We are in a crisis situation, unfortunately. This virus came out of nowhere. COVID-19. It's impacting every country, state, business, and community. Amid the chaos, the change in daily activity, the move to 100% remote work, with your entire household underfoot; the business landscape is starkly different than it was just a month or two ago. People are hunkering down at home practicing physical distancing, yet many have been able to maintain a social connection through video apps and communications technology. They’re not only using it to connect with their teams, customers, and partners, but with their families, friends, and faith communities as well.
The natural reaction in times of uncertainty is to pull back. We’re all doing it. Many businesses have gone into survival mode, looking at where and how to cut costs as tough decisions are forced to be made. And many have wondered if they should still be actively marketing their products and services during a global pandemic.
Yes, these are uncertain times, and it’s unclear how each state will be impacted; New York will be different from Georgia, which will be different from Texas which will be different from Florida. I urge you to remain calm, seek out the guidance of your partners and community, and be empathetic to the world at large. We cannot panic. We need to be honest, candid, and sincere. When the world is hurting, we must recognize that we are all hurting. Each in our own way.
Crisis management is a funny thing. When you work through this with clients, you hope they never need to invoke their crisis plan. But when a situation arises, you’re so thankful that you built a list of contingencies and are prepared to communicate with your employees, customers, and partners. As a consultant, I spent the last four weeks working with my clients to review their business strategies, map them against their forecasts, audit their marketing plans, and build communications crafted around empathy, action, and each unique brand’s personality and purpose Brands that build stories, connect with communities and offer guidance in times of crisis; they will be remembered.
COVID-19 has marked a crisis for the world. Here are 9 marketing tactics you should do when your business or the world is facing a crisis situation. Read on:
You Need to Keep the Lights On
You cannot stop. You cannot halt your marketing efforts and furlough your sales team. You cannot leave your customers without support, your employees with anxiety.
Scale back, rearrange, repurpose, but do not pause your marketing. Your brand will suffer. The natural thought for many IT Resellers/VARs and MSPs when a crisis hits is to look at the biggest expenses in the organization and cut or minimize the expense. Oftentimes after personnel and benefit costs, IT and Marketing tend to have the most robust and fluid budgets. You cannot stop telling your story, educating your community, and connecting with your customers. If marketing is a key investment for you when times are good, why would you “turn it off” when times are tough?
We will recover, we will reopen, and we will thrive again. Be prudent in your approach, and carry on.
9 Marketing Tactics You Should Do to Remain Relevant During a Crisis
1. You should restructure your marketing plan.
2. You should look at reprioritizing your spending.
3. You Should Be Proactive.
Be prepared to offer your revised budget, jot down your communication plan recommendations, and schedule more frequent sales check-ins. It is the duty of every department head in your organization to be thoughtful and prudent when building your contingency plan and activating your crisis management protocols. Tackle events first. This is a no-brainer, so this is the first place to repurpose marketing dollars.
4. You Should Adjust Your Event Budget
Start with your events first. We can all probably agree that events, in-person tradeshows, networking events, and lunch and learns are probably off the table until the Fall. The good news? For many IT Resellers, the tradeshow and event budget is usually about 25-35% of your marketing spend.
65% of MarketDesign’s clients in particular, still have a heavy event strategy.
From quarterly lunch and learns and networking events to movie premiers to large tradeshows and partner summits. This is the best place to start. For some of the mid-size clients in that, $15 to $20 million range, you may have planned to do, 5 small $7,500 events, a few large trade shows at $10K, and those must-do “every partner will be their summits” You know what I’m talking about: Cisco Live, Cisco Partner Summit, AWS Re: Invent, etc. These events all typically fall within your marketing budget, and many show little to no return on investment. (In fact, I encourage you for future planning to break out lead generation events from appreciation events. They are different investments with different expected returns, and they should be treated as such on the P&L.) I'd be hard-pressed to say that many Resellers have at least $25K in in-person event budget to repurpose, if not $125K.
Splitting the difference, take $25K and remove it completely from the Marketing budget. Take that other $25K and look at where and how you would and should repurpose it to cover what you have spent and what you should continue to spend.
5. You Should Create a Content Strategy
Your word choice matters, today more than ever. What you say, how you say it, how often you say it; it all matters. If you are not creating and publishing valuable content on a consistent basis, your website will never be able to rank organically, drive meaningful traffic, or generate quality leads.
Sporadic content efforts are simply not enough to encourage Google to navigate people to your site. Think of content as the GPS, pointing prospects in your direction. Your website should be selling for you and the content you create to support that sale is a core part of your strategy. So how do you get started? Take inventory of all the content you already have. Evaluate it against your goals. What can you update? What should you scrap? What are you lacking that you can create? Roughout an editorial calendar and start interviewing your subject matter experts. Then, write your blog post; design your infographic; record your podcast, and schedule that webinar (ahem, read on for this one). The content possibilities are endless.
Head over to Google and in the search bar type “Collaboration tools…” the information that Google recommends is below:
- or remote teams
- for businesses
- for free
These are just a few topics people are searching for. Can you answer these questions? Those are titles. Those are topics. Those are headers in your post. Do a little legwork and start to build out the foundational SEO pieces for your posts while your subject matter experts (SMEs) finesse their thoughts.
