Crisis Model: Zero Plan

How to plan for the worst marketing outcomes.

Crisis Model: Zero Plan

Is there really such a thing as a marketing emergency?

I usually argue no, but there are a lot of things that can feel like marketing emergencies, right?

There are certainly marketing outcomes that can feel like disasters.

Like, have you ever tried to sell something and gotten zero sales?

It absolutely sucks, doesn’t it? I know, because it’s happened to me. And I’m a professional marketer! Imagine how bad that feels.

What’s worse is I wasn’t really prepared for it, and I could have been. I had planned for low sales, for a long slog, but not for zero.

Here’s the thing though: I could have been prepared because it was bound to happen eventually.

Here’s why:

The most profound story in Snowball, Alice Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffet, is when Schroeder sums up why a particular investment firm failed:

“Anything times zero is zero, Buffett said. A total loss is a ‘zero.’ No matter how small the likelihood of a total loss on any given day, if you kept betting and betting, the risk kept stacking up and multiplying. If you kept betting long enough, sooner or later, as long as a zero was not impossible, someday a zero was one hundred percent certain to show up.”

Every decision is a bet—every marketing effort is a bet on the future—and as long as you keep betting, eventually you’re going to get a zero.

Simply because it’s not impossible.

So, the question I had to ask myself is: Why didn’t I plan for zero?

And the answer is, because I didn’t actually know how.

So that’s why I built the Zero Plan model. So you (and future me) can avoid making the same mistake (again).

It helps you prepare for things like:

If your new marketing campaign drives zero sales.

If nobody shows up for your press conference.

If your new course gets zero sign-ups.

If your new website gets you no new leads.

If nobody comes to your Grand Opening.

The point isn’t to assume bad things will happen every time you do something, only that they will happen sometime.

And it’s better to be prepared instead of trying to predict.

For any new marketing effort where a complete miss would be operationally, existentially, emotionally, or financially devastating, I highly recommend making a Zero Plan.

So, how do you make one?

First, you document an honest assessment of what could happen if you got a zero.

Second, some form of hedge against a zero outcome.

Third, mitigation strategies to specifically avoid a zero.

Fourth, a plan to turn a zero into value.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to break down the Zero Plan into these core components and describe them in detail so you can make your own.

Along the way, I’ll be sharing true stories from my experience as a marketer and a crisis and reputation management consultant.

The Series:
Crisis Model: Zero Plan
Part 1: Honest Assessment
Part 2: Hedging Your Bet
Part 3: Mitigation Strategies
Part 4: The Final Framework

If you want to avoid marketing disasters, follow along by making sure you’re subscribed.

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