The extraordinary circumstances of the last year have led to extraordinary changes. People are moving through their lives in entirely new ways, reshaping how they engage with businesses and brands. Employers are reinventing the workplace. New or previously off-the-radar industries and products are on the rise, while others are fading away.
Your business is moving and shaking to keep up. But what about your message?
In a rapidly changing environment, a message that once stuck the landing may now wobble. Or, worse, tumble flat on the mat.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s time for an overhaul.
Your customer is changing, so your message should too.
More than 75% of consumers have switched up stores, brands, or shopping patterns since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such diminishing brand loyalty means your customers are always on the lookout for a better business or product. To make its mark, your message must speak to what matters to your audience now. Consider that:
- Customer priorities have shifted dramatically. Consumers are flocking to businesses that meet their new expectations around safety and convenience. For example, an estimated 16+ million Americans tried telehealth services for the first time over the last year. And the vast majority intend to continue using virtual care services even after the pandemic subsides.
- Financial skittishness means value reigns. COVID-related job losses have laid bare the financial frailty of millions of households. Nearly 30% of Americans frequently worry about paying their bills and the cost of health care. And, while the introduction of vaccines means that consumer outlook is getting rosier, 40% of Americans expect that their finances will not bounce back until late 2021 and beyond. Consumers have become uber value-conscious, eager for price transparency, and reticent to spend money on anything they view as discretionary.
- The search for meaning and purpose is on. While consumer interest in corporate social responsibility began to take hold decades ago, a new age of heightened awareness has arrived. Many consumers look favorably on brands that demonstrate values consistent with their own. Those same consumers expect the company to articulate its values in a meaningful way and live them out across its business practices.
Your competitors are changing, and their messages are too.
A successful message sets you apart, shining a light on how you uniquely address your customer’s pain points. But when your competitors are in motion, your differentiators can become a blur.
The pandemic has added rocket fuel to an already break-neck pace of change. Many businesses now face a crisis of adapt-or-die. In healthcare alone, we’ve seen an explosion of digital-first care advancements, remote clinical monitoring, in-home diagnostics, and customer service. And the industry continues to attract new, often unexpected, entrants that are upending our concept of how healthcare works.
This kind of disruptive change alters the entire constellation of the competitive field. While some competitors move closer to you in their positioning, others propel themselves into a different galaxy.
Differentiation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s an exercise in relativity. When your competitors shift how they talk about themselves and fill a unique need in the market, it’s time to reconsider your positioning message. What makes you distinctive, better or bolder, relative to others vying for your customer’s attention and dollars?
You’re changing, and your message should reflect that.
You haven’t been sitting idly by while everything and everyone around you is on the move. Your business is solving problems for the market in novel ways. You’re nimbly introducing programs and features that speak to your customers’ shifting values and creating new avenues for people to take advantage of your services.
Every client my team works with has made fundamental changes in how they run their business or engage their customers. A global health services company that was making measured investments in virtual care has now gone all-in. A national wellness company that announced a platitude-like purpose before the pandemic is now digging deep to articulate how that purpose drives business strategy and touches customers day to day.
Your message must match your reality. If the truths about your business have changed—who you are, what you do, and how you make lives brighter—your message needs to catch up. The only way to build an authentic connection with your audience is to be authentic.
Change will always be our reality.
While the COVID pandemic sparked never-before-seen change, what’s guaranteed is that the next change “event” is coming. It may not be a worldwide health crisis, but it could be as meaningful to your business. Whether it’s monumental or mundane, it should call you to rethink whether your message remains compelling, differentiating, and genuine.
Margie McCarthy is founder of McCarthy Messaging, a strategic messaging firm based in Denver, Colorado. She’s fond of messy challenges, brave clients and vintage jewelry.
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