Planning for 2021? Keep pivoting.

EAG, November 3, 2020

If there is one word that best describes business in 2020, it is ‘pivot’. To pivot, is a phrase used in the startup world to mean shifting to a new strategy. It is often used to describe drastically changing a whole company, focusing on new customers or markets.

In 2020, pivot became the mantra for many businesses and industries that faced previously unimaginable business disruption.

Now that 2021 is fast approaching, we tried to find a word that would best describe the precarious markets we face. We keep returning to the advice being given across the business world – prepare to pivot.

Although a drastic shift of customers or markets may not be needed by most businesses, shifting marketing strategies is unquestionable. Some channels, like networking, have gone dark. Others like tradeshows are shifting to a virtual model. Few marketing strategies in 2021 will resemble those of recent memory.

As 2021 strategic plans are being written, we offer a partial guide to pivoting your marketing approach in an era of constant change.

As if we needed a motivation to move business online.

If Amazon has taught us anything, it is that consumers will purchase just about anything online and demonstrate enormous patience as our purchases are shipped to us. But patience isn’t a consumer virtue, so now just about any product is available overnight.

Many companies and entire industries resisted the trend to move to an online model and hung on to traditional means of conducting business. Now those companies are forced to add an ecommerce model and are considerably late to the party.

Product order and delivery is not the only ecommerce transaction that has blossomed. Online scheduling is now one of the fastest growing segments of digital customer service delivery. Any way a business can increase communication and engagement with the customer should be embraced.

Look for any way to increase engagement, improve the user experience and expand communication channels with your customers, then make sure you fulfill that need online.

A vaccine alone won’t cure the lack of tradeshows.

Innovation comes fast and furious when business is most challenged. The entire tradeshow industry has been devastated and a vaccine alone won’t restore tradeshows to their previous days of glory because of innovation.

Companies are finding ways to redefine tradeshows, taking them apart piece-by-piece and creating alternatives that hadn’t been previously conceived. Some of this new innovation will replace longtime aspects of the traditional tradeshow.

What’s hot? Virtual product demonstrations and online education platforms. Aside from networking and the social part of tradeshows, product demonstrations and education were the two primary reasons people attended shows. With both moving to an online model, entire industries will rethink how and when tradeshows return.

In the meantime, consider how your business can add virtual product demonstrations or education without ever attending a tradeshow. The investment will pay dividends.

Budgets are shrinking. How much is too much?

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

John Wannamaker circa 1915

Truer words were never spoken.

Sales are down for some, up for others. What is apparent for all is that budgets for marketing must be scrutinized closely and methods for determining the optimum spending level must be put into place.

Determining how to create and monitor a marketing budget is not new. For many companies, percent-of-sales has become a standard benchmark for monitoring marketing expenses. But when short term sales declines are unpredictable, more predictable methods must be found.

At EAG Advertising & Marketing, we’ve spent considerable time helping our clients determine how much is too much (or too little) to spend on marketing. We encourage you to visit our website and learn more about measuring your investment in marketing.

How to invest in marketing.

Look under every rock for new customers.

What matters most when it comes time to pivot is the ability to find new customers. Every step you take, every marketing tactic you invest in should result in a pivot toward new customers.

First take a good, hard look at current marketing tactics with a judgmental eye. Does that investment play a role in helping you find and engage new customers? If not, consider shifting resources to strategies that are more sales-driven and measurable.

Don’t confuse pivoting your marketing tactics toward new customer acquisition with abandoning those strategies that make your brand stronger. Both can co-exist but it may be time to shift emphasis and budget.

For example, can you attribute new customer acquisition to your organic social media posts? If not, perhaps less time on social media and more time on paid search strategies might pay off. If tradeshows won’t return in the near future, is it time to develop ecommerce options as an investment strategy?

Of all things, remain optimistic.

Think back to March 2020 and realize how resilient American business is. Our economy was, and in some sectors still is, devastated by market conditions. But business has rallied and pivoted beyond our imagination. Take the wheel with both hands and watch the signs. Yes, there are obstacles ahead but stay the course – and we will come out of this on the other side.


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