Pivoting Your Marketing to Meet the Challenges of Today
The COVID-19 pandemic is worth taking seriously. There is nothing more important than the health of your family, coworkers and neighbors. As a marketing professional or business owner, you are in the midst of adjusting your 2020 plans and expectations despite the many unknowns being faced.
I have seen our clients making big adjustments to their marketing plans thanks to countless trade show cancellations. Eye care and healthcare industry clients are having to shift tactics due to these cancellations and the many leads and device sales that were expected during these meetings.
I have been thinking through the same adjustments for Pace while also supporting our clients as they shift their marketing plans to the quickly changing needs of their business. I would like to share our learnings with you in hopes it will encourage you during this challenging time. I have also included a few additional resources for you at the end of this article.
First, in times like this we always have a choice. As I often tell my daughters, we cannot control what others choose to do, we can only control our own response. As marketing professionals or business owners we must not submit to fear and start applying self-limiting beliefs. Your vision for your product line or company remains, you just need to change our strategy.
I have been considering this a lot lately. One of the biggest strengths of my team at Pace is our ability to be nimble in how we approach each project or client so we can adjust to their changing demands as we make progress. There are times we need to adapt quickly. However, we also must be careful not to jump into action without some thought to how that contributes to the overall objectives and whether or not it aligns with the vision.
We have implemented the STAR strategy with our team to help us remain nimble in a way that remains strategic and reliable: Stop, Think, Act, Repeat.
Take a pause. Changes to our, or our client’s, original plans can cause us to react quickly. Like I said, our team is designed to be able to react quickly and one of our biggest strengths is our ability to do so. However, we have learned that it is important to hit the pause button for a moment to keep ourselves from making rash, reactionary decisions.
This may come very naturally for some and be more difficult for others. I personally have to be very intentional about taking this step. When I see an issue, I want to fix it NOW and my brain skips straight to solution mode, but if I do not slow down and give myself time to think it through, I may create bigger challenges in the end. Instead, I need to trust in the Navy SEALs philosophy, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and take the time it needs to pursue wisdom before action.
Stopping leads us to step two, thinking. Stop and think, constructively. Despite the changes and challenges that are happening, there are some pieces of your business that will remain consistent.
First, go back to your vision and mission. Reflect on and remember what you are aiming to accomplish in the first place. This is at the root of your branding and what helps you build your brand reputation over time. That should not change, and it should continue to direct your efforts even as you pivot to face challenges. Remember, the basic principles of marketing and communications have not changed just because there is a crisis. You still have a message to communicate that applies to an audience specific to your product or service.
Next, consider opportunities this challenge provides for your business. What is now possible because of the current circumstances? What can you do differently, how can you innovate to meet or maintain demands? It may be possible to develop a new product or service during this time. According to the Harvard Business Review, a level of constraints are beneficial to innovation because they “provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes.”
Finally, go back to your plan and make adjustments. Review the plan and where you are year to date and then evaluate future plans. Since this pandemic has created a rapidly changing environment, evaluate future plans through a good, better, best lens so you have options as changes take place. Let me be clear, this does not mean you should STOP all activity. It is important in a time like this to continue to communicate to your customers and prospects regularly. It does mean you should focus in on the most effective marketing tactics for your business, shifting marketing dollars from less effective tactics if need be.
In your scenario planning, you should plan for your company reducing spending as a precaution during this time. Many already have. Take the time to review your plan and budget and compare that to your analytics. Rank your tactics so if the time comes to cut any activities, you will know which should go first. If you are in the same boat as some of our clients, with robust trade show programs being cancelled, consider how you will shift those marketing dollars to other programs that will continue brand building and generate qualified leads for your sales teams.
With all of the unknowns that lie ahead, you could easily get stuck in planning, outlining numerous scenarios. As important as that planning is, you must put your plan into action. You’ve created scenarios. Ranked projects and budget items. Shifted priorities to meet needs or create new opportunities during this time. Now implement.
To keep up with changing demands, make sure your team is in regular communication often. There are many video conferencing and online collaboration tools that can be used to make it easy for your team to communicate. It is also the perfect time for marketing teams to work hand in hand with sales teams to provide each other with the sales tools and customer feedback needed to make good decisions.
Make sure part of your implementation includes regular reviews of your analytics to evaluate how your tactics are working for your business. Are the tactics producing results? If you’re putting more focus on brand building during this time, how will you measure the effectiveness of those activities?
Yes, repeat. On a regular basis you should stop to review the progress you are making. Take the time to analyze how you are doing so you know whether or not your team is doing the right things for right now. Think. Has anything changed since the last time you evaluated the plan? Are there any new opportunities? Act. Activate your team to put those plans into action. Then repeat again. Consider using an agile marketing approach to create one to two-week cycles that allow for evaluation and changes to prioritization.
In all honesty, these suggestions are what we should be doing as marketers on a regular basis anyway but now we need to react to something we were not expecting that changes the way we and our sales teams can do business. It may take time to adjust to this new normal, but it also may create opportunities we were not expecting. Pace is here to help if you need support as you are considering how to pivot your marketing during this challenging time. Schedule a Roadmap Call for a free consultation on how to pivot your marketing plan.
Some additional resources for you: