How is your rollercoaster of 2020 going? All industries have been holding on tight, preparing for the next topsy-turvy turn and bracing for impact. Though the pandemic state in March and early April saw a significant dip in internet traffic, now, the pace is picking up again and — dare we say it — returning to pre-pandemic numbers.
Since marketers are tasked with advising their clients about current trends, it’s time to update your strategy and approach. During this strange, unpredictable season, the first step is determining which content shifts were temporary and reactive — and which ones might be permanent. (Or at least, for the foreseeable future.)
Believe it or not, we will soon be thinking about planning for 2021, as we inch closer to the last quarter of the year. To set our clients (and thus, our business) up for success, dig deep into what’s working, what’s not, what needs to be updated and what may be here to stay. Here, leading marketing executives offer perspective.
1. Look at technology as a guide.
To gauge the staying power of your marketing plan, Jennifer Barcelos, the co-founder of Namastream recommends looking to the tech tools associated within your client’s industry as a guide. “Technology is the currency of power, and innovation is a catalyst for change,” she continues. “Where there is the technology in place to meet a temporary demand, there’s a higher likelihood that the shift will remain permanent.”
As a solid example, consider Zoom. Before COVID-19 spiraled through the world, it was still an emerging company. Within a matter of weeks, they were seeing a major uptick in new customers across all industries. In fact, their growth prompted Google to offer Google Meet to all users, regardless of whether they were businesses. Naturally, they adjusted their content marketing plan to focus on the ease of working from home, the ability to stay connected to colleagues in the same city, and so on.
Even after offices re-open again, Zoom will still be around, so their content approach still works, making it permanent. The phenomenon will likely grow, since many of the tech giants — like Facebook, Twitter, and so on — are adapting their policies to include the option to never return to the cubicle.
2. Determine if the shift brings more problems than solutions.
Part of the reason contractors are attractive hires for companies is their expertise, sans the cost of full-time employees, which often require benefits, paid vacation, and so on. When you were brought on during the pandemic, you were likely asked to make moves that made a difference in their numbers. Some of that, maybe, was uncomfortable, and the messaging didn’t sit perfectly with their brand. It’s time to figure out if the shifts caused more problems than solutions by asking these questions:
- How do you feel about our approach in March versus now?
- What are some difficulties you’re having with the current plan?
- Have we found any new effective solutions?
- Is it time to try something new?
By having a candid discussion, marketing guru and CEO of The Bright App, Nerissa Zhang says you and your client can decide if it’s time to turn to tried-and-true tactics that work. It’s reasonable to expect many customers to experience pandemic fatigue and be burnt out of always hearing references to the current state of affairs. This could provide an opportunity to focus on evergreen content, double-down on SEO optimization, and other meaningful investments.
3. Consider if the shift is extreme in nature.
It’s okay if you felt as if you were scrambling when having client discussions in the late spring. You definitely weren’t alone — nearly every company sent out a newsletter, posted a blog and shared a post on social media platforms, reacting to the situation at hand. And for many content marketers, this meant a huge upswing in client work for a few weeks, only to hit a dry spell right after.
Now that most people are coming up for air, clients may want to swing the pendulum from one extreme to another. In this case, Zhang says the shift was a temporary one. “This indicates an initial reactionary change in the business or industry, which usually means the change was shortsighted or flawed,” she continues. “This will inevitably need to be balanced out or corrected with a balanced and responsive plan of action instead.”
With this in mind, now is the time to reach out to past or prospective clients to get a pulse on their current state of affairs and see where you can be helpful. With existing clients, don’t be afraid to bring up strategic planning for the rest of the year, and recommend a shift away from the previous reactions.
4. Listen to what the data say.
When it became clear that marketing plans needed to change — and fast — during the pandemic, it was an all-hands-on-deck type of energy. Along with employees or other contractors, you likely worked as a team to divide and conquer all legs of marketing. Maybe part of your job was developing content where the founder could speak to their customers on a human-to-human level. Or, newsletters became a place to update their list on the latest news, as well as their current offerings. Maybe internet readership went from peaking in the morning to peaking in the evening. Whatever the case, dig into the data, says marketing expert and the CEO of Exclusive Calls, Mohsen Amin:
- Compare traffic numbers three months before, as well as throughout the pandemic. Compare those numbers to last year.
- Analyze which pieces of content — whether social media posts, newsletters or blog posts — performed the best. Look for any trends or common themes.
- Compare the best-performing with the worst-performing, and see if you can deduce any learnings to share with your client.
If data illustrate that the current content marketing approach is working, keep at it. Perhaps the change in tone and context resonated with customers, and it’s something the company should keep moving forward. Such was the case with Amin’s company, which usually experienced the most successful sales between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
However, since more people are working remotely, the ideal time to pitch has shifted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “When you see a major spike like this, it can often mean temporary, but in fact, we are seeing the numbers even out and have remained stable. This is most likely attributing to the fact that this is going to be a more permanent shift made available by a large number of people continuing to work from home for years to come,” he notes.
5. Decide if you still need to address the elephant in the room.
There are plenty of idioms to reference here: the elephant in the room, beating a dead horse, and the list goes on. But as the pandemic continues forward, many are exhausted of all of the news, debates and politics surrounding it. There is still a looming sense of anxiety and uncertainty — but do you have to address it all forms of communication? As Adam Seaborn, the director of sales and media for Kingstar Media shares, while customers expect brands to be of the moment, that doesn’t mean all marketing messages need to be explicit all the time.
Addressing COVID-19 all the time is a temporary shift, and now it’s time for brands to find permanent solutions that’s sensitive of the time but not redundant. “It means that sales offer you are presenting, new product launches or brand building events need to be up to date and reflective of our current reality,” he continues. “Reach customers with messages that are relevant to the new list of challenges they face, and they will reward you with loyalty and sales.”