Business hasn’t stopped, it never does but we are all exposed to the disruption to business as a result of Covid-19.
The question which has come up the most in conversations I’ve had over the last two weeks is “should be marketing or prospecting at all during this time?”. To answer that I’m gonna draw parallels to the disruption in 2008 was the start of the credit crunch as this was the last major disruption to businesses.
And this will be where we will be in the coming next 3 to 6 months. Take a look at what you can do to change your sales and marketing during this time to ensure that the exit this crisis in the best possible position.
You have to accept that the deals in your pipeline at the beginning of March may never bear fruit when this crisis is over. And it will be over. Do not let yourself find yourself in a position of zero when the rest of your sector has maintained activity and have a healthy pipeline.
What Should We Do?
I will start by recognising that many businesses are not only surviving during this time but thriving. These industries include logistics, e-commerce and IT. Using IT is an example, companies need new connectivity, unified communications tools such as video conferencing, remote working solutions, devices and security to cover the new homeworkers. For IT companies now is the time that they can help their customers and speed up digital transformation programs. But even they will need to adjust how they market and sell.
Outbound marketing and sales prospecting will be harder and your expectations of outcomes should be tempered. It’s unlikely that people will be ready to make decisions as fast as before, going in for a quick close is likely to result in disappointment. People are worried about their own jobs and the jobs of their team, for many of them this is a number one priority and an unsolicited cold approach will be ignored.
If you are continuing cold calling the remember a lot of your target will be at home and even if I have the phone redirected to them they may not be in the position to welcome the call as they possibly juggling childcare and work. Your call could well be a real imposition on their work/home balance so expect to get the cold shoulder. A better approach would be to use other methods such as email and connecting over social media to arrange a more convenient time to call.
If you are using email then you should be aware of the current situation and again not looking for a hard sell. Anything that you do should be tied into some high-value content that will help your prospect. Don’t try to present your sales pitch as help, offering an extra 14 days on a trial isn’t helping anyone. Either offer real help or talk about what will be at the end of this. And at this time when we’re all thinking about our family and friends make sure that your emails are highly personalised and showing a human side to your business, don’t ever send out non targeted spammy emails this is a waste of your time and can ruin the reputation of you and your company.
It is time to embrace and expand your digital marketing strategies. These will be essential for growing your pipeline during this time. If you haven’t ever focused on these then now is the time to start doing so. Many companies are panicking and cutting back spending, so this means less competition, we are seeing the cost of acquisition dropping by 75% in some industries, which makes it an ideal time to be prospecting even if you have a lower budget. It is a good way to repurpose the budget that had been put-aside for trade shows and physical events. This is an area which when done well can produce a low-cost lead but when done badly can burn cash. Don’t rush into this if you are not experienced without speaking to someone who can help you plan and execute this properly
That is my only sales pitch in this article!
People who are continuing to work with often have more time as they are not travelling or in as many meetings. Many are using this time to educate themselves and research products and services for when their businesses are back running at full speed.
Your marketing strategy should be aligned to this increased awareness phase. If you are not using inbound marketing techniques then you really should be adopting them immediately. They take a while to bear fruit but this is the time to be doubling down on your content, working on relevant keywords to boost you SEO, in the knowledge that acting during this time will give you a lead over your competitors.
Provide your future prospects with high-quality content that is relevant for the awareness stage of the buyers’ journey. This isn’t about selling your product at this stage, it’s about building authority and trust. During this time you should be attracting a lot of interest in your content. This will result in an increased pipeline but because of companies being risk-averse you will not be able to progress the sales at the rate that you are used to. So, it is more important than ever to make sure you have set up a lead nurturing sequence to move these sales through your pipeline. Don’t leave it to the sales guys who will jump on the lead and try to close it there and then – you will lose good opportunities gained during this time by overeagerness and only for them to be forgotten over the coming months. Create a lead nurturing sequences with relevant content and use marketing automation to take care of this and never lose an opportunity through the inevitable forgetting distant prospects.
Think about what stage in the buyers’ journey your prospect is at and expect them to spend longer in the awareness and consideration phase than they normally would.
You need to directly address the prospects in your existing pipeline. Aim for pipeline clarity even if this means removing unrealistic opportunities that were looking great a month ago. Pipeline vanity will not result in sales, it will just hide the problem. Be there to answer difficult questions for your prospects; the initial problems you may have been helping your customers with might have changed. Don’t be frightened of hearing projects are being pulled because right now you’re better to know where you stand than to falsely think you’re in a good position.
Decision making will be put on hold. People are going to be incredibly risk-averse. Now is not the time to go in for a hard close. Be sensitive to the situation, there is a lot of uncertainty, people maybe have family members who are under threat of losing their job or unwell.
It Will End So Be Ready
The landscape will change over the coming months, people are planning about what they’re doing when they come out of the other side and when we do come out it will happen quickly. We can’t ignore the situation but we must not get caught up in it and end up doing nothing. If a business is to survive it we need to continue prospecting and build a pipeline. How we do that needs to change. The results that we are expecting need to be more realistic. But to stop prospecting and marking right now is a surefire way to damage the longer-term success of your business. Your marketing mix will need to change and it needs to reflect the environment we are operating but now it’s time to increase your efforts in the right areas to ensure your business survives or even thrives during this period.