community is looking to you to share your thought leadership and expertise – and you can’t do that by shrinking or by being quiet. They want you to demonstrate your authority.

Don’t be promotional – be helpful. Don’t focus on selling – but be solutions-focused.

NOW’S THE TIME to Double down on sharing your expertise like you never have before.

I assure you…creating an authority position will deliver a financial return on your investment.

Okay – let’s begin to wrap up and come in for a landing by circling back to some additional framing about what makes someone an authority.

Thought leaders don’t write content that anyone else could claim. Thought leaders don’t write about anything and everything. And thought leaders don’t compete on price. And because of COVID, the data from Edelman, the data from our own ROI of Thought Leadership study (we’ll add a link in the show notes so you can download a free copy), and many other relevant sources — I will argue — that NOW’S THE TIME TO DOUBLE DOWN and plant your flag of authority.

Churning out generic content to get ahead in Google rankings may have worked 20 years ago – but it doesn’t work today and it’s not helpful to your audience.

In our book entitled, “Sell with Authority”, Drew and I shared highlights from the 2019 Trust Barometer study from Edelman, a global PR agency, which has conducted the study each year for the last 20—years. It’s a worldwide study with 33,000 consumers participating in 27 countries.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study was that buyers assign a high level of trust to people they believe are just like themselves. When you think about the impact that ratings, reviews, and influencers have with their audiences, you begin to see the power of that belief.

But Edelman’s research isn’t about the celebrity influencer. This study documents the rise of the common man influencer – business owners just like you and me, Onward Nation.

It’s noteworthy because it gives statistical validity to the idea of real people as influencers and the impact they can have on the beliefs around a brand.

The one attribute that ranked higher than the trust we have in people like you and me is the trust we have in highly educated experts. The only three groups of people we trust more than people like ourselves are company, industry, and academic experts.

Experts are afforded the highest level of confidence and trust because they have a depth of knowledge in a specific industry or niche. So why in the world wouldn’t you capitalize on that?

Instead of creating generic content that looks and sounds like everyone else during this crisis – take the opportunity to create thought leadership content that is unique, different, and helpful – not promotional.

A true authority has something specific to teach us, and they want to be helpful or illuminating.

They’re eager to share what they know because they have a genuine passion for it, and they don’t fear giving away the recipe to their secret sauce (or so it’s perceived).

That confidence and generosity are contagious. Their expertise is something specific groups of people (their sweet—spot prospects) are hungry to access.

Call them an expert, a thought leader, an authority, a sought—after pundit, advisor, or specialist. They’re all words for the same thing—a trusted resource that has earned that trust by demonstrating and generously sharing the depth of their specialized knowledge over and over again.

Drew and I would argue that a true authority has a strong point—of—view or belief that influences how they talk about their subject area. A narrow niche, a strong point—of—view, and being findable in multiple places are the hallmarks of an authority position.

And — they have a plan for creating content that is helpful to their niche and not focused on selling.

All of the data points to the validity of leveraging your own thought leadership as your core strategy to proactively market your way through the recession and to make it through to the other side in a stronger position than when all of this happened.

You need a plan, with some imagination, some hard work, progressive ideas, and the willingness to invest your time and attention toward execution.

But if you do that – and your clients, prospects, and audience can see that you are being helpful…when they are ready to enter the market again…you’ll have put yourself in the best possible position for a new trajectory of growth.

Your competitors aren’t doing this hard work. And that should be the most compelling reason why NOW’S THE TIME TO DOUBLE DOWN.

The data is all on your side, Onward Nation.

Okay – whew – was that a lot?

Holy bananas – it sure felt like a lot.

And remember — all of the research sources can be found in the endnotes in today’s show notes on PredictiveROI.com.

As always — I look forward to your feedback. The emails you send me — and your comments on social media — all help us get better every day — so thank you for that Onward Nation and keep them coming.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this solocast and to make Episode 1,000 that much more special. I’m grateful!

And if you need me — you can reach me directly at [email protected].

That’s my actual Inbox and I read and reply to every email.

Okay, Onward Nation — until our next episode — onward with gusto!


[1] “Preparing Your Business for a Post—Pandemic World”, Carsten Lund Pederson and Thomas Ritter, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[2] “Preparing Your Business for a Post—Pandemic World”, Carsten Lund Pederson and Thomas Ritter, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[3] “Extreme Ownership”, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

[4] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[5] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[6] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[7] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[8] “Roaring Out of Recession”, Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria, Franz Wohlgezogen, Harvard Business Review, March 3, 2010.

[9] “Roaring Out of Recession”, Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria, Franz Wohlgezogen, Harvard Business Review, March 3, 2010.

[10] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

[11] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

[12] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

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The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

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