Emerging technologies catalyze disruption. Say that back to yourself a few times before reading on.
2020 promises to be especially turbulent. Election year dynamics, coupled with an increase in grassroots business activism and governments taking action on environmental issues, will infuse even greater chaos into our everyday experiences. Oh and then there is this thing called COVID-19 that has closed down countless businesses, while also making others pivot and change. But amongst the chaos and change, are ways for industries that never change to be disrupted.
When it comes to marketing, now is the time for companies to find ways to disrupt their industries and engage their customers even more. To simply freeze your marketing now is akin to slamming on the brakes on the freeway. The results are predictable: a pile-up with all sorts of bad outcomes. It is human nature that in an emergency many people freeze, and in the case of COVID-19 and other elements happening, pause, cancel, or limit marketing spending in a time of crisis. People were to always go the safe route and become overly cautious in an effort to avoid potential losses. However, the ones who will make it on top and actually succeed are the ones who take chances and pivot properly.
We are living in a time of great market disruption, the kind that breaks paradigms and creates as much opportunity as a loss. Though it may be easier for our minds to envision our losses than to spot new opportunities, those opportunities are there. And the great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you crave situations like this to create opportunities.
When looking at everything overall, consider in your mind (and now in reality) that your competition just froze. What opportunity did that create for your brand, company, product and/or profile?
The best outcomes in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic will come from agility and presence of mind. Be ready to dodge the immediate obstacles and look for a way to better your position without losing momentum—certainly without slamming the breaks and getting run over from behind. Year in and year out, corporations spend massive resources seeking ways to tilt the market to their advantage, to disrupt the status quo, to change the model and innovate. Now is the time for an agile and rapid response… by YOU!
Some questions to ask yourself during this time when analyzing your company and position are:
1. How do I want to emerge from this crisis? As a market leader or a follower?
2. Have I taken time to reach out to my clients with offers to help them find their own silver lining opportunities from this situation? Engaging your customers and being loyal to them is key during these situations.
3. What is the long-term value of brand preference, positive impressions, and market share that I may gain by investing when others have gone silent?
4. Is an investment in image now, while competition is on the sidelines, going to be far more cost-effective and impactful?
With those questions in mind, focus on these areas as well to help you inspire your company through this time of crisis and change:
How long will this disruption last? Weeks, months, years, forever?! Many think the marketplace will be forever altered by COVID-19. Perhaps so. If that’s the case, this moment is critical. There is more than one possible outcome, and you should map out the likely scenarios based on your own marketing plans and overall company objectives.
Things have changed, which means it’s time to revisit target audiences. How are they reacting now? How will they be reacting later? Have new segments/content been created, or should current segments/content be redefined? How have their needs, purchases, habits, and attitudes changed? What did you learn from studying those changes, and how can your brand reinforce the good?
3. Product assessment
How should the features of your product be changed to reflect the new awareness or new concerns? How can you draw attention to current features and benefits that previously were not stressed? Is it simply packaging and language? Is it product design? Is it putting into place safety items that fit new regulations and make your customers feel safe from COVID-19? Are there new or different applications or technologies you can use? Promotions you can offer? The sky is the limit here to pivot and change your products to adapt to the times both now and ahead.
How should delivery or service be altered to better address new usage or buying behaviors? What virtual conferencing or training tools or localized options in delivery or shipping do you have at your disposal to make this process easier, faster, cheaper, and more comfortable than your competitors? How can your service be better now than before?
Does your brand positioning or messaging need to be modified? Can you inform your consumer of a need to purchase that they were not previously aware of, that may be even relates to COVID-19 and keeping them safe in some capacity given the current media storylines? Are you sensitive to the emotional needs of your customer? Is there a way that you can demonstrate good intent, good values, and ethical behaviors that will be appreciated in the short term and the long term?
Brands have value because of customer trust. Trust is created through the fulfillment of promises. Brand equity can be established and increased in a time of need by identifying with customers’ emotional state and their concerns and needs—assuaging their fears, and reinforcing their egos. By making important promises and fulfilling them. Or by behaving now in ways that fulfill previous promises. That can only be done if you truly understand your customers and their state of mind. If you don’t, now is the time to research, ask, and adapt/pivot to those needs. You can simply even ask them! Engaging your customers with communication opens the door for more loyalty and appreciation. The best way to show customers that a high level of understanding is through interactive communication, such as through social media. At this time of change, social strategy and messaging cannot be stressed enough, and what customers are saying about your brand on social media should be monitored more closely than ever before.
7. Deep and indelible impressions
In any crisis point in your life, your memories are extremely vivid and long-lasting. This is true for your customers and prospects as well. The people, brands, and institutions that stand up for them in their time of need emotionally, physically, and spiritually, will forever be remembered in a special way. This is a classic opportunity to do well by doing good (and giving back if you can in every sense of the word). Find a way to contribute to the cause in some meaningful way.
8. Strengthening your employer brand
Now is the time to make a positive impression on your employees and prospective employees. They need compassion and care but also strong leadership. Show them your company has integrity now when it matters. We are clearly all in this together, and the more you share that sentiment, the more you are helping yourself. Think of this as the ultimate team-building exercise for everyone that comes across your brand, product, or service. Treat everyone like ‘family’!