Bruce Lee famously said “be shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup.” Your brand should be the same. If this year’s events have taught us anything, it’s that you should never stick with being static. 2020 brought in the new decade with a striking change — among other things — a pandemic and global protests. Obviously, the human costs of 2020 thus far have been terrible. So in comparison, it’s understandable that consumers aren’t really worried about how brands are doing right now. But, there’s no denying that the events above have obviously affected businesses, too.
Brands can no longer rely on rigid objectives or offerings and marketers can no longer fall back on simply guessing consumer behavior. As a small business owner, how do you deal with that level of transformation? Having a strategy that is flexible and dynamic is key. One that is prepared to move with the world around it with minimal disruption, rather than trying to cram a changing world into its funnel, instead.
It’s also important to understand that flexibility only works if applied to your company holistically. If you’re not being flexible with your business objectives, or your processes, they too will bog you down when the going gets tough. A great example of this is the open-minded brands that had prepared for digital transformation pre-COVID-19 being in a better position (and suffering less disruption) from those that weren’t.
But before we talk about what flexibility actually means for your brand, there are a few things we need to understand right from the start. Relying on previous behavioral assumptions was the key to gaining strong reactions to ads or campaigns. But when industries want to future-proof themselves for when the world turns upside down, they have to start by looking at data-driven insights.
Dig deep into data
- Your data is the foundation of any business decision.
There is no denying that data should be looked at before, during, and after a campaign. Digital marketing has allowed us to leverage user behavior on specific web pages, product pages, conversions, and social media posts. Using behavioral stats in a future campaign automatically makes it more appealing to your target market.
- Not all insights are relevant to your objectives.
If you look at analytics and insights for Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat, you’re going to feel dizzy and not know where to start. The key is to make use of the insights that matter to you. For example, if you’re looking at website insights for your online store located and serving in the US or Canada only, global insights won’t be as valuable to you. Don’t spend time looking at users per country, instead look at states, provinces, demographics, and device usage. When it comes to data and metrics that lack context, they’re meaningless.
- Filter and customize to make your life easier.
As you can see, there’s a lot of data out there. Try to use specific tools that help you bring all your relevant data into one repository so that you can quickly glance at what’s happening in a campaign from one vantage point. Google Data Studio is also excellent for this – you can consolidate Google Analytics and social ad insights all into one report. Better still, create your custom report and set it to fire off an email to you every week or month. Check out Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to Google Data Studio in 2020 for more info.
Now you’ve got a decent idea of who your target audience is, it’s easier to understand what their needs will be during a crisis.
As marketing adapts to change, so should you
As marketers, we’ve had to deal with many things over the decades – moving from traditional marketing to digital marketing (or new media, as it was once known), learning more about consumers before simply placing a billboard on the side of a highway, or never having enough budget. But this year, there’s a lot more on that list. Creating a strategy once and expecting implementation to bring in results is no longer an option.
The environment we live in is dynamic. Marketing strategies shouldn’t be static. They should be as influential as our surroundings. Because you can be sure that consumers think in-depth, do their research, and are intelligent.
Let’s look at how to put this into practice.
Build the foundation
When your brand has a robust framework, you can be sure that you’re on the right track. It may be a discovery session with your team, a kick-off meeting, or just a brainstorm. You can even take it to the next level and interview some of your customers for first-hand insights. Ask them why they buy your product or service, what makes them happy, do they refer your brand to loved ones? It’s also good to know what you could improve from a customer’s point of view and your team’s. Ask everyone that you can – your intern, your sales team, production team, and management.
Dove’s insight that came of out their research was that “only 4 percent of women considered themselves beautiful”. As a result, they switched things up and came up with the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, a campaign that celebrated the real beauty in women. Dove’s models were real women with wrinkles, spots, etc. and has campaigned just as it should – “these women are beautiful.” The proof is in the pudding – planning sessions can help you inform a flexible content marketing strategy.
Adapt your channels
One of the most critical and difficult choices as a marketer is choosing your mediums and ensuring that they are the most effective spots for your campaign. We live in a world where most people think one campaign must stretch across all channels – their website, social media channels, YouTube, display ads, etc. And the truth is you will need to spread your content across different channels – but strategically and with some flexibility. Different platforms will have different audiences and you’ll need a supple approach to each. You want to engage with your best customer where they hang out, not have substantial reach numbers everywhere, and then no conversions to show for it. Adapt your content per channel, too — you can still stick to your brand guidelines without sounding like a robot.
Learn from your audience
Learning from your audience has a few elements to it that we often forget. Learning from their online behavior is one element that we should always be mindful of. The next is addressing your audience’s concerns. You want to not only build relationships with your audience, but be also a support structure, and a thought leader to those in your industry. The best way to do this is to listen to what they have to say actively, and not just push content towards them.
In the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Cottonelle did just that – they listened to social media complaints on the feeds of grocery chains regarding stock and created a campaign that spoke directly to the heart of the issue. People were shocked, scared, and panicked in early 2020. As a result, some decided to “panic buy” toilet paper. Cottonelle delivered a message to ease consumer’s concerns about running out of stock. Their message was simple. “Stock up on generosity.” Cottonelle launched the #ShareASquare campaign, asking consumers to share instead of stock-piling. They designed a simple yet effective message by listening to customers that may not have even directly been their customers.
To sum up
After looking at these tips, it’s easy to see that the world is changing and that we need to change with it too. Dynamism is everything – and the data tells us a lot. There’s no doubt that the best marketing strategies aren’t static. We must sew together this complex data with simple human acts like listening, talking, and caring. This marriage is sure to create successful strategies, ads, and brand advocacy.