Pandemic Marketing:  Putting Your Best Steps Forward

Pandemic Marketing - Best Steps Forward

Over a year ago, most of us were led to believe that the pandemic would be short lived and things would soon return to normal. Here we are more than 18 months later still dealing with the challenges that have accosted the business world. There is no doubt that we have all learned to do things differently. No longer can we do things the same way and expect the same results. As these adjustments have been made, there have certainly been opportunities to consider.

One of the biggest areas impacted is marketing. Connecting with potential customers and cultivating existing relationships remains a priority, but how we do that today looks a little different and in some ways, it also looks the same. How so?

Technology Advantage

The pandemic has forced us to consider how to better leverage technology in our marketing efforts without necessarily having to use unknown technology. Think about it. Prior to the pandemic, we used email, digital platforms, banner ads, etc. to generate leads, develop prospects, cultivate relationships and more. Those tools are now being used in a different way to drive our marketing activity. In fact, we are relying on them more than ever before. With limited in-person opportunities for meetings, events, trade shows, etc., our technology communication tools are essential to our marketing activities. Businesses that understand this are making the adjustment by focusing on the tactical elements that work better today than they did just over a year ago.

Adapt and Align with Your Market

So what does this mean to your business? In all likelihood, it means a fairly major strategy adjustment. Putting your best steps forward during this time will give your business the edge it needs to be competitively ahead of the game. A revised marketing strategy will include an evaluation of how your business connects with the market and the tools required to accomplish each tactic. This is the time to consider the new opportunities that may exist as a result of how things are done differently today versus a year ago. Your market may also look a little different, underscoring the importance of capitalizing on that by visibly occupying space in that market with the solutions that businesses need. Your goal is to be well known so that prospects consider your solution as the best option available.

Quick Takeaways

  • Marketing strategy adjustments – look at the new behavior of your market and determine the best way to occupy a presence where your business is needed the most
  • Leverage digital marketing tools – this is likely the time to increase the frequency of your email marketing campaigns, refresh your website, update your banner ads, and evaluate your internet presence
  • Capture new market opportunities – consider how your market operates differently now and determine how to capitalize on the new opportunities that may have arisen as a result of these pivots

Businesses that choose to sit on the sidelines watching to see what happens will quickly be left behind.  Those that understand how to adapt to changing market conditions with a proactive marketing approach will win.  Put your best steps forward and win!

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Marketing During Times of Uncertainty

Keep Your Marketing Engine Running

By now, you’re more than overwhelmed with everything related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). It dominates the news and nearly every conversation we have. If we all continue to do our part to protect ourselves from it, we’ll hopefully soon see better days.

This pandemic has made an impact on businesses in a way most of us have never seen before. In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to even know what steps to take that make sense for your business. It also brings to mind the challenge of keeping your marketing momentum going. Let’s be clear: Do NOT shut off your marketing engine. This is not the time to do that. Instead, consider the areas of your marketing that require refocusing.

Thankfully, there are things you can do now to keep your marketing engine running strong. Here are a few recommendations in key areas where you can invest time and energy:

  • WEBSITE – Take this time as an opportunity to review your site and overall messaging. Refine the areas that need it where your site receives the most visits. You can make these enhancements without rebuilding the entire site.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA – With nearly everyone working from home right now, social media platforms are busy. Use this to your advantage by developing a posting strategy that provides useful, insightful and beneficial information for your market. Create links to your website and downloads to engage your audience.
  • DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS – Stay in touch with your customers and prospects. Going “radio silence” on them now is a mistake. They need to hear from you. Offer them information about things that will help their business as it relates to your expertise. You may want to consider having more webinars and increase virtual meeting opportunities.
  • TOOLKIT – Review your marketing toolkit and determine what collateral, success stories, digital brochures, eBooks and other tools need to be updated. Consider any tools that may be missing that you need to add and remove those that are no longer relevant. With heavy emphasis now on digital communications, this is a great time to revamp the contents of your toolkit.
  • OVERALL – As you have time to do so, take a look at your branding, messaging and market position. Use this time to evaluate whether your company is connecting well to your intended market. Identify areas that need to be improved and develop a plan to address them proactively.

