Ending 2020: Our favorite moments, some missed opportunities, & what the future holds

While 2020 is a year that might not be on many of our “favorites” list, the C7D team still managed to recap some of our personal favorite moments — completely dictated by the pandemic, of course.

The C7D team dedicated several articles in the past to how small businesses can take advantage of this year’s unique quarantine situation. One article focused on the old normal vs. the new normal (wait, there was an old normal?). Another article discussed convenient and organic ways that businesses could navigate through the quarantine in order to boost success. Even some of our clients dedicated a portion of marketing material toward COVID-19. In all of these articles, several terms were substantially used: small businesses; new norm; online presence. Businesses, especially small businesses, had to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, and hash out a new marketing strategy to ensure their business didn’t sink beneath the turbulent (and small-business-hungry) pandemic waves. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite moments as a small business during the pandemic.

Some of Our Favorite C7D Moments of 2020

1. Supporting struggling families during the pandemic by donating to a local food drive.

Research revealed that over 1 billion people were curious about how they could help during the pandemic. Google’s top answer for the number one way to support was for people to “consider donating to an organization that’s making a difference during the pandemic.” Among the list of possibilities — donating time or resources to hospitals and health centers or national and local charities — food donations are cited as some of the most helpful pandemic-related activities. The C7D team publicized how we helped during the pandemic. We donated $300 worth of nonperishable food items to the Family Service Association (FSA), an organization that supports low-income and homeless families in the Redlands and Yucaipa communities.

We know that we’re just one small business in the really big world but, like we wrote in our blog, “small actions create big impacts when supporting a cause. While donating to one community in the country might seem infinitesimal, the reality is that every good act counts.” We stuck by this and will continue to stick by this, pandemic or not.

2. Getting back to the office after stay-at-home orders force many into remote work.

Lauren, the C7D Administrative Assistant, shares how ecstatic she was to come back to the office after “stay-at-home quarantine” lasted several months. “I began to feel restless after being at home for a while,” she said. “I missed the human interaction with co-workers.” While some surveys showed that work productivity increased by almost 50 percent (~ 47 percent, according to Forbes) for individuals working at home, it’s no surprise that effort and adjustments had to be made in order for many at-home workers to reach this level of productivity.

“I’m personally a homebody,” Karyne, the Content Writer at C7D admitted, “so adjusting to the lack of face-to-face interactions wasn’t an issue. However, work productivity could be a concern because home is a place of comfort, leisure and laziness.” Karyne explained. She understands why Lauren’s favorite moment was coming back to the office. “Under quarantine, the days begin to mesh together,” Karyne further explained. “You are no longer able to distinguish a Monday from a Friday — the workspace becomes the edge of your bed where your feet occupy at night and getting ready for work is simply waking up and rolling over to your laptop or desktop and just, well, starting.”

For a small business, being able to return to work was just as much as a favorite moment as it was a triumph in 2020. “Returning to work meant returning to something tangible,” Karyne recalls. Workspace was no longer the random, shared place of home. “It was a privilege to be able to return to work after months of not,” Karyne said. The reality is that many businesses went home from work — twiddling fingers and waiting for the “right time” to go back, and never opened up for in-person business again. The growing list of officially closed businesses during the pandemic is both overwhelming and sobering. “Being in the office — seeing our coworkers and knowing that all of us still had work to come back to — was a huge relief and thanksgiving.”

Missed Opportunities and the Lessons We Learned from Them

The American Marketing Association (AMA) published an article on its website that shared the most surprising (and missed) strategies — and missed opportunities from a survey conducted by the CMO Survey that was named a Special COVID-19 Edition. In this, numerous marketing leaders in U.S. for-profit companies were asked to share their survival strategies, KPIs, and predictions about the future after the pandemic. Marketers no doubt had to rethink their strategies in an era of homebound customers, social distancing, and an unpredictable environment, and most marketers agree that the marketing strategies that were developed and used during the COVID-19 pandemic will be important opportunities for their companies over the long term (5.6 out of 7).

1. Marketers turn inward for COVID-19 problem-solving.

When it comes to finding information to guide their company’s marketing strategies during the pandemic, some 82.6 percent of marketers relied on team members! This inward focus may have been driven by a combination of the speed necessary for decision-making, survival fears, and the view that no one knew what would be a good decision. Regardless, it’s likely that marketers missed out on important insights that might have emerged from a broader learning lens. One example of looking outward is Texas grocery store giant HEB, which reached out to Chinese retailers in January 2020 to determine how it should respond if the virus hit the U.S.

2. Customer acquisition

Survey results indicate that 65 percent of marketers believe new customers have been attracted to their products and services, but only 14 percent of marketers rank customer acquisition as their primary objective. This contrasts with retaining current customers (ranked No. 1 at 33% and ranked No. 2 at 26%) and building brand value (ranked No. 1 at 33% and ranked No. 2 at 24%). Consistent with this, marketing employees were leveraged more for getting active online to promote the company and its offerings (69%) and reaching out to current customers with information (65%), compared to generating new products and service ideas (44%) or making contact with leads (30.4%).

In the mad scramble to keep businesses afloat, we think marketers may have missed opportunities to reach new customers. In technology, some 61.5 percent of companies used marketing employees for this purpose, as did 59.1 percent of professional services and consulting firms.

3. Marketers move too fast for experimentation

Marketers reported a need to pivot, with respondents rating their level of improvisation as an average 5.6 out of 7 during the pandemic. Despite increased improvisation, there has been a decrease in experimentation, with only 31 percent of marketers reporting that they conducted experiments — varying some marketing actions and observing effects — to understand the impact of their marketing actions during the pandemic. This indicates that marketers are implementing new, improvised strategies frequently, but without fully understanding their effects.

What We’re Looking Forward to in 2021

While businesses receive guidelines from the CDC on how to safely return to work after the pandemic, this article on returning to work in the future of work reminds us to embrace the “storm” that is COVID-19. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s perspective is that humans who want to adapt in an age of acceleration must develop “dynamic stability.”

Rather than trying to stop an inevitable storm of change, we’re encouraged to “build an eye that moves with the storm, draws energy from it, but creates a platform of dynamic stability within it.” Rather than shrinking from, or preparing to fight, the oncoming storm of change, businesses draw energy from it. And in the context of COVID-19, businesses are encouraged to leverage the opportunity to return to work by designing the future of work, employing the lessons, practices, and goodwill that had been built during the pandemic.

For C7D, this means honing in on our need to go further than just fostering open dialogue and open practices around well-being. Now is the time for us to embed well-being in every aspect of the design and delivery of work itself and to fundamentally redesign work toward outputs instead of activities. This will open up the possibility for our employees to both live and perform at our best. This also means that we’re ruminating about the opportunity to push the envelope in the ways when it comes to integrating teams of humans and technology.

We’re excited to evolve our thinking about technology from a purely substitution view (replacing humans with technology) to using technology as an augmentation or collaboration strategy! This perspective will ultimately help us build a culture of actionable knowledge-sharing and knowledge creation that strengthens our company’s connectivity and affords us resilience to be able to withstand, and even to thrive in, environments of disruption, uncertainty, and change.


More About COVID-19 and the State of Marketing

Things to Consider When Returning to Work After the Present Work is Disrupted