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Research is the way forward in marketing's new normal

In these times, nothing is certain. We must be prepared for the fact that life after COVID-19 will be different, and finding our way forward in that world -- where circumstances change daily -- will take some insight. 

One bad video, like a shot of a crowded United Airlines jet or a disgruntled customer instigating your employee to behave inappropriately, can sink a well-intentioned communications effort. One bad post with misinformation can lead to an erosion of trust in an environment already colored with skepticism and fear.

Now, more than ever, we need to understand the mindset of our key stakeholder audiences in order to navigate the barriers in the way of positive behaviors and take advantage of the opportunities that will lead to those behaviors that support our organizations.  

If you are a nonprofit,there is a good chance some of your donors have been hit by the economic recession and will need to make some hard choices about the organizations they support.  What words and actions will resonate and separate you from the pack? 

If you are in the hospitality and travel industries, many of your customers have been forced to stop – or have chosen to stop – using your services.  What will it take to reassure them it is safe to travel again?  To plan large events again?   

What about employees– what are they willing and not willing to do as they transition back to their offices?  

What won’t work is using the same campaigns, messages and programs you used prior to COVID-19; that ship has sailed.  Research is the key to understanding how stakeholders feel and how they are likely to act in this strange new world.

The silver lining is that the majority of our working population is largely still working from home and it has been shown that they are willing and anxious to participate in research, especially if they feel it will help them gain some control over their own destiny.  Sound research leads to informed decisionmaking — a good investment if it saves your organization from making a costly mistake – or, if it leads to an innovative idea that better serves your market.

Without research, it is difficult to know what changes to policies and procedures will be acceptable and what changes will trigger pushback.  It is hard to understand what messaging will resonate.   It’s nearly impossible to predict, without research, the likely response to new products and services.

Some potential questions to explore as we ease our way in to the new normal:

· What information do stakeholders want and need most at this time? (e.g. if you are a college or University, will you be open for business in the fall and what will that look like for students, faculty, and staff?)

· What information sources do they trust most to help them make decisions going forward? (e.g. where are they turning for investment advice? Timing on selling/purchasing a new home? Determining what they will do with their children? Parents?)

· How likely are they to return to behaviors they were engaged in before the pandemic?  (e.g. Will they be willing to resume European travel this year?  Next year?  Plan a destination wedding in 2021?)

· What will it take to make customers and employees feel comfortable and safe returning to your place of business? (e.g. What policies and procedures need to be in place before they are comfortable going back to the gym?  Back to the office? To a small retail establishment or a restaurant?)

To that end … what is the best methodology to use for each priority audience?  Qualitative?  Quantitative?  A combination of both?  Would your demographic respond better to telephone, online or point-of-purchase research?

For more information about how research could be used to guide your organization during this time of recovery, contact us at

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anna warner
anna warner

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