This article is part 1 of Doing More with Less, a 4-part series on public relations and marketing strategies that can be doubly effective for continuing momentum in the current, turbulent climate.
COVID-19 has impacted businesses in a number of ways. As a public relations and marketing partner and informal advisor to countless B2B companies seeking counsel during this difficult period, we have been asked to provide ideas and strategies to help businesses sensitively and cost-effectively navigate––or better yet, avoid––disruption.
Customers, prospects and influencers are no different than you and me. They are worried about the health of their loved ones, anxious about their financial futures and focused on getting through the day–to–day with the hope that normalcy is around the corner.
For those of us that are lucky enough to have full-time jobs, there is an expectation of productivity that, if anything, has grown as a result of the pandemic. Buyers must still buy and sellers must still sell, both for today and to be well positioned for tomorrow. Building brand awareness and cultivating sales funnels can’t come to a grinding halt; but grabbing the time and attention of clients and prospects today is harder than ever. That’s where marketing must rise to the occasion.
Doing More with Less: Messaging
Pipelines aren’t built and sales can’t close without consistent and relevant conversations and communications with new prospects and existing customers. In this new environment, messaging must balance the need to drive business with the awareness that your key audiences are distracted. Below are a few parameters to guide meaningful and effective communications.
1) Communications: Sales Prospects
The pandemic is top of mind for everyone: colleagues, customers, prospects and leads. At the same time, our jobs and our ability to serve customers depends on a strong sales pipeline. Business cannot stop for most of us. Sales pipelines still need to be built. Leads still need to be converted. The show must go on, so don’t be shy about sales and marketing. Just do so honestly, respectfully and with compassion.
- Sales pitches must be characterized by empathy and sensitivity. Do the sensitivity test; ask yourself, “How would I react to this message in the event that I was personally impacted by the health crisis?”
- Acknowledge that your email drip campaign or ebook may not be your prospects’ highest priority right now. Take a moment to ask leads about their health, wellness and family. Let them know that their wellbeing is what’s most important.
- Open every conversation with a check-in. There’s no use ignoring the elephant in the room; in fact, doing so may feel disingenuous. Ask how the quarantine has affected their work routine. Share your favorite tip for staying busy indoors. Use this time to connect with your new prospect on a personal level.
2) Communications: Existing Clients
All organizations are navigating challenges right now: remote working, supply chain disruptions, campaign and programming delays, layoffs and more. Don’t feel the need to spin a yarn about business as usual when business isn’t as usual.
- Be candid with your clients. If products and services are delayed, be honest about the challenges you’re facing. Transparency will build trust and appreciation that extends far beyond this crisis.
- Set reasonable expectations for your marketing and sales campaigns. This is an unprecedented environment and there are no guarantees. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Just make sure that your team and partners are aware and on board.
- Connect and be flexible. Expect that scopes will change and be open to discussing alternative programs with your partners. The best business relationships are built across a collaborative platform so explore this brave new world in concert with your network.
3) Listening with Two Ears
For all target audiences, no matter the circumstances, effective messaging requires listening. The adage, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so use them in that ratio,” has never been more relevant. Incorporate a conversational tone and two-way messaging into your content. Share the challenge you’re facing and the solution you’re considering and ask for feedback. End every email with an invite to discuss over the phone. End each blog post with a call for feedback. Listening costs nothing and will pay off in droves.
There’s much more to discuss when it comes to “crisis communications.” Read our blog post highlighting best practices for connecting with clients and prospects during this tumultuous time.
These are challenging times for all of us. We are all being told to do more with less, which has dialed up the pressure on marketing and sales teams. We hope this series will serve as a conversation starter for marketing and sales departments that are committed, despite today’s challenges, to maintaining their standard of quality and success.