For a hundred years, we’ve never made a lifestyle adjustment quite like the one we’ve had to make during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many organizations are seeing visits and sales drop. Others may be seeing them rise. The reality is that the behavior patterns of customers are changing dramatically to accommodate this public health emergency.
As a communicator and marketer, do you still know how to reach your audience and customers during this time?
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes in his book that it takes only 21 days to make a new habit stick.
Now that we are three months -- 90 days -- in, do you know what sorts of new habits your target audience members have adopted?
Here are just some samples of new habits a few real people I interviewed have already established:
Rooted in new habits are new priorities -- of taking care of self and family, of saving money, of simplicity in the midst of new demands, and of trying to help others during a stressful time.
The good news is that with a bit of market research -- like the list of habits and behaviors above -- you can reexamine your outreach and promotions to align your customers’ current top values with what you have to offer them.
With that said, here are three ways to make your marketing more pandemic sensitive:
Staying attentive to these three practices during the pandemic will go a long way in helping you connect with your customers. At a higher level, we also recommend that you revise your strategic communications plans. This may require some dramatic rethinking, not of your mission, but of how you implement it. 2020 has been a shock to the system, but with the right sort of planning, great change and hardship can also bring new opportunity.
A question that many strategic planners ask is: "How do I find resources to implement my strategic plan?"
In other words, once the planning is done, how do I convince my organization's leaders to give the implementation team the resources, including money, time, and staff, that we need to make it a reality?
As a strategic planning professional, here are three tactics that you can use to guarantee that the implementation team has the resources it needs to execute your strategic plan:
After you ask that all-important question, "Where do you want to go?" there is always one that naturally follows: "What would it take to get there?"
Note that the way the question is crafted is optimistic. We didn't ask: "Is this really possible? What are all the things that stand in our way? What if we fail?"
Imagine that our goal is the summit of a mountain, and your team of rock climbers (strategic rock climbers?) must examine the face of the mountain to see which route will best get us there.
By keeping this next question deliberately open, we lead our strategic planning team to open their minds and think more creatively about all the paths, however ambitious, that could possibly lead to our goal. We focus on possibilities, not impediments. Save the talk of impediments for later on in the process!
The idea of a strategic plan can be huge and intimidating. You might wonder - how do I get from zero to detailed, actionable plan?
Success lies in knowing which questions to ask, and when. Good strategic planning professionals don't start at the beginning - they start at the end.
Your first question to your client should always be: "Where do you want to go?" Ask the client(s) to paint a detailed picture of where they would like their company to be.
By starting at the end, you have a destination in mind. It's much easier to map out a strategic plan with a clear destination than a fuzzy one.
Often, in the course of a strategic planning process, people ask us to help them create a Facebook page for their business or initiative. They are confident that they want this page and have already mapped out when they’ll build it and when it will launch. They speak about this Facebook page as one of their goals.
We usually nod and ask them, “What do you hope to achieve with this Facebook page?”
They’ll pause and think and often answer, “We want fans.”
We’ll challenge them further. “What do you want to be different as a result of launching this Facebook page? How will creating this page contribute toward a business goal?”
Through our conversation we often find out that actually, maintaining the Facebook page is not a strategic goal for them - it’s an activity that should be supporting a higher-level goal. Just collecting fans and likes for their own sake does little to support goals of a business.
At this point, we advise clients to take a step back and start with their target audience. Does this audience even use Facebook? Perhaps another social outlet would better-reach the demographic in question. If Facebook is the best place to find their target audience, how do they plan to both attract fans and convert these fans to customers?
It’s important to think through WHY you want to engage in a specific activity, WHO it is for, and HOW it will support your strategic goals before taking it on.
What exactly is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is the process of defining and documenting where you want to go, developing an implementation plan with specific activities, and determining your metrics of success, all while considering your resources and challenges.
Why would we need a strategy?
If you’re wondering if you even need a strategy, the answer is: you already have one. Every business already has some sort of a strategy, whether it’s a vague idea confined to the owner’s head or a thorough written strategic plan well-known by everyone in the organization. Your organization will benefit many times over by taking the time to do it right and developing a strategic plan from start to finish using an industry-standard method, like the Strategic Planning Institute’s MARKET Method™, to think through each step and to produce a strategic plan which helps guide your organization.
In fact, strategic planning saves you time in the long term - since you have already thought through your priorities, approaches, and activities, you can make decisions more quickly and trim activities and busy work that are not contributing toward your goals.
Training Director Michelle and the SPI community share advice and respond to real strategic communications quandaries.