Marketing During COVID-19: Time to Recalibrate?

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was coordinating a marketing planning session at a Chicago hotel with most of the management team for the 3PL that I then ran marketing for.

When the news about the World Trade Center attack hit, the rest of that morning was spent absorbing the devastating news and communicating with loved ones. But it was clear no one was traveling home, even if they wanted to, since all flights were cancelled.

So, the question was: do we have an afternoon session to talk through some of the critical issues identified in our original agenda, plus how the attack might impact future marketing and sales efforts? Or, do we postpone it?

I chose to move forward. I’m sure some in the room thought I was nuts, but they respected my decision and we at least began to create a blueprint for a go-forward marketing and sales strategy in a post 9/11 world.

My immediate reaction to the events of 9/11, once I was sure my family members were safe, was mostly anger and defiance. By attacking one of our great symbols of commerce, our enemies expected U.S. commerce to grind to a halt as a shocked populace could do nothing else but watch Tower 2 fall for the 27th time on CNN.

I just wasn’t going there.

The COVID-19 crisis, while it bears little resemblance to 9/11, has the potential to trigger some of the same negative fallout – if we let it.

It’s so easy to become paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all. But “wait and see” just doesn’t feel like a strategy.

Eventually, Americans will come out of their houses and start buying. When that happens, your pre-COVID-19 marketing objectives and revenue goals will still be there, staring you in the face.

Why not take a cue from stock and real estate investors, who know that the best time to double down is when others are running for cover? Even if it takes some EXTRA work to capitalize on the opportunity.

If the pipeline is robust, work it. Otherwise, use this time to recalibrate.

Look at strategy.

If what you have been doing is not working, ask yourself why. If your core message doesn’t set you apart and is just not resonating with your target prospects, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

Look at tactics.

When’s the last time you did a full-fledged ROI analysis on your key spend buckets? Is it time to truly learn how to leverage online meetings, webinars and other virtual events that may largely define future sales interactions?

Look at process and technology.

If the future of work is Work-From-Home, can you update technology and collaboration platforms to ensure you are getting the most from your internal team and agency partners?

Look at that highly strategic project you’ve been putting off forever.

Is now the time to get it done? 

I’m not suggesting COVID-19 has created all this newfound “think time” for logistics marketers. In fact, with increased internal and customer communications, it could be just the opposite. I’m just saying that when things return to normal, it will be a slightly different version of the normal we all knew. It’s certainly worth investing some extra time to think about what that will look like, and what we can do NOW to prepare our organizations to win.

Again, stock brokers work overtime in a bear market, making strategic buys while everyone else is selling.

One thing COVID-19 has done is shine a very bright spotlight on the essential nature of logistics services. We didn’t want that kind of advertising, but we got it. No shippers will come out of this episode in our history thinking they need to decrease their focus on smart, efficient logistics services.

That spells opportunity for those of us who market and sell solutions that make supply chains faster, more efficient, more visible, more reliable. We provide an essential function in an essential industry.

So let’s get after it.

Take this time to move your organization forward, while the rest of the world searches for toilet paper.


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