Welcome to the first entry in Viva’s 3-part series, “Marketing in the COVID-19 World”, designed to help decision makers navigate these choppy waters. This first installment focuses on the adjustments B2B and DTC marketers must make to weather the storm.
Part 1: ADJUST
Just like we are adjusting to the new reality of staying home, marketers must adjust to the role their brands play in a customer’s life at home.
Marketers must adapt how they lead their teams, speak to their customers, and manage their brands.
Customers may never know how a company’s HR or finance department responds to an unpredicted event, however, marketing is fully exposed. Its moves are reflected in every ad campaign, message and channel.
It’s a marketer’s job to set the tone for how customers perceive the brand during this unprecedented time. Approaches that made sense last month could come off as tone deaf today.
Companies must be authentic. Those with a product or service well-suited for difficult times must tread lightly. Those who don’t see a connection with what they offer and consumers’ needs, must be creative and honest with themselves. This may not be the time to sell but rather offer customers a service they need.
Where do you begin?
Step #1: Quickly assess your existing marketing.
What’s running now? Does it still make sense?
Do you have automated email campaigns queued up with messages that are outdated, insensitive or self-serving? Do you have direct mail campaigns about to drop that ask customers to “stop by and save”, “schedule an in-house visit today”, or “read about bike trips to the Canadian Rockies”? Do your social media posts encourage fans to attend an in-person event? Move swiftly to suspend campaigns that no longer make sense.
Step #2: Listen to your customers.
Use social listening to monitor customer discussions about health concerns, homeschooling or other information needs monopolizing your customers’ headspace. Ask customer service and sales representatives what they’re hearing from customers.
The output is input for your next campaign.
Step #3: Over communicate with your employees.
Talk to these vital brand ambassadors every step of the way. Demonstrate that you hear them and what they’re telling you about your customers. Explain why you’re making changes. Admit that you don’t have all the answers. Show compassion by sharing that you know firsthand that this pandemic has hit everyone. Share hope.
Commit to continuing to share information with them before you announce changes to your customers.
Step #4: Make time-critical changes.
Adapt messaging. Strike the balance between selling and being sensitive to people’s desire to be sold to now (or ever).
Adapt media channels. Consumers are hesitant about opening mail. Now might not be the optimal time to test a new direct mail strategy.
Adapt your product or service.
These dramatic changes require agility, creativity and practicality. Enlist outside talent if your crew isn’t expert in analyzing consumer sentiment, realigning messaging and quickly pivoting your offerings.
Stay tuned for part 2 on Planning and part 3 on Re-engaging in this series: Marketing in the COVID-19 World.