What we’ve seen, especially at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March, is that for most brands, it was easy to hit the cancel button on advertising.

Now, as things begin to normalize to some degree, many are finding that charting a proper path to re-entry is not as easy.

In recent weeks, we’ve begun to hear from many clients who want to get back into the market. They’re eager to get restarted but they are also aware they must tread carefully and deliberately in order to ensure they maximize the impact of their actions and their overall marketing ROI.

In no particular order, here are some of the things we’ve been talking about with clients as we work to map out a strategy for a fulsome market re-entry.

1. Test the validity of your purpose statement

At the core of any well-built brand platform is a relevant and resonant Purpose Statement. It describes what the brand exists to do – the value it promises to deliver – for its customers. 

In this new era, is the way you’re articulating your value proposition still optimal?

It’s possible that since the onset of the crisis, your brand may have pivoted and made necessary refinements to the value you deliver to your customers. Or, even if you haven’t made a deliberate pivot, customers may now perceive the value you create differently.

In this new era, is the way you’re articulating your value proposition still optimal?

In either case, the first step in your brand’s re-entry plan may be re-evaluating how you describe your core competencies and benefits. Otherwise you could end up missing an opportunity – or worse – promoting brand attributes that are no longer attractive or relevant to your audience.

2. Check in on your customers 

Hopefully during the past three months, even if your brand wound down or paused planned advertising and communications programs, you none the less maintained a base level presence in the minds of your customers through sustained and ongoing social media, content marketing, PR and earned media, and/or e-mail marketing pushes.

(As an aside, brands that chose to disappear completely from their customer’s consciousness during the past 12 weeks may well be in for a frosty reception when they do re-emerge from their respective bunkers, as they may discover a significant investment in relationship re-building lies ahead.)

That said, if your brand remained engaged with your audiences, some type of succinct but structured market research and outreach program may also be of merit at this stage. Regardless of your business type – i.e. B2B with dozens of large customers, or B2C with thousands of smaller ones – deploying a primary research initiative to gauge customer perceptions and evaluate attitudes always has benefits – especially now. 

Sample research vehicles include something as simple as social media surveys to more complex online panel research. Further, your brand may want to supplement low-involvement research tactics with more formalized leadership outreach efforts – i.e. executive interviews, facilitated group sessions, etc. 

Brands that invest in such efforts stand to earn a double benefit: you will ensure that any new strategies you craft are well-informed and timely, and you’ll be demonstrating empathy and concern for the customers you’re seeking to re-engage with.

3. Find ways to have a real conversation

For a lot of brands, prior to the pandemic it was often enough to simply blast through the sales funnel. That is, invest in just enough awareness creation to drive desired levels of conversion. 

What we’re seeing now is a more thoughtful approach – one for instance that creates opportunities for conversations with customer. Layering in a more robust content marketing strategy for instance – one that demonstrates empathy and builds brand affinity – is something a lot of clients are looking harder at as they build their formal market re-entry plans.

4. Check your media mix

Media consumption habits have changed dramatically during the crisis. For instance, traditional news media platforms are seeing historic spikes in readership and engagement, including TV viewership, which is way up

At the moment it’s hard to predict which consumption habits will be fleeting and which will endure over the long term. What is possible though is the ability to leverage the current shift in consumption patterns to take advantage of the existing landscape. 

In many instances, there are significant opportunities to extend reach and frequency for a fraction of the usual cost – provided you know where to look. 

5. Strengthen internal marketing initiatives 

It goes without saying that your brand’s most valuable asset are your people. For a lot of employees, the past three months have been the most difficult they’ve ever faced in their career. 

The best brands are those that build internal employee engagement and culture into their overall operational strategies. The companies best-positioned to quickly re-enter the market will be those that have continuously checked in with their staff over the past several weeks and have ensured the necessary support mechanisms have been put in place so that their people can succeed under difficult and stressful circumstances.

Brand leadership across all industries now need to ensure that those same staff – the ones on the ground charged with executing re-entry plans – have the tools and more importantly, the enthusiasm to do so well. To that end, internal marketing initiatives designed to celebrate the resilience and commitment of staff over the past months are well worth investing in. 

The best brands are those that build internal employee engagement and culture into their overall operational strategies.

For most brands, coming back from the current crisis won’t be as easy as flipping the switch. Clients we work with know this. That’s why they’re taking a hard look at how the plans they developed pre-crisis can be enhanced to ensure they’re sufficiently flexible, resonant and effective in an era of shifting customer perceptions and appetites that’s just now coming into focus.