4 Ways to Change-Proof Your Marketing Strategy


One of the many lessons we’ve learned in 2020 is that the world can change—dramatically—in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s due to a global pandemic, widespread social unrest, or some other unforeseen catastrophe, change can have a notable effect on your marketing strategy. Since change is constant—and, as we’ve learned, what it brings about can potentially stretch longer than what we initially expect—you need to keep your marketing strategy fluid. Here’s how to ensure it can weather whatever changes come your way.

Keep your ear to the ground

Your customers are your bread and butter, so understanding how your customers perceive your brand is critical. Not just during pivotal events such as product launches and campaign kickoffs, but every single day. Maintaining a baseline of consumer input can help you quickly identify shifting trends or, worse, shifting sentiment about your products so that you can pivot quickly if needed. 

For example, would you be interested to learn that people were upset with your brand because an item you featured in social media ads had sold out, but users were still receiving (and engaging with) the ads? Or that a charitable campaign you were running (buy one and we’ll donate one) didn’t sit well with customers? 

Here are several ways to keep your ear to the ground on customer sentiment:

  • Practice social listening across multiple channels to monitor what your customers and prospects are saying about your brand and your industry. 
  • Review comments your brand is receiving on social media and ecommerce sites regularly.
  • Check in with customer service and call centers to identify any common pain points, surges in demand, or outright complaints about your brand.
  • Monitor product reviews and capture any recurring themes or emerging trends.
  • Gather input from customers directly through a variety of research methodologies, such as surveys, focus groups, or interviews. Not all customers are vocal about their opinions, so this is also an important step in learning about their perceptions. 
Stress-test your online capabilities

While no one could have predicted the sudden surge in online demand for groceries and staples caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many retail businesses, such as grocery chains and delivery services, were ill-prepared when consumers stampeded to online retailers in early 2020. Yet something as simple as optimized digital account creation flows—to easily onboard online users and keep them moving smoothly toward conversion—could have helped small-to-mid-sized retailers gain a foothold in households that may have previously been loyal to larger ecommerce platforms.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to provide seamless, integrated experiences for customers across channels and platforms. According to a July 2020 report issued by McKinsey, supply-chain issues caused by COVID-19 prompted 60% of global online customers surveyed to change their shopping behavior, with approximately three-quarters of US respondents saying those changes would stick for the longer term. 

Here’s a starter digital user experience checklist:

  • Are your user interfaces simple and streamlined? 
  • Can customers get the information they need quickly? 
  • Is there an easy and recognizable path to conversion on each page?
  • Does your site drive people to a sale? 
  • Is your website equipped to handle surges in traffic?
  • Are you regularly updating inventory levels so customers aren’t frustrated trying to order sold-out products?
Invest in your brand

Investing in brand awareness is like investing in a future sale. And there’s never a bad time to invest in your brand. In fact, we’ve found that many of the biggest brands ramp up awareness efforts during times when people may not be spending as much, so that when people begin feeling flush again their brands are top of mind. 

Here are some important ways to invest in your brand:

  • Consider how you might shift the focus of your funnel to suit changing environments. For example, focusing on top-of-funnel messaging (brand awareness and consideration) that leans toward providing value and away from conversion will cast a wider net. When things start to normalize, you’ll have a larger base of prospects to communicate with.
  • Consider how you might communicate with customers in various situations. For example, multiple surveys found that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of US consumers felt that information on employee safety and well-being and the steps brands were taking to keep the community safe were among the important messages they wanted to hear, something brands generally hadn’t done previously.
Diversify marketing channels

To avoid disruption from changes that may be on the horizon, evaluate all of your marketing channels and create workarounds in advance. Be sure to keep your business objectives (direct sales or app downloads, for example) and your marketing objectives (visibility vs. performance) in mind, and keep your mind open to possibilities. 

Here are some general considerations for channel diversification:

  • Is it possible, given your product and target audience, to generally shift ad spend to channels experiencing strong growth, such as video streaming platforms?
  • If you rely on live events/sponsorships or other events that could potentially be canceled, could you shift the sponsorship/marketing budgets for these programs to adjacent content (for example, from live sports event sponsorships to sports-related podcasts or sports news programs)?
  • Analyze and segment media channels to avoid overspending on cohorts that are at conversion capacity. Redeploy spend into net-new channels to increase your brand awareness.
  • Reassess your metrics so that the right things are being measured, and adjust benchmarks for pre- and post-change to help plan and forecast effectively. 
  • Reevaluate out of home (OOH) advertising activities and adjust your visibility research to ensure your impressions costs are not rising. As physical movement patterns change, check that you’re not overspending on OOH inventory that’s not seeing a lot of traffic (airports, subways, business districts).
The key? Take action

When times change quickly, it can be tempting to sit on the sidelines, assess the lay of the land, evaluate your options…and then evaluate some more. The key to change-proofing your marketing strategy is to map out multiple viable options in advance so that at any given time—and for (nearly) every foreseeable situation—you have various potential change-proof paths available to you. By evaluating and mapping these paths ahead of time you’ll be well prepared for whatever changes come your way.

About Firewood Team

Firewood is a global digital marketing agency founded on the idea that good people are good business. With a model that focuses on speed, quality, and value, it partners with top tech brands, startups, and Fortune 500 companies—including Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce, Cummins, and other key clients—providing strategy and insights, creative, performance media, events, and technology services. Firewood was named an Ad Age Best Place to Work 2020, ranking No. 13 of the Top 25 (201+ employees). Firewood also ranked No. 1 on the San Francisco Business Times’ list of largest Bay Area advertising agencies (2020), No. 1 on the list of largest advertising, marketing, and PR agencies in Silicon Valley by the Silicon Valley Business Journal (2019 and 2020), and an Adweek 100: Fastest Growing Agency (2019 and 2020) and Top 10 Fastest Growing Large Agency (2019 and 2020). Founded in 2010, Firewood is headquartered in San Francisco with seven offices in four countries and over 450+ employees. In October 2019, Firewood merged with global creative production company MediaMonks to become the digital marketing arm of S4 Capital (SFOR.L).