The future of marketing and sales departments in a post-covid world

A post-covid world will change the way companies market their products and services. Most people accept that a severe crisis will follow for months, if not years. What is not so clear is how consumers will evolve and how marketing and sales departments should adapt to them.

In my opinion, while the response will differ by industry, some of the trends we observed before Covid will accelerate in the coming months. However, some firms will have a harder time adapting to other trends due to the new cash constraints and the upcoming recession. Here are some personal reflections.

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From competing on value to competing on purpose? The long confinement we are suffering now will probably make us reflect and think more, as we are seeing many stories where people re-discover the importance of human virtues and sacrifice. Consumers will demand some of these transcendent behaviors to brands. However, on the other hand, unemployment and poverty will unfortunately increase, so there will be more demand for low-cost brands. These two (value for money and purpose) can coexist in the same brands. And if I have to bet for only one, I would bet for the former, as consumers have demonstrated in the past that they forgive brands’ misconduct when the price is competitive.

From similar profiles to new profiles? Marketing departments were seeing new profiles being demanded (content creators, data scientists, SEO/SEM experts, IT developers, agile consultants, etc). In the new situation, I expect this will remain a reality, especially as companies speed up their transition to digital channels. This is an opportunity for professionals young and old, who have to reinvent themselves and remain competitive in the marketplace. And companies will probably find it easier to find new talent at lower salaries.

From established well-known tactics to a new and changing toolkit? Traditional marketing tactics and media to generate leads or create the brand are still valid and probably their cost will be reduced in the following months. However, I expect that boards will be much less prone to invest in tactics whose effectiveness cannot be directly measured (such as many mass media campaigns and some sales teams) and will demand more modern tactics where they think ROI is more easily measured (e.g., performance marketing). This existing trend will accelerate, I think, but one must keep in mind that easily measured and short-term tactics are not always the most efficient and effective in the long-run. However, when cash is scarce, the argument for long-term efficiency/effectiveness is usually lost.

From traditional research to advanced analytics? Traditional research techniques such as focus groups, surveys, ethnography, in-depth interviews, etc. are probably more important than ever, as we need to understand how our clients are changing. Will boards be patient enough and able to see the value of such knowledge, especially when cash is scarce? I doubt it. Advanced analytics, while not a substitute for traditional research, was the trend in many organizations before covid. However, in order to be good at advanced analytics, the investments in marketing and sales technologies (Martech and Salestech) are substantial and few firms already excel at that. Hence, many firms will not have enough cash or commitment to invest in this. Chances are they will not then be able to exploit a large part of their strategic move towards the new world of marketing.

From broad segmentation to hyper-segmentation? There will be a greater opportunity of hyper-segmenting customers, especially when heterogeneity exists in customer’s profits and needs. But this, again, requires a substantial investment in Martech/Salestech and also in attracting new profiles.

From one-message-few-copies to becoming a media house? Hyper segmentation requires the marketing department to produce many more copies and sometimes, depart from the traditional copy creation to a branded content approach. That might not mean more cost, but probably new profiles, new agencies, and a whole new organization.

From an established channel design to omnichannel strategies and the rise of platforms? During the covid confinement, the digital channel is showing us what can and cannot deliver. This will surely make companies re-think their channel strategy and chances are many will speed up their digital channels. But this will also be an opportunity to modernize the traditional channels, such a sales teams that are very effective (high sales per exposure) but inefficient (high cost per exposure). Can sales technologies increase the efficiency of our teams? I think so. Will firms have the cash to invest in this? We’ll see. This is also a moment in which many Big Tech firms using platform models are growing their power and market dominance. Bad news for some companies that were already suffering (take, for example, the case of Amazon in many product categories vs. traditional and less digitalized retailers)

From slow-decision making processes to agile and automation? The covid pandemia has suddenly slapped us in the face and many businesses and individuals are doing things they never thought they would ever do. Agile is no longer a “fancy” and “overused” word, it is now a must to survive for many. At the same time, a reduction in the workforce of many companies will speed up the trend to automate whatever decision making that could be automated. This is, again, impossible without the right technologies in place.

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