It’s worth repeating:  this is NOT the time to shut off your marketing engine. If you do, the challenge to regain your marketing momentum will be an exponentially difficult task. We saw this after the eCommerce and dotcom bubble burst 20 years ago and again in the 2008-2009 downturn.

Smart, resourceful companies with tenacity will adjust the course of their marketing efforts to benefit their business. When we get over this hump, those companies will be in the driver’s seat ready to forge ahead. Be one of those guys! Meanwhile, follow the guidelines of the CDC to stay safe and healthy!

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What Drives a Buying Decision?

What Really Motivates or Drives a Buying Decision?

We are surrounded and pounded daily with messages to buy something. Advertisements flood the market on our smartphones, computers, televisions, billboards and more urging us to take action for purchasing a car, home, health care products, business services, clothing – you name it. These messages are present every day, but what really drives us to make a buying decision? That answer usually falls into one of three categories: 1) Cost, 2) Emotions, and 3) Timing.

Cost with Text

Even within the category of cost, there are several aspects that influence our buying behavior. Who doesn’t want to get a great deal when it comes to making a purchase?  It’s hard to find someone who simply pays full price regardless of what they’re buying.  People like to know they’re getting a really good price on the things they buy.  That’s why discounts and sales are extremely powerful.  The idea of “saving money” is a super motivator. 

Incentives also influence the buying process.  While getting a deal through a discount or sale is appealing, so is the opportunity of getting something in addition to your purchase.  Incentives can range from “free oil changes for a year” when you buy a new car to “free cappuccino on your 5th purchase” when buying coffee.  When an incentive is properly designed, it motivates a buyer because they feel like they’re getting more for their money.

Social status.  We would be remiss if we didn’t mention how cost can also be a primary motivator for prestige, significance or social status.  Simply being able to afford something that most people cannot afford to buy can put you into an elite category.  Maybe this is high-end office space that sets your business apart from others or perhaps an expensive automobile that elevates you above the average crowd.  In this case, cost influences the buying behavior of those who know they can afford it and who don’t have to worry about discounts, price reductions or incentives.      

Emotions with Text

Buying behavior is heavily influenced by emotions. That’s kind of a no-brainer, but when you think about it, emotional appeal is very powerful.  Sometimes this means we’re attached to a favorite brand and remain loyal to it – like Apple, Coke, Levi’s or Microsoft.  Brand reputation plays a part in this, too.  If you are consistently pleased with your preferred brand and it stands strong in the market, then you will likely remain emotionally attached to it. 

Solving a problem is also driven by emotions.  When something needs to be resolved and your purchase brings a solution to the situation, you will likely be elated with the result.  The satisfaction of seeing a problem or headache eliminated can be exhilarating.  And sometimes your buying decision solves a huge problem making you an instant hero!

The emotions can also be influenced by peer pressure or prestige.  Think about all the times you’ve seen nearly everyone with the latest product and you felt either left out or had an urge to join the crowd.  It could also be a matter of prestige.  Maybe you just want to feel special, unique or stand out from the crowd.  Instead of joining the masses, you’re looking for an element of significance through your purchase.        

Emotional buying decisions often involve convenience.  The idea of making a purchase that is easy, quick and trouble-free brings with it a certain amount of comfort and sometimes relief.  “Oh, I’m so glad I saw this…I’ve been needing it for a long time and here it is!” would be a common thought that many of us experience when purchasing a convenience item. 

Sometimes emotional purchases are driven by necessity.  These are not always the “fun” kind of purchases, but they take care of an identified need.  Think about the last time you bought a washer and dryer.  Probably not the most exciting thing to buy and often considered a “grudge purchase”.  Appliances are almost always purchased because you have to have them. 

