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Throw your 2020 marketing plan out the window (while keeping a 2-meter distance)

by Sabrina Colafabio

As the world eases their lockdown and social distancing measures, we all need to adapt. The public and businesses will not return to normal, rather a new-normal which will involve a very changed social and economic outlook for all. “New behaviors become permanent the longer they are in place. And in this case, one of the primary human emotions, FEAR propels and engrains the behavior changes.” – as so perfectly summarised by Kenn Adach of Chief Outsiders.


For marketers, the challenges are endless, this pandemic and de-confinement flips everything we know about sales, product placement, messaging and promotion right on its head.



Marketing plan for the rest of 2020 and into 2021

As the saying goes, we make plans and God laughs. It certainly feels that way for much of 2020. Having said that, we do need to plan our marketing efforts and much attention should be made in thinking about the different scenarios which can playout for the rest of the year and beyond.


Scenario planning[1] – You need to consider several scenarios during this pandemic. Best, base and worst, and determine what your marketing efforts will be for each considering the business impacts of these scenarios. We feel that the base case should be a function of the “new normal” with a best-case scenario resembling what your base case would have been before the 2020 pandemic hit. This may seem like shooting in the dark, but the point of the exercise is to try to make sure your marketing efforts are aligned with your new business strategy and furthermore, allow you to change course more fluidly depending on how the scenario changes (because it inevitably will).


Customer profile[2] – We know that behaviors change the longer they are applied and given the length of time we’ve been under social distancing rules, consumer behavior has changed permanently for many. It’s important to understand what’s changed and how your marketing strategy needs to adapt. If your online business has picked-up, consider investing heavily in an advanced e-commerce platform. Consider the marketing and messaging around that. Are your customers worried about payment terms, broken supply-chains and product quality? If so, address them for example, through video content with your executives detailing their plan to keep customers satisfied. Ad-buy should be a function of your new sales funnel and align your messaging. This leads me to the next point.


Communicate – Constantly and assuredly. Set expectations, keep on top of your customer concerns. You need to invite them to get back to you, create surveys and make sure your lines of communication are as open as possible. Ensure your customer service teams are well staffed and have a cohesive message. Get social and create campaigns which speak to the concerns you have as a business, and as a community. Provide words of encouragement, solicit management to be involved and seek feedback from your public. Finally…


Adapt the marketing plan– as marketers, we’re accustomed to being quick on our feet and adapting as necessary, clearly, this present time is no exception. Businesses are changing and hence, marketing plans must change along with them. As companies, when possible, are becoming more e-commerce oriented, the way marketing adapts to that must change as well. Further budget needs to be allocated to groups like digital marketing and e-commerce, we need to re-think events and the way they are hosted. If this is a big part of your business, you need to consider digital platforms, speakers and collateral that makes sense for these times. Your media buying will have to be revisited – platforms and budget all to be considered.


Lastly, these are not easy times for many of us so if you want to show your value and leave a lasting impression on your customers, lead with heart.


[1] Starita, Laura. 2020, March 17. Adapt your marketing strategy for COVID-19. Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/insights/articles/adapt-the-marketing-strategy-for-covid-19

[1]Adach, Kenn. 2020, April 24. Three steps to prepare for the post-COVID-19 business world. ClickZ. https://www.clickz.com/three-steps-to-prepare-for-the-post-covid-19-business-world/261265/

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