As a marketer preparing for the next 12 months it would be easy to feel overwhelmed or uncertain, even fearful. Here are some key actions we recommend to help you survive, adapt and thrive over the coming months.
Firstly, ground yourself regularly. All those self-help books are right: give yourself support and make sure you’ve got yourself in a realistic and positive frame of mind. Then get into action mode, even more than usual. This will improve your confidence, drive growth and make marketing an even greater asset to your Board.
Given this week’s news, it is likely that there will be a second dip in your markets, caused by localised virus outbreaks, the end of the UK’s furlough scheme, perhaps an unexpected move in an export market or by No 10’s policies. Your action here is to ‘expect the unexpected’ with a marketing plan that anticipates a W-shaped recovery. Remind all stakeholders of the proven historical facts: B2C and B2B brands that held or boosted their share of voice in previous recessions recovered more quickly and grew faster post-recession.
Of course, many businesses are planning marketing budget cuts. In our view the best approach around budget is to help your Board see marketing as the long-term investment it is and to believe in its strategic importance: so you should be pitching a three to five-year marketing plan and making sure it has broad C-level support, not just from one Board member.
Added to this are potential supply chain issues in your own and your customers’ businesses. Your job here is fairly simple: proactively sound out your supply-chain experts regularly and ask them where the worst issues might be. It may make sense for you to ask your customers if you can help with any of their supply-chain issues.
So then - what are the competition up to? Prioritise competitor analysis to understand where they may be shape-shifting, or otherwise planning to ‘eat your lunch’, and adapt accordingly.
Clearly so much change to the old order of everything means it’s a great time to innovate yourselves, looking not just in Promotion but all of the old Four P’s. For some offers Covid may mean products, channels and partnerships fundamentally shift long-term and render old offers uncompetitive, for others a new product born out of the emergency might be an enduring winner. So it’s a great use of your time to strip your offer back to fundamentals and see where innovation can help recover your bottom line. This is an area where marketers can add a lot of value, but get help - NPD can’t be done by marketers alone. It may be appropriate to involve customers.
An obvious concern is demand - that your customers won’t recover in the way or at the speed you imagined. This is where we come to the key action: now is the time to be looking at your strategy and hearing direct from your customers, to understand where they are at and reconfirm that the pain you remove for them, that the jobs you do in their supply chain are still in their minds at the price/value points they were a year ago. What are their new issues and opportunities? Define and develop these, perhaps with your customers’ help. Along the way you may find they need a connection or other help that you can give, in any area from finance to NPD or even strategy. This will give you hard data for innovation, and tell you where some of your green shoots may be. In essence, even if the news isn’t what you want to hear it’s better to have the confidence-boost that comes from having real facts and insights to work with.
Taking these actions might sometimes feel uncomfortable but they will make the marketing function even more valuable to your Board, give you and your team greater confidence, and generate new possible offerings.
Good luck, and if you want any help or advice, you know where we are.