A deft approach: how marketing experts can weather COVID-19

The world is now months into a pandemic that has dramatically redefined society and the economy, and if marketing experts are to remain resilient, they too must adapt to the 'new normal'.

A deft approach: how marketing experts can weather COVID-19

The world is now months into a pandemic that has dramatically redefined society and the economy, and if marketing experts are to remain resilient, they too must adapt to the ‘new normal’. For marketers, the ‘new normal’ entails a sense of precariousness and the constant expectation of unanticipated disruption in the market. During this time, it is incumbent upon industry professionals to remain sensitive to current circumstances, but also dynamic so they can keep their organisations ahead of the pace of evolving events.

Many marketers are faced with difficult questions as to how they should move forward. How aggressively should marketers engage with prospects and customers? Should they be focusing on remote conferences and webinars instead of in-person events? And what is the best way to facilitate communication across the business to make sure everyone is aligned? Although there is no exact answer to any of these questions, there are various approaches marketers can adopt to manage risks and better serve their customers during this time. These include being helpful, credible, patient, agile and targeted in their approach.

Sensitivityand credibility: companies must show their worth

In today’s global climate, tone and sensitivity are of the utmost importance to consumers. This is a trying time for everyone, and language that seems exploitative of the crisis or tone-deaf can torpedo messaging efforts.

Instead, effective messaging should exhibit a keen understanding of the issue’s audiences are navigating and how the company can help. For example, businesses might consider offering free trials or extended payment terms for customers who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic. Regardless, whatever actions companies take now to support their customers’ needs will stick with them forever. Once those needs are understood, the next step is to showcase company credibility.

In the face of a crisis, consumer trust is everything. Consumers are increasingly using crowd-sourced review platforms to verify the credibility of businesses before buying their products or services. In fact, new research from PowerReviews suggests that consumers are interacting with review content at double the rate they were before the pandemic. Further underlining this trend, Bazaarvoice, a provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions, has identified a 25 percent increase in page views in March within its network of 6,200 brands and retailers.

Given these findings, marketing organisations or divisions must identify and promote positive reviews of their service to build credibility in the eyes of consumers. Positive company reviews can be promoted on a variety of digital platforms, such as a website or through social media. Asking satisfied customers to review their purchases or spread word of their experiences can build credibility as well.

Crisesrequire a combination of patience and agility

It’s worth repeating that the COVID-19 crisis will end and the markets will eventually stabilise. Until then, marketing professionals will have to remain patient with buyers who are being asked to do more with less. While prospects may have purchasing restrictions now, they may choose to engage with marketing product and service offerings once the disruption has passed.

To establish an effective lead-nurturing strategy, it is important to remain mindful of global events and their impact on the markets. Once economic indicators signify calmer waters and increased budgets become available, it will be in every company’s best interest to follow up on leads that may have stalled during the pandemic. Once again, sensitivity is key as to how to approach a sales discussion, as well as showing knowledge of prospective customers’ needs.

For marketers, practicing patience during these times is key to remaining on agile footing, because moving too fast can end in disaster. One key way to ensure agility is by comprehensively monitoring business operations to make sure investments are being made effectively. Awareness is crucial, and funnel and pipeline metrics will act as a compass in deciding how campaigns should be orchestrated and when there may be a need to pivot.

Pivoting can take many forms, but perhaps the most widespread pivot during the pandemic has been the deferment and cancellation of in-person events. Agility in event planning means embracing suggested alternatives while maintaining demand generation efforts in the face of unprecedented restrictions. It is a fact that budgets and plans will have to be adjusted and customers will look to marketing professionals to ensure the greatest return on investments.

Asalways, success lies in targeting

A crisis will reveal what is most important to ensuring success in any industry, and, for B2B marketing, the pandemic has highlighted the vitality of targeted marketing programmes aimed at the personal needs of the customer. Marketing efforts should target verticals that have been damaged the least throughout the pandemic. Now is not the time to market to struggling organisations who have more pressing issues ‘ no matter how essential your offerings may be. Sensitivity is high, so the importance of delivering appropriate messages and relevant content cannot be understated.

A consistent truth of this crisis is that unwieldy and tone-deaf messaging will make companies look out of touch. Before implementing a marketing programme, industry professionals must ensure that their offerings are helpful to their clients, that their clients can trust them, and that they remain deft in their approach as events change. If these principles are adhered to, then companies can leave the pandemic with greater trust and respect from their customers.

Stephen Tarleton
Stephen Tarleton

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