Have You Updated Your Marketing Plan This Year?
For all businesses, both big and small, marketing is one of the primary considerations when it comes to short and long term strategy. But what happens when the landscape and your business change overnight?
Understandably, most people will immediately think of COVID-19. No one (hardly) saw it coming, and few businesses were prepared to deal with a global pandemic that resulted in a shocking number of deaths in such a short period.
From a human standpoint, it’s been nothing short of devastating. From a business perspective, it’s been one of marketing’s greatest challenges. How do you speak to consumers? What’s the right message? Or the wrong one? How can your company survive this crisis?
If you’ve been in business long enough, you know that wisdom and the keys to success come from many different places. Retired Navy SEAL Jason Redman knows a lot about surviving through tough times. To overcome any crisis, Redman recommends a specific formula that he calls REACT.
REACT to Adapt Your Marketing Plan
When you’re on the battlefield, what you do in the face of adversity can be the difference between life and death. In the business world, you can transfer some of these same hard-won lessons to ensure the survival of your business.
Even better, when circumstances change, how quickly you adapt and the way you do it can set the tone for something even better. In business, just as in war, everyone gets stuck or “ambushed” at some point.
The behavior formula that works to overcome any crisis is called REACT, which is an acronym for the steps your business can take to adapt its marketing plan.
R – Recognize Your Reality
It’s tough to move forward if you fail to recognize that there’s a problem. History is full of companies that have failed to recognize their reality, only to suffer the consequences.
- Months before Equifax experienced its unprecedented data breach, a security researcher warned the firm that it was vulnerable to a large-scale attack.
- Netflix approached Blockbuster video in 2000 with a $50 million buyout offer. The company refused, thinking that digital was a niche market. It went bankrupt ten years later.
- Kodakwas once the world’s largest film company, but it couldn’t keep up with the digital revolution because it didn’t want to compromise its core business. Instead of embracing digital technology, it watched competitors, like Canon, do it instead.
The common theme in these examples is that these companies failed to recognize their reality. In some cases, it can be attributed to a lack of situational awareness.
Many businesses fall into the trap of having departmental silos, where there are unnecessary barriers that prevent the free sharing of information. If your business isn’t working as a cohesive unit, there’s a good chance you will miss opportunities for growth and fail to recognize when there is trouble on the horizon or at your doorstep.
In short, you want to make sure you have a team and the right processes in place that will allow you to sound the alarm bells when you are in crisis. That way, everyone can assemble quickly and figure out the next steps to move forward.
E – Evaluate Your Current Assets
Business issues can be overwhelming. And it might be tempting to throw money at a problem, ignore it, or toss out the first solution that comes to mind. None of these options is the best approach.
When a major crisis hits, take a breath and consider what tools you have to address the problem. A few of the things you’ll want to put on your list include:
Find Your People
Before you make any drastic adjustments to your marketing message and approach, get your team together. Internally, be sure you are speaking with your senior managers as well as frontline people about what has changed. Externally, tap into your peers, mentors, and networking groups to run ideas past people you trust before launching something that takes you in a different direction. If you have a trusted digital marketing partner in your corner, even better.
Identify Your Top Resources
In addition to your people, consider what tools you have that you can immediately bring to the problem. For example, if you have a strong social media presence, this is something you can leverage to adapt your marketing message fairly quickly.
Some brands like to use video marketing to get their message out and engage with their audience. If you’ve done this in the past and have the pieces in place, it would be an ideal choice. Likewise with email marketing or paid ads.
A – Assess Possible Outcomes and Options
Once you’ve identified the assets in your toolbox, it’s time to assess the various possible options and outcomes. Some companies have ready plans in place because they’ve engaged in scenario planning, where they sit down, figure out all of the potential things that could go wrong (like a global pandemic), and then come up with pivot plans to execute when certain events take place.
If you haven’t engaged in scenario planning, this might be something to put on your list. But, you can still respond to changes in the market and unforeseen events quickly and appropriately.
Gather your team together and figure out the different options and outcomes. Here are a few things to consider:
Gauge Customer Behavior and Sentiment
Long before COVID-19 showed up, consumers had begun to show less trust in big brands and more in local businesses. No matter where your business lands with regards to size, you can work to establish trust by focusing on the customer with your actions.
First, listen to your customers to understand their wants and needs. Use social listening tools and other solutions like surveys. Also, make sure you are completely transparent in your response about what your company can and can’t deliver.
Anticipate Operational Impacts
Speaking of what you can and can’t deliver, make sure your team assesses its capacity thoroughly in light of any market changes. Were your supply chains interrupted? Will you need to find alternative resources? Once you figure out operations, re-assess your budget with respect to optimizing your marketing message.
Look at Your Competitors
For a bigger picture understanding of what’s going on, make sure you take a close look at what the competition is doing. This way, you can see what is working and what isn’t with regards to shifting messages and even taking your business in a different direction. If nothing else, it can give you a fresh perspective as you work through these issues.
Don’t Forget Your Core Values
When weighing your options, don’t forget the mission and core values that drive your company’s strategic objectives. Encourage your team to think about the practices and ideals that make your brand unique. Any solution you come up with should remind customers why they enjoy being one of your partners.
As you go through this process, it’s important to remember that the best long-term solution might also be the most uncomfortable path for your business. Even if you have to endure some short-term pain, it will be worth it if you can achieve long-term success.
C – Choose and Communicate Your Direction
At some point during this process, you’ll need to choose your path. When the unexpected happens, it’s not surprising that you may not have a clear path forward. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting in digital marketing by using the tools at your fingertips, such as engagement analytics and A/B testing.
But, at some point, you need to seize the moment and move forward. Decide how your business is going to address the situation and get everyone on board. The more buy-in you have from your team, the greater your chance of success.
Schedule a meeting to discuss why you are adapting your marketing plan this way and then outline the logistics of your approach. Don’t forget that you also have an opportunity to bond with your team through adversity and make sure you are acknowledging their stress and efforts.
T – Take Action
Finally, the longer your team stays in planning mode, the tougher it’s going to be to get momentum to address the shift in events. Swift execution is vital to the success of your plan. Your customers may be waiting to hear what you have to say, and you want to get your message out there in front of your competitors.
A big part of marketing is being able to adapt and pivot to changing events quickly. For example, when COVID hit, many brands transformed their live events into virtual ones. People who were forced to stay at home were also increasingly drawn to live streaming events over recorded videos. Brands that made these quick shifts were able to achieve quick success as well as make lasting connections with their audience.
Get Help Adapting Your Marketing Plan
When you understand your audience, deliver consistent communication, and adapt your message quickly to market changes, you’ll be able to successfully guide prospects through your business’s sales funnel. These are the ingredients to produce greater brand loyalty and higher revenue.
Sound like a tall order? Too Darn Loud Marketing wants to help your brand get heard in a complex and noisy world. Contact us today, and our specialists will dig into your business to develop a customized plan for success.