The arrival of COVID19 has forced many companies to pivot–in strategy, in business set-up, in marketing tactics. When you’re feeling defeated or conflicted about whether or not to continue investing in marketing your business, take a step back and focus on key areas. Doing so can take the enormity of the situation and break it into more palatable scenarios.
4 important areas of marketing focus during a downturn
1. Your pipeline
While you may be focused on hitting your goals, numbers and revenue marks today you need to be thinking about the future as well. If the majority of your customers were unable to come back, would you have a pipeline of those who know who you are and are in a beginning phase of the buyer’s journey?
The suggestions I’m outlining today will help you continue to build this pipeline. Think about what will be most effective for your business and update your goals for the remainder of the year to focus on building that pipeline.
2. New opportunities
You offer a specific service or product to a specific customer niche. While that should always continue to be your focus (you’ve worked hard on that!) consider the possibilities of offering interim services or products to provide immediate help to your current customer base.
- Are there products, features or services you can offer for free or in tandem with other offers?
- Can you partner with another brand or business to offer packages to a similar customer base?
- Do you have content you’ve used for events, speaking engagements, trainings or workshops that you can re-purpose in digital download formats or online webinars?
- Have your customers requested changes to your products or services that would be relatively simple to implement or launch during this time?
New opportunities can also apply to speaking engagements or professional organizations. If you find yourself spinning your wheels with “what’s next?” or you have a bit of extra time on your hands, take those opportunities to look into expanding your thought leadership and education Enlist in professional development opportunities or training, join a leadership group or apply to speak at an upcoming virtual event. Keep active and keep your options open during times of change.
We’re all navigating new ways of communicating with one another. This may be through Zoom or Microsoft Teams. It may be through Slack or Google Meet. Regardless of whether you were always using these tools or they are new to you, it’s likely that they are here to stay.
Your customers are navigating a new world of technology right along with you; they’re assisting in digital learning for their kids, they’re hoping on video calls for their jobs and they’re navigating online ordering with curbside pick-up from their favorite restaurants. Think through technology as an added benefit; something you can continue in the future:
- How can you use the current trends in technology to offer engaging customer service or new products to your customers?
- As businesses start to re-open, can you continue to offer services online or through current technology as well as in-person? Doing so could provide a slight bump in revenue and provide options for customers who aren’t quite ready to be ‘in person’ yet.
- Are there new technology platforms that you’ve wanted to consider as part of your business? Now may be the time to get pricing on those as customers continue to be more comfortable with additional changes and options.
Rather than feeling like you were ‘forced’ to invest in new technology as a way to continue with business, think of it as a new opportunity. Now that you have the new technology, what else can you do with it to make it continue to work for your business through the years (and make it worth the investment you’ve already put into it)?
4. Customer retention
Pandemic or no pandemic, it is less expensive to retain current customers than it is to obtain new ones. In fact, it can cost you upwards of 5 times as much to acquire a new customer than to spend time nurturing the ones you already have.
Keep your customers close by engaging with them through social media channels and email communications. Post weekly update videos online and prepare statements that show you are being transparent with any changes or new protocols that may launch due to the current state. Focus on continuing to build relationships here but don’t be afraid of the ‘up-sell’. Plan key touch points and opportunities to cross-promote and up-sell your products and services to your existing customer base. These are the people who already know you, like you and are more apt to keep doing business with you. Continue to treat them with top-notch customer service; they are also your brand ambassadors who will be more likely to spread the good word about you (in fact, consumes are four times as likely to purchase from a company referred to them by a friend).
Marketing tactics to invest in now to prepare for the upswing
Things will turn around. And while we don’t know when this will happen for everyone, there are things you should do now to ensure you are ready when business is booming once again.
Consistent content creation
Craft relevant content for now and be there to offer advice and suggestions that meet your audience’s needs today. Ensure that you are consistent in your usage of social media and that you are continuing to utilize email marketing on a recurring basis. Take time to update the content on your website so that it reflects the current state of affairs. Be open and transparent.
