It seems like every time we looked over our shoulders in 2020, more major news was barreling toward us. From the pandemic and all its economic and social impacts, to the election cycle, to the growth of major political and social movements — as marketers, most of us were left picking up the pieces of strategies we had at the start of the year.
As we finalize plans for 2021, many of us are thinking about how to keep those “picking up the pieces” moments from happening. The fact of the matter is this: There will always be a level of unpredictability in marketing. There will always be news that impacts our strategies. So, the question isn’t “How do we avoid having to react to change?” — it’s “How do we prepare ourselves to react to change?”
How Do We Prepare Ourselves to React to Change?
The answer starts with awareness. Knowing what has the potential to impact your strategy is vital.
Staying in the know can feel like a big task in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. You can’t intake everything that’s happening in the world — not if you want to maintain your time (and your sanity). Good news: You don’t have to. The key to successfully navigating a changing landscape isn’t knowing everything — it’s knowing the right things.
There are three categories of change that can impact your strategy:
- Industry-specific change
- Changes within your own audience
- Headline-making macro change
1. Monitoring Industry-Specific Change
The first step is to assess what impacts your brand’s marketing strategy on an industry level. You’re likely already doing this just by staying educated and engaged with colleagues and competition throughout your market. Though Google Alerts tends to be the go-to resource for monitoring this, the information it offers isn’t always comprehensive. Consider these advanced monitoring tools to stay ahead of the game:
- This tool offers heaps of insight into your industry — and, more specifically, your competition. Discover new competitors, learn what keywords they’re targeting, how they rank in the search engines and more.
- Built specifically to monitor blog content, what makes this tool unique is that it doesn’t just spit out a laundry list of every blog on the internet that mentions your industry or brand. Instead, it reveals the content gaining the most attention, displaying engagements and shares on top social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. This gives you higher visibility to the content that’s actually creating a buzz in your industry.
- Above and beyond trending topics, this tool compiles insights about sentiment, target market analysis, and more in an easily digestible format. It’s highly customizable, allowing you to filter by specific demographics of the people mentioning your keywords. The platform also helps you create intelligent alerts that notify you of PR issues, marketing opportunities and emerging market trends.
2. Listening for Changes in Your Audience
As the world changes, your audience and their needs will change, too. Active social listening is vital to staying in tune with your customer base. Achieving this can be as easy as starting a conversation.
Working simple polls into your communication can provide strong insights. Plus, it shows your audience that you’re listening — that you care what they think and what they want. That’s a brand loyalty-building win. If you have a bold social media presence, you may choose to poll your audience right in your Instagram story. If you prefer a more personal approach, try surveying your warm email list.
Ask key questions that directly inform your brand decisions, like “Which type of product would you like to see added to our line?” and “What type of content do you prefer to see in our feed?”
Don’t be afraid to ask about what’s making headlines, too. Knowing where your audience stands on big-picture issues can help inform pivots you should make in your messaging — it helps you learn how to speak your audience’s language.
3. Watching the Headlines for Macro Change
Macro changes are arguably the easiest to monitor. These are the headline-making shifts that can have a ripple effect on your industry, audience, or marketing strategy. Everything from the latest developments in the pandemic, to the FTC lawsuit against Facebook, to the latest additions to the Instagram platform, can all have downstream impacts that require you to pivot.
To monitor what big headlines could mean for your brand, subscribe to one or two particularly timely marketing newsletters. Reach for ones that offer easily digestible key insights and action steps (like our Methods newsletter) to prepare yourself for incoming change.
As we all learned in 2020, it’s more important than ever to stay in the know. Strengthen your marketing plan for next year by establishing a comprehensive process for monitoring all three types of relevant change. This process could be the difference between making strong pivots or having to pick up the pieces for your strategy in 2021.