It’s undisputed that the COVID-19 pandemic has railroaded many aspects of life, industry and business. Though, as the world settles into the ‘AC’ (after-Coronavirus) state, the focus is increasingly on how to not only survive, but thrive, in the new world order.
The foundation for thriving is to be a step ahead of the game, constantly. This is challenging as client sentiments, expectations and requirements continue to fundamentally shift. Sounds exhausting? It can be, if the situation isn’t really understood, considered and actioned appropriately (a.k.a. while often a luring temptation, a reactive ‘scattergun’ approach rarely demonstrates sustainable return). This is where a sound marketing plan comes into play. But before even considering how to respond, it’s prudent to firstly get a greater understanding of the current climate and factors that will affect your marketing efforts.
A recent global study by McKinsey & Company, The COVID-19 recovery will be digital: A plan for the first 90 days, estimates that the US has “vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption, in a matter of around eight weeks,” and that a similar transition has been experienced in other advanced economies, including Australia and the UK. Consequently, customer behaviours and preferred interactions have, and will continue to, evolve significantly.
Unsurprisingly, one of the profound effects of the current technological evolution continues to be the increased reliance on, and sophistication of, digital channels. Accordingly, per the McKinsey paper, “companies will need to ensure that their digital channels are on par with or better than those of their competition to succeed in this new environment. If China offers us any lessons, digital laggards will be substantially disadvantaged during the recovery.”
The increasing reliance on digital channels significantly impacts both operations and communications as the initial shift has morphed into the new paradigm. As such, marketing is increasingly being prioritised to drive market share.
The 3 C’s of ‘AC’ marketing
Pandemic aside, the principles of marketing remain constant: communicate the right message to the right people, at the right time.
- Customer: There’s no doubt that overall, consumer confidence has taken a hit as we experience the first recession in 30 years. Though be careful not to get into the trap of providing the ‘laundry list’ of your services in an effort to cast as wide a net as possible. Instead, identify the solutions you provide that address specific challenges or opportunities (i.e. lead with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ versus the ‘what’). On this note, there’s an increasing expectation to be truly customer-centric – that is to understand both the customer journey and experience. To distinguish between the two, the customer journey is the total sum of interactions that a client has – from the first point of contact, until post-settlement. The customer experience (CX) is how the client engages with your company at each step. A ‘customer journey map’ is a good idea to identify the points of contact and corresponding communications to increase efficiencies, as well as avoid ‘leakage’ (client drop-offs). This can be accelerated with CRM technology.
- Connection: Connecting with customers – new or existing – is at the very heart of marketing. Digital channels, including email and social media, have become more critical than ever with limited travel and virtually no events. Though keep in mind that in the ‘AC’ haze, nothing beats a 1:1 engagement (even if it’s not in person). That said, it’s wise to plan efforts that balance the ‘one’ (i.e. individual touch points) with the ‘many’ (i.e. mass communications) to maintain a balance of reach (scale) and connectivity.
- Communication: It’s important to be ‘tonally appropriate’ – meaning that you recognise that client priorities have most likely changed. Clients crave authentic, sensitive and personal communication. Make sure messaging is kept specific, relevant, and avoid generalisations (for instance, not everyone is doing it tough right now with some sectors booming).
Ultimately, it’s about embracing change and taking the opportunity to ensure your marketing is ‘en pointe’ as we navigate a firmly entrenched ‘AC’ world.