THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
As we close out 2020 and open the books in 2021, the same phenomenon and questions arise for me as they have for the past 22 years as the founder of All Terrain. How are we going to reach the goals we laid out for the company and our team?
In the marketing and experiential industry, a good deal of the work is project based. Projects can last multiple years, but most take place within a 365 day period. As such, the beginning of the year can bring some company’s revenue back to zero on Jan 1. It can be a precarious moment. A moment that my team members remind me that I get anxious about every year at this time. Then they remind me, we always break through and build beyond the year before.
For the past 22 years, All Terrain has forecasted revenue for the forthcoming year. We have either met or surpassed the revenue goal 90% of the time. There have been years, like 2008 when the recession hit, that our projections we planned for fell very short. I remember how nervous we all were about the survival of the company and what it meant for our team.
At that time, General Motors was our biggest client and they were looking for a bail out from the government. They cut all major advertising and sponsorships. To our surprise, when GM was in the process of seeking funding, they did call out the work we were doing as essential. With our work GM was able to prove the experiential campaigns, like the ones All Terrain was executing, generated sales for the automotive company.
While GM did cut a good deal of spend with us that year, they kept some of our key campaigns alive. So, with some belt tightening along with new business opportunities we were able to keep afloat and keep the entire team intact, inclusive of health benefits and even small bonuses. Years like 08’ remind me that we can weather any storm.
We thought 2020 would be reminiscent of 2008. However, despite the odds and challenges last year presented, it wound up being an incredibly successful year for the company. What is ironic to me is that 2020 was a year we eased into with business already booked and plans in motion. Then the pandemic hit and everything was up for grabs!
This is where our experience and gut instincts came into play. We had been producing content and virtual programming for years. We just weren’t talking about it as a main capability. It was more of an adjunct to an overall campaign strategy.
Those skill sets became very valuable as we pivoted a major launch for Ferrari into the first virtual launch the car company ever did. We were also able to take an in person mentorship program for Stacy’s Pita Chips and bring it to life, virtually. There are many more examples of those kinds of pivots that kept the company afloat and profitable in 2020. They also provided us valuable lessons on what we want to pursue in 2021.
Which brings me to today, Monday, January 4th, 2021. The first real work day of the year. Today involved touch base calls with our finance, administration, strategy, creative, account teams and a few clients. I am reviewing budgets for programs that should launch in spring and I am tweaking the revenue and client pipeline for the year.
I know this article is revealing, as we always want to appear to be the company that is consistently saturated with work and clients. Don’t get me wrong, we are, and this time next month we will be hiring more people and building teams to support the next wave of new clients while maintaining current clients and campaigns. Nonetheless, ALL agencies and many other types of companies face this moment every year. If you are reading this and fall on the agency/service provider side, I hope this article will make you feel better and provide some good ideas. If you are on the client side, I hope reading this provides you more understanding of the work cycles we experience.
So here is how we manage the calm before the storm or the January scaries.
Lean On Past Successes & Creativity :
We know that what we did well in the prior year is a good benchmark for the coming year. If we delivered for a customer in the past, we are in automatic consideration for the next relevant opportunity. To support this inertia we find ways to stay on our clients radar in smart and authentic ways.
One example of how we do this is we take a great deal of care and consideration when we send out client gifts. We make sure the gifts reflect our creativity and drive positive emotional connection to our brand. This year we created a dynamic send off experience for 2020. You can see the note card explaining the gift below.
To keep our talent and capabilities visible, we use our content capture and editing capabilities to recap the successes of the year. We share this reel with people in our networks. Both clients and people who can recommend our company. This usually sparks a lot of conversation. Below is our 2020 Year in Review video, which is an example of how we showcase our work.
Double Down On Service & Values:
As the CEO, beyond company strategy and driving revenue, my role is to also preserve the culture and values of the company. January gives me a great opportunity to double down on culture, values and relationships to our community. In the first month of the year, I reignite my intention to serve others. I reach out and see where I can be of service, professionally and personally. This gives me a sense of accomplishment in and of itself.
Find A New Way In:
Research and planning take up a great deal of the first quarter, especially this year. 2020 changed the trajectory of many industries, companies and people. Continuing to understand the ever changing terrain within our industry will enable us to think through how our company’s services can impact potential and current clients for the better.
In example, virtual mentorship and community building events, when done well, have proven to be more cost effective for our clients. The virtual programs we produce drive great engagement and amplification opportunities. As such we will be seeking out other brands and clients who can benefit from this key learning.
Think it. See it. Do it.
This may sound a little too “woo-woo” to some, however, I spend a great deal of time manifesting. I visualize the clients, places and platforms I want All Terrain to work with. I can usually find a way to get us there, as long as I can see those elements. It is all about connecting the steps, identifying the people you need to reach out to and sharing vision and ideas in a compelling way.
Finally, I want to speak to “self- care,” a very overused phrase in 2020, but relevant. Anxiety is a constant for many people. Tending to your health and wellness should always be a consideration. However, the beginning of the year tends to make health and wellness a big focus. Fresh starts, new beginnings, resolutions, whatever you want to call it…just do it. Regular exercise and cutting back on things that give you brain fog, will make you feel better and less anxious. It is as easy as that.
Just writing this article provided me a moment to relax and appreciate the pre-work All Terrain has done and is doing that is setting us up for success in 2021. If you are feeling the January scaries, I encourage you to write down what is making you anxious and then list 5 things you can do to change the trajectory of your thinking. I promise you will feel better and in more control when you finish the exercise.
Wishing you all a fun and productive start of the year!
Brook Jay. Relentless Visionary. Founder, All Terrain Collective.