The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges that will hurt virtually every organization in some way. Government-imposed business closures, laid-off workers, and lost customers and revenue have produced a volatile business environment that will continue for the short term, but will eventually end. Being prepared to act when the recovery begins and the world reopens for business, is a delicate balancing act. Ideally, your value proposition has positioned you well in the minds of your target market before this event, so that you are an organization that can be trusted to do the right things.
Business guru Peter Drucker said, "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself."
With this definition as a backdrop, I want to provide another Drucker quote about marketing, "It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is from the customer’s point of view."
These two quotes provide the foundation for using a marketing orientation — a customer-centric view. In a regular environment, every company with a winning game plan uses a structured marketing approach to better understand their customers. In the current environment, it is even more important for all companies to adopt this view.
For some businesses, this period will provide an opportunity to reassess your customer knowledge and insights and ensure that your processes and employees are properly aligned to deliver on what is needed.
Normally, customers are analyzed by total sales, number of products/services they purchase, frequency of purchase, and products/services that they do not currently purchase.
Today, unfortunately, the solvency of your customers may become a more significant measure. Contact points with customers should also be examined for data diamonds that will help you determine why you are selected by your customers and to discover if there are any unmet needs. This full assessment will help uncover the emotional connection and reason that you have been selected by your customers.
Currently, consider which customers are in the greatest need of your help. Using "no-touch" technologies such as Skype and Zoom, to name but two, can provide you with an opportunity to check on your customers directly and see how their business is affected. It is reasonable and encouraged to ask customers how you can help.
Digging deeper, customer data can be analyzed to determine if there are any changes necessary to your business model now and in the future.
A business to consumer example is grocery stores that introduced a phone-ahead order with pickup several years ago. This foresight was based on our convenience-oriented society and has allowed the stores offering this service to be very valuable to their customers today. We cannot predict future surprises, we can only anticipate them.
This pandemic should encourage leaders to consider what might happen in the next three, six and 12 months or longer to ensure they have a plan ready. Sharing these findings with employees will deepen their understanding of what customers expect and how important everyone’s job is during this time. When they understand this meaning, their engagement and interest increases.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to how a company should market during the pandemic. We are in uncharted waters. Each industry is affected differently. While some industries are hit hard with individual businesses closing, other industries are in desperate need of additional staff due to sudden increases in demand. Such industries include food distribution and warehousing, food delivery, call centers, remote IT support, and banking.
Depending on the industry, you will need to invoke different tactics. Companies with a winning game plan know that marketing is the fundamental element to survival and growth. How can you help your customer stay in business with other impacts occurring in their environment? Successful companies also look at their customers’ partners, and business value chain.
Pricing and revenue projections are important to ensure you can stay in business. This also extends to your customers’ situation so you must understand their financial situation as well.
Companies with a winning game plan make these decisions based on deep study and analysis to create a complete picture of their customers’ operating environment, so they can anticipate and respond to needs and changes accordingly.
Tim’s bits: Your value proposition answers the question of why you should be selected by your customer from their perspective. Successful companies know they must be vigilant about keeping their customer first. What you do and how you say things matter more than ever because Canadians are looking for companies they can trust.
Successful companies know that if you try to shortcut any areas, you run the risk of substantial customer blowback and potential long-term brand damage.
Act like a winner: replant the marketing seed now and nourish customers for the long-term.
Tim Kist, CMC, a certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being customer-focused.
Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.