Happy New Year! If there’s one thing we can say about 2020 now that we’re on the other side, it’s “good riddance.” With the chaos of last year behind us and vaccines on the way, it's time to look toward a brighter 2021.
The pandemic that shut down most of the world early this year disrupted everything about the way we live and work, and although it looks like we’re finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, it’s impossible to imagine life and business going back completely to pre-2020 normal even after COVID-19 is fully under control. That’s certainly true in the marketing world, where many of the emergency pivots marketing and communications leaders and their teams made as the pandemic hit are likely to stick as consumers continue to rethink the ways they interact with brands and service providers. We predict many of the virtual shifts in the way companies communicate with current and prospective customers will evolve from temporary solutions into long-term best practices — and in many ways, they’ll change marketing for the better.
So, as we set our sights on 2021, here are a few recommendations for refreshing your company’s marketing strategy for a post-pandemic world.
Build Close Customer Relationships at a Distance with Multichannel Marketing
When lockdown orders shut down shops and businesses in March, marketers had to find ways to maintain their hard-won customer relationships — and build new ones — without the benefit of one-on-one interactions. No more browsing in stores, no more in-person consultations with service providers. No more open houses or conferences or facilities tours. So, they pivoted, leaning on virtual methods of connecting with their communities and building trust. Nursing homes offered virtual tours, and physicians built credibility with potential customers by discussing vaccines and other health concerns in videos posted to social media or shared via email. In-person conferences became webinars or virtual events, local gyms moved classes online and in-store holiday events evolved offering online shopper assistance and expanded online promotions.
While many of those in-person events will undoubtedly return as the virus finally dissipates, their virtual counterparts have proven their worth — and will remain useful pieces of savvy marketers’ multichannel toolkits for a long time to come. That’s because this digital outreach opens the doors to potential customers who may not be able to attend in-person events for any number of reasons, broadening the audience base by meeting people where they are.
After all, isn’t that the goal of a true multichannel marketing campaign? Blending digital, print, and in-person communication in order to meet customers where they are, when it’s convenient for them? So, while we certainly understand the temptation, after a year spent on-screen, to jettison all the digital content creation efforts and initiatives 2020 inspired, we encourage you to hold onto them, making digital a lasting part of your holistic marketing efforts.
Stay Agile by Organizing Your Assets
One skill marketing and communications professionals needed in 2020 more than ever before was agility. Opening hours, capacity, service availability, and everything else were in constant flux based on state and local orders and on business’ abilities, and marketing leaders had to be sure both their teams and the public had access to the most up-to-date information at all times.
This endeavor was even more complicated for multi-location companies with sites and teams spread out across the state or the country, and national brand leaders needed a way to keep the latest digital and print collateral at local reps’ fingertips. For savvy companies, maintaining brand integrity and keeping messaging up to date (not to mention empowering local leaders who aren’t marketing experts to be their own CMOs) meant creating a single, centralized home for critical internal communication and external messaging tools, from social media graphics to storefront signage. This central “hub” for marketing collateral and messaging meant every approved)team member could access, review, localize and distribute the latest mission critical information at a moment’s notice.
While this need for agility was front-and-center during the height of the pandemic, it’s not going away when the virus does. As the say, “the only constant is change,” and staying ahead of change requires an efficient, organized communication strategy.
Save Time and Money with Streamlined Marketing Supply Chain Management
Finally, the economic uncertainty of 2020 shrunk margins and budgets to spotlight the importance of doing more with less. In a moment when consistent communication was more important than ever, so were cutting costs, minimizing waste, and maximizing efficiency in a variety of ways:
- Maintaining careful inventory of that ever-changing print collateral and relying on print-on-demand capabilities to keep costs down by reducing wasted materials.
- Automating address verification and other process on mass mailings to save human hours that could be used on more impactful projects.
- Finding printing and shipping discounts by removing the middleman from the supply chain wherever possible.
- Having a foolproof process for ensuring data security and regulatory compliance with every communication.
- Maintaining transparency and control over marketing budgets at a national and local level.
Some companies implemented piecemeal solutions to shave costs here and there (often requiring significant hands-on management), while others found broader savings opportunities by teaming up with marketing execution and supply chain partners who could take management burdens off brand leaders’ plates while achieving significant savings in time, resources, and energy.
In any economy, a marketing leader’s ability to do more with less will have powerful impacts on her business’s bottom line, so in planning 2021 marketing strategies, we encourage marketers to keep efficiency at the top of mind.
To say 2020 was a year of change would certainly be an understatement. And while most of it wasn’t good, we know some of the changes we made as a result of the pandemic — from spending more time with loved ones to d