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Marketing in times of disruption

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Guest Column: Archana Sinha, Senior Director – Marketing, Salesforce India, writes how marketers can innovate to meet the expectations of customers in the new environment

As marketers, how do you get customers to spend again, and communicate how your products and services are aligned to their changing needs?  Marketers need to adapt to meet the expectations of customers in a customer-centric environment. Understand the nuances of technology-rich innovation, reducing the time and cost to generate new experiences for customers. Invest in your own abilities as a disruptive innovator, while making the company think and act like a disruptor, during and after the crisis. And lastly, empower customer innovations they already knew were right but did not have the will to pursue

To provide actionable insights for marketers and brand custodians, Salesforce recently hosted a webinar on ’How to Innovate in Times of Disruption’.

Hosted by Saurabh Rawal, Data & Identity Lead at Salesforce, the session featured James McQuivey, Ph.D., Principal Analyst & VP at Forrester, and the author of Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation. Here are some insights from the session.

  • Start and end with the customer

Forrester Research has identified four fundamental needs every customer has. Customers enjoy comfort, they want to stay connected, express their uniqueness, and choose from a great variety.

Marketers can support their organisation in creating communication and brand identity that showcases how their business is obsessed with fulfilling these customer needs. There’s a direct bottom-line benefit to this approach. A Forrester report on ‘The Customer-Obsessed Enterprise’ discusses how these firms enjoy higher revenue growth, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.

  • Use data to build relationships and gain a competitive edge

At a time when communication is high on sympathy, data can help you move the needle to empathy; from ‘we care about you’ to ‘we care about the things that matter to you’.  Data lets you hyper personalise customer communication to demonstrate this attention to customer preferences. Understanding data makes us all better at being able to be agile with our strategy and create compelling content that reaches people through both the head and the heart.

And with predictive analysis, you can even provide intelligent recommendations that excite and engage your customer. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to receive a message from your beloved pizza brand that tells you that not only are they offering contactless delivery, but that your favourite crust and toppings are already in your cart?

Solutions like Marketing Cloud help consolidate customer data from various touchpoints to present a unified view of the customer. With this 360-degree view of customers’ interactions, preferences and behaviours, brands can hyper personalise communication and reach out to them with the right messages at the right time. Showing that you care about customer preferences can be more powerful than blanket promotions and offers.

  • Leverage technology to do more with less

The cost of innovation has declined as technology has become cheaper. This, in turn, has increased the pace of (marketing) innovation, helping bring more ideas to market far quicker than before. In these times of slashed marketing budgets, and with customers spending a large chunk of their time online, traditional marketing channels are losing traction. Digital marketing, on the other hand, gives you access to a global audience in a more cost-effective way. Using analytics and social listening, marketers can also create more focused and engaging campaigns.

Metro shoes for example, tweaked its marketing strategy to launch the #ShoesOffcampaign that recognised the change in customer behaviour due to COVID-19. Through this campaign, the footwear brand promoted social distancing and stay-at-home messaging through contests on Facebook and Instagram while simultaneously encouraging customers to explore fun things to do with shoes.

During these extraordinary times, marketers must think like a disruptor. Isolate the parts of your ecosystem that you can influence, such as customer behaviour and spending patterns, and be open to experimenting with new technology.

  • Market with Empathy

In today’s climate, marketers have to channel their sixth sense: empathy. They must rely on their understanding of their customers and themselves during life’s most stressful events. Values and belief systems matter more than ever – this can’t be just a marketing exercise. Businesses are powerful platforms for social change and one of the platforms where we can best help educate, elevate, empower, and learn. Marketers need to engage through empathy. To gain empathy, marketers need to listen to our communities, employees, customers and partners, and remind themselves that they are marketing to people.

Great brands create strong brand equity if they manage these moments well. They outstand from others by embracing their core values, eschewing short term gains in favour of caring for their employees and customers. They know how to use the brand building media effectively to generate a share of voice to emerge not just alive but a winner in such situations.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

About the author / 

Archana Sinha

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