Mid-Year Pivoting in the Era of WTF?

To say that 2020 has thrown everyone a curveball is a massive understatement.  Global pandemic. Nationwide protests and demonstrations. Political divisiveness. None of it is simple, but one thing is sure: everyone has been and will continue to be impacted. That includes you, your team members, your customers, and your partners.  And, if you aren’t driving your marketing strategy and communications to a mid-year pivot, you probably need to be. The question, of course, is how to do it.

Under normal circumstances, a mid-year brand strategy audit requires marketers and other business leaders to ask some fundamental questions: What did we plan to achieve this year? Are our results on track with the marketing strategy? If not, why not? And how should we adjust what we’re doing in response?

Today, however, those questions and their answers need to be addressed in five essential ways:

  1. Respond to the obvious. There isn’t a corner of the world untouched by COVID-19. Protests and demonstrations against racism are in every state of the U.S. To attempt “business as usual” could be insensitive at best and might severely marginalize you in your marketplace. Take steps to make sure that your actions and your communications recognize what everyone is going through – from your customers and partners to your employees.
  1. Get beyond the obvious. Telling your audiences, “We’re all in this together” and “We care” will only get you so far. If your business is taking a stand, say so. If you’re changing the way you do business to better serve customers – from holding meetings via teleconference and forwarding office phones to employees at home to compensating customers for order cancellations and postponements – say so. If you’re having trouble getting materials and components from overseas or delivering products on time, tell your customers. They’d rather understand what’s going on and adjust than be unexpectedly disappointed.
  1. Avoid assumptions. You may think you know what other people are going through. But it would be a mistake to allow your experiences to inform how you perceive anyone else’s. You may have many things in common with your employees, partners and customers, but that doesn’t mean that your experiences are the same. Do the research – whether through analyzing trends, conducting surveys or simply picking up the phone to ask the questions, “How are you doing through all this?” and “What do you need?”
  1. Listen. Listen. Take great care to do your research with an open mind. People may not want to tell you hard truths for fear of offending you, or simply because they don’t want to reveal an embarrassing or private situation. More likely, they may try to share important information that your personal biases may not allow you to understand. Be aware of your expectations so that when you learn something that doesn’t match them, you can explore it, rather than dismissing it as irrelevant. Then, from there, you can explore and determine if and how your business can help.
  1. Balance comfort with courage. Let’s say that your research reveals that the way you have always done business is out of alignment with your customers’ current needs. One approach would be to assume that an imminent return to normal will correct the misalignment. But what if you could meet your customers where they are with what they need? It might take a bold shift in strategy. And, if everything in your market stays the same, that bold shift might be what allows your business to stand out and succeed in ways you might never have considered before.

We would be remiss if we didn’t remind you that this is our wheelhouse, from brand evaluation, planning and metrics to responding to the unexpected. 2020 may wind up being the year that divides many businesses into “before” and “after.” But the right approach to addressing the “right now” may give your business what it needs to ensure success well after current stressors are behind us.