Direct Marketing

2020 was a year unlike any other. 2021 and beyond shows no signs of reverting back to the old normal.  As marketers look towards building brands, what can we take away from the pandemic? What is direct marketing after the pandemic going to look like?

1)  Marketing once started with knowing your customer.  Marketing now begins with knowing your customer segment.

The reality of lockdowns, masking, remote working, and taking caution has shaped consumer behavior in tangible and real ways. A recent survey of over 14,000 households globally has identified five different cohorts for consumers:

* Affordability: Living within their means and budget, focusing less on status or brands and more on product function and end result.

* Health: Protecting the health of themselves and their family, choosing products they trust to be safe, and minimizing risks that impact the way that they shop.

* Planet: Working to minimize their impact on the environment and buying brands that are consistent with their beliefs.

* Society: Working together for the collective good, buying from honest and transparent organizations.

* Experiences: Living in the moment, making the most of life, open to new products, brands, and experiences.

2)  You were competing with your competitors, but now you are competing with the last best experience your customer had.

Consumer expectations were already on the rise before Covid-19. Gen Z grew up with technology seamlessly integrated into their lives. But once the coronavirus hit, digital transformation accelerated overnight. As a result, consumer expectations skyrocketed towards a more digital experience. The customer expects much more than just a seamless digital transaction, they want intuitive personalized experiences across the entire customer journey.

3)  Customers used to hope you have what they want. Now expect you to have exactly what they want or access to it.

Consumers today expect to get what they want when they want it. And they insist nothing will stand in their way. This is a move away from transactions into customer experiences. Embracing data-driven experiences and artificial intelligence is a component that smaller businesses have to embrace. Data-driven marketing enables the creation of more relevant experiences across one of the following Four Cs:

* Content:  provided through experiences like emails or mobile apps,

* Commerce: modern physical retail, e-commerce, or an increasing hybrid experience,

* Community: convening B2B buyers at a virtual trade show or hosting a webinar on home repair for consumers,

* Convenience:  offering consumers targeted promotions, coupons, or benefits from a loyalty program.

4)  Courting customers used to be just like dating. Now, courting customers is just like online dating.

Remember back in the last century? Marketing was largely about buying mass reach or targeted reach at the best rates possible and hoping it would convert? It was like hitting up as many parties or bars on the oft hand chance you would find special someone. Enter prequalified dating and swiping through apps. Now, finding your special someone is less to chance and more about data and algorithms. In marketing today, we see a shift from brand marketing to build reach over to performance marketing to generate target prospects. The acceleration of digital channels from the pandemic has only intensified that movement.

5)  Customers once sat at the heart of your marketing strategy. They now sit at the heart of your customer journey.

Marketing is just the beginning of a relationship with the customer. We go through a journey of engaging them, converting them to a sale directly or indirectly, and then hopefully retaining them so they become advocates and potentially open to upsells and cross-sells. Marketing must be viewed in the context of the full end-to-end journey and, where possible, work to connect the dots. No longer can you write off a bottleneck or a breakdown in the process as ‘some customers will never be satisfied no matter what?’

6)  Relationships have always mattered.  Now relationships mean everything.

Relationships with customers are based on trust. Advertising, for example, makes a brand promise, and it then falls to the product, service, and customer experience to deliver on the promises made. But post-Covid-19, there is a new emphasis on relationships. Faced with a virtual sales environment, teams with existing relationships have been able to maintain revenue momentum, capitalizing on the strength of their prior bonds. In contrast, prospecting for new customers has required an evolved set of skills focused on selling relationships and solutions, not just products. This has demanded a thoughtful reorganizing of talent to identify people best suited to driving relationships in this new world of online interactions. This world relies less on mere old-school salesmanship and more on providing an understanding of a consumer’s need and furnishing them with real answers. Trust will be built by and rewarded to those that listen to customer needs and then craft solutions designed to meet those needs.

7)  Your brand once stood behind great products. Your brand should stand behind great values.

Marketing has to be better and bolder than ever before. The emergence of rainbow capitalism is an example of values-driven marketing. While members of the LGBTQIA+ communities may have always been present (perhaps not as visible or vocal), recognizing them as desirable has never been so necessary.  This requires more than just slapping a rainbow behind your logo and pronouncing that we are all friends. Recognize those aging lesbians and emerging trans kids are highly different and unique. This means taking the time and data to find out who the different members of the community are and how your company wants to interact with them. Leave your stereotypes at the door.

Covid-19 has created an acceleration of technology-driven customer experiences where customers get what they want, when they want it and are delighted with the journey. It is incumbent on marketing now to direct an organization’s agenda for broader growth and innovation.  Embracing these new marketing truths means an organization can no longer rely on merely having the best widget in a post-Covid-19 world.