The Evolution of Marketing and Business Development During – and After – the Pandemic

by: Lee Watts, SGR CMO

“The new normal” has become a commonly used term as we think about life and business after the pandemic.  Many industries and companies, and the overall workforce, have been impacted.  And marketers and business leaders are assessing how developing business and executing marketing strategies have also changed.

Without a doubt, marketing and business development practices have been redefined by the pandemic.  As a result, many companies have had to pivot their strategies and tactics for communicating with clients and customers, as well as growing their business with prospects.  As we have faced challenges with health care, the economy and social justice issues, businesses have been forced to adapt and reexamine policies, core values and approaches to the market.  The question remains:  are these changes temporary, or permanent?

Below are some of the major impacts of the pandemic to marketing and business development practices.  As we delve into each of these areas, we can evaluate whether we believe the pivot is permanent, or we will return to “normal” once the pandemic is over.

  1. Digging Deeper with Clients. As business leaders, understanding your audience is one of the key marketing strategies for growth.  When the country effectively shut down, businesses needed to move quickly to understand their audience, i.e., their main concerns, preferred methods of communication, buying patterns, geography, company core values, etc.  In essence, companies needed to go below the surface and take time to really think about their clients’ needs well beyond the sale or the service offering. The world had changed … in a big way.  Companies needed to understand how their clients and customers had changed and understand how they would be impacted by the pandemic and workforce issues.  Now that this expectation has been set, customers and clients will demand this level of attention going forward.
  2. Client Experiences.  Clients and customers have come to expect more, and better, user experiences.  This is happening across every industry – from hospitality to professional services.  A focus on client experience was already on the rise prior to the pandemic, but this expectation is here to stay.  Due to the shutdown, business closures, product shortages, and supply chain disruption, companies needed to quickly adapt and find creative ways to keep clients and customers engaged and pleased despite disruptions and lack of workforce.  What resulted was a surge in e-services and self-service options.  Companies learned quickly how to provide clients with an enhanced experience and more control, as well as better information.
  3. Digital Channels.  Digital transformation accelerated overnight.  The entire world discovered how to host virtual events and become experts at virtual meetings.  This trend is here to stay and is now our new normal. As the pandemic lifts, many companies and organizations will ease back into in-person events, yet virtual experiences will still be part of the marketing mix.  This will not be limited to just virtual events and meetings, but will include such things as offering videos to explain information and products, and digital brochures and other digital platforms to display the digital transformation that has occurred.
  4. Relationships Are Everything.  At the end of the day, business development is about building relationships with our prospects and clients.  It goes without saying that trust and credibility must be at the center of good business development.  Although professionals and business leaders with existing relationships have been able to maintain relationships and momentum during the pandemic, developing new relationships in a virtual environment and within a society experiencing such fear and change has been difficult. Prospecting for new clients and customers has required a different set of skills focused on selling creative solutions, not products or services based on a price point.  Trust, consistency and integrity are the hallmarks to developing new relationships during this tumultuous time. Trust will be the reward for those who listen to clients’ needs and then develop solutions to meet those needs.
  5. Companies Show Their Values.  The pandemic has put a premium on brands and businesses sharing their values and beliefs.  According to a McKinsey report, 61% of consumers report that how a brand responds during the crisis will have a large impact on whether they continue buying it when the crisis is over.  This means marketers must communicate a strong sense of their brand’s purpose – a cause that the brand stands up for, or an area where the brand aims to make a real difference.  Brands can do this through the projects they choose to be involved in, the partners they choose to work with, the way they treat their employees, and the messages they send to customers.  During the pandemic and even as we emerge from the pandemic, employees, clients and customers will be watching to see whether messages change.  They will want to see whether companies remain consistent in their stances on health care and social justice issues. 

I will venture to say that these changes in marketing and business development are here to stay.  As business leaders, brand owners and companies, have you implemented these changes and are you prepared to maintain them permanently?

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