Marketers ‘must crack on with Covid-19 battle plans’

marketerMarketing chiefs must roll up their sleeves and crack on with preparing their companies for coronavirus disruption if they want to build customer loyalty, rather than sit on their hands in the hope that they will not be badly affected by the crisis.

So says a new Gartner report, which insists that marketers must take immediate action in monitoring customer channels for unexpected and quick changes to customer behaviour and purchasing needs, and prepare for potential disruption to budgets, plans, campaigns and strategy in the months ahead.

The global research and advisory firm sets out four actions to better prepare their organisations for disruptions related to the Covid-19 crisis:

Build Covid-19 contingency plans
The key to mitigating risks associated with the coronavirus and identifying opportunities is rigorous scenario planning. Marketing leaders should create three scenarios, spanning from best- to worst-case, and consider the potential impacts to customers, the marketing team, and brand strategies and tactics.

While scenario-planning, it is prudent to coordinate with functional leaders across the organization in legal, finance, supply chain, IT and operations.

Monitor, report and react to shifts in customer behaviour
Maintaining customer-centricity is of utmost importance during times of stress, greater needs and quickly changing expectations. Marketing leaders must not only monitor customer values and sentiment against a global backdrop; they should also improve real-time listening to detect shifting customer sentiment so they can react immediately.

In addition, as marketing leaders make decisions, they must carefully weigh short-term interests versus the value of sustaining and nurturing longer-term customer relationships during this time.

Prepare marketing teams for interruptions and challenges
The actions that marketing leaders take now will set the tone, internally and externally, for how the organisation will weather the crisis. From an internal perspective, it’s important that marketing leaders anticipate how business disruptions will impact existing marketing operations and formulate strategies to protect and adjust budgets. In addition, marketers must assess the needs of employees and prepare for alternate workplace operations.

Externally, marketing organisations should be ready for rapid changes toward at-home and digital delivery of products and services. Marketers must also consider changes that may need to be made to customer policies and procedures to stay attuned to the empathy that customers need and expect.

Review marketing plans for potential impact
Failure to anticipate potential change to campaigns, promotions, event marketing, sponsorships and other marketing strategies will leave marketing teams in defence mode throughout the duration of the crisis. Marketing leaders’ scenarios should consider how restrictions to events and travel will impact sponsorship activation plans or campaign messaging.

The coronavirus outbreak could also have significant impact on the timing of new products or campaign launches, and marketing organisations need to be agile in rescheduling or shifting messaging around these events. To avoid making reactive budget decisions, marketers must begin to prioritise spending now and brace for rapid budget changes.

Gartner for Marketers senior director analyst Augie Ray said: “Marketers who wait for shifts in customer perceptions and needs, interruptions to supply chains and operations, or restrictions on mobility, travel and mass gatherings as a result of the crisis will only increase risks to their organisations and miss potential opportunities to build customer loyalty.

“The key to managing risks and finding opportunities in such a period of significant uncertainty isn’t to predict a single likely outcome, but to recognise the range of possible scenarios.”

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