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Why Only the Most Agile Marketers Will Survive

This year has reinforced that ancient Greek proverb that “the only constant in life is change.” Between the coronavirus outbreak and civil rights demonstrations sweeping the country, the past few months have tested everyone’s ability to adapt, adjust and change. For marketers, plans to attend industry events, or even hold simple in-person meetings, flew out the window as companies scrambled to figure out what the future looked like. Agility was an important trait in a marketer before the pandemic, but now it’s more important than ever. In these times, only the most agile marketers will survive.

COVID-19 has had a devastating and unprecedented effect on the economy, and every industry is impacted. Companies are cutting marketing budgets and leaving marketers puzzled over what that means for the current and future state of their strategies. It is essential that marketing teams are able to pivot on a dime and change their game plans as needed, whether that means decreasing spending in certain areas or shifting lead generation tactics.

Faced with an ever-changing environment, there are a number of steps marketing leaders can take to guide their teams and respond to the needs of the moment. First, stay focused on the big picture. It may feel like things are happening on a daily – or even hourly – basis, but don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Near-term decision making can still have long-term consequences, so make sure to step back and evaluate the broader impact of the strategic choices you make. Take the time to grasp a clear and unbiased view of the situation, as well as the opportunities, strengths, weaknesses and challenges informing the path forward.

While a measured approach is smart, it can’t come at the expense of expediency. Employees and customers alike look to their leaders during crises and expect to hear how they plan to address a situation. That puts pressure on marketers to update messaging and targeting as appropriate. Messages should be simple, factual and empathetic. With all the chaos and stress right now, people’s attention spans are strained. They don’t want to see brand content that is complicated, overtly promotional or self-serving. Instead of thinking, “How can we sell more?” shift your thought process to “How can we help our customers during this time?” Focusing on brand identity and values will ensure a faster recovery.

The rapidly changing environment has also underscored the importance of building up your marketing technology stack to avoid getting lapped in the long run. For instance, in-person events used to be one of the highest converting lead generation tactics for B2B. With those off the table for the foreseeable future, marketers are having to adapt how they generate leads. Strategies such as hosting webinars and publishing customer case studies can pick up some of the slack. Furthermore, marketers are having to adjust the services they provide to clients, who are also relying more heavily on digital techniques. The marketing teams that succeed will be those that leverage technology to be as efficient and agile as possible.

It was true before, but it’s especially true now that there’s no time to wait on digital transformation. Operating as nimbly as possible requires personalizing messages, making smart recommendations and surpassing customer expectations. Enhancing digital capacity not only simplifies the process, but also dramatically scales up the potential reach and pace. Digital transformation isn’t just a project or initiative — it’s a new way of working and thinking.

For digital transformation to go smoothly, it’s important for leaders to bring employees into the process. Automation still requires talent to reach its full potential, and there is no replacement for the creativity that can emerge when people brainstorm together. Now, with everyone working from home, the human connections that led to great ideas feel more distant, but they don’t have to. Leaders should take steps to make people feel included and invested, such as virtual brainstorming. To get the most out of a virtual brainstorm, provide an agenda in advance, and name a facilitator to keep things on track. Consider having participants take virtual polls ahead of time to lay the groundwork and solicit a broad spectrum of ideas before the meeting.

In many ways, this global pandemic is a first, and everyone is figuring things out as they go. Looking at historic trends can be helpful, but this crisis is unique. Marketing leaders need to test and learn from strategies that work – and from those that don’t – to grow. Navigating what lies ahead will test us all. The road may not always be this twisty, but honing the ability to be agile will come in handy, even when the road is straight.

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