Decide how to promote your content. Take those 25 topics you have and make a plan to get your content out there. Maybe you decide to double up if you can spin your content around quickly. Maybe you're doing two (2) posts a month. Start with a blog. Start with blog content. Start building downloadable resources that you can use as calls to action. You've got to get your blog running and running consistently to amplify the efforts you've already put into your website and your marketing. You've got a website, use it to your advantage. One step at a time. You’ve got this.
6. You Should Explore a Webinar Strategy
I encourage my clients to have a separate part of the budget set aside as contingency for new ideas, initiatives, and campaigns they haven’t done before. Webinars might just be on your list this year. In a crisis protocol, you stretch your dollars but demonstrate your brand in new ways. Since you won’t be using that $4,500s at the tradeshow in May for your SME to speak, put that money back in your budget. But, keep the commitment the SME offered to make on-site and convert their presentation to online. that same SME to present their presentation (the one they were going to be preparing for anyway).
Webinars are a great marketing tool. You write once and you repurpose it in many ways. If you operate your marketing in a Hub and Spoke Model, the webinar would be the center Hub, and the different pieces of content and promotion you get from it become their own spoke extending to a landing page, social posts, and custom graphics. Build the presentation. Give it live. Open up at the end for Q&A. And, record the whole thing. Let’s talk it out:
- Blogpost introducing the topic
- Post-event blog post on the key approach you offer
- FAQs webpage from questions asked that you answer
- Downloadable video of the webinar playback
Now, for each spoke share the information on each of your communication channels:
- Social Media messages
- Custom graphics
- YouTube playback
- Email Marketing
7. You Should Build A Content Library
“They Ask, You Answer.” Pick up the book by Marcus Sheridan, check him out on YouTube, or see him speak at Inbound. This simple principle built the content marketing strategy in a former life. Not only did it affirm to marketing that content would be king (in 2008), but a simple presentation from a “pool guy” to the sales and service teams rallied the message and brought the whole team on board to be a part of the initiative taking it from something marketing wanted to do to something the company teamed to build. Fill in that calendar with an hour of your SME’s time, especially now while they aren’t traveling and can review your work in short order.
Ask each of your SMEs to come prepared to answer the following:
- Three questions they get all of the time.
- One hot topic they're seeing in the industry
- One best practice they want to share
Schedule the interview, record the conversation, and get to work; you have five (5) new blog articles for your product or service. Round out each blog with a stat to support the impact of the topic, find 2-3 through leaders in the industry that are sharing similar or contrary reviews and combine their thoughts with back-links, pick an image that tells the story, and schedule out your content calendar. Let me guess, you have some combination of collaboration, security, networking, cloud, and services on your line card? That’s five (5) core competencies times five (5) posts each. That’s enough content to schedule a blog post a month for the next year, and then some. Get the SME’s time now, while they have some to spare. Don’t forget to follow up with them after to show them the value of their effort. Help them understand how important their contribution to content is and get their buy-in early and often. Keep them engaged. It will make all the difference. Promise.
8. You Should Personalize Your Social Media Strategy
During any uncertain situation that impacts your community, businesses cannot shy away from the conversation. You need to be tactful and personal in your approach, sure, but you should have a voice amid the chaos. That doesn’t mean repurposing all of your manufacturers’ content or posting an obligatory “we’re all in this together” sentiment. It means not being afraid to show some humanity and tap into the unique perspective that only your business and your brand can bring.
Not sure what to write about? People in tough times want to see people. They want to meet the people behind the brand and be reminded that there are faces and names behind the brand. Your community wants to see your culture, your purpose, your passion come to life. Use this opportunity to offer empathy, support, and guidance; but also, use these uncertain times to:
- Showcase charities you work with
- Highlight projects you’re proud of
- Spotlight employees and how they’re giving back
- Share what your work-from-home dynamic looks like
Now is the perfect time to introduce some videos into your social strategy. Don’t panic. No one is expecting polished, professional content from your home office with your son coloring on the floor near your desk. People crave authenticity and relatability, so don’t be afraid to peel back the curtain, personalize your brand, and be part of the conversation.
9. You Should Get Your House in Order
This too shall pass, so be ready. Be ready for the world to open back up. You’ll need to be prepared to take on pent-up requests from sales, operations, executives, and service teams. Marketers need to dust off their wish lists of automation plans, email nurturing content you’ve been meaning to write, and contact lists your team needs to clean up. If your business is experiencing a bit of downtime right now, use it to prepare yourself to resume, and when the day comes, you’ll be ready to move full speed ahead.
For many clients, automation is on the list for 2020, so do the work now to make the move seamless. Get your quotes finished, clean up your data, and if you can; sign-up now. Many companies like HubSpot recognize the economic changes we’re all facing and are offering deep discounts and extra services to capitalize on the tools you need to come out of this pandemic prepared to excel. With a little extra time to devote to set-up and training, this may be the best opportunity for your company to make the move.
“People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I’ll close with a quote from Simon Sinek; a quote I find myself using more frequently with my clients these days. If you haven't read his book, “Start With Why,” or you haven't seen the Ted talk, now is a great time. Get reinvigorated. Get inspired. Think about life in 30, 60, 90, days. Are you going to be proud of your company coming out of this crisis? How will you be remembered?
The good news is, you get to decide.