5 Tips Digital Marketers Need To Know Now
As Built In described, it started with messages from airlines, but soon enough every kind of organization - universities, tech startups, sandwich shops you visited once three years and two cities ago - started sending out coronavirus updates. Clothing brands sent emails headed, “Things are weird”; personal grooming brands penned subject lines like, “Let’s get through this together.”
Is this a smart marketing strategy?
The short answer, it depends. The long answer, the remainder of this article.
Not every email is as insensitive as the (humorous, fictional) Bed Bath & Beyond email subject, “Bed Bath & Coronavirus!”
One thing is for certain, however. Your customers can’t ignore the pandemonium, and neither should your marketing strategy.
Industry events and corporate conferences are undoubtedly an imperative opportunity for B2B marketers to network with potential clients and help fill their pipelines. In fact, more than half of B2B marketers use in-person events and trade shows to drive lead generation.
Unfortunately, we’re living in a world in which face to face interactions at conferences and in-person social networking are not feasible for the foreseeable future. For this reason, it’s time to pivot your lead-gen strategy to address COVID-19, and invest in your business’ continuity. It’s time to double down on digital. Because “things are weird,” your marketing should be too.
Replace the handshake with a virtual interaction
At a time when lead generation feels as though it’s being challenged, take a one-to-one (or one-to-few) approach. This is otherwise known as an account-based marketing strategy. Focus on engaging with the accounts that have the most potential (or customer-lifetime-value) for pipeline generation and revenue. Don’t blast every customer who has sneaked into your database.
With conference cancellations plaguing the industry, marketers need to create an alternative route to win back those lost touchpoints. This will likely require an uptick in digital strategy deployments.
Digital content is the #1 cost-effective marketing strategy right now, whether this be through tactics like content syndication, LinkedIn ad engagement, or revamping Instagram and Twitter posts to educate and entertain your target market.
Although many current marketing campaigns won’t directly lead to quantifiable short-term results, engaging and informative content is an investment in brand image and long-term customer-life-time value, especially during a time when social media traffic is surging. Your customers are listening. What are you saying?
Keep a firm pulse on audience engagement
Don’t pitch irrelevant products to customers as if they weren’t living in the midst of a pandemic. Pitch time-sensitive solutions. Don’t blast customers with an abundance of information regarding your company. Provide consumers value.
For example, “I was happy to get an email from Comcast that said, ‘Here’s what we’re doing to keep the network up; here’s what to do if you have a problem,’” Michael Papish, Vice President of marketing at Markforged, told Built In. “That felt like a proper amount of communication for this time period,” because it was.
But when a sandwich shop you visited three years and two cities ago emails you after years of silence, or sends an email more as a self-praising “do-gooder” than to serve customers, it can backfire. It feels like “jumping on the bandwagon,” digital marketing consultant Melanie Balke recently said.
At a glance, successful influx of branded coronavirus emails don’t look like “marketing” at all. Unless you offer work-from-home solutions (or toilet paper), you shouldn’t be overtly advertising products at full-scale to an entire market. The campaigns that aren’t are part of long-term digital marketing strategy; as they provide practical information, the emails also brand their parent companies as reliable, sanitary and ethical – a trend consumers are gravitating towards.
On a larger scale, many enterprise-scale companies have pared down their ad budgets and employee salaries in the midst of unpredictable market fluctuation.
Use employees to activate the social media multiplier effect
Digital advertising, in response, has gotten cheaper. Cost-per-impression on Facebook ads has dropped substantially even as traffic on the platform has surged. On news sites, too, traffic has skyrocketed - for prestige publications like the Atlantic, site visits have nearly doubled - but advertiser interest has waned.
It brings up an interesting point. How else can we capitalize on social media traffic without wasting our budget on inconvertible lead generation?
Because people are cooped up indoors, “content is going to be king,” described Balke. She recommends content marketing to any company with excess bandwidth. “If you have a whole team at home that usually would be [out] doing things, why not have them create content?”
This refers to the fact that employee activities on social media can have important effects on customers. Encouraging employees to use social media to share their COVID-19 experiences or to talk about the positive work your brand is doing during this crisis benefits both employees, who bond with the brand, and customers, who get an authentic sense of the brand through first-hand accounts. It also eliminates overt sales pitches that may come across as ingenuine.
According to a February 2020 CMO Survey report, 24.1% of companies’ social media activities are now performed by outside agencies, up from 17.4% in 2014. As budgets are stretched thinner by the economic slump, internal social media content could be a good place to save costs and enhance brand visibility.
Pivot copy language and imagery in response to pandemonium
When it comes to marketing a product or service, crisis or not, imagery is an imperative part of how your brand is communicating with customers.
A study by John Medina, molecular biologist and NY Times bestselling author, showed that our information retention increases from 10 – 65% when adding visuals to written content. Not to mention, 83% of human learning is visual.
Now, since the reality is that we are currently living in a crisis, apply this concept to the current state of pandemonium that we’re living in.
For that reason, our analysts recommend avoiding visuals of crowds or people touching, working in offices, or at social gatherings out of the house.
Similarly, consider reframing marketing language that describes close interaction. Reconsider figurative language like “get in touch,” “work hand in hand,” or “get closer to your customers.”
Messages encouraging immediate interaction may be deeply scrutinized and influence how consumers perceive your brand and retain your marketing message, especially during times of sensitivity and uncertainty.
“We are right here with you” – an ESPN approach
As seen in The WSJ
As you would imagine, Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN has had to significantly revamp its programming with the loss of live sports during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it’s altering its marketing to address it.
“On Monday, ESPN is introducing two new commercials addressing the impact of COVID-19 in different ways” The WSJ reported.
One features ESPN on-air talent such as Stephen A. Smith, Doris Burke and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez delivering a message of unity and advising viewers to practice social distancing, exemplifying a genre of content marketing teams should be addressing if they want to establish social brand-credibility and relevancy.
Ms. Burke recorded her portion after announcing last week that she had tested positive for the virus.
The second ad continues the network’s “There’s No Place Like Sports” campaign and features uplifting sports moments such as the recent National Hockey League game in which a Zamboni driver filled in as a last-minute goalie. It ends with the message “We miss it, too.”
“Sports is an escape—that’s what people are missing right now, because there is no escaping the news and this situation,” Ms. Gentile said. “There is a sense of reinforcing that we are right there with you,” she added.
At this point in time, that’s what marketing is about - sending a branded message that says “we are right there with you.”
During times of stress and uncertainty, CCW Digital advises our community to stay safe, healthy, productive, and above all else, shelter in place.
Remember, stay positive. Test negative.