How the COVID-19 Upended Sales, Marketing and More

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Early on in the coronavirus epidemic, most people held the view that once the pandemic had passed, normalcy would return bursting with pent-up demand and the economy would quickly return to normal. After seven months, we are still in the midst of this pandemic with no real end in sight.

One of the most dramatic changes has been the rapid acceleration of the need for and adoption of digital technology in many aspects of life.  Many used e-commerce for the first time in order to secure needed products and services while staying safe and limiting physical contact.  E-commerce has quickly become a necessary part of daily life. The ease and convenience of online shopping, curbside delivery or services coming to you is not likely something that consumers will want to give up, especially for those in higher income brackets.  I see online commerce having staying power, at least at the consumer level.

The service sector has also been transformed.  For example, telemedicine use has skyrocketed since the beginning of the year – not only in the United States, but also in the UK.  Entertainment, which formerly involved movie theatres, concert halls, sports stadiums, arenas and other face-to-face venues has also gone virtual.

Finding ways to attract attendees and monetize virtual events continues to be a challenge. But, what about B2B sales?

A longstanding staple of B2B commerce has been the trade shows.

These events have always provided a forum for establishing in-person connections between vendors and prospective customers, but show cancellations due to the virus have been extensive.  In response, organizers have attempted to create online equivalents, but the results have been poorly received and attended by participants.  Another side effect of the pandemic is that budgets across the board have become extremely lean.

What all these changes mean to Marketing and Sales professionals is that they have to rethink the ways they connect with prospects and current customers. The role of digital technologies will form an important part of that connection.  Valuable tools like Zoom and Facetime are only part of the digital transformation of marketplace interactions. Data has become the new currency.  It is critical to be able to utilize data concerning customer online browsing, interaction history, feedback, and purchasing behavior effectively to make sales or marketing decisions and formulate go to market strategies.  These are fundamental details that need to be considered in sales and marketing decisions.

That said, the need for goods and services will never go away.  This applies to consumers, businesses, nonprofit institutions and government units even when resources are limited.  What has changed are the ways of putting possible products, services, and solutions in front of those who need them and those who make the buying decisions?  A recent McKinsey report didn’t offer much in the way of answers to suppliers, but it did put forward a series of questions.  The way sales and marketing professionals answer these questions can point the way to new business strategies that respond to changes in the market like the COVID-19.

Among them:

  • How should the brand’s vision be adapted to emerging demands?
  • What analytics are available to identify and act on opportunities?
  • How should CMO relationships with other C-level executives change?
  • How can personalization be used to enhance customer experience?
  • Which communication strategies work best with your consumers?
  • How can your goods or services be customized to meet changing needs?
  • How should your company’s operating model adapt?

The answers will differ from company to company, but each question assumes that building agility into a company’s internal organization, product development, and messaging tactics will be a key to its business survival in an era of rapid change.

Staying nimble and adapting quickly will be critical for companies that seek to not only survive but to thrive in the future market.  Change is the only constant.  Semper Gumby…Always Be Flexible.

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