You've probably heard it a million times — I know we've heard it plenty here at 1 Bold Step, but the market has changed over the last 18-24 months and in a big way. As marketers, we've had to make some pretty big transitions to keep up with new demands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plans you wrote for market domination in 2020 and in 2021 probably look quite different from each other. And with the uncertainty of 2022 on the horizon — your marketing plan for the next year might still be in question.
What should a good marketer do?
I recently had the opportunity to speak on SMPS West Michigan's webinar around how you can pivot your marketing strategy in times of uncertainty. Check out the webinar recording below to learn more or keep scrolling to read the webinar summary.
What does it mean to pivot?
According to Webster’s dictionary, the word “pivot” can be used both as a noun or a verb.
- Noun: the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates
- Verb: turn on or as if on a pivot
Or, in the case of Ross from Friends, it can be a last-ditch cry as you attempt to move furniture with your friends up a narrow and turning staircase. But before we can pivot, let me lay the groundwork.
The Modern Marketing Journey
The market has definitely changed over the last 18-24 months, but marketing as a whole is drastically different than it was 20, even 10 years ago. The buyer has evolved, marketing has evolved, and marketing and technology have collided. The entire customer journey can be measured, managed, and therefore improved. It's time to change how you think about marketing, it's definitely time to pivot!
The sales funnel has also changed in recent years, and although sales and marketing share responsibility for revenue generation and both are held accountable — the level at which both operate within the sales funnel has shifted.
Previously, marketing was in charge of the very top of the funnel which includes Awareness, Interest, and Consideration. Then most often, sales would step in and handle the bottom half of the funnel, which includes Intent, Evaluation, and Purchase. Now, marketing has hands in the majority of the funnel, everything from Awareness down to Evaluation — leaving Purchase to sales.
Here at 1 Bold Step, we follow simple supply chain principles, meaning whoever can do the job the best should be the one doing it. For us, this means marketing should be owning more of the funnel and educating their target audience, prospects, and even current customers so they continue wanting to buy.
Another factor in the Modern Marketing Journey to consider is the level of trust that consumers have in salespeople. According to a survey from HubSpot Research, a mere 3% of people consider salespeople to be trustworthy. Marketers can glean the trust of consumers through education, giving a marketing team the ability to really own the entire sales funnel.
Find out if you're running a Modern Marketing Department by clicking here.
Evolution of Marketing
Marketing is now a digital professional. We market more to digital audiences than anything else and there is now a critical need for marketing professionals that understand both people and technology. This had lent itself to the creation of MarTech (Marketing Technology).
MarTech is a combination of brand, design, storytelling, and content aspect of marketing with the software, hardware, systems architecture, and programmatic logic of technology. This combination creates data, communications, automation, and unique user experiences. Data is especially important in measuring and managing the process of finding and converting new customers.
A good marketing department invests in three things: people, processes, and systems. Marketing directors and managers need to hire data experts, technologists, geeks — as well as creatives and designers –— essentially a right & left-brained marketing team. And the sales and marketing process should drive your software decisions (and not vice versa). To see a return on investment, all your people, processes, and systems in place should be moving in the same direction — and constantly pivoting to keep up with changing markets and technology.
So let's "pivot" within a marketing context.
Pivot: The Verb
Did any (or all) of these things happen to you recently?
- Budget cuts
- Staff reduction
- USP (Unique selling proposition) no longer matters to your target audience because they’re caring about other things now
- Trade shows and conferences canceled2
- Target customer changed
- New, emerging markets becoming the focus of your leadership team (and they are people you know nothing about yet)
- There are suddenly new uses of your product (producing alcohol for hand sanitizer instead of cocktails is a great example)
The good thing is that you're quick on your feet and able to pivot. The bad news may be that you don’t have any way to communicate the new plan nor reposition your team to get the plan executed. You’ll need an easy-to-understand, visual marketing plan that helps keep everyone rowing in the new direction.
Need to change your marketing directions fast?
