Does my marketing strategy need to be revised for the changing economy?
My clients asked me if they need to revise their marketing plans AGAIN when the economy starts to reopen, Post COVID-19. Many of them just went through a round of marketing plan updates (with budget adjustments, content and media re-planning, even headcount reduction) during the pandemic. And that was a lot of work and stressful. Do we need to do the same thing all overall again? Well, not to that extent, but you still need to re-evaluate your marketing plan because your audiences’ behaviors are not the same anymore. Sadly, the answer is YES.
Before updating your marketing plan, you need to address three questions
Every company’s marketing plan is different. Depending on who is the intended audience of your marketing plan, it can include different elements. In addition, many marketing plans are >30 slides or more. Therefore, it’s hard to say what parts of the marketing plan should be changed post-COVID-19. At a minimal level, I’d say that you need to change the objectives, segment priorities, budget, channel mix, and even campaign timeline.
Based on my experience of working over 60 marketing plans, I’ve discovered that 3 questions must be addressed before starting to create or change a marketing plan:
- What are our marketing objectives?
- Who should we target?
- What is our message?
If you and your team can’t agree on the objectives, audiences, and talking points, your team will continuously come back to these 3 questions during the planning and execution stages. Even if you move forward, it’s very hard to execute because team members are not in agreement.
I created these templates to help my clients lead internal discussions and ensure everyone is on the same page. You can download the template at the bottom of the blog post. Read on!
- Marketing objective two-pager
- Buyer persona one-pager
- Messaging framework
1. Marketing objective two-pager aligns everyone at the strategic-level
If you are working with a big team, it’s important to get everyone to agree on specific elements before making big changes. This is critical if the company’s corporate culture is consensus-centric. Given that every vote counts, it’s important to get buy-in from everyone. Otherwise, your plan won’t get the proper support during the execution stage.
I am a firm believer that marketing needs to support sales goals and business objectives. You need to make sure that every marketing team member understands the sales goals and key business objectives. Then, align departmental and cross-departmental marketing objectives and marketing strategies with sales goals and key business objectives. The key benefits are:
- Show that marketing has a direct tie to business directions
- Help management understand how marketing relates to sales goals and business objectives
Next, the team needs to agree on buyer personas and country priority.
Country priority is vital if your marketing is global. You won’t have a marketing budget to support every country, therefore, you need to identify which country is your focus. By the way, country priority is not an issue if each country has its own budget and manages its own campaigns. However, it’s still important that they follow the corporate marketing plan guidance. Lastly, the team needs to understand and align on departmental KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Collectively, everyone needs to know how the marketing team as a whole is being measured.
You can see the two-pager template below. I suggest my clients use these two pages as the cover of their marketing plans. Many of them would modify my templates and add or delete elements as they see fit. The two-pager also serves as a great executive summary for senior management, if they want to have a quick glance at your plan.
Below is the template for your reference. You can also download the template and written example (see slides 3-9) here.
Now everyone is aligned at the strategic level and agrees on
- Sales goals
- Business objectives
- Marketing objectives
- Marketing strategy
- Buyer personas
- Country priority
The next is about updating buyer personas.
2. Let’s work together to update and refresh buyer’s personas
Although the type of buyers you want to reach may not change Post COVID-19, their behaviors and decision-making processes may have changed during the pandemic and mandatory shelter-in-place. As marketers, we need to get a sense of what behavioral changes are permanent and what will revert back to ‘normal’ when restrictions are lifted.
Some questions we should ask ourselves about our customers:
- What are some of the new normal behaviors for them?
- Do these new normals work for us or against us?
- Most importantly, how do the “new normal” behaviors shape customers’ purchase journeys and their decision-making processes?
This is a great standing topic to discuss with your internal teams and agency partners.
Everyone will have their points of view and perspectives by reading many COVID-19 posts and talking to sales and customers. I’d suggest that you hold several virtual meetings over virtual happy hours. Make it casual. I guarantee that it will be a lively discussion. Then, update your buyer personas based on the outcomes of your discussions. Make assumptions if necessary. The changes you make on your buyer persons will guide your content planning, editorials, media buys, and even your budget allocations which are likely part of your marketing plan.
In addition, many buyers now have certain expectations about what brands need to do to keep them safe. They expect brands to communicate specific measures to ensure safety and social distancing. That expectations and requirements need to be added as part of the buyers’ persona which serves as additional guidance for content planning and messaging frameworks.
Here is an example of a CIO before and after COVID-19. His priorities have completely changed (see changes highlighted in brown), therefore, the ways you market to them also need to be adjusted.
Below is the template for your reference. You can download the templates and written examples (see slides 10-12) here.
3. If your customers’ behaviors are changing, you need to redo the messaging framework
After several rounds of discussion when everyone is, to some extent, aligned on personas, the next thing you need to update or have in-depth discussions about is the messaging framework, especially messaging and talking points for products and solutions. The messaging document serves as a foundation for sales to engage with customers and marketing to execute outbound communications.
Some of our existing talking points may not be relevant anymore. For example, some product features are great for Face-to-Face (FTF) communications but, with remote work, it’s better to emphasize other features that allow quick access on the cloud through mobile devices.
Using the revised buyer’s persona as a starting point to drive internal discussion and update messaging.
You can check out written samples (see slides 13-15) here.
See the template that you can use below.
Speaking of the messaging framework, I created a step-by-step DIY messaging framework process with more templates, please check out this blog post
After these elements are discussed and updated, now you can work as a team to revise your marketing plan
Once the team agrees on the two-pager, buyer persona, and messaging framework, you have a good understanding of:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- How your audiences have changed?
- What can be said to your audience?
Then, updating your marketing plan becomes so much easier.
If your marketing plan is a big deck, as is usually true in mid-size or global B2B enterprises, it can be overwhelming to revise. Some teams divide the task by sections and assign them to different owners. Some companies assign a program manager and have this person gather information from different teams. Either way, you still need someone to pull the changes together and check all the updates from everyone.
Yes, it’s tough out there…
I know it has been stressful for all of us marketers. By talking to many of you, I know how challenging the situations are. Some don’t have clear directions from management, others have lost their jobs. Some have no budget or resources to help. I am in the same boat. If it’s hard on the client-side, it’s equally hard on the agency or consultant side…
Whether you work alone or with a team to update your plan, I hope that you’ll find the templates helpful. Download these marketing plan templates: two-pager, buyer persona, and messaging templates and written examples here.
Reach out if you need help
In the meantime, I mentor individuals and provide training so teams can revise their marketing plans faster and quicker. In addition, I work closely with marketing to help them establish processes and technologies so that they can better enable their sales team. Need help? Please reach out!
Stay healthy and be safe.
If you’d like to learn more about marketing and artificial intelligence, check out my latest book – The Modern AI Marketer: How to Leverage Artificial Intelligence in Digital Marketing to Get Ahead.