The interesting thing about a global pandemic is that it's global. I'm not trying to be cute - I'm trying to get you to think about this anomaly. Most companies face crisis in total isolation. Maybe the start up cash runs out, a key employee leaves and takes a few others with them, a technology advancement curtails your competitive edge, etc. Whatever the case, except for major recessions, businesses typically face their biggest challenges at different times than their competitors.
What we heard frequently during the pandemic was "we're all in this together." That bothered some and comforted others. But what can be learned about what needs to be done with marketing in a time of crisis? If and when your company emerges from this crisis, the one thing I know about business is that you'll face another one. So I ask you, "Are you in it for the learning?" If so, proceed.
Here I'll share some key takeaways already gleaned from this pandemic and give you some thought about how these learnings could provide a deeper preparation for the next crisis faced - strengthening your system and reaction time no matter what the future holds.
Measurement and Momentum
All too often, when faced with financial crisis, businesses abandon marketing plans. While over all budget cuts may be necessary across the entire company, I rarely seem those cuts spread evenly. The reality is that sticking to a plan, even if the volume of output is reduced is an important part of ensuring recovery. All or nothing thinking really should not be employed when it comes to marketing strategy.
It's ok to cancel that annual strategy meeting. But the best way to focus your marketing efforts is to turn that meeting into a 30 or 60 day focus. Rethinking how content, promotions or events can be tweaked for current relevance is key to success. These smaller sprints are even better with specific KPI (key performance indicator) goals. Consider weekly micro goals to maintain focus. During a difficult time set these goals realistically as this will be a time when your team needs wins. Keep the stretch goals for when things are back to full capacity.
On the other hand, there is a big opportunity in these moments. While many are scaling back, the time to step into the vacuum may not present itself again. Are you willing to chance the window of opportunity closing before you mobilize? Companies who make bold moves during a downturn have been greatly rewarded as long as their messaging was reviewed for sensitivity and relevance. Like it or not, SEO, along with many other key marketing factors, doesn't stop for any crisis. Staying consistent or even going big with content, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Google AdWords when others are doing less can create exponential returns. The way digital ranking works, not only do some companies seize the moment and move ahead, the truth is all of those same efforts that are abandoned also lose momentum, so the negative effect can also be exponential. Even losing momentum matters. Digital traction operates on the flywheel principle. When the motors stop they are difficult to start up again.
#Always Be Helping
Some efforts may be able to bring in revenue, while others should be considered solely for they way they help set the company up for quick recovery. Proactively going the extra mile with current customers and providing transparency in difficult times is both a strategy and a way to live out your company ethos when it matters most.
Unforced opportunities to show what you're made of as a company don't come around too often. Seizing the moment to let your clients know that you care or taking the lead with a customer-centric policy in hard times can give your brand a boost. What most people miss in this is the need to activate employees to carry this message to clients and prospects in their own personal ways. During hard times, authentic and more personalized messages are even more respected and lauded. Don't keep your great approach as a corporate initiative - make sure your team is on board and excited about how you are facing adversity together.
Keep the message simple and be prepared to listen more than your brand talks. Help comes in a rainbow of colors. Asking others what color of help they need will keep you painting with the right hue and create a better final outcome.
Focus on the Right Prospects
Great persona work guides any successful marketing plan. But too often teams spend company resources on persona development and then file them in a drawer, never to be found again. A dynamic plan calls for constant reference back to this guiding light.
In times of serious change and market volatility, the team should quickly regroup about current personas and have real conversations about the potential of newly emerging ideal clients. Past clients who were once ideal may now need different offerings, plans, products or services. This shift may be temporary, or it may be permanent.
Minute, but pointed refinement to your target market strategy can have big pay-offs. Not only could you be selling in a downturn, but you can also inspire deeper trust with your current clients and become the obvious choice once people are back to spending.
Get the Help You Need
Tough times don't have to be faced alone. Even experts can reach out to experts and gain much needed perspective along with some potentially great ideas. Being open about struggles can lead to finding great resources and spark new collaborations. Here are some great resources:
Disruption in the regular sales cycle calls for immediate action. Instead of freezing or overreacting with cuts that may do more to cut the longevity of your business, settle in for some reflection and purposeful movement. Next time you're faced with a crisis, these learnings will be easily accessible in your own memory bank and serve as your own resource library for success.
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