This is not an opinion piece about policy response to COVID-19, but rather a look at how we as digital marketers pivoted due to a period of self-isolation and an increase in online users. Both consumers and brands adapted to a new norm. Every industry learned about themselves and brands with vision used the time to retool, revamp, and relaunch. What COVID-19 taught us as digital marketers wasn’t a specific lesson or a new concept. The changes in digital marketing were accelerations of concepts that had been developing for years.
Nick Alter, Principal
In many respects, this global pandemic has exposed the massive communication gaps between sales, operations and marketing departments present in so many SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses.) Companies that weathered the storm better than others, or in some more extreme situations simply did not go under, were the ones that have strong bridges connecting their sales and operations to their marketing arm. The businesses that were able to pivot quickly and effectively already knew their audiences, how to engage with them and had clearly established conversion goals for sales and marketing (distinct from each other but focused on the same overarching objective), especially when it comes to their digital marketing agenda.
This entire experience has been a sobering reminder that technology does not dictate the narrative that drives people to stop and engage with your brand and potentially convert into paying customers. Without a solid brand strategy and an established foundation, almost any digital marketing effort is going to fall short of expectations, wasting valuable resources in a less fertile economic environment.
Luckily, because they have been forced to pause or at least slowdown, many brands have taken this time to get organized, get focused and are starting to re-launch their marketing efforts in a more thoughtful, creative and intentional fashion. Just like the story about the woodcutter taking the time to sharpen their axe, this will mean an acceleration of productivity even with fewer resources available.
Aubrey Berkowitz, Senior Consultant
The time has passed where businesses and brands can survive without a digital presence. For the past two months, online has been the most efficient form of engagement. Services that were deemed essential thrived if they had a digital presence and suffered if they lacked a strong website.
Without the ability to physically visit locations, as consumers, we relied on a brand’s website or social media channels for important information. Things that were once daily routines pivoted online – such as the simple task of buying groceries.
Marketing has been trending this way for years. What COVID essentially brought to the forefront was the need for all users to be able to engage. The need for brands to be more accessible online. And in the future, you’re sure to hear the term “accessibility” far more often. Almost overnight, the concept of a robust online platform went from a luxury to a necessity.
Teylor Schiefelbein, Director of Digital Marketing
COVID shined a light on the difference between sales and marketing. Where sales language is very goal-oriented out of the urgent need to solve a consumer’s problem with a particular product/service and meet a financial goal, marketing language is a few paces behind. While it’s important to demonstrate the ability of said product or service to solve problems, we know we can’t jump straight to that. First, we establish a human connection based on either “we like what you like” or “we have what you need.” Marketers create and curate free content that educates and/or entertains, in hopes that a user will return and be proud to be a part of the *insert brand name* online community.
It’s the marketing team that empathized with their audience during COVID-19 and perhaps opened up about how the pandemic has impacted their team internally. Whereas a brand that only uses their platform to sell sell sell — well, I wouldn’t expect they had a great response [from whatever audience they somehow managed to build] if their approach to survive COVID-19 was to push product harder
COVID-19 has reinforced the power of an online community. As a marketer, I am reminded that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”