The learning curve for marketing professionals has never been sharper than it is right now, in the wake of the coronavirus. We have all been thrown into the deep end and have to learn how to swim.
Right now marketers need to be more customer-centric than business-centric. Almost every marketing activity that anyone was planning to do before the Covid-19 hit has been postponed at best, or shelved altogether. That includes everything from major global conferences, to complete rebrands to tactical day-to-day content.
As marketers, we need to ensure that we don’t look for quick-fixes to help tide over the crisis, but look for an effective strategy that plays out for the long haul.
1. Be a strategic partner
In many ways, this is the moment that most marketing teams have been waiting for. Especially if you work in professional services marketing, and you’ve had challenges in getting sales and leadership to think about marketing beyond events and brochure – this is your moment to step up. Think about it – no face to face meetings for a while so sales can’t really have those in person connections to meet new prospects and close business. No physical events to help build that initial trust and credibility. Sales is now more dependent than ever on marketing to bridge this gap.
Are you ready to step up?
Be a strategic marketer by being knowledgeable about trends, identifying relevant opportunities and back them up with smart research. Which industries are likely to be better off than some others? Are there smart pivots that you come up with to offer a new product or service? Your leadership and sales team can use all the help they need now and intelligent marketing insights could effectively steer the business in the right direction.
It also means you need to listen, more than ever to your clients and be on the pulse about what’s happening in the market. And be able to provide intelligent and relevant insights back to your sales and leadership teams.
If you’ve got the tools and resources to do the research, great. If not, follow a few trusted sources and analyze the data from them. We’ve been following McKinsey and they’ve been totally on point and extremely fast with their series around Coronavirus and its implications for the economy and businesses.
Here is a good example.
Adage has done a really neat job of keeping track of what some leading brands are doing during this time. Check it out here.
Marketers should act as a catalyst for action by bringing their insights and ideas to the rest of the organization to begin this discussion.
2. Assess, optimize and start planning for the future
This is a really good time to optimize any existing campaigns and tweak according to the situation and correct or pull back where necessary. It’s also a good time to have a relook at your to-do list and identify items that are worth being reprioritized. This could be anything from a content audit, rationalizing your martech stack or even some basic housekeeping in terms of reorganizing your knowledge assets.
But most importantly, start ideating about the future and think about how to get out the gate running ahead with full steam. It’s possible that entirely new businesses and business models will emerge from the crisis. Virtual-based revenue streams such as app-based services may have more promise, and new ecosystems and marketplaces are likely to appear. With uncertainty likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future, it will be important to develop a portfolio approach to launching initiatives, tracking, and reallocating resources based on how each performs.
Experiment, experiment, experiment! This is a truly unprecedented scenario and a majority of businesses are either taking calculated risks or just winging it, hoping to get it right. If you’ve got smart, bold or even crazy ideas, this is probably the best time to go for it.
3. Double down on content and thought leadership
People now have more time than ever and will be more receptive to consuming a lot more content than previously. Don’t worry about conversions. Think about how best to put out really helpful content and better educate your target audience and create awareness for your products and services. People are researching all the time and if your content resonates, they’ll reach out when they’re ready to buy again. Remember 70% of the purchase decision has already been made by the time a prospect reaches out to you. The next couple of months will all be about research, so you need to make sure you’re visible in this process and show up as a credible player.
But remember, to take extra care about your tone of voice and style – you don’t want to come across as trying to capitalize on this crisis. Be patient. Almost no one is buying anything at the moment.
Double down on your content and thought leadership efforts – experiment with formats and themes – keep the engine running – even faster if that’s possible. Test, measure, analyze, repeat.
4. Let your existing customers know you care
Remember your customers are just as affected by the crisis and by putting their needs first and finding effective ways to help them strengthen their loyalty. Ensure you reach out to them and communicate to them even if you do not expect any business from them. Let them know that you are there to help them out and support them in any way that you can.
Do your research, use listening tools, do extensive analysis to understand their biggest pain points and check if you can provide feasible solutions to address them. Can you provide a different operating model or flexible pricing option or a cost-effective alternative solution? Ensure periodic communication through relevant channels and create personalized, highly contextualized messages to share your ideas and solutions with them.
Your customers may not be actively looking to provide new business, but they are paying attention and your proactive communication strategy could pave the path for a long-term relationship with them post the crisis.
5. Go digital, all the way
Events make up for a significant portion of marketing budgets, especially for B2B businesses. That frees up the purse strings on almost 40% of marketing spend, which can now be channeled into your digital marketing efforts. And the good news, the spend can be staggered, ROI can be measured, and the most effective campaigns that result in good quality leads can be identified.
Take a step back and rethink your digital strategy –
- This is a great time to focus on churning out those long-form content pieces for your website
- Invest in effective SEO strategy to boost your SERP rankings organically
- Refresh your messaging to be in-line with the current situation and relaunch your content strategy to reflect that
- Social media is where most of your customers are right now, make sure you are being heard through smart organic posts as well as effective paid campaigns
- Fine-tune your martech efforts – Should you be tweaking those campaigns? Should you be considering a new automation partner? Should you get your plans to launch an integrated multi-channel campaign in 3 months time?
- Never ventured into Webinars or Podcasts? Well, this is your lucky time, because those guest speakers and industry experts now have some extra time on their hands and will probably be more than happy to jump in on a podcast with your inhouse expert or share their insights on a webinar led by your team
While it may be a good idea to pause hard ‘salesy’ digital campaigns, it is vital to ensure you do not completely pull out all marketing efforts. Rethink and relaunch your digital marketing efforts, tailored to the current situation. By reacting faster than your competitors, you get to lead the way and strengthen your brand.
We haven’t arrived at the new normal yet. We don’t quite know what that looks like. But it’s coming, and we all need to hang in there, genuinely listen to customers and colleagues, build and leverage our interpersonal networks, and be kind to each other. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape.