De-Myth-tifying Marketing for startups
October 21, 2019
Category Design Image
Why Categories are Entrepreneur’s Best Friend
June 10, 2020

Behind The Face Masks – Meet Your New COVID-affected Target Audience

For the past 6 years, a small startup from QLD called Haystack, has been trying to convince the world to move from traditional paper business cards to it’s eco-friendly, smarter alternative – the digital business card. Those who already use it know exactly how comfortable, easy and impressive it is to use, but more often than not you would hear people defending their old habit of business card exchange saying things like “doing businesses is all about the handshakes and that exchanging cards ceremony” or “it’s not personal enough”, etc.

Then came along COVID…

What COVID did to consumer behaviour patterns in less than 2 months, no marketing plan and/or budgets for market education in the world could achieve in 6 years.

The hand shakers became germaphobes, personal turned into remote, and suddenly digital and contactless business cards look like the most reasonable solution to a real pain point. It’s no longer a “nice-to-have” or an “eco-friendly” solution; it’s an answer to an urgent problem.

And Haystack is not the only one to gain from (or to be challenged by) this rapid, unprecedented change in human behaviour.

Behavioural change – (re)moving the biggest barrier

If you know me or my business partner, Lee Linden, you would probably already know that our approach to marketing (and business) is a consumer-driven one. We’re very vocal about the importance of understanding your target audience (down to the intimate details) for your business success. Especially if you’re a startup.

There’s one thing we constantly tell our clients (and whoever is willing to listen): Changing habits is the biggest underlying barrier for adopting innovation. The fact that your product solves a real pain point and doing so in a brilliant way, doesn’t mean people will give up their old ways of doing things (archaic as it might seem to you as an innovator).

Just look at the world of online grocery shopping. In theory, it’s the most logical (some, like me, might even say genius) solution for busy families: you don’t spend hours on shopping, you save money on fuel and impulse buying and most importantly, you don’t have to deal with kids tantrums in the middle of the candy aisle. Supposedly, everybody will (or should) use it, right?

Well.. reality paints a different picture: according to a Deutsche Bank Securities report from last year, while 22% of apparel and 30% of electronics shopping in the US were done online, only 3% of grocery shopping was done online.

In fact, convincing customers to order groceries online was still nearly as difficult last year as it was in 1989.
Why? Because people are used to touching the products and choosing them, they like to be exposed to new products and promotions, they have a lot of concerns with online shopping, and most importantly, they are really just simply used to going to the supermarket! 

Something tells me that the 2020 report will look a bit different…

Entering the unknown 

But here’s the tricky part; no one can really tell you what behavioural changes are going to stick and what will revert the minute things go back to (the new) normal. We are all travelling through uncharted territory and we’re all taking our first steps into the unknown. Even the most experienced person in the room (no matter how many global economic crises or bubble bursts they’ve been through) cannot predict the future or tell you what to do.

The one thing we know for sure is that things HAVE changed (at least for the time being). CEOs are considering whether or not they need that 3rd floor for their office, parents will stop sending their kids to school although they “just woke up with a bit of a cough”, and generally speaking, people will try to avoid any trip to a crowded place unless they have a REALLY good reason to do so.

It’s our job as marketers and business owners to start reacting to this change. And although there’s no playbook on “post-COVID Pivots”, we believe that going back to the basics and re-evaluating EVERYTHING is the key for your success. Here’s what we suggest:

1. Throw your personas to the bin 

This rule applies to you whether you’re a B2C business or a B2B one.

People’s fears and motivations have changed and their priorities have shifted accordingly. This means that your target audience personas are in urgent need of an update.

Your messaging will probably need a bit of a reshuffling according to your new insights, and you might find that while the ESG angle for selling your data management to corporates was nice last week, it’s talking about cost-reduction and efficiency that will cut through the noise today. You might even find that a solution you once sold to the HR manager is now more of a primary concern for the CEO as she’s trying to navigate the stormy waters of working remotely.