Your current content marketing strategy is likely on hold and that’s OK. Your business goals have likely changed and your content needs to change along with it. Consistency is still key.
Pivot your content by addressing the following:
- How can you help your customers using your specific knowledge and know-how? They are in crisis, too. What may have changed about their situations? How can you provide support (without a direct sale)? Talk about that.
- Which channels are most relevant now? Do you find that your customers gravitate to Facebook or Twitter during crisis? Have they abandoned all social media to focus solely on email because they’re overwhelmed with their news feed? Would a personal phone call work best? Have your in-person events been postponed or cancelled? What makes the most sense from here on out? Virtual events? Articles or content that provide the same type of content? Interviews with speakers?
- How often can you commit? If you are down a writer, if you’ve now moved to being the only person creating your content (or maybe you always were), what is truly feasible? What can you take on? How often can you post? Will you be able to monitor feedback and comments? Would it help to outsource portions of what you need until you’re back to full staff?
Paid digital advertising
Traditional advertising tactics such as print advertisements and billboards have a longer lead time than digital advertising, which is why, in times of uncertainty, it can be cost-effective to put your advertising dollars into platforms that provide a quicker return on investment (ROI). That said, consumer behaviors during global crisis can also provide us with insight as to where to put our ad dollars. For example, viewership on Hulu is up by 7 million paid users over this time last year. Buyers are consuming more screen time–whether that be visually through social media usage and streaming services like Hulu, or through audio services like Audible and podcasts. Consider testing ads on these platforms if they coincide with your target market. Likewise, if you haven’t ventured into social media advertising, consider starting with a small budget there to reach your audience where they are.
Lead generation strategies
To fill your pipeline, you need to generate leads. These are prospects; potential customers that you can continue to nurture and communicate to about your business. For now, don’t think too hard about how long it may take to turn these leads into sales. Right now, you want to build your lists and your database. Likewise, you don’t have to break the bank to generate leads; while it can cost more to obtain new customers, I’m simply talking about having a pipeline of prospects that can one day turn in to customers.
Think about your website: is it set up to gather information from its users? Do you know when someone downloads your services guide or grabs a price sheet? Can you see which users look at your class pages or visit your About page? When you set up digital ads as noted above, are you directing users to a landing page that will prompt them to fill out a form or provide you with their contact information?
Some of what you’re already doing may be gathering leads, but do you have an adequate plan for organizing and storing those leads for future use? Consider the following to beef up your leads process during this time:
- Can we offer online workshops, classes or content that first requires an email or additional information to sign-up or gain access?
- If we have free content on our website, is there a way for us to gather user information prior to them downloading that information?
- Can we gather leads through social media posts, contests or ads?
- Where are we storing leads/emails that come in? (A service like Pipedrive is a great place to start. And, while I normally don’t recommend using broadcast email platforms as databases, a service such as Constant Contact can serve as a starting point to at least store email addresses and categorize them by lists or tags in the interim).
Continued metrics assessment
Understanding how your target market consumes information right now will help set you up for success. Use buying signals and look at where short-term growth happens. Consider your target audience and behaviors:
- Are they continuing to purchase as planned?
- Have they pulled back?
- Are new targets appearing? Should you focus there?
Look at where traffic is coming from to your website. Look at your conversion rates on any piece (new or old) of gated content online. Look at your sales–are they recurring customers? New? A mix?
Digging in to your metrics now will provide you a roadmap for the future. In turn, you may need to shift your marketing plan to match new business objectives for the remainder of the year.
Keep at it
While it may seem like the easy thing to cut out of your budget as you slim down during hard times, your company’s marketing tactics need to remain in tact in order to build your pipeline, continue to build brand awareness and keep nurturing current customers. Investing in your brand is an important aspect of keeping your business afloat as you navigating choppy waters. There are options out there to do this in a cost-effective. Feel free to reach out if you need to talk through those or take a look at our webinars to gain more insight in key areas as you navigate your next move.
You got this!