After a turbulent year in which quarantine, social distancing and lockdown have become part of our daily vocabulary, let’s take a look back at what we have learned as marketers. Which capabilities are crucial to step up and stand tall in times of crisis and to cope with the challenges we have all faced over the last months?
1. Versatile marketers
When facing a crisis, the day-to-day tasks can change overnight. Just take the example of the many players with no e-commerce presence and who had to set up a web store in the blink of an eye to serve their customers. In such a situation, it’s important to have a team of marketers that are versatile in multiple fields. Rather than having one specific expertise, try to go for T-shaped marketers, that excel in a certain topic but also master the basics in other fields to jump in when needed. Not only will you be stronger to face challenges, but you will also have a team that collaborates better and understands each other due to shared knowledge.
START TODAY: Stimulate cross-functional projects and meetings where people from different fields (within marketing but also different departments) work together and share their knowledge
2. Growth mindset
When an unexpected crisis like COVID-19 happens, it’s frightening. Nobody knows what the future will hold, which challenges will arise and what the impact will be on the business. At that moment, it is crucial to see the challenges as opportunities, not as roadblocks.
It is not about always seeing everything in a positive light; it’s about grasping the opportunity to learn and develop even when the circumstances are not the easiest. This growth-mindset will drive marketers to be curious, open-minded and more creative, which will enable them to better serve their customers. The growth mindset makes marketers more resilient and equipped to embrace change, which are essential capabilities in times of crisis.
3. Customer centric
Make sure you listen closely to your customers. People are unpredictable in normal times but even more so in times of crisis. All of a sudden you see non-explainable decision-making, such as the massive hoarding of toilet paper during the COVID-19 crisis. Predicting this kind of behavior is hard, but by staying close to your customer and spotting these trends from the very start, you will be able to better act on it and give your customer what he is looking for.
But be careful, there is a gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do. A great example of this is organic food. Based on claimed data, people say they are willing to pay a higher price for organic products, as this is a socially desirable answer, but this claim isn’t borne out by the consumer research on actual purchasing behavior. Therefore, we recommend testing new propositions in the market using Integrated Data (ID) Marketing to decrease the chance of launching a product that does not answer customer needs.
START TODAY: Stimulate cross-functional projects and meetings where people from different fields (within marketing but also different departments) work together and share their knowledge.
4. Business acumen
More than ever it is important to understand the business that you are operating in, just like you need to understand your customers. In times of crisis, you might need to rethink your business model and that is when you need people who can understand the entire picture and see the impact. What will be the effect of offering a new value proposition on our cost structure? How will we manage this logistically? Does this fit the overall company objectives in the long term? Those are the questions that will make the difference between a short-term crisis campaign and a long-term strategy that will guide you through times of crisis.
5. Digital savvy
Who were the big winners during this COVID-19 crisis? Online players such as bol.com, Hello Fresh and even small businesses with a great web store saw their numbers skyrocket. They were prepared for this crisis because they have a digital first mentality.
START TODAY: Set up e-commerce, even if it is just for only a small part of your offerings. This will not only lower the barriers between you and your client but also pave the way for a 24/7 presence, at every moment your client might need you. If setting up an entire e-commerce strategy seems too challenging, start small by launching a few landing pages and build it up from there.
6. Speed and agility
When you spot an opportunity, don’t wait until your competitor has spotted it as well. Restaurants had to close from one day to the other. In a matter of days, restaurants launched take-away formulas and DIY-boxes. This is proof of extreme flexibility: shifting their business model to keep on serving their clients based on their changed needs. If you want to win this race, you have to be agile and you have to act fast.
When things get busy, people tend to focus on the operational and forget to take time to challenge their way of working or look for new opportunities. As long as nothing changes, this does not cause big problems. But in times of crisis, or when market conditions in general change, you won’t have your plan ready. Think of your big rocks. What are the most important big tasks that can’t be put off? An example can be an IT-integration that has been postponed over and over again because you never found the time or launching a new web store that will generate new leads. By starting with your priorities and filling the rest of the planning with smaller operational tasks, you will accomplish more in the end.
START TODAY: Block a weekly slot in your agenda to go over everything you are doing and write down some challenges. If you can’t find the discipline to stick to it, plan it together with one of your colleagues to discuss the challenges you are facing together and to brainstorm about potential solutions.
All marketers are fighting for the attention of the consumer. Make sure you stand out, always, even in the small communications where an unexpected wordplay or image can make all the difference.
You want to avoid having everybody working on that same thing and nobody working on that one crucial thing. Make sure you communicate on what you are working on and where you need help. You are in the driving seat.
As a marketer, you inject creativity and engage with people from all levels of the organization. As such, you are the glue that holds everything together, that connects all the dots. So, make sure you proactively engage with your colleagues and become a true ambassador of your company. Every new perspective can give you a valuable source of information and spark a new idea. Not only will you win as a team, but you will keep on winning in the future if you manage to stay connected and share your ideas with each other.
START TODAY: Organize daily standup meetings to get a small update on what everybody is working on. Not only will it make you more connected as a team, you will also learn from each other and see common ground between projects.
In times of cut budgets and redundancies, spend your money wisely. Focus on the ROI of your campaigns, test & measure.
As we are at the end of the list, you might have noticed the same thing as I have: do you need different capabilities in times of crisis than you need in normal times? No, not at all: great marketers will use these capabilities in normal times to always stay ahead of the competition and serve their customers in the best way possible. But let’s take this COVID-19 crisis as a lesson in striving to be very best version of yourself, as a marketer and in general!
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