The current coronavirus Covid 19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation globally and has forced us in charted - – certainly turbulent – waters in personal and business lives. In this difficult time, we all are wondering how we operate as businesses and communities.Here in India, at the time of writing, even though we’re at the early stages of this pandemic, Prime Minister Modi, has ordered a complete lockdown of the country for the next 21 days to flatten the curve and prevent community spread. It’s unclear what is to come and for how long it’s going to be before we return to some form of normality.
With events and roundtables being canceled in all industries across the globe in the wake of corona virus COVID-19, and no indication when they may be able to start up again, sales and marketing is going to be vital for lead generation.
It would be easy to have a knee-jerk reaction, batten down the hatches and cut all your spending, but that would be entirely the wrong thing to do. Now is not the time to go silent. Online engagement is surging with social distancing in place. More people are spending more time on social media and accessing web-based resources than ever before. There’s a great opportunity to reach your audience and provide them with information, interaction, positive thoughts, and relevant resources.
They need to know if you’re still operational, what services you’re now offering, how you’re adjusting (it’s okay to be human), and how you can help. They need to be reassured that if they interact with your company or employees, appropriate cautions are in place.
There’s a saying that ‘when times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad you MUST advertise.’ (Replace the word advertise with marketing)
There are many examples of companies that took the bull by the horns and invested heavier in their marketing during hard times:
Kellogg’s, in the 1920s, threw itself at radio to launch its “Snap Crackle & Pop” ad for the new Rice Krispies cereal and grew its profits by 30%*
Pizza Hut and Taco Bell increased their spend during the 1990-91 recession and saw impressive growth, versus McDonald’s who dropped their budget and saw a loss of sales of 28%*
But, right now, whilst everyone is panicking and are understandably worried about their livelihoods, they may not be thinking about buying your goods and services.
Rather than go into hibernation and cancel all of your Google Ads and marketing, it’s important that you switch track. Concentrate on offering help and support through these difficult times, rather than lead generation and sales conversions.
Many small businesses are making the mistake of cutting their marketing budget to the bone or eliminating it entirely. This is good news for you, the savvy marketer, as your marketing dollars will go MUCH further as ad rates decline. Lean times are exactly when a business needs marketing. Consumers are restless and rapidly making changes in buying decisions. So, don’t quit marketing.
People are spending much more time on social media now, so we have many clients redirecting marketing budgets to social media & search from standard marketing expenses like their:
- Trade shows
- Reduced office space rent
- Reduced workforce (although hopefully, we can all avoid this one)
- Radio (less travel time in the cars so fewer listeners)
When we get through this, and we will, you’ll want to be remembered as the company that was there to help and the one that offered guidance and support, irrespective of sales and profits.
Think about how you can best serve your customers, audience, and contacts, even if it isn’t your core business.
From an inbound marketing perspective, think about the content that you are publishing – and you’ll want to step this up. Is it genuinely helpful and useful to the people reading it? Does it give the message that you genuinely care about helping them through their situation? Are you giving the impression that you really want to support rather than just sell to them?
We’ve always advocated diving deep into your buyer personas – really understanding their goals and aspirations, as well as their challenges, problems, and fears. With this knowledge, you can then create content that is genuinely insightful and helpful.
All of a sudden, these things have changed. Customers will have different challenges and problems to overcome, and you can bet that their fear level will be ten times greater. Speak to your clients. Find out about their current line of thinking and what contingencies that they’ve put in place.
You can bet your bottom dollar that many more people will share similar concerns. You have the ability to provide help and support to others that are going through the same thing by creating and publishing content based on this information.
Your inbound marketing has the potential to build a community – a group of people that share a common ground – and you can be seen as the leader of that community.
Whether it’s a community of blog subscribers, social media followers, members of a Facebook group, or people that attend the same events that you exhibited at, these people are still there and they are looking for someone to help and guide them, not sell to them at this time.
Use your content to help build those communities and engage with them. Stimulate conversation and ideas –you’ll be surprised at what comes of it.
From a sales standpoint, you’ll have salespeople that can’t be in the field. They’ll find it difficult to get hold of their prospects and clients; if they can, the conversations aren’t going to be productive if the salesperson is just trying to close.
Your sales team cannot afford to be idle at this time, calls are still a must. But the approach needs to change. It’s not about qualifying the lead and progressing the sale now; it’s about building relationships and cementing bonds between prospective customers.
Let your sales team reach out to more people and offer help and support.
Update customers on changes in your operations. Communicate any hours, service, safety protocols, or operation updates that have been made via:
- Your website
- Email lists
- Social media accounts
- Post updates to your Google My Business listing! (VERY important)
- Online directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
Focus on current customers. Happy clients act as ambassadors for your business and share their experience with other potential customers. Right now, you need advocates to support local businesses. Your customers have a lot of time right now to help your business.
- Ask for reviews & testimonials
- Update (as of March 23) – Google My Business has stated that new reviews, updates to profiles, and comments may not be seen as they have limited availability to review them internally as well. We would recommend focusing your current review efforts on Yelp and Facebook and then asking for Google reviews once their system is back to normal.
- Share company updates on social media
- Have a loyalty program? Double it and offer rewards. No? Perhaps this is the time to start one.
- Pre-sell gift cards? Create incentives to buy now with additional perks (ie. buy an ‘X’ amount card get a free ‘Y’ amount card).
- Call clients where applicable and ask what you can do to assist their businesses – there maybe some non-traditional ways that you can continue to serve them.
- Create virtual consults or offers
This will not only help build confidence but also you will be able to build lasting relationships that can be leveraged once things are normal to secure the business.
When your sales team is speaking to prospects, ensure that information collected from these interactions is fed back to your marketing team, enabling the creation of useful content.
Establish missed revenue streams. Incorporating things like affiliate marketing, digital and physical products for online ordering, a monthly/recurring membership group, ad revenue, and sponsored content help. You don’t want to be caught with all your eggs in one basket, unable to make a shift or pivot. We’ve even seen businesses taking current employees and giving them new roles such as delivering products, creating new products, or taking on new tasks to keep them employed and busy during slowdowns.
In these challenging times, you have a choice: cut back your costs to the bare minimum, or rise to the challenge and increase your marketing output and sales activity. Going into hibernation will make it harder to get out of a slump as your brand’s value diminishes. If you work to proactively build sales opportunities, however, you can hit the ground running when things start moving again.
If you need any help at all related to your inbound sales and marketing approaches, then we’re happy to have a call to see where we can assist.
Stay safe, maintain social distancing and stay indoors.