With live events and site visits disappearing, undoubtedly some or even many of your 2020 marketing efforts are no longer relevant. Yet as difficult as it may be to forge ahead in these unprecedented times, organizations still need to communicate with their customers and prospects.
Where is a marketer to begin?
When facing uncertainty, your company needs to be agile. Consider these five “pivot” recommendations when developing your strategy for the months ahead.
Audit Your Creative. That ad you run every summer or those nurturing programs you have on autopilot, how are they holding up? Now is the time to review all of your planned content to make sure nothing sounds glaringly unhelpful. No, you probably won’t have anything as groan-worthy as these poorly timed ad spots shared by Ad Age. But something as simple as a subject line in all caps with “ALERT” can appear slightly out of touch and take focus away from your message at a time when so many people are feeling anxious. (Pro tip: Social media in particular should receive careful review, as the surrounding context for the viewer may be more jarring against your product content than, say, your own website or trade media.)
Reassess Your Value Proposition. Getting your message right may be one of the trickiest challenges marketers will face, as shifts in the environment often trigger shifts in perception and buying behavior.
Consider an equipment supplier that may have relied on “ease of use” as a key selling point year after year to differentiate its product from those of competitors. In these changing times, who is to say that this criterion remains most important? Given social distancing and economic uncertainties, new levels of import may suddenly be given to a company’s capabilities around output speed, remote monitoring and reporting, local maintenance options or low-cost financing programs. Don’t assume your old playbook will continue to work. Marketers should examine which messages best resonate with prospects’ current needs.
Don’t Cut Pipeline. It can be tempting to delay or drop advertising programs, focusing chiefly on low-funnel efforts to aid cash flow. Yet this emotional reaction to market change is the exact the opposite of what you need to be doing to secure your business.
Without access to live events, your efforts around growing pipeline need to be even stronger. Sure, existing customers may find your website. But what about all of those buying teams who either aren’t aware of you yet or haven’t shaped an impression strong enough to expend the extra effort to research you?
To keep an influx of new prospects and improve speed to purchase, you need to invest in brand awareness and web-traffic drivers. Tactics such as trade media email, web ads and paid social are what fuels the sales process.
(Still not convinced? Read about an analysis one market research company did looking at advertising impact after the 2008 recession and past industry shake-up events.)
Keep a Skeptical Eye on Metrics. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to see a sudden shift in engagement and leap to major—and often inaccurate—conclusions.
As an example, are you seeing a sudden surge in your digital analytics data? Before you celebrate, keep in mind that with so many employees working remotely right now, this may influence your data. Your typical filter won’t catch workers working remotely, unless they are possibly using a VPN or other remote network connection. This means your employees might be counted in your analytics metrics, even though you had previously created a filter for this. Your best bet is to make a note with your reporting, so you can keep track of this influence as it’s very unlikely a solution exists to true up your analytics account.
On the flip side, one area where you may mistakenly feel like you’re failing is conversion of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales-qualified leads (the transition from “engagement” to recognition the account is “in market”). During times of uncertainty, many buyers will delay large-ticket purchases or innovations and “window shop” instead. If your products are seeing a drop in demand during this time, it doesn’t mean you should dismiss MQLs as readily as you might normally. Instead, increase your focus on optimizing upper funnel touches while building remarketing lists with these accounts. By continuing to feed these prospects thought leadership and branding, you’ll stay top-of-mind during the turbulent times and be best positioned to start closing sales once more stability sets in and sales pipelines resume movement.
Ready Your Digital Storefront. As face-to-face product inquiries give way to more digital research behaviors, your website needs to keep pace. Simply put: You need to be “shoppable.”
Do you have the quantity and quality of product information needed to support online research? You may have a simple product video, but are your prospects also able to see what’s entailed in day-to-day ownership of your product, such as maintenance processes, changeovers, safety features or the like? Taking the time to develop this video content is vital, as buyers increasingly are drawn to suppliers that provide least friction when investigating whether a product meets their needs. (For tips on developing content, see "Top Do's and Don'ts for Your Video Strategy.")
Similarly, examine your processes around responding to inquiries that come through your website. Now, more than ever, you’ll need strong means for vetting leads and providing timely response.