Timing with Text PNG

Finally, most buying behavior is influenced by timing. Within this category, seasonal buying is a big one.  We are all influenced by different seasons of the year.  Aside from the obvious Christmas season, we always see sales for winter, spring, summer and fall.  Apparel is one of the largest product categories for seasonal buys, but we also see this for different products and services throughout the year.  Back to school is huge at the end of summer; tax preparation services are big in the spring; vacation packages are promoted in the summer; along with just about every holiday on the calendar. 

Timing often includes urgency or schedule influence.  In business, this occurs when a need arises in the office environment like equipment or something related to a special project.  For consumers, it may be event-driven like a cookout or special occasion with a specific calendar date that influences all buying preparation. 

Buying decisions made because of timing usually involve an element of pressure.  Deadlines are chiefly responsible for that which means the pressure builds until all necessary purchases have been completed.  A special price that is only valid for a short period of time can easily impact our urgency.  Who doesn’t remember the old television commercials that urged you to “call before midnight tonight…and we’ll double the offer!”      

While there are certainly other factors that can affect our buying behavior and ultimately the purchasing decisions we make, most of them boil down to the cost involved, our own emotions and timing.  When it comes to developing a marketing strategy that is designed to influence buyer behavior, it is imperative to know which element of influence drives your market.  Craft your marketing messages and content strategy to reach your buyers.  Use language and images that they can relate to.  Implement the best methods and ways to make effective connections with your buying market.  You can then create a presence that puts your product or service in the buyer’s sweet spot.

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Marketing and Selling Like the QVC Machine

Marketing Lessons Learned from QVC

If you ever want to see a selling machine in action, simply turn on QVC for “In the Kitchen with David” or “Down Home with David” starring David Venable.  This guy can market and sell products like no other.  Granted, the television platform highly influences his sales and marketing approach, but if you pay attention to the framework he follows, you may learn something worthwhile. 

Here’s what I’ve observed whenever I happen to catch one of these programs:

  • Hook-em. The lead-in to every product starts with either a value statement or a strong benefit.  Having a great “hook” is imperative.
  • Features and benefits are clearly emphasized and demonstrated to perfection. I’ve never seen a product segment where I wondered what on earth it was supposed to do and why.
  • Emotion appeal and urgency. The benefits are intertwined in the product presentations with easy take-aways such as time savers, convenience, simplification, etc.  These are balanced with emotional appeal and urgency – “you can’t live without this…you’ve got to get this today…or, you can afford two at this price”
  • Product options are described in terms that resonate with the buyer – whether through color choices or special features that allow you to do extra things. These often cinch the deal.
  • Repetition is used, but not annoyingly. Venable has a smooth method of reiterating the facts, features, benefits, value and options without being a nuisance.  It’s all designed to make the buyer comfortable and at ease.    

It seems that no matter what QVC is pitching on any particular day, that same framework is used.  Obviously it works, or we would see a different approach or some kind of variance. 

What can we learn from this?

Whether you’re selling a product or service, you must have a process.  Too many times we lean on a stale methodology that just doesn’t work anymore.  And, we have a tendency to lead with features instead of benefits and expected value. 

Your marketing framework should make the customer the hero.  Show them how your product or service is going to improve their business, save time and money, increase productivity, or create efficiency gains.  Put them at ease so that they can make an informed buying decision that allows them to feel good about their commitment. 

Emphasize the value-based aspects of your offering that will make an improvement with their business or solve a problem.  Then, clearly communicate this through your digital media (website, eblasts, presentations) and even print-based materials.  Learn from the best at QVC and make it work for your business. 

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Playing Your Game May Require Adjustments to Win

Playing Your Game May Require Adjustments to Win

In most sports, we learn how to compete as a team where each player makes a contribution. A team is coached to learn techniques, strategy and execution in order to win games. Over time, a team begins to compete by “playing their game” which means they have a fairly predictable way of playing against their competitors. In most cases, a team will lean on this approach when they begin winning their games on a consistent basis. That’s a good thing!

