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  • Pat Browne

Knowing your clients is the prerequisite to a successful pivot


“I have to pivot my business. I don’t know if this is permanent or if I’ll be able to go back to my regular business once COVID-19 is over.”


I’m hearing this from my clients regularly these days. The new normal means businesses, to survive, need to change how and what they offer their customers. But to do this successfully you need to know who your customer is, how they perceive your brand, and what they will accept from you. 


If you own your customer data and have an established CRM program, good for you. However, many businesses don’t. They may have considered themselves too small to retain data; the risk of maintaining customer data too high; or they may have relied on third party loyalty programs.  


The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates the folly of this thinking. But it’s never too late 


Marketing data is one of your most diverse and powerful tools you can have. A robust consumer data set comes from many sources. It starts with the information your customers provide while interacting with your business via your website, mobile applications, surveys, social media, marketing campaigns, and other online and offline avenues.

Customer data is a cornerstone to a successful business strategy and definitely any change strategy. Customer data is needed to improve the customer experience and fine-tune business strategies. Different data points are compiled from different sources. There are three basic data sources (more are enabled if you have an established e-commerce offer):


1. Personal Data (PII and Non-PII) can be divided into two categories, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Non-Personally Identifiable Information (Non-PII).

2. Engagement Data comes from understanding how your customer behaves directly with the brand. Do they interact with you through your website? Do they follow you on social media? Their responses to warrantees, new product offerings, etc.

3. Attitudinal Data talks about how your customers feel about your brand. What is the emotional value that you create? Attitudinal data is largely qualitative and subjective. To ensure there is no bias, it is usually wise to combine it with quantitative data. Simple ways of ascertaining attitudinal data is through surveys, interviews, focus groups, feedback, customer complaints, reviews, etc. 


Pivoting business with a consumer focus


If you have even a minimalistic CRM program, pivoting the business is so much simpler. During the first weeks of pandemic we saw a number of new creative campaigns from businesses working to keep themselves and their brands alive. High-fashion house and small printers, alike, switched production to all-important PPE. But now is the time for business to create cash-flow. The altruistic first response that generated high praise and earned media, now needs to help pay the rent. Being able to speak to your customer with an email campaign and ecommerce has allowed local fashion retailer TZATZ to team up with a local socks manufacturer who retooled to make masks – Snoozies. As we open up the economy, more and more establishments are requiring customers to wear masks. This new demand, fulfilled online by a former exclusively bricks and mortar establishment, allows the business to remain viable. There are multiple companies doing similar things. M-Tailor, a bespoke tailor from Hong Kong, is not promoting suits, it’s promoting personal masks. It’s extensive mailing list allows it to offer the newly needed accessory directly to your inbox.


Virtual events redefine communication

As almost all in-person and live events were cancelled, new businesses have also emerged. The demand for online event services has spiked in recent weeks. And it’s not just big business that has taken advantage of the recent trend to virtual conferences and programs. As a number of high-profile gatherings have been forced to become digital-only (Northstar Meetings Group), a growing number of organizations are experimenting with virtual events for the first time, or scaling up their current digital offerings. Charities and fundraising enterprises who have been hit exponentially hard during the pandemic, have devised new social-media based programs to support their fundraising activities. Mary Lynne Stewart, National Director of Philanthropy at March of Dimes Canada, is transforming her iconic “Battle of the Bands” into a 1.5-hour subscription Facebook Live event . “Battle of the Bands has been a long-standing fixture in our fundraising activities. Taking the much-loved series online will ensure we sustain funding for our services and expand our audience in one. To ensure success, we have optimized both our paid and organic channels, as well as our CRM.”

No surprize, online retailers have been the biggest winners during the pandemic. With a dedicated CRM program and digital presence, online retailers were poised for greatness. Having said that, the surge associated with COVID-19, swamped many systems causing delivery delays. According to ROI Revolution Blog, The pandemic had defined a new category of goods called “new essentials”. Accounting for almost 40% of all consumer spending, the products help consumers feel more comfortable while staying at home. The main winners are office supplies, fitness equipment, cosmetics, housewares, home improvement, toys and hobby related products. There is no guarantee that these changes will last beyond the lock-down, we do know that more consumers have moved online and will continue to do so for a greater percentage of their purchases.


CRM and customer data are the backbone of an effective consumer marketing strategy. Knowing your customers and their perceptions of you allow you to effectively communicate and pivot your business.

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