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There will always be forces that throw your plans by the wayside and recalibrate — whether they take the form of political changes, a natural disaster, a cultural shift or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. So for marketers, the question is not “How can we plan for the new normal?” but instead, “Why are you expecting one?”

While on a general level the phrase “new normal” just represents a desire to get back to times when we weren’t all constantly stressed out and life didn’t depend on being highly socially and politically aware, what it really represents is a desire for stagnancy. To be able to take a breather. But no matter what’s going on in the world, marketing has never been about taking a breather.

Our clients don’t hire us to create a “new normal”. They want to lead the pack in their industry and be positioned as movers and shakers. But with more competition and an increasing rate of media circulation, it’s getting harder and harder to be at the front of the curve.

There are a few techniques marketers should either adopt or dust off that can help place their clients at the front of the pack.

1. A heavier focus on social listening

Effectively, social listening is just an elevated version of the research you already do into your industry. It’s a bit like doing a competitive analysis, but of your audience instead of fellow industry members. What are customers saying about your brands versus the others? When they search for you, what terms do they use? How many mentions are you getting versus your closest competition? These and many more reasons why social listening is my most highly recommended technique that marketers should start adopting if they want to get to be cutting edge.

But think ahead: Once you’ve been actively social listening for a month or so and you have a good amount of data piled up, what should you do with it? Data is of no value if you collect it and let it sit there. Start incorporating it into your strategy discussions to help guide your campaign. If you were listening closely enough, you should be able to identify at least one key desire or pain point among your audience that your competitors aren’t addressing.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

2. Reputation is everything

The world is more connected than ever before and people have more outlets to make their voices heard. While this is a net positive for global communications, it does mean that brands have increasingly less armor against online outrages and bad reviews. For this reason, reputation and review management are going to be crucial services for marketers to add to their repertoire.

This is also where a strong competitive analysis and social listening techniques will do marketers a huge favor. The ability to know what successes or misfortunes your competitors are having is going to be the best navigator of your campaign. Emulate what similar businesses do well, but don’t shy away from highlighting the differences between you and your competition if one of them accidentally finds themselves at the mercy of an online mob.

Marketing is a full-contact sport. When you have the means to — ethically, of course — knock other players off the field, you should take it.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

3. Build a community, then a campaign

A loyal fanbase can help a brand weather pretty much any storm unscathed, so channel a lot of your marketing efforts into fostering a community around your clients. Play to the audience in the first few weeks of your campaign. 

Engagement isn’t something that you have to pry out of your client’s audience — you just need to put more effort into asking questions. Audiences will see liking and sharing as a Herculean task if you’re not giving them anything to chew on, but they’ll gladly write you a novel in the comments of a Facebook post when given the right prompt.

Make sure that they feel like they’re part of a semi-exclusive club. If you don’t have a newsletter, start one. If you have one, start another one that’s only for the most devoted members of the brand. Hire influencers your audiences connect with and have them start making content for you.  

Marketers should realize that there isn’t going to be a new normal. Instead, marketers should use this time to get fully experimental with campaigns and see what kind of content hits the bullseye in the ever-evolving content cycle. With more competition and more content comes less of a chance that the tried-and-true methods of digital success will continue to hold up. In this way, as much as it might feel like constant chaos, we’re being given an opportunity: The world is clearing the board and saying, “Impress me.”

Related: 3 Reasons Marketing Is The New Sales

Source: The ‘New Normal’ Isn’t Coming: 3 Ways to Build an Adaptive, Modern Agency

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