For marketing your business, “playing your game” can work most of the time – and it should. Every so often, however, circumstances dictate a tweak or change to your marketing strategy. This is why you need to remain nimble and flexible.

Why it matters

This is especially true in your marketing strategy and execution. The markets and competitive landscape change so much that it’s almost impossible to do things the exact same way and expect stellar results. Influences from technology, new marketing techniques, and how prospects prefer to engage with your
business can all impact how you “play your game”.

Think about it from a sports perspective. How many times have you seen a football, basketball, baseball or other game where a team had to adjust their game plan in midstream? It happens because a quarterback successfully completes all of his passes; a point guard hits several 3-pointers in a row; or a pitcher strikes out every batter he faces. In each situation, the opposing team makes an adjustment because their “game plan” no longer works. They counter this by putting more pressure on the quarterback; double-teaming the point guard; and displaying a greater level of patience in the batter’s box to wear down the pitcher.

Flex your muscles

In a similar way, always evaluate your marketing opportunities to determine if any adjustments are required. You have to size up your competition on a consistent basis so that strategic tweaks can be made to ensure you edge them out. Sometimes an aggressive competitor or unusual market circumstances may dictate your marketing adjustments. Maybe this means you have to place greater emphasis on a specific product offering or service solution to create a competitive advantage. It might mean you have to increase your market visibility to dilute a competitor’s advertising message or market presence.

Whatever the situation, take action and avoid doing things the same way. When your marketing becomes mundane, the market may blow right past you. Complacency and ruts are dangerous. That’s why being flexible is important – it allows you to make strategic marketing shifts when needed.

Design your marketing strategy in a way that works for your business, but also in a manner that creates opportunities to win. While the same marketing game plan may work most of the time, be prepared to modify your approach for those times when your marketing needs to be kicked into a higher gear.

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360 Degree Marketing - An Organizational Approach

360 Degree Marketing

The Upstate Business Journal (UBJ) recently published our article on a different approach to 360 degree marketing.  In this piece, we discuss how to involve your entire organization in achieving your marketing goals.  Isn't that how it should be?  We think so.  Download the article here.     

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Trade Show Visitors

Getting the Most from Your Trade Shows and Events - Part 2

In part one of “Getting the Most from Your Trade Shows & Events”, we covered the importance of selecting the right events that match up well for your business and how to plan for them to maximize your opportunities. In this part two edition, we will highlight the components that address team preparation, engaging booth visitors, networking and follow-up plans for a successful event.

Create a winning team that makes your company shine

Committing to a trade show, conference or event means you have an investment in it which requires the right team of people to represent your company. You’ll need to have a well-balanced team consisting of those that have good customer service and selling skills, technical acumen, and an ability to interact with visitors. The last thing you want to do is assign someone to attend who is scared out of their mind to meet people. And, don’t just send your sales people without first defining their roles and responsibilities. In fact, your entire team needs to know exactly what is expected of them and what the objectives are for participating in the chosen event.

Remember, attending an event isn’t a free vacation – it requires preparation beforehand and attentiveness while at the event. Prepare your team by getting them excited about representing your company and enthusiastic about the opportunity of engaging with prospects to generate business opportunities.

Visitor engagement 

At most trade shows, aisle traffic can be heavy and scheduled times for exhibit hall openings can result in a flurry of activity that is short lived. Because of this, you will want to be fully prepared and ready to engage with visitors to determine who is a prospect and who needs to be encouraged to keep moving. Wasting time on non-prospects means you are missing opportunities to spend time with those who need your solution offering or product. To avoid this scenario, quickly assess a visitor through a few qualifying questions to determine what to do next. Do it professionally and with courtesy as some visitors may represent partnership opportunities, become future prospects or result in good media contacts.

For those that pass your qualifying criteria, have an action plan in place for next steps. Capture this in your CRM system so that follow-up plans are properly executed. You’ll want to do this for all of your visitors so that your CRM status codes indicate whether a visitor is a non-lead, prospect, partner, media contact, etc.

