In times of great disruption and change (see: 2020 and the foreseeable future), brands rightfully adjust their strategic marketing plans, sales strategies, and business models to both accommodate their customers’ needs and steady the ship, so to speak.
But there is no single “right” formula for shifting one’s strategy in times like these. Examine 100 companies’ reactions to COVID-19, and you’ll likely see 100 unique approaches.
However, there are certainly adjustments brands can make during periods of hardship and uncertainty to respond to customer needs and make up for lost revenue.
In fact, we’ve seen several BlueConic customers alter their marketing strategies accordingly to more capably navigate the new now — moves that help them continue to realize their brand and team objectives and enhance satisfaction and loyalty among customers.
To make the most of trying times like today from a business perspective, we figured it’s worth sharing some BlueConic customer stories to provide some inspiration regarding how you can modify your strategic marketing plan and keep your customers engaged.
Adjusting your strategic marketing plan in times of great change and uncertainty
First, let’s make something clear: This is not a “coronavirus marketing” guide.
The pandemic is certainly the impetus behind our post. But this is meant to help you think through potential changes in your business plan as you make adjustments to the way consumers work and live and the impact that has on what goods or services you sell.
Reacting to customer needs during this time doesn’t require you necessarily require you to rewrite your mission statement. But you may reconsider your target market, revise your marketing budget, and rethink how your customers are interacting with your company.
How have their needs changed? Has how they buy changed?
Before we dive into some of our own customers’ remodeled marketing campaigns and interaction strategies that our customer data platform (CDP) helps them achieve, here are some thought-starters for aspects of your strategic marketing plan to address and assess.
Audit your stack to identify inefficiencies and gaps.
One way marketing and business leaders are spending their time these days is taking a step back to audit their data efforts across the company — including and especially their marketing technologies.
Identifying how digital marketing solutions impact day-to-day efforts and long-term objectives and the ROI from these technologies — from customer data management systems to search engine optimization software — can set you and your team up for success with your marketing mix once “normal” operations resume.
No two martech stacks are the same. But there is one tried-and-true approach to analyzing one’s marketing technologies — and, thereby, the impact those systems have on ongoing marketing activities — marketers use to improve their tech setups.
The TL;DR version of this approach? List every tool and platform you use, determine the efficacy of each one (i.e., the marketing efforts they help you carry out), identify which ones to eliminate (i.e., redundant systems), and pinpoint martech “gaps” to fill.
Note that filling a martech gap may not necessarily mean a new technology acquisition. Rather, it might simply mean better understanding where and how you can use existing data from other systems and build connectors between them for more efficient utilization.
Conduct a comprehensive customer data clean-up.
Aside from reviewing your marketing technology setup, you can also allocate some resources to cleaning your database, auditing your customer data sources, and enriching data sets — critical tasks required to get the most out of a CDP.
A customer data platform can help you liberate your first-party data to use it in real-time for your marketing efforts. Having said that, effective use of your first-party data requires clean data. (“Garbage in, garbage out,” as the saying goes.)
“A [customer data platform] is only as good as the data that is imported into it,” digital marketing expert Brian Carlson wrote for CMSWire.
While a customer data platform will unify data from across systems and sources, identity resolution won’t work with dirty data. Using a CDP with clean data will allow you to activate across marketing channels to target your audiences with confidence.
Start (or restart) your digital transformation initiative.
Consumers rely on digital services now more than ever, prompting brands to accelerate digital transformation plans in an effort to keep up with changing consumer behavior.
Leading a digital transformation may seem like a task for your CEO or executive team. After all, they likely crafted a top-down initiative and business plan with an explicit executive summary for the brand and oversee operations across all departments.
Thus, they’d want the biggest say in a project of this magnitude — right?
The reality today is marketing teams are often responsible for (or at least, largely involved in) executing digital transformation strategies. Why? Because they often entail rethinking the marketing systems and activities used to influence customer journeys.
Brands need well-laid-out marketing plans to successfully execute on new tactics.
In particular, companies now need the desire to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities in their daily efforts to better analyze audience data and predict engagement among and assign value for their prospects and customers.
If you’re concerned about starts and stops with your transformation when things (presumably) return to a semblance of normal, don’t worry. The “discontinuous” digital transformation method means you can simply pick up where you left off when it suits you.
Examples of brands that adapted their marketing plans due to COVID-19
All the aforementioned undertakings are certainly worthwhile ones that mid-sized and enterprise brands (even some small businesses) should tackle during times of crisis.
But to create a valuable, frictionless customer experience during this time, what are some industry-specific marketing plan modifications you can make? How can you alter your tactics and techniques in times of change and find alternatives to regain lost revenue?
To show how some companies are adapting to the current climate caused by coronavirus, here is how some BlueConic customers with different business models and who sell different products and services have transformed their strategic marketing plans accordingly.