It’s all about piecing together a new puzzle and figuring out what the new big picture will look like for your specific business.

 2. Adding value should be your new mantra

It might sound a bit “kumbaya” but there’s an actual business sense to it. Added value is something people are willing to pay for, it’s something that differentiates you from the pack, it makes your brand stronger and has lots of other additional benefits to it.

The only tweak to it is that these days, adding value is more about fulfilling needs rather than adding a “nice to have” touch to your product/service (it’s thinking of ways for your business to be more of a Paracetamol than a Vitamin).

If you think about it, every startup started with solving some kind of a problem by applying innovative thinking to it. Each and every founder out there was trying to find new ways to deliver value to their potential customers and figuring out whether there’s a real demand for such a solution (what we all call product-market fit). Now, when things are changing, business leaders should go back to the drawing board and figure out how to deliver value to their new customers.

Let’s take Jayride as an example. Jayride is a global online marketplace for airport transfers, which means it’s operating in the travel industry – one of the most COVID-challenged industries out there at the moment. As a board, we realised that when travel will resume globally, the new travellers are going to be different than before. The first thing we did is to re-build our consumers’ personas (we’re assuming they will be purpose-driven, crowd-avoiding, health security-seeking, etc.). Then we challenged the management team to think of ways to add value to this new traveller (like reviewing cancellation policies, certifying suppliers with COVID hygiene processes in place, etc.). But we didn’t stop there. We’re constantly thinking of ways in which we can add value to other players in this eco-system like, 

  • How can we add value to travel agencies? 
  • What are their challenges? 
  • Assuming their clients are looking for a touchless door-to-door experience, how can Jayride plug-in and help them solve this issue?

The Jayride team is not looking at what we have or what we can do with it. We’re re-thinking the entire basics of the business, but from a “how can we add value” approach. It’s this type of thinking that leads us to interesting insights and great opportunities we think we can seize. 

This brings us to the next point:

3. It’s now or never

If consumer behavioural changes have somehow worked in your favour (or you found a way to pivot around it), make sure you make the most out of it. It’s the perfect time for you to charge in and claim ownership over the space you operate in: If you offer same-day delivery service for prescriptions and health products in a time where a trip to the pharmacy sounds like a nightmare, make sure that by the end of COVID phase, people looking to purchase prescription medicine will only know how to pronounce one company’s name – yours!

In a world where advertising and marketing spend was significantly impacted by COVID, you have a chance to enjoy reduced prices, higher visibility and better ROI. 

In a world where nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, your thought leadership might be more valuable than ever before (All of this is, of course, dependent on you having something smart to say or a good product to stand behind). 

4. Say goodbye to long-term planning

And last but not least, whatever you do, kiss those 12-month plans goodbye. In such a dynamic period of time where uncertainty is the most certain thing, there’s no point for long term planning. Be agile. Review and adjust your plans more frequently and make sure the context in which they were conceived at, is still relevant.

Final words (although It’s just the beginning)

While things are slowly starting to go back on track, we still have a long way to go. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the crisis will be over and soon everything will go back to normal. Global economists predict a tough recovery period and no one knows how long it will take and how deep the roots of behavioural change will grow. It’s on us, business leaders, to question everything, to constantly reevaluate and adjust and to act fast. And in the words of the wise Dr. Seus, “you have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose”.

If you want to hear us talk more about this topic – check out this recording of a panel we participated in about COVID Customer Journey:

Yifat Shirben
Yifat Shirben
Yifat Shirben is an entrepreneurial marketer, with over a decade of international experience in marketing, branding, PR and business development within the innovation and entrepreneurial environment. As a former start-up founder herself, Yifat has developed a unique consumer-driven methodology to analyse and allow cost-effective, tailored made marketing strategies and solutions for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Yifat is also a director at Jayride (ASX:JAY)

Leave a Reply