As difficult as it might be to envision now, the recovery from COVID-19 is inevitable. While marketers are understandably focused on the present day, it’s only a matter of time before the market corrects and people get back to working, shopping, traveling, and going about their lives.
The question isn’t just what marketers need to do to solve for today’s reality, but how they are building toward that point in the (hopefully not too distant) future. And the swift adaptations they made during the crisis will have a direct bearing on their performance coming out of it.
There are a number of things they will wish they had done to prepare for the resurgence.
Align marketing KPIs with strategic business objectives. Many marketers have lived in bubbles for too long, measuring and optimizing toward specific marketing objectives that look good on paper but have little to no alignment with the business they are trying to market. Often they are answering to artificial growth or reach KPIs that ignore the real value of individual customers, and once those customers are identified, marketers are often hamstrung by rigid budget constraints that put valuable audiences out of reach. Marketers that work collaboratively with CFOs and CEOs to align on business objectives will be the ones that allocated spend most effectively and laid the strongest foundation for the future.
Focus on New Customer Acquisition
Today’s market conditions reflect the fact that people are engaging with more media and doing less shopping, creating a dynamic where reach is cheaper to achieve than at pre-crisis levels. This makes it possible affordably and efficiently scale new customer acquisition. As consumers pull back today, they are also spending more time and energy dreaming about coming out on the other side of this. Marketers that take advantage of lower media costs to reach these customers now will recover faster than those that stayed too conservative and stood pat.
Optimize for Lifetime Value
Another major constraint for marketers is that their tenure is often shorter than the customer lifecycle for many products. This means that they are incentivized to prioritize short-term gains instead of long-term lifetime value, which ultimately yields more return on marketing investment. Customers with higher lifetime value make repeat purchases and recommend the brand to others, but they are often more expensive to acquire, and their ultimate value is often realized well after the point where the marketer who acquired them has left. Aligning marketing KPIs around lifetime value will ensure that churn in the marketing position doesn’t lead to churn in customers.
Embrace the Data
Recovery won’t happen all at once — and, like the crisis itself, it will happen faster in some areas than others. This means that marketers who treat audiences at a national or even state level are ignoring vital differences in consumer demand. On the other hand, marketers who rely on data to target specific behaviors can spot regional differences and approach consumers with messages that make sense for them. The benefits of doing so are obvious, but there is also a real potential downside of coming off as tone deaf if you don’t. Today’s environment rewards marketers who can nail the right timing and tone in their message, but it also penalizes those that are careless with personalization.