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How was your marketing plan affected by Covid and the Ides of March?

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Pro-active tips to address and adapt your marketing plan 2020

The Ides of March is the 74th day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15.

The Romans considered the Ides of March a deadline for settling debts but I know that I first heard about the Ides of March back in High School when we studied Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.
Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March” and was later betrayed and stabbed to death on that date.

Fast forward to March 2020 and around the world countries are under lockdown due to the Covid-19 sanitary crisis. Indeed, the expression "Beware the Ides of March, "is quite applicable to our current situation.

Business Contingency Plans and Crisis Communication strategies were nowhere near ready to tackle the effects that this worldwide pandemic crisis is having on our economy, our livelihood and our mental health.

The sudden shift from a calm to a crisis mode, from a bullish economy to a round-the-corner recession (we are not there quite yet.. a recession is two consecutive quarters of economic decline) has left no choice for millions of companies to shift their workplace model from an on-site, office model to a remote, virtual one.

In a crisis situation, now more than ever, marketing sits center stage and is under scrutiny from customers. Even before Covid-19 was the top-of-mind world subject, consumers have been losing faith in both government and big brands. A lot of the reasons for this distrust is rooted in the lack of bilateral communication and transparency.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the crisis, this distrust is being amplified and news channels and activists are quick to exacerbate the situation. You just need to spend a half-hour on Twitter to realize how fed-up citizens are worldwide with "The System and the Big Players."

Yesterday, I discovered an application made by which places inclusion and social, customer-centric experience at the heart of its business model. Piqify's scalable cloud platform uses its trademark visual language and AI to create engaging and inclusive user experiences that easily integrate into global enterprises, educational systems, health industries...   This application allows users to share their feelings with their network and provide more detailed feedback in order to enhance overall engagement and inclusion.

This kind of application is what Marketing needs today. As CMOS are under the harsh lights, center stage in this worldwide crisis, their actions or lack of actions, thereof, are being judged.

Taking the right actions and curating the right messages and responses are particularly challenging right now.

The first step obviously is maintaining coherent, timely communication concerning the crisis and its effects on the organization, logistics, delivery, client contacts, IT systems... the list goes on. We have all been receiving emails from every product or service that we subscribe to or, are on their mailing list, to inform us of the steps being taken.

Going beyond that initial communication, CMOS will encounter a greater challenge. That challenge is foreseeing what customers want, need, and expect as their purchasing decisions will evolve. This challenge is compounded by the fact that customers themselves do not know what to expect as local restrictions and guidelines are modifying their daily lives.

Unfortunately, CMOS will be confronted with navigating very choppy waters. They can not wait until all market indications are clear before taking action. Applications such as, social listening tools like Hootsuite or Talkwalker, can help CMOS establish what customer voice is being given to the shifts in market behavior, concerns or information needs relevant to your brands and/or business. CMOS should work hand in hand with Relationship Managers, After-Sales teams, Inbound Customer Service departments, to assess what issues are top-of-mind for current customers. Actions may be taken, but it is important to remember to be honest in outlining and exposing capabilities and resources. This is a double-edged sword, and too ambitious solutions can come at the expense of the Firm and its workers or at the expense of customer trust. In times of crisis communication, agility and pro-active solutions are crucial. 

The reality of the current situation is something that you should share with customers. Rising service demands may not be able to be met, however, proper responses to the timely and effective servicing need to be addressed and updated on a regular basis. As you manage the corporate response to customers, it is important to manage all promises and establish realistic expectations around service level, product date launches, availability, etc. All prior knowledge concerning products or services that you are unable to fill due to the crisis should lead to a specific communication or a suppression of those products and services from your catalog online.

As you glean insight from monitoring customer service calls, social listening tools or customer feedback via emails, a proactive step could be to establish FAQs for use and distribution on your web site, social media channels, and via direct email campaigns. Prepare scripts that customer service representatives can use to respond to most frequent customer questions and ensure that all communication is coherent.

If you have access to specific digital tools that can be used to bolster delivery during this time of crisis... get going.

Likewise, if marketing teams are understaffed or underequipped to deal with all the remote challenges, all-in-one marketing platforms, and Social Media planning systems (Mailchimp, TailWind, Sendible, Missinglettr) can help ease the burden of planning and scheduling. Websites like Fiverr, Freelancer, and Malt can help put you in contact with freelancers and entrepreneurs who are used to working remotely and have all the tools in hand to get the job done.

All of these aforementioned steps are independent of the actual marketing plan. That is something that CMOS can not forget and must address and adapt regardless of the lack of transparency concerning future developments.

All event-based programs such as team buildings, town halls, client events, trade fairs, etc are all temporarily put on hold. Some of them may not even be re-scheduled in the latter half of 2020. However, if they were on the plan it was for a specific reason and in response to specific needs. Those needs still need to be addressed. 

I am witnessing tons of alternative marketing solutions to canceled worldwide events. We live in a world where platforms like Discord, Zoom, Loom, Skype, and Facetime can bring people together. Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Web streaming... these are all viable solutions to find alternate ways of maintaining events. This week alone I have attended three Zoom conferences and 2 Webinars and honestly, I find this to be a very suitable way to maintain contact and keep up with your marketing plan.

As people are captive in their homes, they are more receptive to incoming information. Now is the time to ramp up and promote your content. 

The information that you are sharing does not necessarily need to be concerning your company, brand, products or services... it can be in the form of short interviews with the staff members that are still on-call and servicing customers, regardless of the pandemic (this is a good win-win because you acknowledge and value employees and promote positive values to customers). It can be in the form of inspiring quotes, messages, positive customer-company interactions, photos. The number of subscribers to inspirational and motivational social media accounts is outstanding. People crave motivation and inspiration. Find something to inspire them with and take their mind off the crisis. Work on your graphic designs, videos, storytelling... these are what is trending now in 2020 and many companies are still not yet up to par on this. Use the time wisely.

Lastly, do not forget that the end of the year 2020 will be a battleground for events, ads and the like. Every company and his brother company:) will be trying to re-schedule events, conferences, ad campaigns... start planning and reserving your events and ads before it is too late.

I hope that this article helps elucidate an active action plan for you in light of this crisis.

@commsanalyst is open, online, and available for any specific marketing and communication needs your company may have. Do not hesitate to get in touch and share this article with someone in your entourage that may need some advice.

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