Now that digital technology is disrupting every industry and work function, it is no wonder that marketing has become agile.
Annual plans have given way to quarterly plans that are usually eventually rejected because of everything that is currently happening. Every marketing team practices some form agile or reactive marketing.
In fact, today, a marketing team that can run a coin is key to an organization’s growth.
However, the way members of the marketing team react and what they react to is the difference between an outstanding marketing team and one that is out of control. Even in this world of 24-hour news cycle, marketing teams need to be grounded in strategy and purpose when determining direction and the way forward.
Reactive marketing: making a mistake can be detrimental to your brand
Typically, reactive marketing comes in two forms. The first comes from internal pressure driven by company policy or hierarchy, and often leads to a chaotic marketing team that feels overwhelmed and underestimated. Addressed to second part of this article, this situation is generally referred to as “shiny object syndrome”.
The second type of reactive marketing is driven by external events. The company’s reaction, if done properly, can help raise the brand. If done wrong, it can be incredibly harmful.
When Facebook recently changed its company name to Meta, Wendy tweeted:
Such an immediate – and smart – reaction to an event that affected so many people received a lot of positive attention.
On the other hand, here’s an older story you may have heard that still teaches a good lesson: The couple traveled the country and wrote a blog about all the Walmart stores they visited. Eventually it was revealed that Walmart paid the couple to blog about their experiences, and the company was not transparent about it.
„2006. A blog appeared that followed ‘Jim and Laura’ across the country as they walked from Walmart to Walmart, praising the cleanliness of the shops and service staff. People knew something was going on, and after digging a bit they discovered that the blog was actually created by Walmart’s PR firm. That stunt ultimately cost the company 8% of its revenue. Alas. ” —Jacob Shelton’s Worst Viral Marketing Campaigns, ranker.com
“Reacting” to a story you’ve planted yourself is sure to get the wrong attention.
Stay grounded in reality
Email, social and web marketing allow teams to communicate with their clients and potential clients faster than ever before, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Company leaders love the idea “it goes viral“Because it’s a cheap way to get publicity, but they always think about it good somehow viral, not the “Dell Hell” of the early days when people would show their laptops how to light up.
In order to respond well, marketing teams need to know what to respond to, which means they have clarity about the following:
- Who is the audience?
- What does the audience like to hear, read and see?
- Why is it important for this brand to react?
- How effective will the reaction be? Is it worth rejecting our other strategic priorities?
- How risky is it and what is the company’s risk tolerance?
Agile marketing plan aligned with strategy
When I was alone, as a consultant, I had a client who was an IT hosting provider focused on developing his business in the healthcare sector. At the time, hospital IT systems were regularly hit by ransomware attacks. Stories were everywhere about the devastating effects the attacks had on patient privacy and brand reputation, and the cost to healthcare professionals was astronomical. This particular IT company had a good solution that ensured that these viruses became a common nuisance to healthcare professionals.
The company’s response serves as a great example of reactive marketing. He quickly dealt with the script, highlighting important points:
- The news affected his audience.
- The events caused great concern for his audience.
- He had a single point of view to convey.
- There was something to sell as a solution.
- The brand wanted to be seen as a partner / leader of thought in that space.
However, critical marketing tactics were in the making that also needed to be completed on time and on budget. The team considered several important issues to make sure it was all over:
- Is this a good use of our time?
- How is our story different from everyone else’s comments?
- How to react quickly without throwing another initiative off the rails?
- How will we measure whether our real-time answers work?
After the team agreed that it was important to react to the news and that it had a strategy on how to do it, responding to events became part of the overall marketing plan.
There was also a plan to create pieces of content valuable to the company, which took a little longer, but were in line with the whole story. This has helped add value in the long run and positioned the company as advanced – one that could help healthcare professionals respond to any challenge.
The result? The company was bought by a larger hosting provider who was interested in the company’s health clients.
Missed part 1? Read here.
Missed part 2? Read here.