4 Marketing Lessons from 2020

As the new year approached, I heard a consistent message: good riddance to 2020! Most people seemed eager to get into 2021, as if by some magic or miracle the turning over of a year would erase all of the challenges we saw in 2020. Trust me, I get it. Like everyone else, I was eager to put the challenges of stay-at-home orders and several months of uncertainty behind me.

As I reflect on 2020 though, I cannot help but end the year grateful. So, rather than reflect on all of the challenges that came my way or faced my team and our clients, I would rather take some time and reflect with you on the good that came out of such a trying year and the team members and clients that made that good possible.

Nothing is all bad or all good

2020 was a stark reminder that nothing in life is at an extreme. With the bad comes good and with the good comes bad. I found this to be true in life with how much time I got to spend with my daughter at home and how much more my sisters and I were able to talk thanks to less chaotic schedules. My puggle certainly enjoyed the abundance of walks and hikes around parks and my neighborhood, and so did my body.

It was the same at Pace Marketing. Did a number of our clients have to pause the work they were doing until they understood what direction the pandemic would take us? Yes, of course. Our eyecare industry clients were affected by low sales while optometrists and ophthalmologists had to stop seeing non-emergency patients. Another client’s product primarily serves university simulation labs. With university students not meeting in person, they had to shift their focus and budget to recover from the loss.

Instead of getting discouraged, my team chose to do what we could to serve our current clients with help brainstorming and strategizing how to pivot as well as implementing projects they could work on. In addition, we took the time to develop additional offerings designed for small businesses – ideas we had been wanting to develop but lacked the time and resources to do so. In other words, they optimized Pace’s value of being Actively Nimble by adapting our workflow to changing internal and external needs while looking for better ways to work in the environment we are in.

My team members deserve the credit

What I alluded to earlier, I now want to state very clearly. My team of pacesetters are a fantastic group of people. They kept incredibly positive attitudes in the face of adversity. When we could no longer meet in our office space, they found ways to stay connected with each other despite a work-from-home environment. They stayed connected with our clients despite the lull in workload. With a little extra time on our hands, they helped develop ideas that will help us provide better service to current and new clients for years to come. I am blown away by their commitment to our clients and our values and am grateful everyday to get to work with such a fine group of people. There are a few key team members I’d like to mention by name:

Shannon Jurenka keeps the wheels moving on the Pace bus. She is one of our project managers and does an excellent job keeping projects on-time while developing strong relationships with our clients. She exemplifies our values of On-Time Quality and Actively Nimble by ensuring we stand by our commitments while adapting to our clients’ needs. After a very busy early 2020 helping clients prepare for national sales meetings, create marketing materials and coordinating tradeshow efforts, I was happy to let Shannon take a breather. But she was happy to jump right in and contribute to new ideas to develop marketing packages for small business owners. She not only helped develop and test what we now call the Marketing Physical, she reached out to connections to test the idea and obtain feedback. And to top it off, Shannon contributed all of that with a smile and encouraging outlook.

Justin Yeary is our resident problem solver and that skill set shined during a trying year. He is always willing to jump in and help wherever he can, demonstrating regularly our values of Humble Integrity and Pursuing Progress. During the pandemic, he has helped us leverage our technology for an even better work-from-home experience while reviewing our internal processes to ensure they were up to date and still met the needs of our business. In addition, he evaluated our technology stack so we could make adjustments for time and budgetary efficiency. When clients began reactivating their campaigns in the fall and it pushed Shannon beyond her capacity, Justin was more than willing to assist in making sure projects were still delivered on time with the quality we expect.

Kim Jones makes sure Pace’s finances stay in order and in the midst of a global pandemic, that was no small order. In addition to the adjustments she had to make to keep Pace on track, she was managing two young boys who had to do school from home. Can you imagine that while trying to balance numbers and reconcile expenses? I cannot. I was thankful my teenager could be mostly self-sufficient with her schooling! When I came upon a new resource to keep better track of our cash flow, Kim was quick to implement it and adjust it to meet our needs so we would have the best future view of our finances. She ensured we were prepared for the PPP application and celebrated the internal changes we made to reduce expenses and increase efficiency, even if it caused her a little more work. Her calm and steady nature made some challenging weeks much easier to get through.

Marketing matters all the time

When the pandemic first hit here in the United States, I started seeing a number of articles discussing why marketing efforts should not be abandoned. It is easy to have skepticism around the idea, especially because the primary source of the encouragement comes from marketers. However, research shows that an organization’s marketing capabilities drive better performance than research and development or operations.1 A 2019 study conducted by CoSchedule found that marketers who proactively planned strategy, set goals and planned projects and campaigns were over 300% more likely to report success.

During a year like 2020, it is common for organizations to pull back on funding in general and marketing is normally at the top of the list of budget cuts. I am not arguing against the need to re-evaluate budgets when unforeseen circumstances arise. I am encouraging business owners to include marketing as a regular, ongoing part of their budget and plan. Consider one of your most important relationships. What would happen if you suddenly stopped communicating with that person regularly? Would your relationship be the same? Would you continue to have trust in your relationship? Part of marketing is building solid, trusting relationships with your customers so that when a need arises that matches the value your product or service provides, they are confident in their decision to choose you. You may need to pivot your strategy, messaging or deliverables to meet the changing needs of the environment but it is important to keep your brand in front of your target audience at all times.

So take note of that 2019 marketing study and consider how you can market to your customers in a way that will build trust and strengthen relationships. The value of creating an emotional connection with your customers is huge. One study by Ipsos Loyalty demonstrated that customers who form an emotional attachment are significantly more likely to stick with and consider other products from the brand while they are nearly twice as likely to recommend the brand to others. We have personally seen the positive effects of building strong client relationships at Pace. Many of our clients have remained loyal to Pace for over five years, including several individuals who have changed companies or roles in the process. We also experienced referrals, even in the midst of the pandemic, that helped us reach beyond our 2020 client acquisition goal.

Consistency matters even more

I believe that marketing matters to a business’s success, but I believe even more that being consistent with marketing will have an even greater impact. Being consistent with your imagery and graphics, messaging and distribution is key to building trust and increasing brand awareness. There are several aspects of marketing that should be considered when it comes to consistency:

  1. Branding: your visual identity should be consistent so your audience recognizes your organization and products. Using brand standards that define your logo, colors, fonts and imagery styles will help you create consistency throughout all of your marketing. You can do this by creating a brand standards document to refer or share with vendors when creating new marketing collateral.
  2. Messaging: I remember once telling a colleague after complaining about something more than likely insignificant that I hate repeating myself. I stopped and reflected and then said, “I guess I’m going to have to get over that.” It’s true that you may feel you are repeating yourself with your marketing messaging and content marketing, but that is not a bad thing. First of all, the goal would be to have more and more new people seeing that message for the first time. The message will be new to them. Second, your prospects and customers need the reinforcement to understand your brand because, quite frankly, they are not thinking about your brand, your products and the value you provide as much as you are.
  3. Distribution: being consistent with how often and where you distribute your marketing collateral and content will help you build brand trust with your customers. Determine what kind of schedule would allow you to consistently stay in front of your target audience so they begin to recognize your brand and your message. Keep in mind that it is now believed that a prospect needs to be touched up to 14 times before recall and recognition begin to occur. 

Pace Marketing’s 2020 in review

1. Krasnikov A, Jayachandran S. The Relative Impact of Marketing, Research-and-Development, and Operations Capabilities on Firm Performance. Journal of Marketing. 2008;72(4):1-11. doi:10.1509/jmkg.72.4.001

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