With over 20 years of experience in demand generation, I can normally use past learnings to help my clients shift their strategies and tactics to deal with market changes. But the COVID-19 pandemic? Nothing I’ve seen even came close to preparing me — or anyone else — for what to do next. Never have we seen a market shift so dramatic, comprehensive and fast. And four months in, we’re no closer to being able to predict the future with any degree of certainty than we were at the outset. However, some of my clients are ramping up their programs again and they’re slowly finding their way. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve shared with them on what to do now:
1. Keep marketing.
Unless your target audience is completely shut down, they still need to buy things. So keep on marketing, especially if what you sell can make their job easier, gives them the ability to more quickly respond to a changing marketplace, or to do something cheaper.
2. Test everything.
The pandemic has likely reset everything you’ve ever learned, so looking at past data to predict future return isn’t going to be relevant. Now is the time to capitalize on demand generation’s capabilities to eliminate guesswork and set new benchmarks. Test, review results and roll out more of what is showing a return in today’s market.
3. Review your content.
Assets and offers you’ve been promoting, particularly in acquisition and nurture, may now be obsolete. For a lot of my clients, past strong performing assets like surveys and state of the industry reports have had to be retired.
4. Review your database.
Decide if you want to suppress certain audience segments or double down on others. For example, if you’ve been marketing to government agencies, entertainment, or retailers, are they good prospects now? Are there other segments that are better? Are there new segments that could find value in your offering now? This is a great time to sync with sales and ask about interactions by industry and get their feedback about where to focus.
5. Don’t forget the “What’s in it for me?”
More than ever, write your copy with customer benefits in mind. Emotions are running high, and people have less patience for copy that isn’t relevant. Striking the wrong note may even rub them the wrong way. Re-evaluate your value proposition and address the pain points your audience is feeling right now.
6. Don’t be like everyone else.
Instead of being the 50th person to send an email about “these difficult times” or “the new normal,” make positive benefit statements. For example, “With the need to develop product enhancements more quickly than ever, deployment speed is important.” Or, “Supporting a remote workforce is critical . . . ” These types of statements focus on the value of your offer, still relate to the current situation, but also set your communication apart.
7. Be careful with your offers.
While we all want to offer “hope” and/or “help,” an email with an open-ended “Let us know if we can help” opens your company up to awkward conversations if the help recipients request isn’t something you can provide. If you do want to offer help, be specific. Is it a discount? Different payment terms? Limit your offers to what you are realistically prepared to deliver.
8. Plan for churn.
Be prepared for database churn as people lose their jobs. Before you send to your usual lists, test a sample and check the bounce rates. Be prepared to reallocate resources to bring in new leads if you find your existing prospect database is shrinking.
9. What if your company’s product isn’t relevant now?
You might be paused in terms of marketing, but you can take the time to regroup while you’re waiting for the market to shift. Rework your reporting so that you finally can track the metrics you need. Clean up your website. Develop new content. Build that super marketing machine you’ve always wanted so that when the market is ready, you’ll kick back off with more efficiency than ever.
A version of this article previously appeared on Jackie Walts' blog.