How many times in the last few months has someone mentioned to you the ‘new normal’ or something similar?
Those of us who work in marketing are not new to change or the need to adapt. In smaller or larger ways, this is part and parcel of what we do.
However, what is radically different is the context. Few of us have experienced a pandemic and all the challenges this has brought.
So, how do we navigate this brave new world? What follows is a synthesis of my own experience over the last few months and what I’ve noticed other firms successfully doing.
This is the single most important thing you can do. It’s easy to lack the confidence to try something new, take a risk, stand out. It’s easy for one of your colleagues to say ‘no’. But there is a risk in not having courage: obscurity.
Of course, you need to be true to your values, be ethical, be mindful of your messages, keep in mind the firm’s purpose. However, to coin a phrase, what got you here won’t get you there. So now is the time to embrace the difference and think about how best to engage with prospects and clients. Which brings me to my next point.
Really understand your clients
This has been a bit of a mantra of mine for the last few months. The effect on our clients, their customers and the supply chain has been profound. So, find out how what’s changed, how they’re feeling, what they’re doing and saying that’s different. What you thought was their buying journey and timescale may be faster or slower. Their attitudes, challenges and the solutions they’re looking for may differ from before. The market you’re operating in has a new landscape. Some sectors have clearly seen a seismic negative impact. Others have blossomed. We’ve advanced digitally in a few months the distance experts were predicting would take 10 years. At the very least our response needs to be to review the ideal customer profile we have and whether it’s the right audience for us. A good old SWOT analysis is useful too, to capture where we are now and to pinpoint the opportunities that are out there.
The key to success. Write down a few questions that will help you delve deeper. Decide which clients you want to speak to when. Make the call.
Don’t forget existing customers. It’s easy to think we need more leads, more clients, to think about new campaigns. By understanding their needs and re-focusing on the clients you already have, you’ll not only find out how best to meet their changing needs and offer value; it will also point to how best you can serve others like them. You can therefore go out to new clients completely confident that your offer will appeal to the right people.
Practical tip: making a point of speaking regularly to clients and prospects also means you can find out what topics are most relevant to them now, what’s demanding their attention. This in turn can inform the blogs you write, the content you create.
Make sure your products and services are fit for purpose
In reviewing your portfolio of products and services, stick with what you do well. To change tack completely could be foolhardy; if you’re not known for that different something, you’ll find it much harder – not to mention it’ll take longer – to market and sell it. Early in the pandemic, some companies diversified. They could turn their production to something that was needed immediately. Beer companies produced hand sanitiser. Clothes manufacturers made PPE. I doubt it was a long-term strategy; more a short-term cash generator in a time of great need.
How you deliver your services may well need to change. The obvious way is moving to online from face to face. But for those services where in person is still required, how can you do this safely, reassuring clients?
Some services may be seeing increased demand, others the opposite. What new services (still in line with what you do) could you offer that will meet an emerging need? What are the current challenges your clients face that you could help with? It might be that the solution is through partnering with another firm and introducing your clients to their services. Make sure that what you offer is still fit for purpose in a marketplace that is still evolving. You might need to develop different versions of your services to make them affordable for one audience and still profitable to deliver.
Practical tip: map out your products and services and double check that you have an offer or a package for more than one price-point. One way of doing this is to think through your product ladder, starting with free content that leads to your initial product which leads to your premium service. Work out what the triggers are for people needing or being in the market for the next level up. This will help frame your marketing to them – what you put in front of them as a next step and when you do that.
Re-think your marketing strategy and plan
I’m taking a guess here that what you thought you’d do nine months ago is now largely irrelevant! If you haven’t needed to tear up that marketing plan, you’re in the minority. Look at your marketing strategy and plan as if starting again.
Agree what you want to achieve and set some goals. These might be shorter term goals, even if they are stepping stones to a longer-term vision. With the new landscape in mind and armed with a new understanding of your clients, work with others to map out a new strategy. More products and services to existing clients? Reaching out to new clients with your existing products and services? Focus on keeping your current business and in close contact with your clients?
Sure, everything has gone digital. But which channels do your clients and prospects use? Has where they hang out changed? Since so many are working from home, has their working day shifted?
Many marketers are needing to work with less budget so are busy doing much of the work themselves. This is a good reason for taking a step back first to make sure you focus on the activities that will have most impact and continue doing the ones that are delivering results. One implication of this is that you might not have the knowledge and skills in-house to do all of these activities. There are only two ways around this: spend time learning a new skill (it’s a really good opportunity to do this), or outsource it, even if that’s for a while until you learn enough to bring it back in-house.
Practical tip: remain flexible. Whilst you can plan for many things, there may well need to be revisions! Decide what to review, how frequently. Your tactical activities, for instance, are worth reveiwing weekly. Your content plan is a monthly task.
Spot the opportunities and be proactive
There are opportunities out there for businesses. What’s even more marked is that those who have been proactive in their marketing and business development have been the ones who have been most likely to realise those opportunities.
Think creatively. Test and learn. Ask the questions: what does a great opportunity look like, how and where might we seek these out….? The key to success here is:
- Be visible. Be there – where your clients and prospects are. Consistently. No point in making a peep one month only to be silent thereafter. And since so many companies have gone quiet – there are opportunities for those who haven’t.
- Be crystal clear and vocal about what you offer. Opportunities will find you if people know what you do and they’re looking for your solution.
- Seek opportunities out. Be alert and spot them early. You need people here who will connect dots, have the ideas. People who are willing to explore new partnerships, for instance. Or who reach out to clients, connections, prospects, peers to chat about what’s happening and see what emerges from these conversations.
Practical tip: Choose the opportunities you want to progress according to criteria agreed with others in the business. These might be the ones that most energise you or are most in line with your business aims. There’s nothing to lose. Even though not all of them will come off it’s worth the journey, sometimes purely for the conversations you have, the contacts you make and feedback you get.
How we say things is important. Both to our colleagues and to our customers and prospects. Listening first is more important than speaking. I’ve been married for over 20 years and with my husband for over 30, but we still sometimes miscommunicate! How much easier it is for this to happen with people you don’t know so well. Communications need to be carefully crafted for tone of voice and message. Check with a couple of other people if in doubt; ask – am I communicating what I think I am? Is there a better, shorter way of saying it?
Practical tip: It’s a good time to network and build relationships with colleagues, clients, prospects, suppliers, contacts. Make a list of all of those you want to keep in touch with and make a note about the next step – invite to one of your webinars, pick up the phone for a chat, attend an online networking event and ask if that person is going, send them your latest article.
Keep your guiding light in sight
This is your firm’s purpose. What are you there to do? If I’ve learned anything in the last few months, it is that remembering this (defining it in the first place?!) clarifies everything and keeps your intention true. It helps you make decisions about your marketing, products and services, kinds of work and clients that energise you, your business model.
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