Disruption happens. It happens when you least expect it. Think Twin Towers, financial crisis, volcano eruption, healthcare crisis. Even if your business is in no way linked to any of these events, it will still suffer. Your business needs to adapt, and so does your marketing. Business as usual is no longer valid, but there is one thing that holds true: customers will always demand best practice. I would argue that this is now truer than ever.
As a species, we get disrupted. But we adjust and we move on. That is the case in marketing too. As research from Econsultancy shows, marketers are seeing a profound change in the customer journey and are adapting by shifting their messaging to focus on digital business. As a consequence, marketing automation tools such as Pardot are getting ever more important in the marketing mix. Let’s revisit some of the best practices in digital marketing and see how they apply in times of disruption.
The effect of disruption differs from one industry to another. Some segments of your market may lose half of their revenue, others may see a sharp increase in customer orders, caused by the same event. Their pain points differ, and so should your messages to these specific industries. If you are catering to ten different industries, think of how you can help each of these industries with their specific problem. You may even create a new customer offering based on these new obstacles and pain points. Observe how your customers are pivoting and pivot with them.
Do your research
You are never alone with a certain problem. When disaster strikes, many companies face the same challenges. If you are wondering how to tackle a situation, don’t feel ashamed to look at what other companies are doing. My particular advice is to investigate how the Coca-Colas and Amazons of this world are adapting their marketing. They have more staff and resources than you, so you might as well learn from them. Your competitors are scrambling too, how are they doing? So do your research. Don’t blanket copy but take some standout ideas from your peers and blend in your value proposition to make it your marketing, don’t reinvent the wheel.
Review your messaging
Are your messages adapted to what is happening in the world? We all have a number of automated messages: when people register for a newsletter, for instance, or when prospects download a white paper. It’s worth checking out if these messages are displaying enough empathy for what is happening in the world at a moment of disruption. By reviewing these messages and tweaking them to the current situation, you will show your customers that you really care.
Avoid brand damage
Some marketing campaigns have been planned months in advance. Don’t forget to check if these campaigns are still valid. If they are, check if the imagery is still suited to the current situation. When an entire society is in lockdown, don’t use images of people having a great time in a pub or a disco. I have seen this type of campaign lately. Putting out these messages will come across as very insensitive and will only hurt your brand - you will immediately be perceived as out of touch - NO marketer wants that!
Think outside in
Many companies are trying to survive in a time of disruption. Companies in survival mode are only open to one type of message: one that helps them in their fight. If you are reaching out to these companies, beating your chest about how great your products are, it will not go down well. Telling them how your products can help them get out of their predicament, on the other hand, will meet with great interest. Better yet: offer them something that really helps them, for instance waiving fees for unused services. This shows you care about them and will increase customer loyalty.
Be brief, be relevant
People are bombarded with advice, with online challenges, with negative news. You are not helping yourself by adding to that information overload. And be positive in your messaging. FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), may work for some occasions, but definitely not in times of crisis. You will be remembered for fear mongering.
Use your B2B tools, save time
You have invested in marketing automation tools (Pardot, right?), now is a great time to use all the features they have on offer. Some examples:
- Put a link to your business state in all mails, on all landing pages,… Make it easy on your customers to find out what they can expect from you in this time of disruption.
- Leverage Dynamic Content to automatically personalise Pardot forms, landing pages, emails and websites for each prospect. This doesn’t take time yet has a big impact.
Recent research shows that many companies are putting marketing spend on ice. I think that is a false economy. Investing in marketing pays off, even in disruptive times. As the research shows, online business just got a massive boost, so is this a time to reduce your online marketing? Smart spending in marketing should never be suspended. Applying the best practices we just reviewed will contribute to the smartness of your spending.