Jodi Amendola is CEO of Amendola, an award-winning healthcare and technology public relations and marketing agency based in Scottsdale, AZ.
It’s not really a revelation to say the past few months have been rough for many organizations. Sales are down, and the pipeline has slowed. For public companies, the stock market has been akin to an Octopus carnival ride without the funnel cake waiting at the end.
In times like these, it’s tempting to pull back your marketing efforts and just wait it out in the bunker with some snacks while binge-watching material until things get better. Many organizations look at marketing as an easy line item to cut during economic downturns because they don’t think it directly affects the day-to-day operations or the ability to fill orders you already have. However, in times like these, marketing is more important than ever — even if you focus on some lower-cost but high-value activities.
As Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli, Steve Martin’s character from the underrated movie My Blue Heaven, said, “See, you see a problem. I see potential.”
In a strong economy, it feels like nearly everything you do in marketing and PR works, and there is often little time to evaluate your structure, strategy and outcomes to see if you can do better. Most of your time is probably spent just trying to grab all the dollars you can while they’re swirling around in the money machine booth.
That’s not the case currently for most businesses, which makes it the perfect time to evaluate old approaches and try out new ones. Following are some of the areas you can address right now to shore up your pipeline and ensure that when things pick up again, you’re ready to take full advantage of them.
Improving Sales Now
Just like the Octopus, even in tough times, everything doesn’t go down at once. There are some tremendous opportunities that savvy marketers can use to fill the pipeline, such as:
• Digital: Between people working from home and sheltering in place, screen time is going up tremendously. It’s a pretty safe bet that at least some of that time is being spent on sites that offer digital advertising, so you may want to dedicate more of your budget to this area right now and monitor it closely to see which sites work best. As a bonus, word on the street is that digital ads are currently cheaper than normal as well. In addition to advertising, you should also update your digital presence (i.e., keywords, SEO, metatags, etc.).
• Social: Participating in and engaging with clients/customers on social media is free but can pay huge dividends. Ensure your organization is active and responsive to enhance your reputation. This is also a good time to review the organization’s social media policy as well as implement an incentive program to encourage employees to share company content and become excellent brand ambassadors.
• Webinars: With nowhere to go but the kitchen, those working from home have more time to attend webinars and other online events. They may also be looking to knock out their continuing education unit (CEU) requirements, so if you can offer content that meets that need, the attendance will more than likely be there.
• Promotions: Everyone is looking for a great deal at the moment, so if your products/services lend themselves to promotions, such as a free trial, one month free or savings off purchase or installation costs, now is a good time to make those offers. Maybe test several to see which produces the most takers and leads to long-term retention.
Improvements For The Future
If generating leads isn’t a concern right now, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to stand still. There are a number of activities you can undertake that will prepare you to take advantage of the rush once everything opens up again and the economy is going full tilt. Among them are:
• Understanding What Clients/Customers Really Think Of You: Invest in research to obtain client/customer feedback on your products, customer service, client/customer perception of the organization and other areas. Once you have that guidance, take steps to improve areas that score low and enhance and tout those that score high.
• Brand Review And Product Messaging: Take what you learned in the research and ensure your brand reflects who you are and that your messaging is resonating with clients/customers. If not, update it as needed.
• Website Review And Enhancement: Is your website optimized for search? Do all the pages work properly? Are there any dead links? What is your usability score? Are there SEO features you should be adding? What does Google Analytics tell you? These are important infrastructure areas that often get ignored once a new website launches. Get deep into your site and clean it up.
• Sales Enablement: Ensure you have the tools to train your salesforce properly to maximize every opportunity, and that they are up to date. Add anything that may be missing, and revise anything that no longer applies.
• Content Creation: According to a recent study by Gartner, nearly two-thirds of successful marketing leaders have a formal content strategy, while only 14% of the least successful do. Quality content such as email campaigns, blogs, infographics, e-books, on-demand webinars, product slicks, white papers and more should be available to guide prospects through every step of the sales process — from the casual seeker of information to the closed client/customer. Survey your inventory, and then add what’s missing and update items that need it. Measure the performance of everything.
• Video Testimonials: Prospects like to hear from others who have already been through the journey and are satisfied with their purchases. YouTube-quality videos cost almost nothing to produce but can pay huge dividends. Use them on your website, in social media, during webinars and trade shows, in sales presentations … the list is endless.
See? There is plenty you can be doing right now, and much of it costs next to nothing.
Rather than waiting until things get better, take advantage of this rare slowdown to see the potential. Your future self will be glad you did.
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Author: Jodi Amendola, Forbes Councils Member