In March of this year, all our plans were changed, and all marketing bets were off. Fast forward three (very, very long) months and marketers are forced to scrap many of their old plans and have plans ready for multiple potential future scenarios.
This includes how we think about Customer Journeys – how to address immediate implications of operating within a public health crisis and the long-term implications of new customer expectations.
This blog is going to address more B2B and digital experiences. Please reference my earlier blog “Retailers: 4 Ways to Embrace the New Normal” that addresses retail journey specifically.
Now, let’s take the journey through the phases and considerations of the ‘now normal’ for marketers at each stage.
Many marketers are teaming up closely with their communications and PR specialists because brand responses to the pandemic are outshining all other brand elements currently. Appropriate responses are very fluid. In immediate days, it seemed everyone needed to make some type of response and web banner, but consumers quickly became fatigued and email opens dropped for subject lines including ‘Covid-19’. What’s appropriate for the ‘now normal’? Articulate messaging that clearly defines your brand’s value in today’s environment and any changes you’ve made to increase your brand’s value relevant to the pandemic. In a flood of messaging, be sure that your words clearly communicate value or don’t feel compelled to publish new messages.
Employee experience has also taken a massive step forward into influencing overall brand perception. Consumers are accepting of furloughs and layoffs, when they are handled with compassion, communication, and transparency. It’s appropriate now to post social messages related to what would previously be considered private, internal matters. Marketing should be partnering closely with HR to ensure that changes to companies cost structures- employees, facilities, etc.- are defined and communicated. Responses to employee experience are not limited to Glass Door reviews; they are being widely circulated in social media and marketers need to help influence the effects on brand perception.
More tactical changes that are affecting the top of the funnel are related to sheer volume of employees that are now working from home. This is having adverse effects on ABM and Intent Data. It’s very difficult to capture this marketing intelligence from home IP addresses which simply identify as Comcast, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.
“ABM is slowly improving if you are targeting larger companies where a higher percentage of employees are now settled into working from home and there is enforced use of VPN. Intent data is slowly rebuilding as use of corporate IPs repopulate cookie history.”
Chief Revenue Officer
The final major consideration for top of the funnel development right now is rethinking your target segments. B2B should be heavily segmented by industry and B2C should now be heavily segmented by geography. These are the most prominent vectors to run agile adjustments on in the shifting sands of our current economic environment.
Most companies are experiencing significant changes to customer/ prospect behavior in this stage right now. B2B and B2C are in holding patterns as everyone (re)evaluates planned spending and budgets. This is causing disruptive delays to the normal engagement and conversion process for buyers. Most marketers are pivoting to focus on offering relevant content that helps initiate and maintain engagement. Engagement goals are being redefined. Brands are having to dial back harder messages around velocity and conversion and exercise patience. This is forcing additional investment to update content for an elongated nurture stage.
The advantages here are to compile additional information about your prospects through higher levels of engagement during nurturing. This will set up very well for longer term personalization and segmentation strategies and ultimately build stronger loyalty for the advocacy stage. This is time that marketers should be investing heavily in progressive profiling and multivariate testing.
Social is also emerging as a more active engagement channel right now. Free trials and offers are more prevalent. Lowering typical qualifying criteria now and investing in developing a larger than typical top and mid funnel will pay off as the economy eases in 2021 and this larger mid funnel begins to convert. A shorter term, greater than usual customer acquisition cost (CAC) will demonstrate a higher ROI in customer retention/loyalty longer term.
The bifurcation between essential and non-essential goods and services are very evident. Brands need to focus heavily on how they can mitigate purchasing risks by offering low-risk or no-risk options. Many companies are conserving cash right now, but only 40% are reporting a shrink in budgets. Providing more comfort around flexible terms and guarantees will help capture market movement.
Diversifying products, services and most importantly, price points are key to survival right now for many brands. Offering lower than typical entry price points is a justifiable investment to build brand loyalty and create future upsell and cross-sell opportunities. This will help lower future CAC and provide a growth customer base in the event of a continued contracted economic environment.
Communication and setting expectations are the most important elements in advocacy. A renewed focus on doing business locally is likely to have staying power. Local also means doing business within your network, which means referrals are more valuable than before.
If you are offering flexible terms, deferred payments, or other ways to attract new business, be sure that you are extending similar promotions to your existing customers. Don’t make them work for it.
Ensure you are communicating all business changes clearly, consistently, proactively and across multiple channels. Double down on the investments in your customer success teams. Ensure that every customer is receiving attention to help them successfully adopt and consume your product or service. Make investments in free training. Offer free trials for up sell/ cross sell products and services. Offer complimentary solutions or services for periods of time that will help your customers. Again, do this proactively. Keep your ‘ease of doing business’ scores positive.
3 Final Thoughts
for the ‘now normal’:
Agile is one of the most successful qualities for marketers to embody right now. Be a good business partner to your C-Suite by preparing plans for multiple business scenarios, budgets, and resource plans.
Build in planning time to regularly reevaluate your audiences, segments, messages, and product positioning.
Finally, motivate your team by having a strong team identity, a clear mission, roles, and goals. Successful marketers will help their companies navigate through uncertain terms by managing the brand perception, articulating value, investing in customer acquisition, retention, and advocacy. Short term investments in these areas will pay off dividends in customer retention and loyalty in the long term.
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