With business re-awakening to a very different world, marketers have to take a hard look at how they go-to-market, to who and how.
It is clear that the Coronavirus outbreak hit marketing hard, with almost 90% of marketers either delaying or reviewing campaigns that would no doubt have already been run. In the UK, just 14% of campaigns went ahead as intended.
And it’s not just campaign and product launches that have been disrupted. Nine out of ten marketers are holding fire on setting new budgets. Most of them (85%) have put on ice the idea of taking on new staff right now.
As revenues took a hit in the COVID-19 era, so too did confidence, not helped by a fall in CPM rates, currently standing at around $0.81. In November 2019 they were at $1.88, illustrating devaluation in the market.
Beyond digital marketing, channels to market have also diminished, removing many of the routes by which to create maximum first-up impact. In the UK and US, event organisers have cancelled or postponed 72% of events. While around half have found ways to move events online, many of these are smaller in scale and are finding it hard to replicate attendee engagement in a virtual setting.
With events, exhibitions, roundtables and awards ceremonies scrubbed from our calendars, generating demand and feeding pipelines at the top of the funnel has changed beyond all recognition. In the main, targets have not been adjusted so the need for pipelne remains the same.
While the pandemic has forced marketers to think and act more creatively, it has not been easy. A decline in investment in agency partners and a rollback in talent acquisition to bolster in-house marketing teams is taking its toll on the capability and capacity of businesses to be truly effective in reaching out to the market.
Marketing has never been more important
In the face of such challenges, the desire to hunker down in ‘survival’ mode is understandable.
Even marketing giants like Coca-Cola appeared to have lost confidence in how to engage with their customers, deciding to pause their marketing spend during the pandemic and waiting for it to blow over.
However, in these changed times, marketing has never been more important – and neither has the role of marketeer. Yes, it’s a big challenge, but businesses are relying on marketers to use their communication intuition to forge the way in finding, engaging and developing new markets and changed commercial sentiments.
The current situation demands a revised approach.
But maintaining and sustaining the effectiveness of marketing in this new paradigm, in the absence of the pre-COVID-19 resources, is no mean feat. At a time when the board and investors are looking to make up for lost ground, it is time to reset your marketing approach, turning what appears to be a huge challenge into a competitive advantage, and preparing to do battle in the new market that is emerging.
At the heart of the marketing mission should be maintaining brand loyalty and building trust with the target market.
Given workforces have been dispersed or decimated, and society as a whole has had the most enormous shake-up, there is a general sentiment of needing to rely on businesses that customers feel they can trust. In uncertain times, nervousnes and worry and amplified, as a result people psychologicaly crave certainty through trusted partners, sources and suppliers. So, trust has become an even more important part of the subconscious decision-making process. As the latest Edelman Trust Barometer suggests, this is a “moment of reckoning” for business, with just under two thirds of corporates putting profit before people during COVID-19.
The building of trust happens when brands are visible, and saying the right things at the right time. This is then crucially reinforced by developing the right propositions, authentically, and communicating them to the market in a human-led way. As the advertising tycoon David Ogilvy put it:
“A company with a price advantage can be undercut; a company with a performance advantage can be outflanked; but a company with an emotional difference can potentially demand a premium forever.”
Given the apparent ease with which finance departments find cutting marketing and advertising spend – their decision being made easier by slowing markets and fewer people entering the buying cycle – internal persuasion has become just as important as any external activities. Even where finance teams and senior execs understand the need to enhance marketing efforts, without a way to measure the returns there appears to be a reluctance to hand over the cash.
So, providing clear, and ever more granular, data on ROI for marketing spend and delivering a real, conversation-ready pipeline, will be crucial. And internally, the message must be clear: right now is the critical time to be visible, active and engaging with your audience. Your customers are emerging, keen to find answers to their own challenging revenue and sales dilemmas – and your positioning and messaging strategy must be right, otherwise your businesses will suffer the consequences as markets recover. Catching up will be significantly more expensive, if it’s even possible, and revenues will be depleted for longer, with IPA studies citing time to recover at 5 years, by which time any market advantage will have been destroyed.
Reposition and be ready
Post Coronavirus, the brakes on the market will be released and competition will quickly become more intense than ever.
The world has new habits and behaviours, changed buying practices and altered priorities. Now is the time for Marketing teams to ask a most fundamental question – whether what is being sold is even needed anymore?
Establishing this through matching what you do to a market that needs it will be an essential first step to understanding what’s likely to now sell, and then as needed craft a new, authentic proposition off the back of it. Getting this wrong will result in millions of wasted marketing investment and provide a significant advantage to your competition. Get it right, and the first critical step in the new world go-to-market will be accomplished.
The next area where teams will need to think far more deeply than before is how to get stand-out and cut through in a very noisy, and fiercely competitive market. Winning in this resurgent world will require even more incisive creative, more invention, real time sales insight, a little appropriate bravery and access to as much ongoing insight as possible to refine approaches and stay ahead of the pack. Even if target account budgets are slow in materialising, being at the front of the queue when they do will mean the difference between success and sorrow.
Rethink your approach
While it is tempting to sit tight and wait for markets to figure themselves out before re-establishing your marketing strategy, there is no time to wait. Now is the time to re-think your approach, aligning in tandem with sales teams in preparation of markets reopening.
Those who will win the greatest slice of what will potentially be a smaller pie, will be those that move fastest, creating a devolved agility on the front-line of sales and marketing to mould, morph and map to the new market.
Clarify has generated hundreds of millions of pounds revenue for the world’s most impressive brands and brightest scale ups. We’ve done it by crafting differentiated propositions and intelligent go-to-market strategies that deliver highly valuable Sales opportunities, leading to very significant ROI.