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4 key marketing reactions to COVID


COVID has fundamentally changed the behaviours in society, from how we make decisions, interact with people and businesses. It has changed the way we work, our preferences and decisions. Some of these changes have fundamentally altered our behaviours while others have made us realise and appreciate what we can’t do.


Most large businesses rely heavily on market research and past data to make future decisions. They prefer certainty over risk, yet due to COVID they both these tools aren’t as dependable as they used to be. They have no previous data to look at and market research being conducted is asking people what they might do in the future. Top of their mind for people is whether they will have a job, whether they and family will be healthy not whether they are likely to buy a product from your company.


Businesses have been hit hard around the world. With customers going into lockdown and companies in a state of shock about the uncertainty for the future. One of the most common questions I am regularly asked is, how are marketing teams are responding? The answer is not straight forward as it heavily depends upon how a company perceives marketing.




If we look at each of these 4 marketing segments in more detail, we find that the perception of marketing fundamentally changes how they are reacting to COVID, this isn’t always what a company should do to create bounce back and reach high performance.


Disbelievers: 


In times of uncertainty, businesses want to make sound commercial decisions. Finance dominated companies can see marketing as an expensive cost centre. Marketing has always been a black hole of activity in most companies and every new campaign and initiative seems to be met with indifference. There is no confidence that the current marketing is effective and therefore it is thought that the next campaign will produce the same response. Marketing is considered an expense that can be minimised.


COVID hasn’t changed the situation but has amplified the problem for marketing in these companies. As a result, these companies are being forced to slash headcount and spend. These businesses have no idea what marketing is effective, they struggle to know what to cut to have the least impact on business. From a finance point of view, this is an opportunity to trim dead wood on things they don’t understand. Cutting marketing spend will probably have an impact on how quickly the business can recover which will be explained to shareholders as a result of COVID. With fewer funds and fewer people, marketing in these companies will get tougher. Disbelief in marketing and marketing effectiveness will remain low unless the CMO creates a clear path forward.


The roadmap for CMOs in a marketing disbeliever organisation 

  1. Audit marketing quality and costs – Identify what is working and what is not. Use this evidence to stop ineffective spending. This boosts confidence in the marketing function to demonstrate they know what marketing activities are driving business.

  2. Measure the quality of marketing execution and report on the execution of marketing plans. Increasing transparency of marketing removes the view that marketing is a ‘black box’ of marketing spend.

  3. Identify the key areas of marketing activity that are most critical for driving business. Create an action plan to improve the quality of these areas and report on quality improvements. This starts to shift people’s belief in the effectiveness of marketing.

Denial:


Marketing deniers are in a tough position during COVID. The marketing in these companies is effective, but within the organisation, belief is low in the power of marketing. The core problem the CMO’s in these organisations face is being able to articulate marketing value and effectiveness to the wider business. Without understanding value marketing in the organisation, like all companies with low marketing belief budgets are likely to be cut. If these marketing cuts are deep the organisation, it can significantly impact the effectiveness of marketing and they run the risk of slipping into the disbeliever category. Any cut in budget and any resulting loss of marketing effectiveness can be explained to shareholders as a result of COVID, masking often a poor business decision. The approach CMO in these companies is very similar to that of disbelievers, as the core problem that needs to be addressed is boosting the organisational belief in marketing by making it more transparent.


The roadmap for CMOs in a marketing denial organisation 

  1. Audit marketing quality and costs – Providing an external audit of marketing to demonstrate to the business that marketing is effectiveness. This process will normally identify some minor efficiencies that can be made to the marketing budget with minimum impact on sales.

  2. Measure the quality of marketing execution and report on the execution of marketing plans. Increasing transparency of marketing removes the view that marketing is a ‘black box’ of marketing spend.

  3. Identify the key areas of marketing activity that are most critical for driving business. Create an action plan to improve the quality of these areas and report on quality improvements. This starts to shift people’s belief in the effectiveness of marketing.

Delusional:


Companies that believe strongly in marketing and think wrongly their marketing is effectiveness face a different challenge. The organisation is in a dilution that their marketing is working and what they need that they will need to just continue as normal. Marketing practices in these companies continue year after year with a focus on consistency but don’t focus on what good looks like and how to improve.


As COVID is changing customer behaviours and if marketing doesn’t adapt, the companies become less effective. If left unchecked these organisations can easily be outmanoeuvred by the competition.  


A marketer in these companies are often unaccountable and just need to demonstrate that they have been busy to get their bonus. Creating the desired change for a CMO presents a different challenge to create true impact.


The roadmap for CMOs in a delusional marketing organisation

  1. Scenario plan how customer behaviours may change due to COVID. For each scenario plan the desired behavioural changes that are needed to unlock sales and outmanoeuvre the competition.

  2. Create quality excellence standards for the company to create a shared view of what good looks like.

  3. Create a baseline audit of where marketing is currently performing and identify quick wins to improve the effectiveness of marketing.

  4. Track and report on marketing quality of execution of marketing plans. Start to embed quality standards requirements for agencies and marketers. This starts to drive up marketing effectiveness within the company.

Distinguished:


The distinguished marketing team are in a lucky position as they have a strong belief in their marketing, meaning they are unlikely to have significant cuts to marketing budgets and there is a general awareness that their marketing is effective.


Knowing that COVID is changing customers, these companies are scenario planning, identify desired behavioural changes in each situation, meaning they are in a prime position to adapt to new normalities after COVID. When competitors deny the changes that are taking place or pull back from engagement it creates a perfect storm for some disrupt and lead. Every crisis presents new opportunities, and COVID will allow agile and creative marketing brains to shine.


With a clear strategic plan in place, the marketing function needs to focus on maintaining the quality of execution. The effectiveness of marketing is directly linked to the quality of execution yet even the most high-performance organisations this isn’t measured. 

 In these situations, the CMO should focus on tracking the quality of execution and understanding what is working and not working.


The roadmap for CMOs in a distinguished marketing organisation

  1. Create quality excellence standards for the company to create a shared view of what good looks like.

  2. Create a baseline audit of where marketing is currently performing and identify quick wins to improve the effectiveness of marketing.

  3. Track and report on marketing quality of execution of marketing plans. Start to embed quality standards requirements for agencies and marketers. This starts to drive up marketing effectiveness within the company.

Each of these 4 marketing scenarios provides a different challenge. Often the biggest change required is to remove the mystery of marketing. Marketing budgets are often seen as a black box, with finance directors and CEO not fully understanding how the money is being spent and what impact it will have on sales. The fundamental problem is marketing struggles to create transparency about how effective it is and to demonstrate it knows what it needs to do more of to drive sales. New metrics are needed to empower CMOs and marketing teams, without it the struggle will continue.  


Having developed a unique system to fill the above gaps and help to significantly improve marketing teams and sales. We would love to discuss your challenge and show you how the Markify system can make your marketing more effective.  

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