On April 9th, 2020, CEOs Rachel Tipograph (MikMak) and Anda Gasca (Knotch) brought together industry leaders for the fourth installment of the Marketing Roundtable Series: “What’s Working and What’s Not?” Panelists included execs from Petco, Ford, Square, PwC, Wells Fargo, Mastercard, Citi & more, this time focusing on where their companies have been seeing success, where there have been shortcomings, and their predictions for the lasting impact of the pandemic on businesses once offices reopen. Here’s what they shared:
“You’ve got to protect and defend your people and your business at all costs.”
Politicians and medical experts alike are unsure of how long businesses will continue to be affected by COVID-19, but one thing is for sure: at least for now, this is the new normal. What does this mean for marketing leaders? They should be putting time and energy into their employees and team members.
Companies as a whole have been navigating uncharted waters over the last month, but so have its employees. As one panelist put it, “we are going to be remembered for what we did and what we didn’t do” during this time and it’s important to think of what you would like to be remembered for. Now more than any other time in recent history, leaders need to make sure they are fostering an environment of authenticity, empathy, and decisiveness for their employees.
Impactful and effective leaders make an effort to make their employees feel heard and offer a sense of security. As one panelist offered, this can be done by “over communicating.” Communication is key right now, as your teams want to be as informed as possible during these uncertain times and feel their companies have their interests in mind.
People can sense ingenuity
Diving deeper into a point made in one of our previous marketing roundtables, the panelists agreed that inauthentic messaging doesn’t work. “People can tell when you’re forcing it,” explained one panelist. Most brands have been providing customers with messaging on COVID-19 guidelines and offering their sympathies, but sometimes it doesn’t quite fit the brand.
It’s important to “put yourself in the consumer’s shoes.” Focus on how your brand fills a new or consistent need for your customers. Don’t position yourself as just another brand trying to hit their quarterly sales targets, position yourself as a solution to a pain point or deficit your customer may be experiencing.
If you’re struggling with finding this positioning, it’s ok to take this time to try again. “Get back to your roots, take this time to fix the things that weren’t working before,” noted one panelist. Use this time to strengthen the core of your business and focus on “giving value instead of taking value.” You always want to make sure you are anchoring your business in understanding the needs of your customers and how you can assist them.
“Prepare to emerge in the new economy”
Smart leaders find the balance of “trying to act short-term and keeping their long-term projects moving as well.” Although the exact date remains to be seen, eventually, we will make it past this pandemic and when we all do, we want to make sure that we’ve learned from it.
Regarding leadership, one panelist predicts that the value in types of leadership will dramatically shift. While historically, “soft skills were undervalued,” leaders that have been leading their teams with empathy in addition to driving business are the ones who are going to rise to the top. Eventually, roles will become available again for many companies affected by the pandemic, and when those roles are posted, potential employees will take note of how leadership dealt with their teams during a time of crisis.
Another point made by the panelists was to remain flexible. For many companies, a lot of their marketing budgets relied on physical events that can no longer happen. While many have opted into either cancelling or virtualizing their events until the pandemic is over, one panelist noted that even after this, “people are not going to want to be in large crowds.” For them, this means banking on a future where their company is “going bigger on virtual” potentially for the long haul. We don’t know what the future of marketing holds, but we do know that our decisions today will influence it.