Pivot: The Noun
Your marketing plan needs to be the central point on which your business oscillates (the pivot point). What I’m trying to say is that if your plan is in an executable template (and not a 45-page Word document), you’re much more likely to be able to change it quickly with the times. This may seem like a very un-marketing thing to do, but our marketing plans are actually multi-tabbed spreadsheets that are equal parts strategic alignment and tactical execution. The tabs are as follows:
- The Strategic Overview: Great for executives and a quick summary to the rest of your organization, our marketing “house” visually shows how the marketing plan aligns under the overall company goals. It includes marketing’s focus areas for the next 12 months and the key performance indicators that will be met if the plan is successful.
- The Strategic Goal Tracker: An overview of what needs to be done, at a high level, in each of the marketing focus areas. This includes a column for a brief description, the owner, contributors, priority, and target launch dates. It’s a great tool for looking at the year’s worth of work in a list format before you task it out in a project management tool.
- The Demand Generation Calculator: Every executive wants to know what they are going to get from their marketing spend. Using a simple calculator you can estimate conversion rates of leads through your sales and marketing funnel and not only get a marketing-influenced sales dollar estimate, but also a clear picture of how much broad marketing you'll need to do at the top of the funnel.
- The Annual Calendar: Another way of looking at the spread of marketing initiatives and the focus areas they cover in a visual way. This color-coded tool reassures everyone that marketing is 1) busy and 2) working on all of the focus areas throughout the year. It’s also helpful for pushing back when new ideas are suggested to the marketing team as you can point to the calendar and ask where they would like that new idea to fit in (and what items can be delayed).
- The Quarterly Budget Reconciliation: Very simply; Here is what we said we were going to spend in this quarter and this is what we actually spent. If you’ve got the right technology stack you can divide your marketing-influenced sales for the quarter by that spend and get a hard to dispute return on marketing investment metric to share too.
Need to pivot your marketing plan?
Tips to Pivoting
As your team pivots, I want to provide a couple of tips that will help everyone adjust easier, and even pivot quicker:
- Improve the Process with Agile Marketing: This marketing approach takes cues from agile software development, but they are not synonymous. This particular approach doesn't follow the scrum framework to the letter either, it can be adjusted. Agile Marketing is a unique combination of several different traditional marketing approaches and empowers the individual contributor. This approach is directly linked to marketing's vision and long-term objectives and is customer-centric and focused on quality. Taking the Agile approach puts you on a path to sustainability, predictability, and visibility.
- Create a Marketing & Sales Service Level Agreement (SLA): A marketing and sales SLA is a tool that can be used as a standard operating procedure that aligns marketing with sales, and sales with marketing. Essentially, an SLA keeps everyone on the same page. A good SLA will define lead stages and include an agreement on the follow-up process. The agreement ensures all leads are properly vetted by marketing before being handed over to sales, and that all leads are properly managed by sales once they have them. An SLA is a tool for clarity, communication, and respect – acting a lot like a report card for both departments and allowing for full transparency.
- Don't get sidetracked: One of the biggest pitfalls we see when it comes to needing to readjust a marketing plan or pivot is getting sidetracked by new projects, tasks, and strategies that do not relate to the organizational goals. Do not continue doing something that will eat up your time and energy when it doesn't relate back to the organizational goals, make sure the new strategy fits within the goal tracker and is somehow generating the right kind of demand. You have to hold yourself, and your team, accountable to the vision, values, and focus areas. If the new strategy or idea doesn't fall in line, put it in a Disney drawer – don't forget about it, but don't adjust the overall plan if it doesn't make sense for the overall company.
If you’d like to give it a try, click here to download our free Marketing Plan Pivot Template. The first tab includes all the instructions you’ll need to quickly create your new, 3-6 month, "pivoted" marketing plan to address (these unprecedented, surreal, uncharted, and challenging times) your new reality.
If you’re looking for a little more help or just don’t have the time and resources to do this all on your own, give us a shout. We have a proven process for creating a tactical, agile marketing plan for the next 12 months that directly aligns with your mission, vision, values, and overall company goals. Over the course of 30 days, we’ll deliver your new plan and give you the know-how to complete a strategic and tactical marketing plan for the next years to come.