Marketing’s “new normal” – For a healthy harvest, sow different seeds

Henrique Dias - May 7, 2020 Building your brand during COVID-19 is tough. That's why Henrique Dias, CMO of Draft Inc., talked with top Canadian marketers about how they're embracing a "new normal"
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COVID-19? It’s not all doom and gloom. We can actually learn a thing or two from it. Henrique Dias, Draft Canada’s Chief Marketing Officer, reveals what Canada’s top marketers have discovered during this crisis.

As a sales and marketing professional, things were really ramping up for me before the COVID-19 crisis started. At the beginning of this year, I had great clients. We were waiting for some important sales to come through, and we had entire marketing strategies ready to deploy. 

To top it off, a month before lockdown, the founders of Draft Inc. approached me to become their partner and Chief Marketing Officer. 

Henrique Dias has been talking with marketers across Canada about how they’re coping with COVID-19.

After two years of hard work as a consultant, it felt like things were about to take off career-wise. I was happy. Just like a farmer who spent a lot of time and effort getting the soil prepared, the seeds sowed and the plants cared for until the fruit is ripe.

Unfortunately, however, my clients were badly affected by the crisis, and their deals got postponed. At Draft Inc., the go-to-market strategy we planned, which took weeks of extensive preparation, didn’t account for a pandemic either. It was sad. After all that effort, it was like having a plague sweep through and ruin all of the crops and future expectations. 

I guess a lot of us can relate to this scenario.

READ: Where uncertainty of the future meets the comfort of the past

We’re all trying to come to terms with this new reality. I’m sure 10 years from now we’ll look at the COVID crisis the same way that, today, we look at the Great Recession of 2008. 

But ten years from now is too far. Most of us want to know: what can I do now?

What steps should we take to guarantee a harvest we can celebrate by Thanksgiving? 

Last month, I spoke with dozens of marketing professionals in both B2B and B2C businesses, in industries like insurance, home fitness, delivery, finance, cannabis, banking, law, e-sports and more. 

I was curious about how everyone was adapting their marketing strategies, their budgets, and their expectations. They all had slightly different answers as to how things were changing, but a few stood out to me.

Retention is a fundamental value

One marketing manager, who works in insurance, saw a surplus of customers because of the crisis. He was lucky. But what he told me applies to everyone – even (or especially) organizations that are selling less right now: “Retention will be the real test when this scare is over… now we are helping clients to see and understand the true value we offer.”

There’s a clear lesson here: retention is tomorrow’s blessing, and one can only build it today. 

That company could be capitalizing on a ton of new customers now, but instead, they’re looking inwards at what they can do to delight and retain their customer base in the future. 

Another B2B marketer of a large AI company said they had shifted a lot of their outbound focus to inside upsells instead – what a clever way to keep the sales team busy and their current customers happy.

Community-building: Embrace people with your brand

A few of the folks that I spoke with are focusing on something different: community-building. People are bored? Give them a reason to virtually congregate and exchange value. The more we can help our current and potential customers stay connected, the more they will see us as leaders who understand and care about our customers, have their backs and support them when they need it most.

Maybe this means we have to shift some budgets around, prioritizing retention over acquisition, referral programs over discounts, and brand-building over hard-selling. Which brings me to my next point.

Strengthen relationships: It’s time for your brand to listen – and talk

Most marketers I spoke with are focused on building relationships over making sales. This doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to sell. They were simply looking for new ways to sell. In fact, at least half of the marketers I spoke with have modified their content strategy to add more transparency and show more empathy toward their customers, staying away from the hard-sell pitch. The better we treat our customers and prospects now, the more they will remember us when this is over.

Interesting how sometimes it takes a crisis for us to revisit the foundations of our businesses.

Tell your story: How does your brand’s voice sound?

One B2C marketer, in particular, pointed out the importance of letting people really know your brand. Its values. How it walks the walk. Transparency has become a great value. Consumers are increasingly saying, “Tell me a good story about you and what you do. Let me get to know you before you try selling me anything. Get me interested and curious about your product or service. Transform me into a follower of your brand.”

And I thought, this is where transparent content comes in handy. Show people your company’s truth. Build trust. Be frank. Have legitimate conversations. Listen carefully. This is how haters become lovers, bystanders become admirers and followers become loyal brand advocates.

Getting ready for a good harvest

All these interviews with fellow marketers led me to believe, even more, that retention can be as valuable as inbound marketing, that empathy can be a stronger force than hard-selling and that every brand needs to keep an open dialogue with its stakeholders. 

These aren’t trends. They’re here to stay. This may be marketing’s “new normal”. 

We lost a good deal of our crops to a perfect storm that is still months away from leaving us.

We must realize that the soil and the weather have changed… and that they will never be the same again. 

There’s only one way for us to celebrate a good harvest by Thanksgiving: sowing new seeds. The landscape has changed, and if marketers keep doing things the same way they have always done them, the results won’t keep pace.

Now is not the time to mourn or stand paralyzed. It’s the time to get back to work – differently.

I see a great opportunity to review, learn, adapt and move towards building a better market for all of us. The best companies among us are already walking this path. Everyone who wants to survive will have to follow suit.


Would you like to talk to Henrique about your content strategy during (and after) the crisis? Contact him now.

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