Tried-and-true or totally new? Find out which strategies will deliver bottom line business results in changing times.
Everything is different because of the COVID-19 crisis. This is especially true when it comes to marketing, design and communications. People don’t seem to be thinking about things — or responding to offers, messages and images — the way they used to.
Despite this, we’ve found that some classic marketing, design and communication concepts, strategies and tactics have helped many of the businesses in our network make it through the pandemic and position them for future success.
Here are a few of them.
1. Be really clear about what makes your business unique.
During the best of times, it’s critical for companies to differentiate themselves. It helps them explain to prospective customers why they should do business with them. It makes it possible for them to stand apart from competitors so they can be the provider of choice for the people and organizations in their target market.
This is even more critical during challenging times when people have less bandwidth and ability to explore, learn and understand. With many individuals working longer hours, dealing with personal and family issues and helping the sick people in their lives, they simply don’t have the time to do in-depth research about companies they’re considering doing business with.
It’s all about instant gratification. Quick! Especially when people are busy (and who isn’t, right?). You don’t want to go through a text block. If you need to know A, B and C, you’ll look around and stop at the website that makes it easy to do that.
Aislinn Barry, SketchDeck, head of digital services
Counter this by working with your team to come up with what sets your organization apart from others
Do you offer a one-of-a-kind product?
Is your level of service better than that of your competitors?
Is your website the easiest to interact with?
Once you figure it out, make the differentiators central to your brand. Include messages about them at key marketing and sales decision points on your website, in sales scripts and in your collateral. Monitor how prospects respond to them and make adjustments based on how they perform in the real world. If something falls flat, don’t be afraid to change it. If messages about a differentiator really resonate, you may want to amp up use in your marketing campaigns and sales content.
Tip: Don’t just say it, show it. A great image that illustrates why your organization is different or better than your competitors could be worth many, many (okay a thousand) words talking about it.
2. Ask customers how you’re doing.
Many marketers believe that customer surveys have become so ubiquitous that they’re meaningless. Or they’re afraid to ask for feedback because they may find out about issues they don’t want to deal with.
The truth is that asking for feedback should be a consistent part of your sales and customer service processes. It’s the easiest way to find out about small issues that could harm your reputation before they turn into big problems. Comments can uncover changes in customer needs and attitudes related to COVID-19, today’s difficult economy and other issues. Requesting feedback in a public forum also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to serving your customers based on how you handle and respond to negative comments.
PLUS, when people have little time to do research, they are more likely to simply choose the company that has the best ratings and reviews.
3. Don’t sell. Solve real problems instead.
Many companies base their marketing on the features and technical aspects of their products or services. While it’s necessary to provide information about them, it’s more important to focus most of your messaging on the problems your solutions solve and the benefits they deliver.
Why did we develop this product or service in the first place?
What issues does it help with?
How do we want people to feel when they use what we offer or interact with our organization?
Answering these questions will help you understand the fundamentals of your business. Once you do, you’ll be able to describe a problem, create some level of anxiety about it, offer up your solution to it and explain how people will feel when they take advantage of it. This is a classic marketing message flow that has stood the test of time.
Remember: When you focus your marketing on personal or work-related issues and feelings, you have to support your messages with images and design elements that reflect them. A good graphic designer can advise you on how to use color, type and pictures to generate feelings in the people you’re targeting.
4. Structure your website around customer needs.
Too many organizations build websites around their operations or the structure of their businesses, not the expectations of prospects and clients.
If this is an issue with your digital properties, it’s time to redesign them so they’re focused on user needs. This is especially important right now, when people are doing more things online.
If you’re not sure how to get started, partner with an agency that has experience in designing and developing customer-focused websites. Also, leverage the expertise of a user experience professional. They can provide impartial advice on how to move your prospects and clients through your digital journey as efficiently and effectively as possible.
As a final step, test any new site with people in your target market before you launch it. Fix any issues prior to going live. This will help prevent bad user experiences on day one that could alienate prospective buyers and harm your reputation. Continue to monitor the performance of your site over time and quickly respond to new issues when they come up. A website isn’t a once and done proposition. It should be a living and evolving part of your client experience.
Tip: One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to exclusively hire tech experts to develop their websites. While it’s necessary to have a site that operates properly, it may be equally important to build one that users find attractive, intuitive and engaging. That’s why you should leverage the services of an experienced web designer when you create or refresh a site.
5. Invest in top quality content.
Spending money on articles, videos, images and design that resonate with people in your target market is an investment you’ll never regret.
Content became king when consumers lost faith in cheesy marketing tactics and the internet gave them freedom to explore and interact with things they find interesting and valuable.
Traffic, conversions, contact points with sales, purchases, demos… the driving point of your website is to reach your target audience and get them to act. You do that through great content, delivered fast. If you don’t deliver the right content, or make it hard for your audience to find it, you might lose them completely.
Aislinn Barry, SketchDeck head of digital services
During the pandemic, companies with great content have been winners. They’ve been able to repackage and distribute it during the past year when people have been spending more time at home exploring the internet.
Another benefit of investing in content is that if it’s developed and deployed correctly, it could rank on search engines, driving free traffic to your website for years to come.
Remember: “Content” doesn’t just mean “words”. It also encompasses images, infographics, videos, design elements and other visual forms of communication. Investing as much — or more — in them as in the written word makes sense as more consumers seek out visual ways to learn about what they’re interested in.
6. Generate “buzz”.
The concept of buzz has evolved over time. It used to be about making noise — good or bad — to get attention. Today it’s more about building trust and getting people to recommend your business.
You can do this in many ways, from becoming an online thought leader by inviting people to interesting virtual events that get them chatting online to developing content people want to share.
You can also go real world to create buzz by giving back to your community in a meaningful way. Or you could do something beyond your local area that people want to participate in and share news about. Helping out is an old-school type of thing to do, but it could generate a lot of positive feelings from consumers at a time when people need help. This is way better than becoming a one-dimensional influencer on Instagram.
7. Stay focused on ROI.
Marketing is meaningless if it doesn’t pay off with an increase in activity that eventually drives dollars to the bottom line of your business.
The only way to know which marketing initiatives are working — whether they’re tried and true or completely new — is to assign projected results to them before they launch and track progress toward the goals over time. This gives you the power to fix things that don’t perform as intended, max out campaigns that outperform and cut things that aren’t working.
Monitoring metrics when times are flush is important. It’s even more so during challenging periods like today. It is the only way you’ll know for sure that you’re getting the highest return possible on your investment in marketing, design and communication when money is tight and budgets have to be stretched to their limits.
Got questions about old school or new age marketing strategies and tactics? Simply start a chat and our experts will give you advice and support.