The past two weeks have been highly unnerving for the entire world, both because of what’s known about the COVID-19 virus…and what’s unknown. Businesses are only now beginning to wrap their arms around how this pandemic could affect their employees’ wellbeing, their sales funnels, continuity of operations…and about a dozen other things. One issue that many haven’t dealt with yet is their marketing.
Because most companies are grappling with how they’ll continue to generate leads and close opportunities during the crisis, we’ve put together some recommendations for getting the right messages to the right people.
Be visible with clear and useful communications. Now.
Your vendors, customers, prospects and employees all need to know what actions you’re taking and what you’re able (and not able) to do for them. If you’re located in a state that’s shut down all but “essential businesses” (healthcare facilities, grocery stores, banks, media services, hardware stores, laundromats, some manufacturing, and delivery services, among others) and yours is one of them, your vendors, customers, prospects and employees all need to know that “all hands are on deck” and the extent to which you’re able to serve their needs. This is especially true for companies that manufacture heavy equipment, as these will become critical to customers trying to keep their production of goods flowing.
Another important message to be sharing is about your supply chain diversity. Consider writing a blog post about this topic; it’s a great format for talking about the number and quality of suppliers you have providing the materials you need, allaying any fears that you won’t be able to supply customers with what they need.
Protect your Google rank
During the peak of China’s COVID-19 crisis, that country’s internet traffic increased by 20%, and the U.S. is seeing a similar uptick. Certainly some of this traffic is a result of people at home spending time online researching COVID-19 (and probably a fair amount of time looking for ways to keep themselves entertained), but some of it is undoubtedly people continuing their work, looking for solutions to ongoing business challenges. Because your prospects are still online, it’s important that you continue to rank high in search results. If you reduce the effort you’re putting into creating content, you’ll see a distinct dropoff of quality traffic, and it will be difficult to get that rank back.
Modify your editorial mix
Yes, continuing to publish valuable content is key, but that doesn’t mean just any content. Review your editorial mix and modify it as needed to make sure you’re focused on the vertical markets you need to talk to most. In other words, whatever content you create, make sure it’s contextual to the current situation — and sensitively so.
Let’s say you manufacture pizza crusts for both the restaurant industry and for consumer food manufacturers — with restaurants being shuttered in about half of this country’s states (by the time this blog post publishes, it’ll certainly be more), it’s more important that you communicate to food manufacturers, assuring them that you’re able to keep them supplied with quality products. There are similar opportunities for manufacturers to share content aimed at industries that need their products desperately today, such as healthcare and government/military.
Use technology to fill gaps
In-person meetings are, for the most part, things to avoid at all costs these days, and that puts sales teams at a disadvantage…or does it? Most organizations are set up to do video conferencing, and some are becoming adept at using individual personalized videos as a better substitute for email. You can also use professionally produced videos to expand your sales team’s reach and showcase your capabilities. Investing in videos — such as facility tours, demonstrations of your products’ functionalities, comparisons of your product versus a competitor’s, and videos of technicians talking about the importance of preventive maintenance — will pay dividends into the future, as prospects and customers will continue to find and view them well after the crisis has passed.
Work closer than ever with Sales to help close more deals
Sales teams are struggling even more than marketing with the lack of in-person contact, and as marketers we likely have tools that can help them navigate this new “virtual reality.” And since you’re all aligned around the same goal of growing your company, there’s never been a better time to work together. Support Sales with tools that make it easy for them to connect with and “wow” prospects — such as email tracking, personalized sales landing pages, 1:1 personalized video messages, and meetings links — and remind them to use the CRM and your marketing automation platform to have relevant conversations with prospects based on the content that lead has interacted with on your site.
Stay connected with marketing peers
Use this time to learn from others’ experiences. As part of LinkedIn and Facebook industry groups, you can keep up with industry developments related to the pandemic, share ideas and resources, and learn what’s working (and what’s not) from others who are going through what you are.
Our most valuable tip: Stop selling… just be helpful
The most important tip we can share is to execute the recommendations listed above with humility and the desire to help. The pandemic does indeed present opportunities for businesses, and they shouldn’t be ashamed to fill real needs — but it’s in very poor taste to come at prospects and customers with only your profitability in mind. This approach could end up doing irreparable harm to your reputation.
If you need some help navigating your way during these not-so-normal times, we have a lot of practical marketing resources to help you and your organization.