As states and businesses open back up, brands are struggling with how to navigate both an uncertain and unstable economy. Marketers are trying to figure out how to re-engage customers and accelerate sales, and they’re doing so in uncharted territories.
On Market with Me Quikly —a podcast to inform, educate and assist B2C marketers in doing their job just a little bit better — we spoke to a noted industry expert who literally wrote the book on how companies can stay relevant, Allen Adamson. He has worked with businesses in industries ranging from packaged goods and technology, to healthcare and financial services, to hospitality and entertainment.
Adamson is Co-founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce, a disruptive marketing and product consultancy firm. In addition to that, he is an NYU Stern Adjunct Professor of Marketing. His book about relevance, “Shift Ahead,” addresses just how critical it is to be able to shift focus and evolve in our fast-changing world. He has been featured on shows like ABC News Nightline, NBC’s Today Show and CNBC’s Squawk Box — in addition to publications like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
In our conversation, he offered a lot of valuable insight that can help other marketers navigate doing their jobs during this time. Here are a few key takeaways:
Now is not the time to wait
“There's no roadmap for what's ahead,” Adamson said. “You need to be much more flexible now.”
One of the biggest findings in his book is rooted in the ability to change. He explained brands are better off trying something new and learning from it. But that can be difficult when our natural instinct may be to sit still and stay the same when things feel chaotic. Overcoming analysis paralysis is critical to both surviving and thriving in a fast-paced digital landscape, which has been moving even more rapidly due to the global pandemic.
A brand doing this especially well is Starbucks, which has been innovating the way coffee has been sold since its inception. Over time, the company has slowly introduced small and simple things, like writing a customer’s name on a cup, to ones a little more bold, like being able to order ahead. And Adamson said waiting for the hypothetical storm to pass is not how brands like Starbucks continue to be leaders in their space.
“Now is the time to try something new,” Adamson said. “And to say that — maybe the world doesn't just snap back to yesterday. Maybe it snaps back, more likely, to something completely different.”
He recommends making frequent, incremental changes over time rather than a large, sweeping overhaul.
An exception he noted: adapting to a climate that has drastically changed, like a pandemic. For example, many quick service restaurants were able to make the pivot from selling meals to offering grocery items, which successfully served their customers.
So try something new. And do it now.
Zig when everyone else zags
When you decide now is the time to act, make sure it’s unique. Instead of trying to be like everyone else in your space, be the one to try something different.
For ideas on how to do this, Adamson suggests “zooming out and looking around.” He said marketers shouldn’t be focused on what their competitors are doing. Instead, observing what’s working for businesses in slightly different industries can offer a fresh perspective.
“I think the first step is to realize that change doesn't happen right in front of your nose. It comes from the side,” he noted.
So now is the time to change, and that can be done by looking to the fringes. Adamson says customers value brands who stick out in the sea of sameness.
Focus on the experience
Make customers feel special by giving them options and offering experiences that can be customizable.
This can be done in a multitude of ways, especially as we navigate the current climate. From curbside pickup and delivery, to payment options, to specific store hours for vulnerable populations — Adamson said giving consumers a seamless experience during a stressful time will bode especially well for a brand.
In addition to the obvious ways to cater to your customer, this is the moment to try something new here too. In our conversation, he floated ideas like giving diners the ability to pick a table at a restaurant ahead of time like they could a seat in a movie.
And while he thinks incentives are important for consumers who may be struggling financially, he doesn’t think sales are enough to get people purchasing.
“Make a sale more than just the price and weave it into an experience.”
Listen to the full podcast episode with Adamson for more details on how to re-engage customers and accelerate sales. Additionally, check out Quikly’s webinar with Vibes on how to do this through SMS/text and email marketing.
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