The “Four A’s” Needed to Market in Chaotic Times

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No brand’s 2020 marketing plans included “create pandemic and recovery back-up strategies.” The “Great Disrupter,” aka COVID-19, derailed every well-crafted strategy and innovative idea. And now, with half of the year in the books, the question still hovers: “How are marketers supposed to drive new traffic, sales, and customer engagement in a year when nothing is status quo?”

When life gets complicated, it’s time to simplify. And in 2020, the simplest path forward is applying the discipline of the 4 A’s: Assess, Agile, Activate, and Adjust.

Discipline One: Assess Local Data

The pandemic is a global event, but the effect is felt at a local level.

Each community is experiencing the impact of COVID-19, along with the associated physical, mental, and fiscal instability, in varying degrees. The inconsistency of the virus’s spread across the nation combined with a volatile economy has translated to an unpredictable consumer mindset, oscillating from optimistic (ready to engage in pre-pandemic behavior) to crippling fear (worried over the state of personal finances and health). The consumer mindset is directly tied to their local experience.

As marketers, our assessment of the balance between local physical and fiscal health is the foundation for formulating focused strategies. To help track the local consumer mindset trends, a new measure was developed: Economic Resilience Index.

The Economic Resilience Index (ERI) estimates the relative strength of US county-level economies – assessing the pace at which fiscal recovery will occur. The ERI is a local indicator of the consumer state of mind, but it is only one piece of the local data puzzle.

Evaluating the ERI with additional local layers like Google Mobility data, which indicates where customers are moving, and Transaction Sales data, which reveals how customers are spending, helps us identify the point when the consumer’s mindset transitions to a willingness to engage and ultimately convert.

Discipline Two: Agile Test-and-Learn Plan

Building on what you now know about your local customer, you will be able to create relevant content. But without history to leverage, how do you know what is the most effective marketing plan? Test, test, and test again. An agile test strategy is a must-have in 2020.

Testing has long been a tool of effective marketers for optimizing content and spend while mitigating risk. Today, testing is imperative for driving success. Deliberate, short term, hypothesis-driven tests are crucial.

If testing has always been a part of your process, lean into this strength during these uncertain times. Test frequently and iterate on success.

If testing is new to you, keep it simple. Leverage basic methodologies like A/B tests, evaluating the results based on a few pre-identified KPIs, such as sales lift and open rate. You need to be diligent as you master this discipline. Start small with your test designs. Combine clear-cut hypotheses with uncomplicated methods.

Keeping your agile testing strategy simple will translate to accurate and actionable results.

Discipline Three: Activate Winning Plans

If you haven’t created a “roll-to-market plan” aligned to your test design, your test is a waste of precious time and money. The ability to test agilely is only effective if the same agility exists to pivot and activate the winning plan. Moving from a small controlled idea to a market-wide rollout requires as much discipline as creating a statistically sound test.

Adopting and transforming the winning test to an execution plan entails cross-functional alignment spanning beyond the marketing team’s virtual walls. Evaluate your team structure to ensure you do not have any self-imposed barriers. Align on the rollout plan before the test is launched. Even though many tests do not meet the threshold of success, incorporating the practice of cross-team alignment at the beginning of the process will allow for a quick roll to market when you uncover the winning strategy. And faster rollout translates to greater success.

Discipline Four: Adapt & Adjust

And do it again.

True discipline requires practice and focus. In this unpredictable market, adaptability and proactive adjustments will be the most important discipline to grow. Allow the data to inform and drive your decisions. Be willing to let go of that “perfect plan,” adapting and adjusting to accommodate the current consumer mindset.

Stay simple and apply the discipline of the “A’s” to weather the storm of the “Great Disrupter.”

And then do it again. And again. And again.

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