Why We Need to Rethink our Marketing Assumptions

Leah Andrew
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8 Marketing Assumptions We need to Rethink Post COVID-19 (and what you can do about it)

“What marketing assumptions am I questioning as a result of COVID-19?”

A few weeks ago, I participated in an interesting online discussion put on by BaseCamp. They are a non profit organization that creates space for meaningful conversations among diverse individuals around the world’s biggest challenges. I’m a member of the board. During the coronavirus pandemic, BaseCamps are virtual.

The question we discussed was: “What assumptions about life have you started to question as a result of COVID-19?”

A group of 30 of us gathered online and split into 6 random breakout rooms to discuss our reflections. The sentiments ranged from: “I’m questioning how many clothes I really need”, all the way to: “I’m questioning what happens if my assumptions about the U.S. as the world superpower is no longer valid.”

Interesting conversation for interesting times.

I extended this question to marketing. More specifically: “What marketing assumptions am I starting to question as a result of COVID-19?”

To gain some perspectives on this topic, I posed this question to some marketing leaders I admire. Here are 8 marketing assumptions we need to rethink post COVID-19 for consideration, reflection and discussion:

Marketing Assumption #1: Our current customer Personas are still accurate

We know, these should be dynamic and continuously updated. Even if you refreshed your personas in January – it’s time to revisit these. Post COVID-19, key elements of our buyer profiles will surely change. For example, decision making process, goals and needs, and behavioural and psychographic elements will need to be updated.

  • What can you do now? Dig out your personas, talk to your customers, review and adjust

Marketing Assumption #2: Our Key Messages will remain relevant and engaging

As organizations, we spend a good deal of time crafting key messages that connect with our target market. But, in the “next normal” (because that’s what it will be, not the “new normal”), what will resonate? Will the tendency that we’ve seen towards empathetic engagement continue? If so, how do our marketing messages need to adjust?

  • What can you do now? Think about the end benefit of what your customers will value down the road. Adjust your messaging now and start to test and refine.

Marketing Assumption #3: The timelines we need to execute certain activities are set in stone

For anyone who has put on a webinar recently, you’re probably nodding your head. Lisa Shepherd, Founder at The Mezzanine Group noted that “We used to think that webinars needed 3 weeks to be promoted and to give people enough advance notice to get them into their calendars. Not true! We’ve done a number of webinars on really short notice (like, 3 days) during the pandemic and had great attendance. Timely content beats ‘perfect-but-stale’ content every time – especially now.”

  • What can you do now? Keep your fingers on the pulse of what your customers are interested in. If you see something striking a nerve that you’re able to address, then run with it! Make it a challenge to see how quickly you can turn something around. I bet you’ll be surprised.

Marketing Assumption #4: Our best performing content will continue to perform as expected

A diverse mix of content is necessary to meet the needs and interests of our buyers at the various stages of their journey (awareness, consideration, decision) – this is not new. For instance, we use ebooks and blogs for top of funnel activities and case studies for the bottom of funnel. But, we also know that our buyer’s psyches have likely changed as a result of the pandemic. Potentially  indefinitely. Their need for a company that shows emotional intelligence and empathy may begin to factor into their decision making process.

  • What can you do now? Check in on your content performance and see if your best performing content has changed. Then, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask how that content might need to change to meet a more emotional buyer.
B2b buyer journey
The Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs 2019 Study

Marketing Assumption #5: Our past results will continue to be valid metrics

As Angela Cope, Digital Marketing Manager at SHI International LTD writes: “In this post-pandemic world, you can no longer hold onto the marketing assumption that your past results are still valid benchmarks to follow. It’s a new world, and you can’t just focus on ‘success metrics.’ 

For example, I haven’t always been a big fan of using email as a digital tactic. Good results have been hard to come by in the past. But, I’m currently seeing a positive shift in readership to email messages these days. That has really surprised me as I assumed that past trends would determine customer actions in this pandemic era.”

  • What can you do now?  Make sure you are trying to find ways to be helpful for your customers, this may require trying new activities that you had previously shelved. Test-refine-repeat as you make your way in this new world. Shift your focus and look to new metrics of helpfulness – not success.

Marketing Assumption #6: Our sales team is prepared to deal with a changing customer journey

A strong performing sales team is measured by its ability to be responsive to changing customer needs, wants and interests. If buyers are forever changed by the experience of social distancing and working from home, how will that change the overall buyer journey? For example, if the journey is longer, is your sales teams equipped with the right content and technology to meaningfully and effectively nurture the process? Equally as important, if the cycle has shortened, is sales able to pivot to close customers quickly?

  • What can you do now? Take a critical look at how technology, marketing and sales work together to create a strong customer experience and make adjustments as needed to messages, collateral, or technology required.

Marketing Assumption #7: Our marketing budgets will remain unaffected

Ok, this might seem like an obvious one, but it’s an assumption nonetheless. Even if you jumped through all the hoops to get your budgets approved within the last 6 months – budgets have changed. When your marketing budget is slashed, how will you use what’s left? Especially if your marketing team has changed.

  • What can you do now? Prepare for budget conversations and assess best case options based on your primary goals and new environmental factors. Your goal pre-covid may been very different from your post covid goal, whether it’s re-engagement, awareness or conversion. Or even if your goals remain the same, you may now be operating on a shoestring budget.

Marketing Assumption #8: What was relevant last week is still relevant this week

Finally, it really all boils down to this last assumption from Kyle Dutka, Co-Founder of PB&J. During this pandemic (and post), things are changing quickly. “In these uncertain times, sometimes we think we need more…information, validation, proof…to act on decisions I know we ought to. I had a great chat with Brent Baldwin (Harlem Globetrotters #namedrop), who challenged me on this. He helped me see that relevancy is a never ending journey.”

  • What can you do now? To borrow from Kyle’s convo with Brent: Try to wake up every single Monday and ask “How is our brand/company still relevant? How do we live what we stand for, today?” This is a lesson not just for a pandemic, but a lesson for those brands and companies who wish to win, and be cherished, well beyond.

Are there other marketing assumptions you’re questioning these days? Let us know! Tweet your #marketingassumption to @andrewperrymktg

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