How to Quickly Shift Your Marketing Strategy
Increase the relevance of your message so you can continue to generate revenue when circumstances change.
Effective marketing is best understood as a type of conversation between your organization and your potential customers. The logic for the conversation is the foundation of marketing strategy – regardless of the tactics you use to get your message into the world.
You might connect with customers one on one via phone or in person. You might write an article like this one or send a promotional email. You may even connect via a post on a social platform like Facebook or LinkedIn. In each of these formats, you’re engaging in conversation inside the customer’s mind as he or she processes your message.
The marketing conversation begins with the needs the potential customer feels. Identifying this starting point of need is essential because this is what will attract attention. Get it right and people will lean in to hear more. Miss the mark and they will disconnect and stop listening.
When needs change, your marketing conversation must change, too. Your marketing strategy is built on this foundational logic – so when the conversation isn’t right, you’ll notice the problem. Sales will drop off, the buying cycle will get longer and longer, and your revenue will begin to fall. That’s when you’ll know it’s time to shift… and you’ll want to pivot quickly.
The disruption in our economy in 2020 has had a dramatic effect on buying behavior. Why? Because our awareness of needs (and how we prioritize them) has shifted. Your marketing conversation – and the strategy built upon it – must change, too.
Align your marketing strategy with updated felt needs.
Did you study basic psychology in school? Do you remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? I’m not an expert in the subject, but in my understanding, the premise of this hierarchy is that we cannot pursue higher needs (like meaning, esteem, and self-actualization) until our more essential needs are met and secure. We need safety, shelter, food, etc. before we can turn our attention to other issues.
In chaotic or disruptive times, people shift their attention lower on the hierarchy. Concerns about personal growth, reputation, and professional advancement will be abandoned when we feel our home or health are at risk.
In less chaotic times, our needs will still shift in response to circumstances and life events. We think more about funding our retirement as we age, for example, than we do in our early 20s. Our career path is a focus at certain times in our lives, but largely ignored at others.
So… what do your potential customers and clients need right now? Revising your marketing strategy begins with identifying the shifts your audience feels right now.
Here are some clues.
- What are current customers focused on as you work together?
- What are people in your industry talking about? What trends can you see?
- What questions are people asking about your products and services?
You can use observation to identify needs. The person who is asking about quality has a need for security – either in terms of performance or reliability. Customers who are focused on the rapid implementation of a current project are responding to a sense of urgency your potential customers likely feel, too.
Use the needs you identify as the starting point for your marketing conversation and core messaging. Connect with people at their point of need, bring them to agreement with you on the problem they face, and begin to share solutions related to your work.
Here’s an example from my own business…
My agency provides custom marketing and copywriting services that empower entrepreneurs and organizations to inspire audiences, increase profitability, and expand their impact. This is the foundation of my marketing strategy, and my sales efforts are aligned around this core value proposition.
Recently the needs of my audience have shifted from the future target of increased profit and expanded impact to the more urgent need for relevance and immediate revenue. As a result, the focus of my work has shifted. This article reflects that urgency… and the shift.
My core message (in this moment) has shifted to this → We provide custom marketing and copywriting services to help entrepreneurs and organizations stay relevant and effective in our changing market, so they can continue to serve our world.
As needs have changed, our marketing conversation has shifted. The work we do remains the same… the context for that work and the application of it has moved to align with our customer’s needs. See how this works?
Adjust the tactics which support your marketing strategy.
As needs change, buying behavior changes, too. Your tactics need to shift in response to these changes so you can continue to connect with your target audience in meaningful ways.
Take webinars for example. This tactic is highly effective for some brands – especially thought leaders with a large audience that is hungry for knowledge and guidance. It can also be a great tactic for providing live demos of software solutions or sharing data regarding industrial solutions.
In times of urgency and overwhelm, however, your customers may not have an hour to hop on a video feed and engage with a webinar. In the pressure of a crisis, webinars might represent a needless expenditure of valuable time and energy.
OR, the opposite might be true. Your audience may be hungry for connection and a personal touch right now. This need for community makes shifting to a webinar format for marketing very appealing. The tactics you use must be driven by the engagement needs of your audience.
Time for a bit of candor → One of the bigger marketing mistakes I see is an over-reliance on familiar marketing tactics that we believe we can easily execute on. While I advocate playing to your strengths, you need to view marketing tactics through a lens of audience preference.
I might LOVE public speaking… but if my audience isn’t into attending live (or virtual) events, the tactic won’t be effective. The sweet spot is the intersection between organizational skill set and buyer behavior. HINT: Buyer behavior matters more. You can always add skills.
Experiment with your new marketing strategy.
This is just a quick point, but it’s quite important. Shifting your marketing strategy is not an exact science. You’ll need to experiment and play with it to get it dialed in. This means taking action and trying tactics and then pausing to notice how your audience responds.
I recommend this cycle:
- Plan – do the research, gather the customer intel, and then plan for the pivot.
- Action – try new tactics, put your revised message to the test.
- Reflect – notice what worked well and what didn’t seem effective.
- Adjust – apply what you learn through reflection to improve your approach.
Most importantly, avoid the temptation to make a big announcement or huge splash. Save the fanfare for AFTER you’ve proven your process. Wait to make the shift permanent until you have data to prove its effectiveness.
Marketing is an intuitive process. Take an iterative approach.
Just like comfortable work out clothing, your marketing strategy needs to fit comfortably with enough flexibility to allow for quick movements and a little sweat. Give yourself room for shifts, new initiatives, and even a few mistakes while keeping your focus on the goal – connecting with potential customers at their point of need.
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