What marketing can teach sales about adapting to the new normal

The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in existing sales models and colossal gaps in digital readiness.

It isn’t unlike what marketing departments went through half a decade ago when they were forced to reorient their functions to be more analytically driven in the face of consumer habits turning more digital.

Understanding which consumers to focus on, what they care about and how they want to engage, can often feel like a guessing game. 

As sales leaders manage the pressures of this current crisis, now is the time to start laying the foundations for future growth.

Redesigning demand plans, updating brand propositions for a shifting marketplace, and updating outdated consumer insights models are all a part of it – and you need to deploy these tactics across three overarching themes:

  1. Prioritising customer experience
  2. Accelerating the use of data and analytics
  3. Reinventing value propositions

Redefining the customer experience (CX)

We’re witnessing the continued rise of the ‘Creative Experience’, a new approach to customer experience focused on removing friction and eliminating pain-points as much as on delighting and building differentiation.

In a one-click (or no-click) world brands risk becoming increasingly indistinct – and increasingly invisible.

Looking ahead to the next 12 to 24 months, brands are more likely to use agencies for answering important marketing and audience questions, not just day-to-day marketing projects, according to an S2 survey. [1]

However, they’re less likely to engage an agency to provide strategies to support their business or to work on overflow marketing projects.

Agencies need to make assisting with overall marketing strategy a staple in their capabilities.

Because strategic thinking is an area where companies need more from their agencies due to the pandemic.

E-commerce leaders from the US and UK stated that increasing retention rates motivated their drive to pursue a web personalisation strategy.

Indeed, retention rates are now a bigger priority for e-commerce websites than conversion rates, order size, engagement or meeting customer demands for a personalised experience.

We need to accelerate the use of data.

The biggest barrier to success with data today isn’t lagging technology – it’s business culture.

Cultural factors – people and process issues – were cited by 90% of executives [2] as the principal obstacle they face. Only about 1 in 4 executives reported that their organization has successfully forged a data culture.

It isn’t enough for you to embrace modern data architecture, agile methodologies, and integrated business-data teams and establish centres of excellence to accelerate data initiatives.

Data literacy among senior executives is crucial.

A literate executive will recognise the need for the desired outcome and, most importantly, be able to ask the right questions and seek the right assistance to accomplish the goal.

When a company is truly serious about achieving a goal, progress quickly goes from incremental change to rapid transformation.

As senior leaders drive the effort, the company musters both the breadth and depth of its resources, trains and aligns people, and communicates new values and ways of working.

It’s time to separate customer-centricity from a product or service-driven mindset

Most companies believe themselves to be customer-centric when they’re really product- and service-centric first – focusing on how to enhance their offerings rather than putting themselves in their customer’s shoes.

To come up with truly innovative customer-centric ideas you must:

  1. Understand the problem the customer is trying to solve;
  2. Identify and eliminate pain points;
  3. Look beyond your products.

The contrast between companies’ digital maturity programs is stark.

Let’s take Search Engine marketing, for example, it can be a great way to understand how people express their problems and search for solutions.

Research [3] has found that nearly half of the FTSE 100 businesses are missing the chance to capitalise on, something as basic as, search marketing as part of their wider strategy.

During the pandemic, organisations have had to push digital to the forefront of their strategy to survive and online visibility has become particularly valuable to brands that need to drive traffic to their websites.

If you’ve been at it for three years, or more, it’s time to either get serious in addressing mistakes or invest your resources elsewhere – and expect to lose out to competitors.

Why is it important to tackle this right now?

Take Hyundai as an example. Hyundai invested in online retail at a time when less than 1% of all car sales were online.

At the start of the pandemic, nearly three-quarters of Hyundai dealers experienced some type of shut down in the US.

This was around the same time Hyundai launched its revamped hyundaiusa.com that streamlines the car-buying experience and brings actions that were once only possible offline to the comfort of your own home.

Every US Hyundai dealer has signed up for the tools and, as a result, Hyundai retail sales were up 6% in June, while the rest of the industry was down 16%.

If you’re going to survive in a world where consumption happens in a drastically different way now than at the start of the year, there’s no time to sit on your laurels.

Everyone else has spent this year scrambling to catch up to quickly-adapting consumer needs and if you haven’t already started, you’re lagging behind.


[1] Marketing Clients Survey – S2
[2] Why culture is the greatest barrier to data success – MIT
[3] Digital Census Research Report – The Drum