Marketing through a pandemic: What has happened and what you should do

Just when everything was going so well, so right, the carpet was pulled from underneath us all.  Many of the clients my agency supports were having a record first quarter in 2020. Heck, even our own agency was. That all halted abruptly around mid-March. What I am about to share with you is data that the sales and marketing industry has published, as well as my own experiences and insights, on how to change your marketing and sales approach for however long this pandemic and its economic fallout last.

So, what has happened? Around mid-March, most companies saw their sales pipeline push out instead of close, as they had predicted, based on past data and what their clients and prospects were telling them. Much of the industry says 40% of deals were delayed or put “on indefinite pause.”

To fill the gap, what did the sales and marketing teams do in later March, April and May? They started to “spray and pray,” as we say in the advertising world. Sales teams immediately increased outbound email activity more than 30% and outbound phone activity more than 25%. The results? Emails got ignored, but the phone did generate some level of engagement. We also saw our marketing departments sending more thought-leadership content via email, social media and blog posts, and you know what? It started working, as we saw email open rates increased over last year, website visits are up over last year and appointments set with the sales teams increased. These are all good indicators but, while buyers were increasing their research, they still were not pulling the trigger to buy.

While we saw deals push in March, and outbound sales and marking activity increase without great sales results, it is not all doom and gloom. In the latter half of April, and through May, we saw sales pipeline activity increase and new deals being created. That is good news! The length of the sales cycle on those new deals, compared to past years, is still unknown but a growing pipeline is certainly an indicator that the increases in outbound sales and marketing and prospect engagement is progressing from research to proposal level.

So, that’s what has happened; now, what should you do? Moving forward the shift, or to use a popular pandemic buzzword, the “pivot,” is to use the data and adjust your marketing and sales efforts. As salespeople, we all know sending a bulk email to your whole database covers a lot of territory with little effort, but it is not effective. Personalized, one-off emails, even personally recorded video emails, will have better engagement. Pick up the phone, message on LinkedIn or try individual video email messages.

Marketers should keep up the thought-leadership content via email, social media and blogging; all of which are great for engagement now but will also pay off in long-lasting SEO value, if optimized correctly. Marketers, also, look at email drip sequences personalized to the interest of each individual prospect. One more good tactic is to make sure you have your retargeting campaigns alive. Let your prospects see your brand while they are continuing to surf online. I can’t tell you how many of our agency’s prospects I speak to who say, “WOW, I see you everywhere online.” That retargeting, the drip email campaigns and the follow-up phone call from our sales team, all contribute to reengaging a prospect and making them your next new client.

Kevin Hourigan is the President and CEO of Bayshore Solutions and for over 23 years, his company has provided clients with digital solutions that grow their businesses. To contact Kevin, please email [email protected].

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