Ditch the ‘Wait and See’ and Nurture Subject Matter Experts

by Veronique James, Founder and CEO of The James Agency

Veronique James

There is no question that COVID was difficult on all businesses, but even more so on destination travel. As we started to turn the corner and see some sense of return to “normalcy,” it was important that we prepare our clients for the phases of reentry to ensure that they would be ready. Timing is of the essence as things were (and are) changing every day. TJA presented a phased approach to our clients while the stay-at-home order was still in place, when restrictions were first lifted, when hotels and shops began to open again, and for when things “returned back to normal.” Having assets for each stage pre-approved and waiting in the wings meant they were ready to go and able to pivot on a dime. For this destination travel client, the four-pronged phased approach strategy resulted in a 552% return on ad spend, a 60% boost in hotel bookings post campaign and 13,400,000 impressions to the local market. 

Although things are seemingly starting to be more relaxed as it relates to COVID restrictions, we suggest that a plan be put in place for the rest of the year. Long gone are the days of “wait and see” advertising, as everyone is fighting to regain their share of voice. Building awareness through brand frequency and repetition will help regain that consumer confidence and loyalty that many brands once had. Clearly defining the brand value statement will be crucial as so many are jockeying for first position; thus, fluffy statements will be quickly forgotten. 

For businesses that were greatly affected in 2020 financially, digital media is an excellent way to quantify an investment while targeting specific audiences. For smaller budgets, this can be a fantastic way to broadcast the business’s message or product without casting a wide net of wasteful dollars. More importantly, COVID brought a heightened attention to brands that are genuine and scrutinized those that are not. Businesses whose marketing promise isn’t in alignment with their customer experience will be quickly measured up to those whose are. Remember, a brand is a promise of what is to come … not just a great commercial or campaign. 

Many businesses have in-house teams focused on marketing and public relations. Others may have lost their internal teams due to financial instability or possibly lost their trusted agency partner due to COVID impacting their businesses as well. Now is an excellent time to source those new relationships or augment existing ones. Several of our clients have smaller internal teams that are subject-matter experts in their verticals. We’ve engaged with these clients over the last six months to work in tandem with their key stakeholders as a trusted outside perspective to help them audit their current brand perception and campaign strategy. By having a third-party resource, businesses are able to vet their media spends and campaign messages to ensure there is proper alignment with the current consumer climate and, more importantly, confirm that they stack up with the competitive landscape. 

Those who are sourcing a potential new marketing partnership should be wary of the one- or two-man shops that have birthed from COVID. Those who lost their jobs or chose to work permanently from home have spawned off to start “boutique” firms. While some are strong, we are, sadly, seeing several of these tiny groups take on more than they can handle. Value statements similar to “value direct to the clients by not having any overhead,” or “direct access to experts” can sound financially enticing, but in reality these independent contractors have little liability to the client’s investment and could fold as quickly as they started. We suggest vetting partners with a long history in the market and/or a track record of managing adversity in economic downturns. 

For businesses that are just returning to normal business practices as well as those that have been operating routinely for months now, having a plan in place while projecting an authentic message will position the business to face the balance of 2021 competitively. 

The James Agency, founded in 2005, started with the goal of creating an agency focused on open communication and transparency with clients and employees. Today, the award-winning, integrated agency specializes in consumer advertising, public relations and digital and continues to exemplify founder Veronique James’ original vision. 


This is one segment of the August 2021 cover story “Coming Back: How Marketing Will Build (Back) Business after COVID-19.”

Click here to check out the other 10 businesses and the cover designs they submitted for the Cover Story Cover Contest (winner was featured as the actual magazine cover).

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