Running a business in 2020 posed some unique challenges. The pandemic changed the way companies interact with their customers and manage their operations. From the large corporations to the small, single person businesses, nearly everyone saw a change in their plans — and marketing was no exception.
If you had a strong marketing plan in place as you headed into 2020, it likely looked different by the end of the year. The changes may have brought successes or caused missed opportunities. Yet as you consider your 2021 plan, lessons learned in the past year can help ensure you are making strong decisions looking forward.
What Small Business Marketers Can Learn from the Pandemic
An effective marketing strategy for any business will allow you to reach your customers in a way that brings in new sales, builds existing relationships, establishes your brand, and conveys information. The primary focus may vary from year to year while the underlying connection with customers remains essential.
Your relationship with customers through marketing likely had some impact on your 2020 performance, either positive or negative. Adding your voice to the dialogue surrounding COVID-19 could have cultivated a more trusting relationship with your customers. Shrinking budgets may have prompted you to divert resources previously spent on marketing elsewhere.
The changes do show that a marketing plan remains a necessity for every business, no matter your size or how you reach your customers. To ensure yours withstands unexpected obstacles in the coming year, consider it critically. It should make it possible to:
- Stay in Contact with Customers — The rapid updates and confusion many faced in the first months of the pandemic meant customers were constantly seeking information. Businesses that found they had no reliable way to reach their customers, whether through a website, social media, or other method, were unable to connect with them and provide the needed information. It is important to establish your communication channels early on, give them variety, and ensure they are maintained.
- Change Strategies — Whether it was the content or the way you shared it with customers, previously planned marketing was ineffective as health concerns became people’s main focus. To continue marketing, businesses had to quickly alter their strategies. Within weeks or days, a business needed new goals, content, and outreach. Evaluating whether any of those strategies were effective should help guide future budgets.
- Balance Speed and Effectiveness — With strategies changing, many businesses focused on making the changes fast rather than making them in the most effective way possible. This was key to survival for many. Yet implementing strategies without research and experimentation is not effective long term as it yields high cost and limited results. Even in high stakes time, there is still worth in comparing available options and anticipating results.
Many marketing professionals say they went into 2020 without a preparedness plan to address the changes in terms of customer relations and economic impact that the pandemic caused. This is particularly true of small businesses that often make more out of limited resources.
It is not possible to plan for an unforeseen event specifically. You should, however, know what to do if different changes are necessary.
At many small businesses, establishing and maintaining a marketing strategy already requires a significant amount of time and work. Being ready to pivot in the midst of other changes may seem impossible. This is where professional marketing services can be an integral part of your 2021 plan, helping you both execute your strategies and respond to changes.