It’s been very different…
Which is an understatement.
It’s been very difficult…
Which is probably closer to the emotion most people feel.
However you sum up your experience of marketing in the pandemic, we can all agree it’s going to be both very different and very difficult for the foreseeable future as we respond to the abnormalities of the new normal.
Everyone is under starter’s orders and craving clarity, but evidence of that is in short supply. Finding your own clarity before you move forward is essential. We’re now entering a phase whereby the early messages you did that actually hit the right tone will only have lasting meaning if your actions now build on them, and help the situation move forward in the reshaped economy.
Doing it well, cleverly cloaking but not neglecting the implications of the selling message – that maybe didn’t feel quite right morally to begin with – will have helped set up your next stage of communication.
Whatever your perspective amidst all the hopes and prescriptions; whether you align with those who identify this as a defining moment of necessary and unavoidable change, or you agree with the interpretation of this crisis as a warning that we need – as a global community – to aim for something different; human nature tends to reaffirm itself. At least in the short-term.
After a trauma or major economic upheaval – the outlook for the most part is for comfort and familiarity – and business is no different in this desire, whether looking to push on with a recommissioned workforce, or commencing operations again after a break. With the amount of inward thought this crisis has precipitated, the majority of businesses won’t be looking to take on board extra stress beyond the already considerable stress of establishing the new normal. With worlds having been turned upside down – this reduced version of normal is not the one they envisaged or desired as a new working platform.
With your customers gradually coming out of lockdown your affirmation is exactly what they will be looking for. They will need to know you are there for them, so the process is less painful, and that you can be relied upon to provide at least some degree of the previous dependable normality fairly quickly.
Facilitating any mid-to long-term change will likely not be the first priority. Most companies will be re-establishing markets and physical facilities, getting the workforce up to speed, and be deeply concerned with supply chains and sales. In particular, they’ll want your products, services and processes that impact efficiency: that optimise and maximise what they do, albeit on a socially distanced scale. There is, after all, a lot of ground to make up. Comfort means holding their children closer. Whether that will be applied to your products will depend on how you have handled a number of things – not just your messaging. A complex balance is required that is well beyond any yoga pose you’ve learnt online during lockdown.
Coronavirus may have changed the way many of us work, with the daily preoccupation with life and death placing a temporary halt on pushing products and services. However, as the transition phase from lockdown continues to unfurl, most of the bald pandemic issues will still remain.
Three things will initially be highly prized in coronavirus messaging to customers: familiarity, reliance and clarity. Familiarity with what you brought/bring to the table. Reliance on you to deliver it – as you did before. And the clarity of your messaging. Reliance is in effect a bridge between the other two.
No one will be actively looking for ambiguity. Apart from those iconoclasts who inevitably stress doing the polar opposite; or the gurus who identify this as the moment the world wakes up to its evil business ways. Two extremes… And in any case there’s enough ambiguity around from governments and scientists. It’s time to put that extremely creative presentation to one side for another day; which will, in any case, come sooner than you think.
No one will be looking to restart – for in many cases restart it is – considering immediate far-reaching changes. Target the promotion of clear benefits with a consistency that runs through every aspect of your messaging; and everything else you do. Now is the time to consider how to ensure that this works for when you come out fighting.
It’s a great chance to reacquaint, re-examine, reset and reaffirm your messaging. To streamline what you do. Be unequivocal; because, although in less stressed times people may take your message at face value, the current loaded climate means you need to tread carefully.
Reassess your strategy and examine everything from social media channels, to blogs, ads and videos, and all points in between, while carefully addressing the key balance between information and any statements of hyperbole. If it still grates, carefully target any campaigns away from relentless sales, while ensuring you take all the broader aspects into account. And for a while… aim to simplify, simplify, and er, simplify.
That’s not easy by any means. Simplicity is the most difficult to achieve consistently.
When someone is in trouble the overwhelming personal human trait – thankfully – is to help. We aren’t all heroes. But you can be there for your customers to help their business move forward and recover. To help ignite the restart they need. Oh, and to respond to the imperatives for change.
Maybe not immediately: it’s difficult to speak of the aftermath when we’re still in the crisis and one that could remain so for a much longer period. The future as always is something to aim for. It might not be your preoccupation right now as you seek to help your customers re-establish what was built by a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be making plans for it.
If you have experienced an epiphany in lockdown, sorting out global warming might be beyond you, but you could change your words from always becoming collateral driven by simple convenience. Maybe now’s the time to fundamentally change your strategy and alter the numbers game to provide a vaccine to all that empty tick-box marketing of – “12 new blogs, six social plans and a partridge in a pear tree” – while celebrating a renewed sense of clarity, simplicity and human engagement? And there’s no doubt we could all do with something to celebrate.
Then again, maybe we can hope it will all be over by Christmas?
Need help guiding your B2B marketing in times of crisis? Contact Mulberry to learn how best to position your brand.
Michael White is the Head of Copy at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. He has many years of experience writing and editing short- and long-form content for B2B and B2C audiences.