5 Ways to Break the Marketing Paralysis

Beleaguered restaurants and retail shops aside, corporate America has had three reactions to the pandemic with their marketing communications programs. In my book, only one of them is acceptable.

One reaction is comprehensive corporate paralysis. I can imagine the narrative on the April 1 videoconference: “We don’t know how bad this is going to get, so let’s just coast along. Don’t pitch anything new. And watch your budgets.”

Sorry. Not a smart strategy.

A second reaction is worse, where the organization actually is going backwards. The July 15 call: “We already lost five months of 2020 — at this point, what does it matter if we hunker down for the rest of the year? Don’t spend money. Focus on the bare minimum. We’re certainly not launching new initiatives. Let’s reassess in December.”

That sounds awful. If I worked there, I’d be on the hunt for a new job.

The third reaction is brilliant. These organizations are doing the opposite of what you might think. They’re creating, reinventing, moving forward, communicating and having fun. Here are some examples:

Brand and Culture Refresh

Now might be an excellent time for you to take a new look at your brand strategy — especially if it’s been a while since you examined the words in your mission, vision, core values, narrative, evidence, persona, unique market positioning, target audience and brand essence. The pandemic might have caused some of your messaging to become obsolete. Or, pandemic aside, it’s just been a while and you’re not sure how pervasive the messaging is being used in the organization and the marketplace. An Aartrijk carrier client is going through a thoughtful process to stake a branding claim in large commercial construction projects, believing it is unfairly viewed only as a small-construction player.

Employee Communications

Find new ways beyond big Zoom calls to reach out to people. Individual thank-you emails for a job well done. Small group calls. One-on-one calls. Now is a great time to use your core values as a discussion point. And if your associates aren’t enthusiastically embracing the values, it’s time for an overhaul. Because they’re your north star. You can’t expect your associates to take care of your business partners and customers if they aren’t feeling settled. I discussed Thimble’s core values with founder Jay Bregman, and when you see their list of values, it is so New York City. They might be perfect for workers there; they might not be authentic for your firm. But that’s the point. Another reason why I loved the late-great Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher.

Customer and Business Partner Communications

Put your arms around your valuable stakeholders. Launch a video blog or a podcast. Since you likely won’t see people face-to-face at conventions this year, leverage the insurance trade media, bloggers, association sponsorship opportunities, and other centers of influence to keep your original content in front of your audience. One of Aartrijk’s clients, a superregional carrier that recently rebranded, doubled down on insurance industry PR starting in April. We already have set a personal best for agent-targeted article placements for them in the trade media since then.


Take your unused travel budget and try something new. Practice “successful failure,” where you learn important lessons from something that didn’t go quite as planned. What about a new product, new partnership or new customer onboarding process? One of our clients launched a comprehensive thought-leadership program in the surety tech space, where nobody else apparently is doing anything. Another client launched a webcast series to share marketing and sales ideas with independent agents.

Website Updates

What’s a better time than now to address the customer experience on your website? (Bonus: You can pay for it with all your savings on 2020 business travel.) For some organizations, it never gets done because “we’re too busy.” Well, how about now? Ask some questions: Does the site follow your brand strategy? Is the content relevant to your customers? How do you know? One of our clients is updating the website as it takes on its first insurance agency acquisition — again, the opposite of what you’d think during these times.

The fact is that this pandemic will end. So don’t wallow. Get to work. Put your foot on the gas. You will see greater post-pandemic success if you act now — while the pandemic is still going on.

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