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Zooming In On Strategy

Companies need to rethink how they communicate with their audience to ensure their marketing efforts are targeted and effective, writes Denise Mhlanga.

Mid the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations have had to pivot their business models to align with the changing consumer needs.

The Deloitte 2021 Global Marketing Trends report reveals that almost four in five people could cite an instance where a brand responded positively to the pandemic. One in five strongly agreed that it led to increased brand loyalty on their part.

Brands with purpose continue to thrive. Customer experts (marketers) are key in bringing this purpose to life for their customers and, in time, to all stakeholders, according to Deloitte.

“Through marketing consulting, businesses can gain a better understanding of current and potential audiences,” says Wendy van Eyck, nonprofit communications specialist at Believe Content Agency. Consultants help to create strategies in line with the company’s mission to help it achieve its goals.

“Marketing forms the conduit between the business and its customers – a two-way communication platform,” says Jacki McEwen-Powell, founding partner and strategist at Eclipse Communications.

She explains that as marketers their role is two-fold: firstly, to use the marketing space to gain valuable insights about consumers and their needs and secondly, to form a proper relationship with the client, understand their purpose and build trust and brand loyalty.

“Organisations should partner with marketers that resonate with their brand purpose to deliver lasting results,” says Amy Knight-Dawson, director at Scribe Consulting. “Now more than ever, consumers want to connect authentically with brands. How you choose to tell your story depends on who you pick to spread the message. Choose wisely.”

Knight-Dawson points out that strategy remains essential in the execution of the marketing plan. “Trends shift, tools are seasonal and tactics will only deliver results in the short-term. A solid strategy is crucial to experiencing longevity in the marketplace.”

Digitisation and social media

Digital is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity, giving organisations various marketing tools to build brand awareness and communicate with their clients. Social media has become a space where people connect and meet. While we may see a shift to old ways, digital is here to stay.

For Knight-Dawson, marketing in a savvy and relevant way is vital for any business. In a new digital era, effective marketing requires direction, and the appointed marketer acts as the compass. “The best will successfully connect your story, purpose and business journey to your marketing goals. A good marketing plan is rooted in sound strategy,” she says. “If, as a business, you are not engaging in the digital space, you become redundant or play catch-up,” she adds.

According to the Deloitte report, more than 70 per cent of respondents agreed that they value digital solutions that deepen their connection with other people, and 63 per cent believe they will rely on digital technologies more than they did before the pandemic, even well after the virus subsides.

“Customer competition is stiff, and if you are not speaking to your audience then someone else is,” says van Eyck. “Digital enables brands to speak directly to their targeted audiences. Understanding who that audience is and the best ways to engage them is one way to retain market share.”

McEwen-Powell says that customers want engaging and relevant content. Marketers use content to bring a brand’s purpose to life while helping them authentically connect with their customers and differentiate them from the competition.

However, digital comes with challenges, such as complaints on social media platforms. A well-thought-out PR strategy that includes crisis communications is a must for businesses.

According to Knight-Dawson, how a brand plans for negative press coverage determines the speed at which it bounces back. “As a trusted industry colleague once said ‘hope is not a strategy’.”

“In a crisis, act quickly,” continues van Eyck. “This is not the time to find out what you need to say or can’t say. Plan ahead with crisis scenarios and brainstorm potential responses.”

McEwen-Powell advises brands not to ignore a social media storm, but rather to engage and take the conversation offline as soon as possible. “Companies need to deal with three Rs: remorse is about being authentic; reason is about demonstrating that companies make mistakes too; and rectify is about being open about what your brand is doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” she concludes.

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