August 26, 2020

Strategic and Tactical Considerations for 2021 Planning During COVID-19

Close-up photo of dartboard with dart in bullseye

Brand planning cycles can vary — and some brands may even be winding down and honing in on their tactics — but it’s still worth acknowledging that brand planning can be one of the most stressful, highly charged experiences marketers face. Collaborating across multiple internal stakeholders and numerous agency partners takes a coordinated effort in the best of times; managing the process during a pandemic with numerous unknowns and a new ‘virtual’ reality … who had that on their 2020 bingo card? So, how can marketers plan for the future when there are so many unknowns? We have some ideas.

Strategic Imperatives
Hyper-focus on creating customer experiences that enrich human connections. Despite fewer visits from reps, strong relationships with healthcare providers (HCPs) are still critical. Consider carefully how your brand can still have an appropriate presence at the point of care.

Product launches will likely follow an atypical trajectory. New products may need a longer ramp-up, followed by rapid growth. A mix of face-to-face and virtual engagements must drive early interest and product trials. Similarly, tactics to generate interest and excitement must be balanced between digital and traditional, in order to make efforts as targeted as possible.

Customer service and support will differentiate products. Customers can be supported with both on-demand and live interactions. Digital touchpoints can connect, inform, educate, and support. And financial assistance must evolve to drive product initiation and adherence while ensuring affordability and profitability. (To learn more, see the Intouch Group POV COVID-19 and Its Impact on Patient Support Programs.)

Tactical Considerations
Consider a product “re-launch.” This may be an opportunity to simplify your brand’s value proposition, prioritize your HCP and patient targets, and orchestrate tailored communications across channels.

Drive sales post-COVID-19 with an evolved marketing mix. Analyze targets and segments to determine which will produce the highest return. Scrutinize channels to understand which will produce the greatest ROI, which can scale, and how to orchestrate messaging across them.

Use – but don’t overuse – digital outreach. HCPs are already overloaded with email, so it’s worth considering how can you establish reach and frequency governance across brands and channels, as well as response thresholds that indicate growing non-responses and opt-outs, then adjust accordingly. Also consider how to incorporate testing and agility to ensure optimization.

Boost tech capabilities to stay agile. Ensure that your existing technology “stack” – i.e., SalesForce, Veeva, Adobe, etc. – is being maximized: look for gaps that can prevent efficient and effective omnichannel execution, and explore innovations that can drive business goals, meet customer needs, and provide competitive differentiation.

Develop two to three plans at varying investment levels and with varying marketing levers. Stay agile through the remainder of 2020, and throughout 2021, by continuously monitoring objective key results, leading and lagging indicators, insights, and lessons learned.

Many brand teams follow the same planning process year after year, but in the current climate, the parameters have shifted dramatically. To plan successfully, teams must set realistic expectations and leverage the right technology. They must also balance being thoughtful and thorough with working rapidly in a consolidated timeframe. Finally, wise teams will develop multiple scenario plans for 2021 that make it possible to pivot nimbly and keep making progress despite ever-evolving dynamics. If you’d like to learn more about best practices for brand planning in this uncertain time, read Intouch’s complete POV, The Impact of COVID-19 on Brand Planning.