Now that digitization is changing every industry and every job function, it’s no wonder that marketing has become agile.
Annual plans have given way to quarterly plans that are usually abandoned for what is happening. Every marketing team practices some form of agile or reactive marketing.
In fact, today, having a marketing team that can work in a snap is critical to growing a business.
However, how the members of the marketing team react and what they react to is the difference between an exceptional marketing team and a team that got out of hand. Even in this world of the 24-hour news cycle, marketing teams need to be anchored in strategy and goals in determining direction and how to proceed.
Reactive Marketing: Improper marketing can damage your brand
Typically there are two forms of reactive marketing. The first arises from internal pressures driven by company policy or hierarchies and often leads to a chaotic marketing team that feels overwhelmed and underestimated. Addressed in the second part of this article, this situation is commonly referred to as “Shiny Object Syndrome”.
The second type of reactive marketing is driven by external events. A company’s response, if done right, can help make the brand stand out. If done wrong, it can be incredibly damaging.
When Facebook recently changed its company name to Meta, Wendy tweeted:
Such an immediate – and wise – response to an event that affected so many people attracted a lot of positive attention.
Conversely, here’s an older story you might have heard that still teaches a good lesson: A couple traveled the country blogging about all of the Walmart stores they went to. Eventually it turned out that Walmart had paid the couple to blog about their experience and the company was not transparent about this.
“In 2006 a blog appeared that followed ‘Jim and Laura’ across the country as they drove from Walmart to Walmart and praised the cleanliness of the shops and the helpful staff. People knew something was wrong, and after digging something they found out that the blog was actually created by Walmart’s public relations firm. The stunt cost the company 8% of its sales. Ouch. “- Worst Viral Marketing Campaigns from Jacob Shelton, ranker.com
“Reacting” to a story you have planted yourself will inevitably get you the wrong attention.
Stay grounded in reality
Email, social, and web marketing enable teams to communicate with their customers and prospects faster than ever, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Business leaders love the idea of ”going viral” because it’s an inexpensive way to advertise, but they always mean the good kind of viral, not the “dell hell” of the early days when people showed off their laptops Caught fire.
To respond well, marketing teams need to know what to respond to. That means being clear about the following:
- Who is the audience?
- What does the audience like to hear, read and see?
- Why is it important for this particular brand to respond?
- How effective will the response be? Is it worth dropping our other strategic priorities?
- How risky is that and how high is the company’s risk tolerance?
A strategy-based agile marketing plan
While traveling solo as a consultant, I had a client who was an IT hosting provider focused on growing their healthcare business. At that time, the IT systems of hospitals were regularly affected by ransomware attacks. Tales of the devastating impact the attacks had on patient privacy and brand reputation were all over the news, and the cost to healthcare providers was astronomical. This particular IT company came up with a good solution to ensure that these viruses become a mere nuisance for healthcare providers.
The company’s response is a great example of reactive marketing. It quickly addressed the scenario by highlighting key points:
- The news affected his audience.
- The events were of great importance to the audience.
- It had a unique point of view to convey.
- As a solution, it had something to sell.
- The brand wanted to be perceived as a partner / thought leader in this area.
However, there were critical marketing tactics in the works that needed to be completed within a set time and budget. The team checked several key questions to make sure everything was complete:
- Is that a good use of our time?
- What makes our story different from everyone else’s comments?
- How do we react quickly without derailing other initiatives?
- How are we going to measure whether our real-time responses are working?
After the team agreed that responding to the news was important and had a strategy for doing it, responding to the events became part of the overall marketing plan.
It was also planned to create valuable content for the company’s audience that lasted a little longer but was aligned with the overall story. This added long-term value creation and positioned the company as forward-looking – one that can help healthcare providers meet any challenge.
The result? The company was acquired by a larger hosting company interested in the company’s healthcare customers.
Missed Part 1? Read it here.
Missed part 2? Read it here.
More resources on reactive marketing
Three effective ways to stay agile and relevant during difficult times
Why and when to reassess your B2B branding strategy
Five Twitter mantras: How not to go unenlightened on social media