Shifting to a direct-to-consumer focus
Organizations that historically sell most of their goods through retailers are now prioritizing direct-to-consumer relationships and marketing programs.
To make up for lost revenue at their retail locations, one manufacturer is using geo-location data and other customer attributes captured in BlueConic profiles to target customers who live near high-earning retail locations with new messaging for at-home deliveries.
Having unified customer profiles in BlueConic with geolocation data, the ability to build a segment in just a few minutes, and then send that dynamically updated segment to their marketing activation platforms allowed them to get up and running quickly.
Personalizing messaging in real-time
COVID-19 has impacted supply chains the world over. So, it’s in retail and ecommerce brands’ best interests to keep customers apprised of shipping timelines and changes.
To provide the best customer experience possible, retail marketers need to communicate any operational or order-related information to customers to set expectations.
Retail marketers who use BlueConic have been able to do just this.
Again, by using geolocation data for buyers, these marketers are able to dynamically update shipping details onsite to customers based on where they plan to ship products purchased.
As store hours, inventory levels, and estimated shipping arrival time and dates change, BlueConic customers are armed with the ability to use on-site personalization on a 1:1 basis.
It’s a seemingly minor touch. But it’s one these consumers undoubtedly appreciate in times of uncertainty like today — and ones that contribute to positive customer experiences.
Monetizing first-party data to build premium audiences
Many media and publishing companies are seeing a notable decline in ad revenue from advertisers that are scaling back their spending amid this pandemic.
As a result, one publisher is using the rich profile data available in their BlueConic tenant to develop premium audiences that can be sold to remaining advertisers as a way to mitigate the impact of advertising dollars being pulled out of the market.
Adjusting paywall strategies for audience development
Keeping crucial updates from the public during a crisis through the continual use of paywalls can lead to diminished brand trust for news publications. Plain and simple.
While paywalls exist to entice subscription sign-ups and access to premium info and insights, publishers are dropping them during disruptive periods like the pandemic in favor of putting local news and important information in the hands of their readers.
And that’s exactly what several renowned publishers who rely on BlueConic’s customer data platform to build and manage their paywalls have done amid the coronavirus.
These publishers provide readers with access to the latest reports regarding COVID-19 in exchange for their email addresses. One publisher has collected over 70,000 emails in the past few weeks and continues to get 1,000-2,000 emails per day.
With email addresses in hand, publishing brands have the first-party data they need to grow their audience and continue to understand individuals in their database.
As they build out profiles for these readers, they can understand their content preferences, interests, and track behavioral data to find the right time to ask for a subscription.
Many still subtly promote paid subscriptions for their services when the paywall eventually returns — something many of their readers have already done, thanks to the free content.
Crafting a new, strategic marketing plan for your business during “down” periods
There’s obviously a lot on marketers’ minds aside from work during crises. One way these professionals can alleviate their business-related concerns is to adapt as best they can.
But this adaptation is most definitely a team effort. And when implemented successfully, brands’ modified strategic marketing plans can help them flourish during the perilous times in question — and long after.
Before moving forward with a reformed marketing plan, though, CMOs need to balance the need to achieve pre-crisis KPIs (or get as close as possible, given the circumstances), double down on their brand values, and develop and maintain operational efficiency companywide.
“To best optimize both short-term objectives and create long-term efficiencies, marketing leaders must first focus on what to put spend behind versus where,” said Gartner Principal, Digital Performance Lili Meng.
Another way to put it? If you’re a customer-first organization, where can you focus your efforts to strengthen your customer engagement in the short and long term?
Only when you have a framework in place for your altered engagement approach can you start to peel back the layers of what you need to do in order to achieve your new goals.
Leaning on the CDP’s advanced capabilities to navigate disruptive times
The true value in a CDP lies in the increased agility and flexibility it gives to marketing.
Having a CDP in place and being able to quickly make adjustments to the kind of personalization messaging and programs you run in marketing is invaluable.
Especially in dynamically changing times like today, marketers can make sweeping changes to their entire web experience and email campaigns in a matter of days in reaction to any macro factor largely because they have BlueConic at the center of their tech stack.
The addition of a CDP is about creating a glue between systems that didn’t exist before, while also making it easier to remove or consolidate systems as the business requires.
When all essential, accurate, up-to-date consumer data lives in one place and no onerous structures or limitations are put on it — as is the case for brands that utilize BlueConic — your company’s agility with your martech ecosystem increases markedly.
In short, the right people, processes, and tools — and a CDP as your data hub — can help you realize your desired strategic marketing plan during the tough times and, ultimately, ensure you and your business come out the other side of a given crisis even stronger.
Learn how you can modify your customer engagement model and adapt to the new business and marketing climate accordingly in our in-depth eBook.