For the time being, "business as usual" looks a little different than normal. Companies in all industries are working through the effects of COVID-19 and figuring out how to operate in a "virtual first" reality. Events have been cancelled, many teams have quickly transitioned to working remotely, travel has slowed, and everyone is being encouraged to practice social distancing.
Companies that once relied largely on face-to-face interactions, events, and travel are now having to re-evaluate their approach to growth. There's a lot of uncertainty, but there is reason to be optimistic about the challenges we face. The market is shifting, and your prospects are spending more time online than ever before.
With the help of technology and some creative marketing strategies, marketers can still find ways to engage their audience and stand out. Here are a few fresh ideas from our team and our partners to help you proactively pivot your marketing plans:
I led a session for Enterprise University in St. Louis about how to turn your company's expertise into influence. What was supposed to be an in-person workshop turned into a webinar due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. The organizers of this session were quick on their feet and made sure people could still attend an engaging virtual event even if they couldn't meet in person.
There are several platforms out there that you can use to host webinars like this — we use Crowdcast for Influence & Co.'s webinars. Regardless of which platform you use, be sure to write up an outline beforehand to keep yourself on track, create slides if visuals would help with audience comprehension, send out emails notifying people of your webinar ahead of time, and make sure you have a stable internet connection.
Creating valuable content and boosting your distribution using paid ads is a great way to target specific market segments. Ryan Green, senior director of client strategy at Coegi, recommends creating a simple Loom video and then using paid ads on Facebook or LinkedIn to target the segments of customer types you would want to meet at a conference. And if digital marketing isn't your specialty, don't be afraid to go for it anyway.
"If digital is out of your comfort zone, embrace it!" Ryan recommends. "It is out of many of your customers' comfort zones, too. Have an authentic voice about this discomfort, and you will relate better than any of the influencers who have been doing this for years. The key is to reach your target audience. Use keywords and interest targeting to narrow your message to the people who most care about your product and message. Test and learn with a small budget; this is the perfect time to start experimenting with digital ad channels that make you feel uncomfortable."
At Influence & Co., we believe that the written word in a variety of formats helps companies reach their audiences in an educational, engaging way.
Typically, we update our blog once a week with new, informative content. But recently, we've been ramping up our content creation — we've published three blog posts this week. We believe that it's important to be there for our audience and provide extra guidance and advice when they need it most.
We also recommend reaching out to online publications to supply their editors with guest-contributed articles. They are always looking for experts to weigh in on their industry, and this need is only going to go up from here. Having a reputable publication publish your content also signals to your audience that you're a credible thought leader whose insights are valued across your industry.
We create a couple of guest-contributed articles per month that we send to publications. While you can't control when (or if) a publication will actually publish an article, keeping a steady content creation cadence to build momentum through consistency is key for staying top of mind in your industry.
While an in-person video shoot might be out of the question right now, you can still use video to reach your audience effectively online. Digital ad spend is currently increasing, and some brands are tapping into commercials.
"We're seeing many leading businesses successfully create commercials and PSAs using only stock footage and animation," says Chad Rogers, co-founder and chief revenue officer at Lemonlight. "It requires no human-to-human contact, and it's a fast turnaround to get your message into the world."
He also encourages people to recognize the power of live video — which Shay Berman, president at Digital Resource, agrees with. "While everyone is at home, live-streaming allows for real-time engagement, sharing information, and connecting with viewers from afar," Shay says. "Live-streaming can be done with just an iPhone on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. And with so many people glued to their screens, engagement and reach on social has never been more powerful."
And don't forget about the impact video can have on creative lead generation strategies. "Conferences are paused, but personalized human support isn't," says Jonathan Brody, co-founder and CEO at Ladder. "Make the video call to action a personalized response to your audience's No. 1 business challenge or question, from you. They enter their email and what they're most curious about. You respond to them with an email using a Loom video with a CTA to book a meeting."
More and more people are listening to podcasts. In fact, in 2019, more than half of Americans older than 12 said they had listened to a podcast. Audio is a great medium for brands to share insights with their audiences anywhere.
"We’ve been helping clients launch live podcasts and entire new series to help fill the gaps in industry conversations left by event cancellations," says Michael Greenberg, chief strategist at Call for Content. "In the process, we’ve been able to nab some sought-after guests and speakers who have suddenly open schedules. It’s creating some real opportunity in the market to shake things up."
Consider what conferences in your industry have been cancelled and how you can fill the gaps for your target audience. Provide fresh insights and actionable advice for a shifting business landscape, and invite colleagues to join you for an episode of your podcast to give your listeners access to a variety of perspectives. Plus, sharing it out together will double your reach.
Just because you're not traveling, going to conferences, or meeting face-to-face right now doesn't mean you have to stop marketing your business. Use some of these mediums to build a robust content marketing strategy that engages your prospects and provides them with value at a time they might need it most.
In light of current events, communication that comes off as insensitive or disrespectful to the current state of the world can define your brand for years to come. So take a few minutes after reading this article to do a gut check on the timing and language of your internal and external communications. Set aside some time to review: