How To Pivot Your Marketing Strategy During Uncertain Times

Roben Walker

Senior VP of PR & Digital Marketing at ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm.

The phrase “uncertain times” became the anthem of 2020. But what some of us thought would be a few months of strangeness quickly turned into an ongoing, years-long struggle for normalcy. War, supply chain shortages, political instability, inflation—and, of course, the “great resignation”—made it almost impossible for many brands to find their footing.

It seems like stability is a relic of the past. Whether that’s true or not, it’s clear that businesses have to change how they market themselves. The days of planning out an entire quarter of content at once are long gone for many. Marketing in uncertain times means you should be able to adjust your approach at the turn of a dime or risk a major faux pas. It isn’t easy, but here’s how you can create a resilient marketing plan, no matter what this week’s current events throw your way.

1. Form A Customer Focus Group

You can learn a lot about your customers by checking your analytics, reviews and social media. But honestly, I’ve found that it’s difficult to get by in uncertain times without a direct line to your customers.

If you haven’t already, you should create a customer focus group where you can chat with customers directly. But it isn’t enough to just speak with shoppers who love your products. Your focus group should also include some of your most vocal critics. It might sting to hear critical feedback, but honesty can help you survive uncertainty.

2. Change Your Audience

Uncertain times mean you can’t assume your audience will stay the same. Everyone’s lives have changed since 2020, so it’s important to acknowledge that you might need to change your target audience. Maybe you used to sell primarily to soccer moms, but after a little digging, you realize your clientele are now university students. It happens.

You should keep tabs on who your audience is today and what they need. If you’re out of sync with their needs, you risk looking out of touch and making fewer sales as a result. Demographics change over time, so revisit your customer personas at least once a quarter.

3. Adjust Your Promos

The promotions you used pre-Covid-19 might not work in today’s environment. Make sure your marketing promos reflect what shoppers actually need. For example, shoppers may be worried about the economy right now, so you should lean into sales, coupons and bundled deals to give them more value for their money.

4. Digitize Everything You Can

Many of your shoppers are accustomed to the convenience of digital-first shopping, so give it to them. You’re probably already investing in some form of digital marketing, but if you’ve just dipped your toes into digitization, now could be the time to go all-in.

That means you might need to:

• Offer curbside or in-store pickup if you have a retail location.

• Sell online-only product bundles.

• Revamp your e-commerce shopping experience.

• Post video content about your products on TikTok and IGTV.

• Reach out to influencers and digital media for brand features.

5. Make Crisis Communication Plans

It seems like there’s a new challenge to navigate every week. Instead of letting another national emergency take you by surprise, make a crisis communication plan. Crisis communication plans are helpful playbooks for what you need to do and say when the worst happens. A crisis playbook will also help you stay calm and market yourself from a place of calm certainty—instead of panic.

You should create crisis communication plans for things like:

• Natural disasters.

• Economic collapse.

• Political upheaval.

• Social issues.

• Supply chain problems.

• Employee misconduct.

Hopefully, none of these things will happen, but the world is a crazy place. It’s best to have backup plans around so you aren’t caught off guard.

6. Lean Into Emotions

Your products might be the logical choice for shoppers, but shoppers don’t always buy based on logic. They may also make decisions based on emotions, and that’s why your marketing should lean into emotional storytelling.

That might mean:

• Telling raw, emotional stories of real customers.

• Filming more video content.

• Partnering with a movement or charity.

Find Stability In A Sea Of Change

Things may not ever go back to the previous “normal.” After over two years of tumult, it’s clear that your brand should roll with the punches going forward. We no longer have the luxury of preplanning our marketing campaigns: Brands should be agile and resilient. Follow these tips to make the most of your marketing strategy in spite of all of the little surprises that are likely down the road.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

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