A Marketer’s Guide to Surviving a Crisis Part Two: A Path for You to Stay Relevant

In Part One of this series, we looked at how you can help your company stay relevant. Next I’d like to deep dive a little more into how to emphasize your impact and the value you bring. 

Marketing budgets are still contracting; marketing professionals are still losing their jobs. Even Google announced a few weeks back a major “slashing” of their marketing budget, as advertising spend was cut across industries (read the article here). And while there is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the economy and businesses slowly opening back up, it is going to be rough for some time. 

Since keeping your organization relevant of course helps keep you relevant too, each of those previous tips will better position you to weather this (or whatever) crisis. In this article, though, I want to zoom in on one recommendation in particular, as a powerful way to demonstrate your individual contributions. And that is: add massive amounts of value.

To do this look at the data, truly understand it, and use it to make decisions. Be decisive. Once you have made a decision, move fast. But move fast with intent. Follow the demand and rethink your customer journey. Adapt, iterate, differentiate, repeat. Did I mention, do this fast (but with intent)? Demonstrate the impact these changes, fixes, and pivots have had and will have going forward. Thus adding massive amounts of value to your company. Ta da. See how easy that was? Okay, seriously though, it can be pretty straightforward if not ridiculously easy. I’ll break it all down more fully below.

As with the tips from Part One of this series, these concepts should be thought of as essential all of the time, crisis or not. If you haven’t been doing these, think of them as your new norm. (I know, I know, if you hear that phrase one more time, you are likely to vomit. But it is true. And better than me saying, “Now more than ever…”)

Always look at the data and truly understand the data

Data has long been the nemesis of marketing professionals. You usually: 1) don’t have it, 2) don’t have enough, 3) don’t have the right kind, i.e. quality data, 4) don’t have the tools or people to analyze it, 5) can’t find it (a personal favorite), 6) have cobbled-together anecdotal “evidence” blah, blah, blah. You get the point. For marketing professionals, good, quality data is more elusive than Big Foot.

Data Love

But it is what it is. Right now you need to take what you have. Take that cobbled-together spreadsheet and make some sort of sense of it so you can use it to make some decisions. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. What you need to focus on is creating your hypothesis and being able to explain with data how you got there. You will need to document the process you went through to gather and validate the data used to produce the results, even if it’s jerry-rigged together. This way, you can replicate that same process later when you need to reevaluate and/or measure results. Make sense? Basically you need to not only understand the data, but how you gathered it and manipulated it. That way you are always looking at apples to apples.

Be decisive

You need to be decisive, whether you are deciding on a new program to implement, a new piece of content to push, or a new message you want to articulate. Being decisive means making decisions quickly, which might sound counterintuitive when I’m asking you to “look at the data.” There is indeed a fine line. But you don’t want to fall into analysis paralysis. Don’t overanalyze. You can always go back and adjust. 

You own this. It’s your job, so feel empowered to make decisions.

Move fast

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Marketing professionals need to move faster than ever before. Once you have made a decision, you need to implement the program or disseminate the message quickly. Gone are the days when we had the luxury of time. When we could spend months developing a program, run tests and trials, optimize the website, have a focus group to present feedback…. Hahaha, just kidding. Unless there’s some secret Marketing Nirvana I’ve never discovered, when have we ever had the luxury of time? Face it, we haven’t. Only now, the time to market for your programs has contracted even more. Your marketing strategy and tactics need to be hyper-responsive.

Build programs and content with intent

So you’ve got some data, you’re making decisions, you’re building and implementing programs quickly. Good. Now as you begin to execute, don’t lose sight of your audience, values, and overall goals. In other words, make sure everything you are doing is done with intent. With purpose.

Your purpose might have changed over the past few months. In fact, I’m pretty sure it has. You might not be directly selling to people and companies right now. You might instead be offering something to help them through it. 

I remember after 9/11 when I was working at Oracle, we were told to essentially give it all away. Our intent (purpose, goal) was to get companies back up and running as quickly as possible. Yes, we took a hit on our overall revenue that quarter (probably even that year), but if the companies we were supporting failed, we would have lost the revenue anyway.

When you are thinking about intentional marketing, ask “Is this what our customers need right now?”

Follow the demand

So how do you figure out what the demand actually is? In my previous article, I talked about how to reconnect with your customers and prospects, to better understand what they need now and will need in the future. It’s best if you are directly involved in these conversations, but if that’s not possible, you’ll need to work closely with your Sales and Customer Success teams to glean this information.

Once you understand customers’ changing needs, do all you can to meet them—with new and even existing solutions. For example, you might have an existing multi-faceted product that includes one module or solution that has suddenly become more essential. If so, consider adjusting your product messaging and promotions to center on this piece of it. What worked well in your marketing before may not work now.

Rethink the buyer’s journey and sales cycle

For some of you, part or all of your customers’ journey has changed. The changes may only be temporary or may persist even after all this is over. Regardless, you need to understand how your audience is behaving differently.

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If you think about the entire buyer’s journey — from top of the funnel, to land, onboarding/adoption, expansion, and renewal — is your audience behaving and reacting differently? Are they going to new sources for information? (If you don’t already have a Thought Leader program in place, now is a great time to add this, as people are looking for information from trusted sources and influencers.) Because they currently can’t hold in-person meetings, do they have new or different expectations from your direct sales teams? Are they holding off on decision-making and purchases, and is there anything you can do in the meantime to help nurture them? If they are up for renewal, but either haven’t been using your solution during the past few months, or simply can’t pay right now, is there something you can offer them? A discount? A forbearance or reprieve of some kind? It’s better to lose a few months’ revenue than to lose them as a customer entirely. 

Again, it’s critical to understand your audience, what they are going through, and if/how they are making decisions, so you can adjust your programs, campaigns, nurturing, content, offerings, and promotions.

Adapt, iterate

It’s probably pretty obvious by now, but you need to continually look at your programs and the effect they are having based on your goals and hypothesis. Then adapt them as needed and continue to iterate on them. Again, this is much easier if you have quality,substantive data, but in some cases, it’s going to have to be based on anecdotal evidence and your gut. Listen to your customers, Sales team, Customer Success team, and your engineers.

Use data to demonstrate impact

Find the best data you can to help others understand the impact these new programs, content updates, and pivots are having. Even if you have to use anecdotal evidence for now.  

In some cases, depending on your industry and solutions, you might just be happy with maintaining certain levels of leads and revenue. In other cases, you will be trying hard to stop the bleeding. While in other cases, your industry is perfectly situated to take “advantage” of the current situation if your solution or service has increased in demand.

Whatever the case, you need to document what has been implemented and why (the intent or purpose behind it), what the results are (hopefully using data), any further recommendations or adjustments, and the overall impact to the performance of the company. I would definitely keep any report out short and sweet.

By doing all of these things, you should be able to add massive amounts of value to your company. In a way people can see and understand.

What’s up next? I’m going to talk about momentum, and how you can leverage it to help recalibrate, reboot, return, and even rebound.

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