Assess, Pivot, & Adapt

Business Marketing Trends in 2020/2021

What a theme for 2020—Assessing not only the value of your business, your employees, your products/services, but, more importantly, assessing the future. As a business owner in Washington State, I had to take a long, hard look at the vision for my business, my financial goals, and well, the reality of putting food on the table for my family.

March 2020 hit us hard, as it did for most small business owners. Our sales goals were flipped upside down with in-person, relationship-based networking coming to a halt. We watched from our phones, computers, and TV as the world froze—unable to comprehend the depth of change that was upon us all. We were deeply humbled and thankful for what the local food bank could provide as we desperately fought to pay our team and our bills. The weight of our team’s needs and concerns to feed their own families kept us awake at night, drove us to come up with fresh ideas, new campaigns, seek new business, and a conversation that came to this main point: “If we go down, we’re going down swinging by helping as many businesses survive this as possible.”

The pivoting came from multiple collaborative meetings that focused on marketing trends and projections from late 2019. Just eight months ago, we were pushing Customer Experience, Loyalty, Live Video, Strategic Marketing, Personalized Ads, and plenty more. Each of these trends are still relevant, but there is an additional filter that must now be used in order to effectively pursue them: COVID-19.

With a COVID-19 filter, Live Video can be shot from inside your home—customers won’t mind if your kids interrupt you, if anything, we’ve seen increased customer engagement because of it, they love how “real” it makes you as a business owner.

Customer Experience and Loyalty with a COVID-19 filter can be approached with the same relationship-focused video chat, an email that is written directly from you, engaging posts on social media that show appreciation and value to your customers, and overall, by you as a business owner seeking out a healthy friendship with them. Customers want to feel advocated for, they want to support businesses that believe in and stand for something.

Strategic Marketing and Personalized Ads work hand in hand. Both require a business owner to truly know their customers, who they are, what they love, and how to talk to them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Washington Concept, it was not only the COVID-19 filter that forced us to pivot, but the understanding that humans are habitual beings. While we all thirst for human interaction and prefer in-person connection, we are extremely limited by the Stay-at-Home orders/mask requirements and will continue to be for possibly another year. I’ve always believed in the rule that it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit. And as customer’s habits change, as their favorite restaurants, small retail stores, and other non-essential in-person businesses are closed, they are forced to create new habits. To shop online, to cook at home, to enjoy happy hour with friends in their backyard, and overall, spend their money differently. As a woman, I can tell you that I’ve saved so much money on makeup and clothes due to the pandemic. But, I didn’t stop spending that money, I just spent it elsewhere: on my garden, on outdoor toys for my kids, on organization for my home.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other business owners say, “We’re excited for things to go back to normal!” Even I used to say it. But in our pivoting, we had to come to the conclusion that what we knew in 2019 is gone. Our world is forever changed by this pandemic. It is our responsibility now, as business owners, to “unfreeze” our thinking, to assess our business and our goals, to pivot in a new direction that takes this new habitual culture into account, and to adapt to a new way of doing things.

Perhaps for you, this means finally creating that website, making your products available for purchase online, restructuring your employees to now have a shipping department. Maybe it means pressing into social media, seeking new leads through targeted ads, or establishing a marketing strategy that prioritizes your customers and reaches them during the pandemic.

Truly adapting, for us, meant being willing to let go of the strategic goals we had eight months ago, seeking help, doing research, and finding new ways to reach our clients in a relational way. Digital communication can be challenging, often slower and confusing. But, for now and the foreseeable future, it is the best we have.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t encouraging business owners to take advantage of what tools they have, the help/wise counsel around them, and to show value to their customers. I strongly believe that it will be this course of action that helps businesses, yours and mine alike, survive and even thrive in 2020 and beyond.