COVID-19 Response: How Marketers Can Pivot and Adapt Their Brands Right Now

by Mark Smither
April 20, 2020 • 4 minute read

Social distancing, working from home and quarantines are our new reality and will be for the foreseeable future. How brands pivot and adapt to the COVID-19 challenge in the next 30-60 days will likely determine who emerges more robust in the post-pandemic economy. This is what your brand should be doing right now:

1. Listen and learn

Assess what your clients and customers are thinking right now. By understanding their sentiment in these trying times, you will be in a better position to offer an empathetic and effective response to their concerns.

Monitor your existing social channels, as well as industry influencers and competitors. Try to identify your customer’s top 2-3 concerns and imagine how your brand might address them.

Survey your customers using email survey tools. Gauge how they are feeling or responding to the situation. This insight will give you a better understanding of when and how to respond appropriately.

Listen to your frontline personnel. Survey your sales team and support staff to get a better perspective of what’s happening on the ground. Try to identify what they need to do their jobs while they transition to working from home.

Conduct brand research. Your brand still needs to be actively engaged with clients and customers, but differently. A strategic assessment of how your brand is perceived right now, and post-pandemic, is critical.

2. Pivot your business model

As you may have already experienced, COVID-19 is disrupting the traditional supply chain and customer service models. This disruption is likely to continue once the pandemic passes. Responsive brands are pivoting their business model to accommodate the new “contactless economy.”

Assess the impact on your business. Which areas of your business are most affected? What new levels of service or support are needed? Use the insights from your customer surveys and frontline personnel research to help guide your thinking.

Look at business-wide operational changes. Many brands are already making remote digital teamwork their new normal. Conferences and employee training are going virtual. Supply chains are moving to local sourcing, where possible. Sales and customer service is now more reliant on digital platforms.

Optimize your communication channels. Now is the time to revamp your corporate website, CRM platform and social media properties. You should also be building your database of emails and mobile numbers and using your existing network to promote any new channels (like that new podcast you’re going to be launching).

Look for ways to help, not sell. How can your brand step up and help your industry, your community or your customers right now? According to a recent AAAA survey, 56% of respondents said they were pleased to hear about brands taking actions like making donations of goods and services.

3. Accelerate your adoption of digital and video tactics

We’re advising our clients to take a fresh look at their marketing plans and accelerate their transition to more digital and video formats. Tactics that used to be on the “someday” wish list are now critical to staying connected to clients and customers.

Develop apps and mobile tools that make it easier for your clients and customers to do business with you.

Convert your sales communications to video. You can start by revamping your old PowerPoint presentations.

Upgrade your webinars. Webinars are still the most cost-effective way to share your knowledge and expertise with others. The key is to think beyond the PowerPoint slides and incorporate more live video and pre-produced video.

Host a virtual trade show. Savvy brands are using video conferencing to host their own trade show, complete with keynote speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions and live product demonstrations.

Replace classroom training with online learning. Transition your training materials to accommodate a remote salesforce and the work-from-home client-base.

Build a following through podcasts. Brands that invested the time and energy to create compelling audio content before the pandemic are benefiting right now. If you haven’t started, now is the time to jump in.

Invest in augmented reality. Social distancing has accelerated the adoption of augmented reality (AR) technology. AR helps prospects visualize your products and dramatically improves the sales training process for your employees.

Chatbots are your friend. The traditional customer service model is strained right now, creating an overload of online inquiries. Chatbots can help automate inbound and outbound customer communications.

4. Get ready to ramp up

COVID-19 has knocked our economy back, but it’s far from knocked out. When this pandemic passes (and it will pass), businesses will need to be ready to scale up production, distribution, sales and service in very short order. The best way to ensure your brand is ready to go is to prepare now.

Stay connected to your customers. The work you do now will pay dividends when the pandemic passes. Customers will remember which brands stepped up and helped them through this challenge.

Have your campaign ready-to-go. As you know, it can take weeks to develop a comprehensive multi-media campaign. If you’re ready to launch before everyone else, you’ll have a head start in the revved-up economy.

Secure media sooner than later. Everyone will be trying to secure media this fall, especially political campaigns. Work with media partners now to make sure you’re not left out.

Activate your new digital tools. If you’ve spent the last few months upgrading your sales tools and investing in new digital properties, you’ll be ready to re-engage right out of the gate.

Anticipate some setbacks. There isn’t an on-off switch for this crisis. It’s a process that will evolve over time. Some industries will emerge sooner than others, and there may be stops and starts along the way. It would be wise to plan for a phased ramp-up versus an all-in approach.

COVID-19 has presented a tremendous challenge for all of us, but with proper planning and preparation, your brand can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before.

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