We’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic with much of the world practicing social distancing and staying at home which has had a significant impact on the economy. Worldwide, there are signs that the tide of the pandemic is turning with the earliest hit regions starting a return to more unrestricted movements, and discussions throughout the U.S. about how soon the peak of infections will take place.
Those who are tasked with managing companies are starting to think “what does it look like once we’re on the other side of this pandemic?” Business research group The Conference Board has put forth three potential scenarios for how the economy can reopen depending on when the number of new COVID-19 cases hit their peak. The analysis quantifies what we all think – the longer it takes to reopen, the bigger the financial impact.
But the economic reopening is coming, and with it the question: Is there anything marketers need to do differently?
To be a resource for B2B marketers, we have created “B2B Marketing Resources: Economic Reopening” a page with updated resource information on the latest and best advice on marketing in the post peak world.
One of the first areas marketers should consider as they look to restart their campaigns is marketing messages. There is an urgency. According to research done by Edelman, 65 percent of consumers say that a company’s response in the crisis will have a “huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing from it in the future.”
Your company’s trust with customers is vital, and that starts with what you tell them.
Revisit Marketing Messages Fundamentals
When considering your marketing messages, it’s important to remember that the goal of is to move the prospect to action – whether that’s to call or click or buy.
In developing marketing messages, actions speak louder than words and all customer facing activities can potentially shape your brand including your product, your product’s impact/market position, financial performance, management pedigree and ethos/reputation. These are the fundamental brand influence upon which you can build your brand messaging.
Start-up companies, for example, usually have low sales and are not profitable, they have small market shares and have not been around long enough to establish a good reputation. So they build their brand around their product’s revolutionary impact, the high-quality management team, how they treat customers and employees and the venture capital they have raised.
Most companies exist to bring a product or service to consumers, so this has an outsized impact on their brand, so it’s important to isolate the right marketing message drivers that make the company relevant. I like this table from McKinsey Quarterly which divides messaging into four quadrants: Drivers, Antes, Neutrals and Fools Gold. The challenge here is to identify those things that really set the brand apart.
While this almost always requires an understanding of the competition, it always takes an understanding from customers on what they love about your product.
Automobile buyers universally like a new car with tires on it. But every competitor sells cars with tires. Thus, “we have tires” goes straight from being a Driver to being Neutral. Similarly, a mobile phone company offered up a brand new phone in a distinctive brown color. The color was quite different from competitive offerings that are uniformly black or stainless steel. But the overseers of fashion hadn’t pronounced brown a trendy color and instantly the phone color went from a Driver to Fool’s Gold.
What do we do now?
Understanding these underpinnings are the start of what to think about next, which include whether to add other marketing messages. The first thing to consider are the brand drivers and whether they currently represent your fundamental value proposition in the “new normal” (a term that is quickly becoming overused).
Has the problem your product or service solved changed significantly? I think of videoconferencing companies and how the number of virtual meetings has skyrocketed during the pandemic. I have used Zoom for family video calls and even to play Bingo and Yahtzee with friends and family. Will this family and friend use of videoconferencing systems continue in the future and, if so, what does their value proposition look like in the future?
New Customer Problems Mean New Marketing Messages
Your product messaging also needs to dig deeper into customer problems as you work to win back customers. Is there a new way to partner with customers to solve their problems or achieve their goals? We’ve done some work in the market for hotel and hospitality text messaging platforms. Pre-pandemic, the messaging emphasis was on efficiency and a better guest experience. Those value propositions are still true, but others might be more important. For example, providing responsive customer service with fewer employees as they work through re-hiring staff; or allowing customer service to be provided by an employee who is socially distant in the backroom or off-property.
One additional consideration is marketing message tone – re-evaluate your messaging to connect with customer in a human way. Customers need to hear from you now even if their purchase process will take some time. To know that your company is with them through this by maintaining a commitment to customer service, or by providing content or advice that helps them solve problems will make a big difference. This is emphasized in the Edelman research which concluded that, “Brands should find solutions instead of selling passion or image. They need to be tangible and fast, not impressionistic and conceptual.”
We hope your reboot happens sooner rather than later, and if DJA can be of help through a consultation or to take a project off your plate, please let us know.