When COVID-19 hit, companies scrambled to find a solid footing in a marketing crisis. Taglines suddenly seemed insensitive, and humorous ads that were hilarious two weeks before now hit the wrong note. Some companies simply went dark on their marketing out of fear of offending audiences, while others wondered if they could even count on having a marketing budget.
As the months wore on and marketing teams learned to pivot while collaborating across virtual meetings, there were some solid lessons that have come from this experience. These four pieces of wisdom were found to be timeless:
Up-to-Date Data Pays Off
Many companies rely on data to shape their content messaging, but in mid-March of 2020, all but the latest information was useless. Those that had kept timely data records could watch carefully as trends emerged, showing that their audiences craved optimism and authenticity. Companies that were able to pivot with the latest information could stay in sync with their customers and produce content that was relevant and in touch with the latest events.
It’s Always About Relationships
And trusted, authentic relationships are the most valuable. The CMO Survey produced a Special COVID-19 Edition that highlighted some of the distinct marketing trends to emerge from the pandemic. It found that marketers reported trusted relationships as being the highest priority for customers in the next 12 months. Customers also seem to be interested in the social activism of the brands they use, but deprioritized was the role of pricing in purchasing decisions.
Online Investments Pay Off
Shifting to digital methods for everything from planning campaigns to engaging with customers was an intensification of an existing trend. While companies have been moving toward digital tools for years, the pandemic made it a necessity. Those that were already embracing automated marketing tools and e-commerce options had a head start compared to companies that scrambled to convert to digital.
According to CMO Survey history, online sales grew to comprise 19.3% of total sales, an increase of 43% over the period just before the pandemic hit. These sales are likely to show permanence, encouraging companies to invest even more in their digital presence.
Listening is a Strategy
Keeping in sync with your audiences isn’t just about analyzing data; it’s also about listening. Through social media and reviews, smart companies kept a close ear on the tone in their industry, especially related to the pandemic. Customers were quick to voice approval for companies that took steps to support local healthcare workers or that lent a hand to a non-profit to help keep them afloat. Even competitors teamed up to pool their support, and customers reacted positively. It’s a lesson for a pandemic marketer, but for every other phase of time, as well.
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