How Marketing Can Overcome Covid-19 and Stay on Course

How Marketing Can Overcome Covid-19 and Stay on Course

Taking four steps during the coronavirus pandemic will make the difference for CMOs in the short term.

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How Marketing Can Overcome Covid-19 and Stay on Course

As the health and economic effects of the coronavirus spread, corporate marketing leaders must grapple with new or intensified challenges each day among their customers, employees and partner firms.

Consumers have been snapping up basic products and services and increasing orders for home delivery, which stretches the capacity of many companies’ network, website and back-office functions. Meanwhile, many marketing teams now must work from home, even as businesses consider cutting their marketing budget. Besides canceled events, closed stores and suspended production, marketers’ messages have come under more scrutiny and may even be criticized on social media.

The convergence of these extreme events tests the resolve of chief marketing officers (CMOs) and their teams. At the same time, they’re being asked to respond faster, bolder, and with more conviction than ever.

CMOs thus need to steer their ship through uncertain winds and turbulent seas full of hidden reefs. They can hold course by keeping four principles in mind.

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Keep the crew Agile and flexible

To work more effectively in a new environment, this is the time to truly incorporate Agile principles and new metrics of success (see Figure 1). Seize the moment to rewire decision making, while creating new teaming arrangements and missions for people. Roles will be disrupted anyway.

Figure 1

Agile principles are well-suited to operating amid the coronavirus pandemic

Agile principles are well-suited to operating amid the coronavirus pandemic

Consider setting up a “win room” with the sales team to secure the revenue line. This entails conducting a rapid, data-driven red/yellow/green risk assessment of the revenue base at a segment level by customer, product, channel and geography. Reinspect the entire pipeline with a sober assessment of each opportunity; elevate the most critical opportunities for more support. Then to go on offense, build a granular map of potential revenue—customer by customer and product by product—to guide investment and experimentation.

Clarify who’s accountable for what

When marketing groups need to make decisions quickly, it may be harder than ever to escalate questions to more senior executives. Use this predicament as a chance to clear up roles and ownership of decisions, in order to move faster.

CMOs can use tools such as RAPID®, which clarifies decision accountability. RAPID—a loose acronym for input, recommend, agree, decide and perform—assigns owners to the five key roles in any decision (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

The RAPID® method clarifies who has what role in key decisions

The RAPID® method clarifies who has what role in key decisions

Own your crown jewels

Marketers must understand and address their customers’ priorities, or else risk losing touch. They’ll need to track changing consumer behavior, build insights and then activate campaigns based on those insights.

To do so, they rely on partnerships with marketing providers and agencies. But in managing those partnerships, they shouldn’t cede their most precious assets. Marketers must own their data, data models and insights. And they must own the customer relationship.

Maintain trust with your partners

Agencies and other external partners are also struggling with remote work issues, budget cuts and canceled campaigns. Go out of your way to align with agency partners on goals and incentives. Some agencies will become more important as the only medium for updating content or issuing timely communications.

In the face of uncertainty about how long the health crisis and its economic effects will last, taking these actions now will helps CMOs weather the initial storm and put their companies on a better course for the coming months.

Christine Removille and Laura Beaudin are partners with Bain’s Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, and Laura leads the practice’s Marketing Excellence group. They’re based, respectively, in Paris and San Francisco.

RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc.

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The global Covid-19 pandemic has extracted a terrible human toll and spurred sweeping changes in the world economy. Across industries, executives have begun reassessing their strategies and repositioning their companies to thrive now and in the world beyond coronavirus.


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