It's more than a trade show - harvest the opportunities

Take advantage of the entire event beyond your exhibit. Trade shows normally coincide with a conference that includes educational break-out sessions and many networking opportunities. These represent great ways to meet those who may not stop by your exhibit. The food court is another place to mingle with others and introduce yourself while taking a break from your booth responsibilities. Many times, great conversations take place at break-out sessions, special networking events and in the food court. Don’t miss these opportunities. Put together a scheduled plan to attend these as time permits while at the trade show or event.

Follow-up for succcess and reap the rewards

Getting the most out of trade shows and events boils down to your post-show follow-up plan. An alarming high percentage of trade show leads are never followed up. It’s very easy to return from an event exhausted with a shifted focus on catching up in the office instead of executing a follow-up plan. Without a system or plan in place, it’s not hard to understand why this occurs. But, it doesn’t have to be this way and you should never find yourself in this situation.

Too much time and effort have already been invested by your company to forsake this process. A follow-up plan must be developed that clearly indicates what will occur with every contact met at your event - - including who will do it, when and why. Because you captured your contacts at the event with your CRM, you will already have their statuses and be on your way to implementing an effective follow-up plan.

This activity is where your potential pay-off will occur. This is where you will determine if your event was worthwhile and if your investment will generate a healthy return. This is where it all happens to ensure you get the most out of your trade shows and events.

GE Booth

Getting the Most from Your Trade Shows and Events - Part 1

Every spring and fall, the trade show and event season gears up with a flurry of activity, hype and promise. It’s an easy trap to fall into with the lure of event venues, popular keynote speakers and even the pressure to “be there” because your competition will be. But, before you jump right in, take the time to determine how trade shows can be a strategic marketing component for your business and then decide how best to approach them.

The right show with the right audience
Determining which shows make sense for your business will require some effort on your part. Research those that match up well with your buying market so that you can decide what type of presence is necessary for your company. Take into consideration opportunities beyond exhibiting such as landing a spot as a speaker and strategically participating in networking sessions throughout the event. Don’t just go to a show, throw up a booth and expect instant success. Be smart and selective.

An action plan with clearly stated goals
Once you have identified the trade shows that match up well with your offerings, define your show objectives early on and use those objectives as the drivers for everything you do in preparation and execution of your trade show presence. This includes agreeing on what you hope to accomplish, how you will meet your goals and the measurements necessary to ensure the objectives are met. Your action plan will help keep you focused on the primary goal of participating in the target event.

Gain visibility and be known
With your initial plans in place for your trade show, you’ll want to turn your attention to promotion opportunities available to boost your show visibility. Through pre-show mailers, e-blasts and at-show promotions, your company will have several opportunities to make attendees aware of your participation. Give them a reason to visit your booth, attend your presentation session and meet with you at the networking events.

The 3 second rule
When planning for your exhibit display, keep in mind that you have only 3-5 seconds to capture the attention of those walking the aisles. Visually stunning graphics with a few key message points will help make the connection to those you want to draw into your display area. Attempting to tell your entire business story on a booth is a mistake – leave that error to your competitors! And, plan an exhibit that is inviting, open and free-flowing. This will allow for a more pleasant visitor experience.

Trinkets and trash are for amateurs
Why spend money on giveaways that will end up in the trash or given to the family dog to chew up after the show? Choose giveaways with a purpose and that reflect well on your company and brand. Make it relevant and meaningful to your business. Cheap stuff of inferior quality will not bode well. Go with substance that makes a great first impression.

Part 2 of “Getting the Most from Your Trade Shows & Events” will cover team preparations, engaging booth visitors, networking and follow-up plans for a successful event.

