Regardless the industry, we’ve all been affected in some way by COVID-19.
Whether you’re a small business or a large organization, we are all in this together, and it’s time to make adjustments and respond to shifts in consumer behavior driven by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Here are three ways to get creative with marketing and sales strategy during this pandemic.
1. Leverage Technology
If your business revolves around a storefront, in-person meetings, or face-to-face interactions, it’s time to shift your strategy online.
“We are working with a large provider within the ag equipment industry, and they have started identifying ways to continue serving customers who might need parts, service to their equipment, or changes to lawn equipment from winter to summer attachments,” says Elite Owner Michelle Nessman. “We’re using a customer portal to allow customers to place parts orders online, and then we can coordinate pickup or delivery.”
Senior living organizations that do numerous in-person community tours a day have had to change their mode of operation, too. There are still families who know they’re going to need to make a decision for a loved one in the near future and sometimes a family in crisis that can’t wait for COVID-19 to pass. To help serve these families, many senior living providers are offering virtual tours.
“Among the providers we work with, they’re creatively identifying ways to conduct tours without it being in person, in addition to building out virtual tours. Some of our senior living clients have used FaceTime to walk a family through the community and introduce them to key team members,” Nessman says. “If you operate a senior living organization and don’t have interactive virtual tours available on your website, now’s a good time to explore that option.”
“Equally important is interactive floor plans,” she continues. “One of the biggest questions families have is when thinking about furniture placement and downsizing from an existing home is, ‘Will it fit?’”
With sporting events being canceled, many TV advertisers are scrambling to formulate new plans for their budgets.
“In a time like this, sales reps tend to panic,” Nessman says. “They want to fall back on the idea that one sale is better than no sale, so it’s hard not to want to slash prices. We work with a company based out of New York that offers a software platform and consulting services so TV advertisers can identify variations in rate card adherence and identify pricing based on yield optimization.”
“Having a software platform like our client offers allows people to make decisions on pricing and inventory by leveraging data rather than rate cards to ensure reps are selling at the most optimal price,” Nessman continues. “It’s more important than ever that you have a solid pricing structure in place. I think this presents an opportunity for all sales organizations to look at how they are using data to make pricing decisions — especially when sales are trending down due to things beyond our control.”
If your business relies a lot on person-to-person sales calls, video conferencing can offer you the same ability to gauge body language and make eye contact. “People buy from people they know, they like, and they trust, and teleconference calls just won’t advance the sale like a video conference meeting can,” Nessman says.
Additionally, webinars as well as Facebook or LinkedIn live videos offer an opportunity to keep your sales pipeline engaged with you through relevant, useful content.
2. Rethink Your Sales Process
There might be a decrease in sales, but there are still people willing — and needing — to buy.
“You must have a solid sales process in place,” Nessman says. “Spend more time doing upfront discovery so the rest of the sales process is easier. We’ve been saying this for years, but it’s easy to forget the importance of a solid sales process when sales are on a steady upward climb.”
If your company doesn’t have a structured sales process — which doesn’t have to be rigid but has to have some sort of methodical structure to it — now is the perfect time invest. Where should you start?
Think about what the buyer’s journey looks like. What steps does a buyer take from the moment they are interested until they are ready to purchase? We call this a sales process map, which is essentially a visual representation of the buyer's journey.
After mapping out the buyer’s journey, identify key marketing and sales milestones that can happen between the various steps a buyer takes as they move their way toward a purchase decision.
Take into consideration common obstacles or barriers that stop a sale dead in its tracks, and identify creative marketing ideas or sales strategies to keep things moving forward.
For example, if 60% of the time a prospect answers the first and the second follow-up call from a sales rep but only 20% of the time do they answer the third call and on average it takes five follow-up calls for a salesperson in your company to make a sale, maybe you determine it would be helpful to send an email prior to the third follow-up call to see if this increases the likelihood the prospect answers the phone. Perhaps your sales and marketing departments worked together to identify an email that covers helpful tips for comparing similar products or services to yours so the sales rep has a particular topic to discuss in their follow-up call.
After implementing a new step in your sales process, don’t forget to measure the results for effectiveness.
Additionally, your sales process may need to include additional support to increase lead generation online and might include strategies such as Google advertising, Facebook retargeting, YouTube video marketing, and more to drive traffic to your sales reps. Online advertising can become expensive quickly, so use analytics to support your decision-making, and track the return on investment for various channels you use.
3. Reach Out to Your Existing Customer Base
The best way to use marketing during a pandemic to create relevant, useful information — but don’t overwhelm your contacts with it. Now is not the time to be an opportunist. How you craft your messages and what you send to your customers matters now more than ever.
“People are already so sick of hearing about COVID-19 and many have started deleting emails in their inbox that have that in the subject line anywhere without even reading the email,” Nessman says. “When you put information out there that’s addressing this pandemic, you don't want to be on either end of the extreme where you’re constantly messaging them or you've created nothing that’s useful or helpful to the customer you work with on a daily basis. You have to find that balance.”
If you haven’t had time before to think intently about an email marketing strategy, an eNewsletter, or landing page conversion opportunities that help buyers make good purchase decisions — especially in a time where meeting with you may not be an option — now presents the perfect opportunity to dive into these strategies.
In a world of heightened uncertainty, there are creative sales and marketing strategies and tactics your business may have never used before that you can deploy now while we deal with the coronavirus.