Marketing Lessons From COVID to Prepare for the Future

a sign with the saying "whatever it takes" on it

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Some lessons take a while to internalize. Others you learn right away. (Just ask anyone who’s touched a hot burner!)

For marketers, many of the lessons learned throughout, and due to, the pandemic fall into the latter category. We had to grasp these lessons immediately, by necessity, to continue serving customers and help our businesses move forward.

Over the last year-and-a-half, marketers have rapidly adopted new workflows, picked up and honed new skills, and braved time-crunches like never before. I’ve watched marketers come together and collaborate in new ways, get to know their colleagues better (and those same colleagues’ dogs, cats, kids and all!), and implement positive changes with far-reaching impacts.

Some key marketing lessons learned during this journey include:

1. Make Agility Your Middle Name

During the last 18 months, marketers have needed to work faster and more prolifically, and change messaging on the fly. At the onset of the pandemic, this often involved providing daily (or even hourly) updates to customers about changing business conditions, COVID-19 protocols and responses, and whom to contact for support.

While it was important to deliver timely updates across channels, websites became go-to resources for COVID-19 information. For example, in March of 2020, we saw use of Crownpeak’s CMS for daily website edits reach 8.8 times their regular volume, or an increase of 780% — speaking to the need among companies to ramp up the pace of website communications (typically providing COVID updates in a persistent infobar or homepage hero banner). The lesson, both then and now: Be agile, and communicate change quickly … before everything changes again!

Related Article: What You Need to Enable and Sustain Marketing Agility

2. Try It, Test It, Iterate

It’s important, under all conditions, for marketing messaging to keep pace with the market. COVID has especially underscored this. To support the superspeed that marketers have needed across their day-to-day activities, marketers have needed to learn how to loosen the reins on perfectionism. Get updates out, then fine tune and iterate.

To that end — and to support data-driven iteration — the last year-and-a-half have also driven home the best practice of testing your messaging and calls to action (CTAs). Toward the beginning of the pandemic, if marketers found their products could actually be helpful during these times, it was important to get that message out in the most effective way, while striking the right chord and speaking with empathy. And with everyone using the same language (“in these unprecedented times …”), marketers needed to test to see what was actually credible and resonated with their audience. Frequent A/B testing of messaging, visuals, CTAs and more has been a necessity.

3. Your Website Needs to Be a Pro Seller

Websites have always served to drive conversions, but in the wake of store closures, more buyers came online and accentuated the need for websites to behave like salespeople. Plus, in B2B settings, when COVID hit, “wining and dining” a prospect was no longer an option. To recreate the personal attention that a good salesperson provides, digital marketers have needed to hone their personalization strategies – advancing beyond just segment-based personalization, and using artificial intelligence (AI) to serve up content, offers and journeys that resonate at the individual level.

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis

4. Improve Your Omnichannel Strategy

Reaching prospects on their office phones hasn’t been much of an option during the pandemic. The need to reach customers where they are, and how they want to buy, has become even more apparent. Accordingly, marketers have also seen the importance of delivering cohesive experiences across touch points — seeking to avoid fragmented journeys that turn off and frustrate buyers.

But it’s not only customers who are have changed their physical locations and online behavior. As marketers communicate internally with their organizations, they’ve also needed to reach team members — no longer tethered to their work desks — in different ways. It’s been a learning experience to find the right workflows to connect teams effectively and maximize productivity.

5. Improve Your Accessibility

Digital experiences need to be accessible to everyone. This lesson has been an important one during the pandemic too, with more people conducting business online. Consider a consumer, for example, who may be visually impaired. Pre-COVID, they were accustomed to touching and feeling fabrics when shopping for clothes. When retail stores closed, the online experience needed to fill that gap. But it’s not just retail, of course — marketers and businesses across industries have needed to ensure their online experiences are inclusive and accessible, with descriptive content, content that’s easy to see and hear, and more.

Related Article: The Demographic Your Digital Practices Can’t Ignore

6. Master Your Budget

The pandemic brought budget cuts across the board, driving home the tried-but-true maxim to do more with less. In addition, with many in-person events canceled and event budgets cut, marketers needed to reallocate their budgets to the most efficient and effective channels. Where was their audience spending the most time? What would deliver the most value? Often this involved shifting spending to social channels and strategies. This period of budget analysis actually proved to be a good forcing mechanism to better understand metrics — a practice that should continue post-pandemic.

Preparing for the Future

Anecdotally, I hear from other marketers that their responsibilities increased tenfold during COVID, as businesses’ reliance on marketing teams for communications and outreach have substantially increased. There’s been a lot of pressure, as well as a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. Many marketers also now have a “bigger seat at the table” in areas across the business, as more functions have seen the direct impact that marketing has on revenue.

One silver lining of the pandemic has been marketers’ and businesses’ abilities to transform. By assimilating these lessons above and many others, marketers have been able to better position their organizations for the future, and for a future of change.

Lacey Ford is chief marketing officer of Crownpeak, a leading digital experience platform (DXP) company and hybrid headless CMS. Lacey has more than 20 years of experience leading strategic marketing and sales programs, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.

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