The current public health crisis dwarfs any previous economic disruption, save the wars, to the extent that it has disconnected and distanced businesses and their customers. Nothing has ever reshaped customer needs and priorities so rapidly. While working to solve this emergency, we need to lay the groundwork for operating in a world where many things will look different from before.
The emotional baseline of the Covid-19 crisis is the same for everyone: customers, sellers and marketers alike. The immediate task is to answer how we can contribute and ease the anxiety and fear for the loss of health and sustenance. The response by corporate marketers needs to be both delicate and urgent. Key providers and brands are expected to contribute. Meanwhile, very few customers will be receptive to any kind of commercial persuasion.
Hoarding has prompted reassuring, demand-suppressing marketing actions by food and healthcare retailers. AirBnB communicates refund policies, food markets open specially for seniors, banks have devised rapid mortgage reliefs, luxury brand LVMH retools cosmetics factories to produce hand sanitisers, the Norwegian prime minister organises a Covid-19 press conference for kids only. Communications and marketing contingency teams have had to reconfigure communications overnight to address the general emergency that unfolds in real-time on TV, social media, living rooms and hospitals.
Most companies have until now remained quiet, dumbfounded by the magnitude and speed of the outbreak and by the strains on personnel and the unpredictability of the near future.
Here are some ground rules that the Avaus Covid-19 response team wrote down:
1. Make sense of and prepare for the new normal. Avaus has drafted a framework for how to make sense of the present situation. The framework is applicable for senior management in large enterprises and SMEs alike. Business continuity will require a double focus on both crisis management as well as preparing for the “new equilibrium” that will follow shortly. Read the full article here.
2. Everyone is expected to chip in by default. Shutting down communications is not an option for companies that want to maintain trust and regain their franchise and market share after the recovery. Customers now want to hear very different things and most promotional messaging will be counterproductive.
3. Rapid re-design of the marketing and communications plan. The plan should be executed by highly agile, autonomous teams, working with the deadlines and protocols of a news organisation. Unnecessary business communications should be put on hold, and resources should be utilised to manage the unexpected. Companies that can design adequate responses will gain the trust and gratitude of their customers and will have a considerable advantage as the crisis abates into a new normal.
4. All-out digital channel conversion. All businesses that depend on physical channels should aim at a massive digital leap. Customer relationship maintenance through any means and channels possible in the situation of a de facto curfew. Customer services should be re-assessed against this backdrop. In B2B, the pressure to digitise sales has never been higher, with an increasing need to increase data-driven efficiency. Read more about Avaus’ B2B digital sales enablement here.
5. Internal barriers to change should all but disappear. Digital transformation initiatives could immediately be turned into overnight digital transitions. By decree, customers in most European countries are spending 24/7 in their homes with more screen time and more hunger for information, relief and new services than ever.
6. Lean on data and leverage your technology. The battle against Covid-19 will be the biggest science and data exercise ever, as Big Tech and AI are being mobilised to find the cure. AI will be an integral part of the new business landscape. Data-driven customer insight, and mapping new needs and behaviours, leveraged by digital technologies, should be essential ingredients in your business continuity plan.
7. The new normal will be different. The more prolonged the social distancing period will be, the bigger the impact on habits, social intercourse and commerce. Now is the time to build up capabilities and processes needed for being relevant in a post-outbreak world where AI, data capabilities and digital technologies have been fast-forwarded by the unforeseen forces of nature.
Avaus was launched just in the midst of the financial crisis 2007-2008. Avaus’ initial mission was to help marketers to do more with less by engaging customers digitally. We helped our clients boost their marketing performance with smaller budgets, leveraging analytics and new technologies. That is what we are still here to do, while we are doing our best to chip in.
We will follow up with more digests within the following days
The Avaus Covid-19 response Team