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Summer Slump

How to Avoid the Summer Slump

The summer season is probably the most anticipated time of year:  school is out; baseball season is in full swing; the weather is warm; pools are open; people head to the beach; vacations are taken…and more.  It’s also a time of year when we find ourselves busy with “other things” that can easily distract us from our business.  There are those who’ll say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter – it’s summer and no one does much business this time of year.”  And then others will say, “Let’s just wait until summer is over and hit the ground running after Labor Day.”  There it is:  the summer slump.  Here’s how to avoid it.

Revisit your marketing strategy & plan
This is a great time of the year to do the things you may not otherwise have time to tackle.  Right off the bat, revisit your marketing strategy and plan.  Compare what you have already accomplished this year against what was planned.  Then, you can revise accordingly:  what worked well?...what didn’t?  Look at what you have planned for the second half of the year and determine if that is still realistic or requires some tweaking. 

Tighten up your marketing toolkit
After revising your marketing plan, review your sales and marketing toolkit to see what needs to be refreshed, added or even removed.  Pay careful attention to the tools that are helping you connect well with your market and consider tossing out those they do not.  Can your existing tools be improved or are you missing any that would help you achieve your business objectives?  Taking the time to update these communication tools with fresh content and the right messaging will ensure your team is properly equipped to win new business.   

Refresh your website
Now turn your attention to your website.  It’s easy to neglect your site while busy with other priorities, so use the summer months to spend some quality time with your website.  In all likelihood, you’ll need to refine the content to maintain messaging consistency with your sales and marketing toolkit.  Update images, graphics and videos along with links so that your site performs at its best.  While you’re under the hood, review your title and meta tags along with your meta descriptions in case these need to be revised.  This will help maintain your organic search rankings so that your business can easily be found. 

Obviously there are other areas you may need to spend time on, but the point is to maintain a proactive mindset without falling prey to the luring summer sun.  If you use your summer to address these key marketing areas, the dog days will be your friend!

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Danger Zones

Avoiding the Marketing Danger Zones

Cruising along with your marketing activities can sometimes be a comfortable thing. In fact, it can be too comfortable if you have them on auto pilot. Even if you don’t, you still have to be strategic and purposeful to ensure your plans are hitting the mark and generating your desired results. That’s why you have to watch out for the marketing danger zones.

The challenge here is that those danger zones are not always obvious. How do you know what they are before they hit you and inflict damage on your marketing efforts?

Be strategic

One of the most prevalent dangers is operating in an opportunistic versus a strategic mode. If you’re always reacting to whatever happens to come along, chances are pretty good that your results will be mediocre at best. Strategy-based marketing will always outperform opportunistic approaches.

Always have a follow-up plan

Another common danger is lack of follow-up after a campaign. It’s very easy to create a campaign, exhibit at a trade show or hold a webinar, but then fail to follow up on any leads generated from these initiatives. It seems crazy to think that’s even possible, yet it is a widespread problem that plagues marketing effectiveness in businesses and organizations of various industries and sizes.

Consistency counts

Then, one of the most damage-inflicting danger zones involves inconsistencies with branding, messaging, content, product/solution offerings and communications. When you send your buying market conflicting messages about who you are, why you exist, how you solve problems and why your solution is the best option, then trouble awaits you. Introducing even an ounce of doubt in your buyer’s mind is extremely dangerous and marketing inconsistencies can easily do that.

Watch the market and your competitors

Other danger zones include a failure to respond to changing market conditions and ignoring your competitors. When influencing factors change your market conditions, you have to be ready with a solid response by either tweaking your content, messaging or solution offering…or all of them if necessary. You will otherwise be left in the dust and perceived as being out of touch. Instead, stay abreast of your market and anticipate how it will change. Similarly, you always want to keep a pulse on your competition. Pay attention to what they are doing and be prepared to respond in a way that casts a favorable light on your business. If you don’t, you’ll risk having your competitors bite you on the backside.

Gird up your marketing and build a stronghold that avoids the danger zones.  Be nimble and ready to respond to strategic opportunities and changing market conditions. When you take this approach, your marketing efforts will be rewarding.

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