Published in Crain’s by Laura Sheridan, President of Viva La Brand: Consumers have changed how they shop, work and live; marketing must change, too.

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior. At-home working, at-home entertainment and at-home dining have necessitated a change in shopping and buying that many analysts predict will remain for the long term.

Maintaining the same marketing strategies that worked prior to the pandemic likely won’t yield the same results going forward. If you’re committed to building long-term relationships with your customers, then you must pause and ask: What can we do to ensure our brand stays relevant to our customers? Conduct research.

Conducting research that results in insights to help guide your marketing efforts involves answering four key questions:

Question 1: Why are you conducting research?

Research from last year is obsolete. It’s time to check back in with your customers. How have their daily routines changed? How have their priorities changed? How has the way they interact with your products or service changed? What must you know about your customers to develop a targeted, effective marketing program?

Question 2: Who needs to be part of your research study?

The second step is identifying from whom you need to learn. Which customer segments do you need to hear from? Current customers you’re at risk of losing? Your oldest customers? Loyal customers? New customers? Future customers you haven’t yet convinced to try your offerings?

Question 3: What do you need to ask?

The third step in developing a successful research study is identifying the optimal questions to elicit the responses you have to hear. The questions you ask need to be tailored to your target audience. Word choice and phrasing matter. Use terminology that resonates with each segment, and don’t ask leading questions.

Question 4: How can you gain access to the insights?

The fourth step is selecting the appropriate research channel. Which channel will secure authentic, actionable input? Options include focus groups, one-on-one interviews, observational research and online surveys.

Once you’ve answered those four questions, you’re ready to conduct robust research. Don’t forget: Research also includes analyzing industry data and trends in addition to your own primary research.

Staying relevant to your customers also requires you to look inward. What “job” is your product doing for your customers? Do you have the right people and resources to develop and implement targeted marketing strategies?Your product

Is your product doing the job that your customer needs today? People’s shopping and buying behaviors have changed. We have different expectations of the products we buy and the job they’re doing for us.

One example is Justin’s Nut Butters. The Colorado-based small business sells single-serve squeeze packets of peanut and almond butter at grocers. It also sells its nut butters in glass jars, but it’s the squeeze packs that catapulted the company’s success. That all changed with COVID-19. Consumers no longer stock up on squeeze packs to take to work or to social outings. The job consumers are looking for Justin’s to do for them has changed. Instead of single-serve squeeze packs, consumers need family-sized jars for home use. That change in consumer behavior necessitated changes to Justin’s manufacturing, merchandising and marketing.

Is your product aligned with the job your customers are hiring it to do?Your people

Do you have the right team in place?

Numerous studies highlight the flight to digital. Stuck at home, consumers are conducting their lives on their digital devices. Does your team have the skill and knowledge to execute a digital-first marketing program?

Now’s the time to assess your people. It starts with your business goals. What support do your sales and business development talent need to achieve those goals? That’s marketing’s job. It’s not about producing star-studded ad campaigns that garner a lot of attention. It is about supporting sales and business development.

Once your goals are clearly articulated and you know the skills and experience it takes to achieve them, it’s time to assess your team. Do you have the skills and experience you need? Are the right people in the right roles to leverage their passion and expertise to support your business?

The same questions need to be asked of your external partners from ad agencies to graphic designers to digital marketers. Do your partners bring creative, on-brand ideas and passion to leverage digital marketing opportunities to promote your brand?

COVID-19 has changed how we shop, work and live. Is your company making the changes necessary to stay relevant?

Sheridan is president of Viva La Brand, a Cleveland-based brand and marketing strategy, research, and agency search firm.

Laura Sheridan
Laura Sheridan, Founder & President of Viva La Brand has a proven track record of effective branding and advertising, spanning over twenty five years with some of the best in the business: Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago; Hill, Holliday and Polaroid in Boston; and, Progressive Insurance and Viva La Brand in Cleveland. Laura founded Viva La Brand to offer large and small organizations alike strategic marketing expertise to catapult their visibility, growth and profitability. Viva La Brand develops effective brand strategies and conducts ad agency searches that successfully match clients with the optimal ad agency partners. Laura is proud to work with smart, innovative leader Brands in a wide range of industries from health care to manufacturing to technology and financial services. In addition to her work with clients, Laura is an author and speaker on all topics related to Brand.
More articles by: Laura Sheridan
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