"start here" spray painted in purple paint on the sidewalk. someone's sneakers visible in shot
PHOTO: Gia Oris

I went into our Sendgrid account for the first time in a long time this week. We use Sendgrid to manage all the trigger emails we send from our site. After doing what I had to do I decided to look at some of the emails in our system and fell down a rabbit hole. I found a complete history of our office moves as I looked at the footers of each email. Worse than that, I discovered a graveyard of old positioning and tag lines. I realized that in the blur of the last several months as we adjusted to working remotely and refined our budgets and marketing priorities, some of our routine housekeeping fell off the priority list.

As a result, I’m declaring November marketing clean-up month (at least for our company).

Marketing Cleaning Check List

In preparation for moving into 2021 we’ll be cleaning up:

  1. All of our trigger emails.
  2. The unnecessary code and pixels on our site. Most marketers are not great about cleaning up code after discontinuing the use of a product. An easy way to see what kind of shape you are in is to type your URL into Builtwith and see all the products their platform identifies. We’ve done this with a number of our customers to reach a starting point for documenting their tech stack and most of the time it turns into a conversation about how many years it’s been since they used one or more tools.
  3. Our tech stack, we’ve swapped out a number of tools in the last six months. We need to make sure all that is documented along with the implementation details and list of users.
  4. Our project management tools. We use a number of different tools for different things and have gotten lazy about eliminating/archiving past projects. 
  5. Our presentation and collateral archives to make sure that the latest decks, videos and documents are available to everyone, and that old materials are archived.

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis

A Fresh Perspective on Customers and Their Journeys

Though we may have dropped the ball on our general housekeeping, we have worked hard to evolve our strategy and operations to meet our customers and prospects in the world they now occupy. Over the last six months we’ve observed that our customers and prospects have fallen into one of three categories:

  • Reduce: Companies negatively impacted by the pandemic and either by necessity or an abundance of caution significantly reduced budgets and headcount.
  • Reorganize: Companies impacted by the pandemic in a way that necessitated a restructuring of sales and marketing efforts. In the extreme, some of these companies had to also evolve their product offerings.
  • Ramp: Companies positively impacted by the pandemic that have needed to scale quickly.

We’ve gone from having one very well-defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) with a number of variants to three completely distinct ICPs. All three are viable prospect categories and we’ve had to craft three very different customer journeys, refine our messaging and develop a flexible approach to how we package our product in order to support everyone.

After months of pandemic experience, companies are coming to terms with a changed world and have a clearer sense of how the future might unfold. As a result, we have added two more customer categories:

  • Restart: Companies that are starting to see steady improvement in market conditions and are able to reactivate sales and marketing programs. My own company fits squarely in this category.
  • Reinvent: Companies that have been irrevocably impacted by the pandemic necessitating a partial or complete pivot.

Planning for 2021 requires addressing where your customers and prospects are across this continuum while at the same time dealing with the constraints of your own position.

For example: In our case, as noted above, we were in the Reduce category during the early months of the pandemic and have now moved into Restart. Our pipeline has come back to life, our customers are establishing budgets for 2021, and things are looking good. We paid a price for being in the Reduce category (see housekeeping fail above) but overall with some hard decisions about priorities we weathered those early months. As we Restart we are still making hard decisions about priorities but are finding joy in our progress and in seeing our customers and prospects start to recover.

Related Article: How 4 Organizations Are Benefiting From Taking an Agile Marketing Approach

What Businesses Have in Common Today

Our customers and prospects fit into every category I’ve listed above. For our first pass at our own 2021 plan, we looked across categories to see where there were commonalities and differences. We noted the following commonalities:

  • All companies are more conscious and constrained with regard to expenses. Even companies that have done really well through the pandemic are now wary of surprises around the corner.
  • Digital transformation is now resonating as something real versus marketing jargon. Working remotely and isolation from customers is forcing a discussion about the future of business operations.
  • Time is the most precious thing in the workday. People are spending more time at their desks, and struggling to juggle work, team and family responsibilities. Casual conversation and breaks that were an integral part of the in-office work experience have gone by the wayside. Customers have little patience for anything that takes a long time to comprehend or requires a great deal of explanation. Short and sweet is the new mantra.
  • Tactical planning cycles have dramatically shortened. Many companies are working on 120-day plans.

For us, these commonalities are driving us to:

  • Refine our messaging around ROI to ensure we make it into budgets.
  • Communicate where we fit in the bigger picture of digital transformation.
  • Find ways to make our customer's lives easier — this is impacting how we think about feature development and marketing plans.
  • Commit to being flexible and nimble so we are able to react to planning cycle changes.

In looking at the differences across categories, we realized that our platform is applicable in almost the same way across all categories but that the ability to utilize and absorb all of our features differs among categories. For companies still in the Reduce, Reorganize and Reinvent categories we’ve had to develop new feature bundles that make sense for environments that are both financially and resource constrained. We’ve also had to offer additional implementation and ongoing support to some of these companies. We’ve even had to support customers with adjunct services that would not normally have been one of our offerings. Flexibility and redefining support boundaries have been critical to sustaining our business and bringing our pipeline back to life.

Related Article: Looking Beyond Digital Transformation

120 Days at a Time

These categories may or may not resonate with you but I’m sure most everyone has seen some fairly dramatic changes in both your company position, and that of your prospects and customers over the last several months. And while there’s still plenty of uncertainty about the future I believe we are at a point where we can step back, reassess our changed world and begin to plan again for success. We found it extremely helpful in refining our marketing strategy to take a look at where we were vs. where we are now, and to do the same assessment for our prospects and customers. Aligning our new/revised capabilities with their new/revised needs has given us a good roadmap for moving forward — at least for the next 120 days.