Marketing Strategy and Tactics in Time of Crisis

March 25, 2020

A wise entrepreneur knows that marketing is like the roots of a tree. They are not seen, and yet, there are many. They reach far and wide. They are ‘secretly’ intertwined with many other elements everywhere. And in marketing, there’s an abundance of related activities.

  • But why do you need strategy and tactics?
  • What to do in times of crises?
  • How to create plans during anxious times like this?
  • What aspects you should always consider in times of crises?

A marketing strategy is your business’s overall plan for reaching the target group and turning them into customers of the products or services the business provides in different stages in the client journey process. A marketing strategy is more than obeying orders and building stand-alone campaigns. And it goes beyond short-term return on investment, ROI. 

Strategy is just as much a matter of not damaging your company’s future prospects of growth and success. It’s about seeing both the tree right in front of you, and the whole forest behind it. And remember: a marketing strategy is not something we do in the future – strategy is the action we take now to achieve our desired vision for the future. 

As a marketer you have a chance and responsibility to make sure your company’s communication across multiple channels is always in line with the strategy. At the same time the tactical planning should be agile and flexible helping to capitalize on shifting market dynamics, changing customer demands and competitive threats. Bear in mind that when you are communicating mixed signals, often changing messages and using them in different places without any certain plan & consistency you won’t really reach anybody. You are just jumping from one place to another and your target audience will not have a clear understanding about your products or services. You don’t want that!

As you’re designing a strategy keep in mind that only through consistent actions from tactical plans can you deliver a powerful performance.

You just need to be patient as nothing really happens overnight! Imagine cutting a tree after 3 or 6 months because it does not look like a majestic 1000 year-old tree. Be consistent, and be patient!

SMARKETING approach to your strategy creation

Strategy is not just a fancy word. It has everything to do with your ability to solve problems. You need the set of combined actions you carry out to solve a problem and achieve the desired vision for the future. Just start with solving a problem. How do you do that? How do you create an effective strategy?

Try the SMARKETING approach to your strategy creation. The word ‘SMARKETING’ is an acronym for each of the key aspects to focus on. This way you’ll always have a wide, balanced strategy. And by the way, this tool can be applied in any industry.

S = Sales & service

Marketing does not work on its own. It has to be integrated with sales and service activities. How do you do that? Why would your target audience need your products and services? Why should they have it from you, not from your competitors?

M = Metrics

All involved parties should agree what the overall marketing budget and all other metrics have to be in order to successfully implement the strategy. What are your KPI-s (Key Performance Indicators)?

A = Audience

This refers to wider audience awareness about your brand. PR, as well online and offline is a key element here, not only in times of a reputation crisis, but also to spread a positive opinion about your brand in general. Do you have a communication plan? 

R = Research 

Don’t improvise! Even if you are an experienced marketer do not simply go with your gut instinct. There is so much change and so much new data and information that could disrupt your business. Do you know what your competitors are doing? Do you know the trends in the marketplace?

K = Knowledge 

This has to do with how you translate the information you retrieved in your research. Do you know how to apply the knowledge to Key Success Areas in your business, such as: Product and Service Improvement, Sales campaign, Customer Service Trends, Average Ads Spenditure in the industry, Channel changes, Customer behaviour changes, etc?

E = Emotions 

As you probably know, all purchases are emotional. Create your strategy thinking about more than just the rational aspects of your strategy. Concentrate on generating the right key emotions. The stronger the emotions, the stronger loyalty and customer retention. Do you know how to lead emotions in crises?

T = Target audience

Think about your client profile. Do you have an avatar for your ideal client? What do they do on a normal day or week? What are their general motivations and hobbies? Do they have kids? Understand when and where you should be seen by your target group. Should it be in the gym, or at their college? And what is their first impression of you like?

I = Industry

What are the norms and the general direction of the industry? What are the expectations from the public? What are the expectations of people inside the industry? What other external factors play a key role in possible changes in your industry?  

N = Network

Strategy implementation relies on good relationships with suppliers, key influencers and other thought leaders who ultimately determine your professional reputation. Your business needs a structured approach to developing those key relationships, and this should always be a key part of your overall planning. 

G = Goals

Based on the previous steps and your knowledge about your company’s priorities, write out a statement about what you’d consider an ideal goal, and run it by your manager. Agree for the final goals for your strategy.

Marketing Strategy & Tactics in a Time of Crisis

As long as you’re aware of your actions, you’re not going to be carried away by emotion. Although this might happen during the real big crises…And it is inevitable. Every organization is going to face a significant crisis sooner or later. Marketing with customer and market communication will become huge. Cost management will become important as major changes are happening and a storm like worldwide virus shuts down everything overnight. 

If you haven’t had a crisis plan in your business so far, you now understand its necessity. Put together a team that is in charge and responsible for leading the necessary activities.

Make sure you think through the following aspects:

  • Communication and information sharing is the best weapon you can have!
  • Feedback: Listen, observe, and measure reactions. This may be the key to understanding and gaining control over the negative situation.
  • Review all automated processes and commercials and make sure the content remains appropriate in the context of crisis.
  • Areas of responsibilities must be clearly in place.
  • Focus on the short-term plan until the situation stabilizes. 
  • Start having daily and weekly follow-up meetings. This is a quick conversation, situation assessment and tasks sharing process that makes sure all the team members are on the same page. 
  • Remember the golden rule of psychology (to be used in marketing in times of crisis) is always to remember the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If the lower (basic) needs are not met, the higher needs lose their importance.
  • Invest into PR (involve experts). Make sure that company executives and / or owners are the ones who give a safe and reassuring message about how the company operates. 
  • Advertising depends on what business you are in – be very cautious with crisis-related messages. 
  • Put collaboration & co-creation in honor. The greatest power is in working and thinking together! Don’t be afraid to involve your employees, clients, partners in discussions! The authenticity of your business will only bring customers closer to you!

You can find the crises plan activities more in depth from the blog post “Marketers & Marketing in the era of Coronavirus Pandemic” HERE.

So just to be clear, marketing planning and a systematic approach will make a significant contribution to a better functioning of the entire business.

  • In other words, your strategy is your collective vision towards where everybody wants to go, and if new information or developments come up along the way, then most likely, the vision won’t change, but we might have to change the route to get there.
  • This is why we need a tactical plan, which is where we define what steps to take, when to take them, and how often we need to do it in order to realize that vision. And tactical plan will become most important in time of crises!

“Strategy without process is little more than a wish list.” 

Robert Filek

The obvious truth is, speed and flexibility are not a strategy. They’re skills, and highly advantageous at that. They’re operational advantages, but unless there is a strategist who makes the right decisions about where to focus that ability, these advantages do not permanently affect a company’s competitiveness. So, your marketing strategy is not just a nice-to-have plan, it is a decision-making framework, a set of guiding principles that can be applied to the situation. Even and especially in times of crises. Overall, the crisis can be an opportunity for you to come out with the new strategy and tactics but whatever you do, keep in mind to be consistent and patient!

Take care of yourself and take care of your consistent powerful performance!

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PS! If you're looking for a framework to build your marketing strategy and a comprehensive template for your marketing plan and budget, then check out our Strategy Building Tool & 12 Month Marketing Plan.

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