It’s not an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way that the businesses of the world operate. Supply lines have been disrupted by factory shutdowns, cutting off manufacturers and distributors and changing prices. On the other end, retail workers are staying home, closing locations and throttling revenue streams. Air travel is down, vacations are canceled, and the stock market has tanked.
Businesses are slashing budgets to survive. Unfortunately, marketing is often one of the first things that businesses cut, and for one simple reason — they think it’s not as important. But the evidence is not on their side.
After the last major recession in 2008/2009, the Harvard Business Review did a breakdown of which businesses survived and which didn’t. Slashing workforce and marketing, as it turns out, is not a recipe for long-term success.
Granted, this recession is like nothing we’ve seen before. We don’t know how long it’ll last or how quickly various industries will come out of it, so we’re planning for the long haul. Whether it’s another month or another year before everything returns to (mostly) normal, here’s what you can be doing now.
1. Focus On Your Existing Customers
Everyone knows that it’s easier to keep a customer than to acquire one, and in uncertain times like these, it’s more important than ever to hang on to the customers you already have. That means keeping in touch with them, adapting to their needs, and reassuring them that you’re here for them.
First, automate your marketing processes to keep in touch with your customers. And that doesn’t mean generic email marketing spam. You’ve seen all the emails from every company you’ve ever talked to, explaining how they’re all handling this crisis — and some of them are pretty vapid. Your emails need to be personalized, contextualized, and targeted.
That goes for your social channels, too. Stay in touch with all of your customers on every channel and at every touchpoint, giving them useful and practical information about how you’re handling problems.
Another area that often goes overlooked is sales and marketing alignment. When sales and marketing teams aren’t on the same page, things fall through the cracks — to the tune of more than a trillion dollars a year. That’s money you can’t afford to spare in a down economy. The same goes for service and marketing alignment — make sure you have the processes in place to get customer feedback into the right hands so that your customers stay happy.
2. Drive Engagement
In order to sustain what sales you can and be prepared for what’s next, you need to continue marketing initiatives geared towards engaging your prospects and buyer personas across multiple channels and stages of the buyer’s journey. Your marketing can’t stop; it needs to be more targeted, nuanced, and timely. If a traditional marketing campaign is like a machete — large, unwieldy, and imprecise — you need a scalpel.
Integrated marketing is that scalpel. All your channels need to work together with consistent branding, a unified campaign, the same imagery, and the same messaging. Your customers are going to interact with your brand around half a dozen times before they make a purchase, so everyone one of those interactions needs to send the same message.
3. Prioritize Conversion Optimization
Conversion rate optimization is one of the most effective ways to bring in more leads at low cost, turning more visitors into customers. That means iterating, testing, and tweaking every part of your site, from CTAs to imagery, to find out what your customers respond to the best.
One technique that’s proven very popular is user-generated content (UGC). Leverage reviews and testimonials from the happy customers you’ve had in the past to appeal to new ones — prospective buyers trust your customers more than they trust your marketing speak, so a happy customer base is one of your most valuable assets.
Investing in your website is another key area. Visitors to a site that find it slow or unintuitive will bail, clocking out to another site before they even have a chance to see what you’re offering. You can’t afford to turn away potential customers at the door, so you need to make your site as clean, fast, and inviting as possible. Even small upgrades can make a huge difference.
Take that time to go through your Google Analytics, Facebook Business, and any other data gathering and analytics software, and make sure you’re measuring what you want to be measuring. That applies to each and every marketing channel, as well as the entire buyer’s journey to see what can be improved, how you can capitalize on what’s working, and identify new areas of opportunity.
5. Look Ahead
If there are areas of marketing that need your attention, invest the time now. Maybe you’ve been thinking of doing some brand-building exercises or audit your marketing technology. Maybe getting with customer success and outlining a robust and high-performing renewals process would be an excellent item to tackle. Whatever your project is take the opportunity to use this time to your advantage. Prepping, planning, strategizing means that you’ll be ahead of the competition.
This will all pass eventually. The bad news is that it might take a while, and businesses (and their people) will struggle in the meantime. But the good news is that we’re all in it together. If you would like some help in navigating an uncharted marketing world, we’re here for you.