Marketing has shifted in the past two months. No more trade shows. No more direct mail campaigns. No more in-person meetings. Business has shifted. Virtual networking events. Skeleton staff at offices and/or factories. Working from home. Juggling more demands. Less time. More time. More distractions.
All that change means your 2020 marketing plan needs to adapt too, and that the next six months will be unprecedented. I don’t know exactly what your marketing plan will be in six months, but here’s what I know about our "new normal."
• Things will never be the same. (We will never again take toilet paper supplies for granted!) Our consumer expectations have shifted. We have reset what is normal and what is possible.
• Most things will go back to normal. (Psychological fears will ease and people will stop hoarding toilet paper. Supply chains and retail distribution will snap back to normal.) We will rebound. Some pre-COVID-19 norms will return, especially around entrenched business processes, but they may not be the right processes for our new business world.
• Kindness will be remembered. How your company reacts now, what you do, how you treat your employees, how you handle your customers, how you work with your suppliers will shape your company’s brand image for years to come.
• It’s time to use all your resources. Repurpose your budget. Reuse your images. Redeploy your video. Ask your staff to write something new or re-edit something old. Recut and serialize your current content. Offer your in-person classes via video and create a companion workbook. Think about what you have that your customers could need now.
• The new marketing is about connection. Connect with your customers, suppliers, and your employees. The objective is less about advertising than about connecting to provide solutions. That is, shift your message to reflect the market's new normal. Connecting has always been at the heart of marketing.
In six months or 18 months or some time in between, the new normal will settle in. We'll have in-person events. We will gather. We will go to work. We will open mail and happily receive packages. We will hug our families when they visit, and the time between now and then is filled with opportunities. The pandemic has changed what is possible for businesses and opened a world of opportunities.
The greatest marketing opportunity right now is employer branding. Many businesses are furloughing and laying-off valuable employees. Now is the time to attract talent, or if you aren’t currently hiring to set the stage for when you will be hiring. For now, “talk” (social media share, blog, employee posts) about what your company is doing to support medical workers, to keep vital businesses going or support the community. Make your business stand out to potential employees. Talent acquisition and retention take center stage. This is a new way to connect with your community, your potential employees, and your industry.
The next big shift has been that customer expectations are leveled. Small businesses used to compete with expectations courtesy of Amazon Prime: overnight delivery, continuous email updates, and nearly divine understanding of what we may want. Now, non-essential shipping is delayed, and it’s your chance to improve your shipping processes. With a skeleton staff, updates may be minimal, or automation could be embraced. Make those changes, but include a human touch, for impact.
Pre-COVID-19, a business's online presence had to meet exceptional standards of perfection, and digital resources made it simple to establish and maintain that presence. Now, news and talk shows are being broadcast from the hosts' homes and even SNL has gone remote. Standards have changed to favor authenticity, even vulnerability. Here, small businesses with a real story can win.
A third shift is the hyper-relevancy of local. Off-shoring has been a manufacturing and retail issue for more than a decade, with prices trumping all. In our new reality, off-shoring will not be the same threat. Retail and manufacturing-supply consumers will not want Chinese-sourced goods: too much transportation, too much uncertainty, too much liability. This benefits both industries.
Local partnerships will regain emphasis, as “shop local” takes on an economic priority to strengthen the local community. The weakness of long-chain distribution has been revealed. Now is the time to make connections with local fabricators or finishers, or even coffee shop. Strengthen the community. Connect with the community.
There has never been a better time to be a solutions provider. That is what every business does, provide solutions. Don’t forget to share those solutions in ways that are helpful to your customers, ways that show you understand how the current situation impacts customers and/or suppliers, as well as your community and the world.
Communication with a heart of connection is marketing — digital, word of mouth, storytelling, content, and all the other shades of marketing. Don’t get tangled in complicated definitions, or stuck on what you used to do. Connect with customers and share the solutions you can provide.
Start exploring our new normal. Make calls to customers and suppliers. Be on social media. Advertise digitally. Be present. Be consistent. Be helpful. And be ready to adapt. The world is changing - but the human need for connection is essential, and lasting.
Alexandria Trusov is the Director of Marketing at Euthenia Manufacturing Group and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.