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Marketing strategies that work during COVID-19

July 15, 2020
Jon Bauer

In our recent blog, we talked about the three most valuable audiences to target during a challenging economy. For this section, we’ll be focusing on three different marketing initiatives that can get immediate action and how they work for each audience group. 

Engage with your audience 

Things have changed amid COVID-19, and you’re going to need to re-evaluate both your engagement strategy and the budget that goes along with it. At Risdall, we have clients that made significant investments to participate in trade shows and travel, only to have them canceled. We’ve helped provide strategies to replace these cancelled initiatives with other efforts to reach and engage their audience. 

Engage with core customers 

For your core customers, it’s imperative that you’re keeping a regular flow of communication and providing them with relevant information. If you are a sales-driven organization, this may be languishing. Identify what information is essential to your customers and develop content that provides them with this information, as well as a reason for you to stay in contact. 

These methods could include surveys, blogs, newsletters, webinars, or any other format that’s both engaging and informative. The key is that your messages are provided in a digestible format at a time when it’s important to your customers. This is a huge opportunity to show empathy, cross-sell and upsell, educate, and inform, and ultimately reinforce what makes you valuable to them.

Engage with key prospects

For key prospects, it is likely that your sales team maintains a database and has had some contact with them. Your job is to help reinforce what makes you unique and the value you can provide. 

Effective engagement will require a mix of content to create top-of-mind awareness and build your reputation, and all content should address your audience’s needs. An email marketing cadence can be very effective to connect with each prospect in your database and deliver targeted, specific information that is essential to their immediate needs. This is also a good time to consider awareness-building using programmatic digital display ads and LinkedIn ads that target your database and provide essential visibility that keeps you top of mind. 

As you create content, consider topics that  focus on thought leadership and your reputation while also delivering opportunities to engage, such as social proof, case studies of how other clients benefited from working with you, and any value-added offers you may currently have.

Engage with ideal customers

Ideal customers are like your key prospects but may not be in your sales database. This audience has probably had no contact with your company, so you have to put more effort into awareness and engaging with them. This is where a strong inbound marketing strategy will be essential. The goal is to capture interest to provide sales with a qualified lead. 

This is an audience that you would have likely spent time and budget reaching with initiatives like public relations, trade shows, direct mail, and mass media campaigns. But now, effective engagement requires harnessing machine learning to create targeted disruption online, creating a mix of top-of-mind awareness, reputation and specific communications that address their needs.

A mix of SEO/SEM strategy, programmatic digital display ads, social media marketing, and landing pages with clear calls to action will be effective while allowing you to see the results and impacts of your efforts in real time.

Differentiate yourself from the competition 

Differentiation can be one of the hardest things for companies to master. Many times, leadership thinks their company is extraordinary, but can’t put this into a concise message that goes deeper than, “We’re the best.”

While every company has differentiators, finding them requires discipline, asking the right questions, a good understanding of your competitors, and some creativity. Whether it really is because you offer the best service or it’s based on the special connection you have with clients, there’s always a reason customers select you. The trick is finding it and then explaining it. 

Many times, working with an outside partner can be extremely valuable for finding out why customers select you. A third party asking questions of leadership and customers will likely uncover insights that are simply not possible for people close to the company to find. Successfully differentiating yourself applies to all three audiences we have mentioned at various stages of their decision-making. 

One key to success is that sales and marketing must work together to define what makes your company different. This must include tangibles like competitors’ service features, service comparisons, and price comparisons, but must also include intangibles like your culture, the way you do business, and your commitment to helping clients improve their business. Also helpful are examples of how you are leading your industry, what you provide beyond the product itself, and what your customers have to say. 

Incentivize your prospects 

As we mentioned in other blogs, companies are evaluating everything and this provides you with a unique opportunity. Whether you are trying to protect and strengthen current customer relationships or create new ones, incentives are a great way to get attention and are a good reason for a prospect to listen.  

Depending on your position in the marketplace and what’s most important to your customers and prospects, this could include:

  • Complimentary services
  • Free training
  • Free hours of support
  • Volume discount
  • Promotional discount
  • Bundle pricing for multiple products or services

As with any incentive or sales strategy, make sure your marketing team is working closely with the sales team as you develop your plan. Be creative. Everything doesn’t have to focus on a price discount, and you can change your approach depending on which incentives are most effective. 

Sales will follow

As we said in our earlier blog about audience focus during the pandemic, while things are challenging, keep in mind that there are still customers out there who need what you have. COVID-19 is requiring companies to be flexible and creative with their marketing, but you can be successful. 

We cover the complete 3×3 for 2020 marketing strategy in our Marketing Priorities in the COVID Economy webinar available on-demand here. Without leads, there are no clients, no revenue, and no business. With long sales cycles and specialized products, developing and nurturing ongoing customer relationships is critical.

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