There is no doubt that Covid-19 is a powerful force that is changing the way we work, rocking the economy and driving businesses in all industries and sectors to revisit and adapt their strategies. In late February 2020, analyst firm IDC canvassed 32 chief experience officers (CXOs) in 10 industries and asked about the pandemic’s effect on business, new digital transformation measures, and value of IT and digital transformation in response to the impact of Covid-19. Although the CXOs reported challenges around sales, production and customer relations, the study revealed one positive impact of the pandemic: a wider recognition of the value of digital transformation and IT information technology among all employees.

Shifting most of the workforce to working remotely has been wake-up call for organisations that focused too much on daily operational needs, rather than investing in the digital needs of the business. As marketing professionals consider how take advantage of this new drive for digital transformation, it is imperative that throughout the implementation of adjusted strategies they maintain control of the narrative. Covid-19 may be dominating the headlines, but it is up to the marketing department to ensure that customers stay at the centre of their firm’s message.

By building their marketing strategy upon four pillars, businesses can keep their messaging focused on their value proposition and the customer.

Marketing leadership: The CMO must be a resilient leader for the organisation and its staff. Are you ready to be that kind of leader? Are you ready to bring that change into the organisation? Are you agile and adaptable? It is fundamental to the marketing function to direct how the services that a firm offers to clients are perceived

Strategic shifts: In response to a global crisis, firms must recraft their digital strategy. First, any benefits that may be lost in the shift to remote working, such as physical events, must be fully audited in consultation with the sales team, product specialists and other stakeholders. The effect of alternative models, such as using virtual events, must be contrasted directly with those lost benefits.

New methods of digital engagement should also be considered, to ensure that contact and feedback from clients and prospective clients is maintained. Businesses will shift spending from direct contact to paid media advertising, so strategies should emphasise the potential returns from digital market engagement. businesses must also be operationally ready to support strategic changes – efficient responses to client queries are a must, so the enterprise must ensure its teams have the right tools.

Customer engagement: The third pillar is proactively preparing customers for what McKinsey is calling ‘the next normal.’ A business cannot carry customers into a new way of interacting by building a new app and hoping they will come. Communication is vital and it works both ways, especially during a period of disruption, when organizations must listen to client preferences and ideas. Likewise, the adapted strategy must be clearly communicated to customers and then closely followed to minimise disruption.

Scale the tools: Online and digital tools must be capable of expanding the capacity of your team. Removing barriers to decentralisation has been a major success story in the response to COVID 19 and as a result, it has allowed firms to foster collaboration. The optimal outcome is to use collaborative working through online marketing, for the purpose of business development and enhanced engagement, supported by collaboration between sales and other customer facing functions to meet marketing goals. Without physical proximity among teams, content needs to be accessible via the cloud, which eliminates silos, secures data across organisations, and simplifies workflows.

Additionally, online interactions generate data and analysis more than interpersonal meetings at events, for example. Using new machine learning or artificial intelligence tools, a business can parse enormous data sets and observe patterns that lead to success, then build that successful behaviour into future engagement.

The next normal

Building the elements of the new normal into a marketing strategy allows the CMO to outpace competitors and peers in their industry. Where online interaction may be perceived as less fun or prevent a same-day follow-up after an event, it is useful to think of how content should support this engagement. In parallel, technology is bringing the digital experience increasingly closer to resembling a real-world interaction. At events, firms bring potential customers into their own branding space via virtual booth training. This concept carries over as a business digitises its brand, for example, through a virtual booth at an in-person event that has moved online, or perhaps you’re able to meet more frequently online than you would be able to schedule face-to-face meetings. Moving experience to digital can increase the number of marketing touch points.

The next normal, post-COVID, will no doubt be a hybrid of all working methods that have gone before, but making sure you, and not the pandemic, are driving your digital transformation will prepare you whatever the future brings.

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