Survival to success: marketing in COVID-normal

Navigating the impacts of decreased budgets, employee redundancies and changing consumer habits in 2020, small to mid-sized businesses were forced to rethink marketing plans and find short-term solutions for survival.

With 2020 behind us and the Australian economy on an upward trajectory, businesses find themselves in a more stable environment, with the opportunity to create plans that pursue long-term success, not only short-term survival. In order to drive lasting success with marketing plans this year, and make 2021 more successful and sustainable, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Turn challenge into opportunity

The impact of recent events on small businesses is undeniable, with an estimated six out of 10 SMEs feeling losses of up to 75 per cent in 2020. As a result, even businesses that remained open and operational throughout the course of the pandemic, were executing marketing strategies on tighter budgets and trying to appeal to rapidly fluctuating customer behaviours. While the new year provides greater hope and security, it’s important to reflect on the tactics that served a business well, and adapt them thoughtfully to help achieve long-term goals.

Businesses should be mindful of the ways the industry, its customers, and individual capabilities have changed. For example, if a small business transitioned to eCommerce for the first time last year, they’ll want to consider how to spend the coming months and years perfecting an end-to-end omnichannel experience for customers, and which marketing tools will give them more of what they need, when they need it.

Embrace the marketing methods that gained popularity in a COVID-world

Navigating a COVID-normal is dependent on businesses embracing the marketing methods that were introduced, or accelerated during the course of the pandemic. The increased reliance on digital marketing, for example, was well-underway long before the pandemic. However, until 2020 many small businesses had not yet felt a need to embrace this method of marketing entirely.

Fast forward to today, and integrating digital models is quickly taking over small business plans, with 87 per cent of total marketing budgets expected to go digital by 2022. With more consumers using the internet to research products and services, it’s necessary to think of ways to transition marketing online, supported by technology. Not only will this grant more flexibility for future challenges, but by leveraging the right software – more affordable and accessible than ever before – smaller businesses can benefit from sophisticated technology to empower marketing methods without breaking the bank.

Streamline your tools

Adopting a suite of integrated software that will streamline the different pillars of a marketing department will prove greatly beneficial – from organising and nurturing contacts with a CRM solution, to creating and measuring the success of strategic marketing campaigns with survey and analytical tools. The true benefit of integrated technology goes beyond marketing though, and can empower a team seamlessly across every business function, from payroll and collaboration to project management and IT support.

Faced with the uncertainties of 2020, well-thought-out marketing strategies were flipped on their heads, replaced by quick survival tactics based on staying ahead of the unpredictable changes each new week presented. Through the undeniable struggles, the year presented alternative, lasting methods of connecting with customers, which will offer even more value as businesses enter a more stable economy. This year provides hope for marketers while living in an era where businesses are able to draw on technology to innovate and grow – a truth that came to light throughout the course of the pandemic. Armed with the knowledge and skills gained from last year, 2021 could be the pivotal year that accelerates marketing capabilities for SMEs.

Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho