By Madeleine MacRae
Determining the best way to sell and, even more so, how to effectively and appropriately market your products and services at a time of such widespread uncertainty and deep market disruption can be a daunting task.
As a leader during this unprecedented time, you have a lot on your plate. You have to blend just the right amount of empathy and optimism. You have to be innovative without losing hold of the fundamentals that made you successful before all of this. You have to navigate the ever-changing landscape of operational expectations while adjusting each day to evolving safety and sanitization protocols. You have to be bold and fearless even when you might be feeling anything but that!
Breaking things down into manageable steps is one of the fastest and easiest ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed and overloaded in the face of new and demanding realities.
Sales and marketing during COVID-19 is no exception to this rule, so to support your journey to surviving through and thriving beyond this pandemic, here are five fundamentals of COVID-19 sales and marketing success.
Fundamental #1—Obsess about your ideal clients
Your ideal clients need to be the unwavering focus of all of your sales and marketing strategies.
Every message you craft, every ad you run, every new process you implement needs to be rooted in a profound understanding of where your ideal clients are in this journey and where they are going. The more specific you are about your ideal clients today, the more authentically your marketing will resonate with them. Do not shy away from being ultra-targeted. You are not trying to serve all people with all things. You have core clients whom you are best suited to serve. Cater to those clients, particularly in your messaging and communication strategies.
If you have made a major pivot in your business into fabricating personal protective equipment, settle on new ideal clients in that arena. Don’t skip the work of building out the avatar for them. It’s unlikely you will be able to serve both your core/original and your new ideal clients with the same processes, so backwards engineer your strategy to best attract and serve those ideal clients without alienating and risking the loss of your original ideal clients.
Be mindful of the impact on your sales team members. They were hired and trained to work with a specific demographic in a very specific way, so don’t just command the change and expect them all to be able to figure it out on their own. Invest the time needed into creating the rails for them to ride upon, so to speak. If you’re finding yourself strapped for time, don’t abandon this step; rather, leverage a consultant or a colleague to help in building out these processes. Without them, your approach to your new ideal clients will suffer and your pivot will lose some of its potential punch.
Fundamental #2—Be a beacon of positivity and hope
If your out-of-office response shines a bright spotlight on what the local authorities are preventing you from being able to do, turn that disempowering message off. Stop telling your customers what you cannot do or what’s restricting or limiting their access to your business. Recognize that your clients are living through the COVID-19 restrictions alongside you and they are well aware that many businesses cannot conduct business as normal. What they want to know is how can you serve them and what you are able to do for them.
If they are reaching out to you, they are looking for answers not obstacles. Your marketing message needs to stay hyperfocused on what you can do for your clients and the ways in which you are still operational, even if they are in a limited capacity. There is so much fear and anxiety and worry and uncertainty everywhere. Be different.
Let your clients or customers know you are in this to help them. Remember that just as your vendors have a vested interest in your survival, so do your customers. They don’t want you to fail. They want you to remain in business beyond COVID-19 to be able to take care of their warranties and guarantees, to be their vendor, to have access to your goods and services long after this crisis has passed.
Your customers are watching and the more they see you out there with a positive and reassuring message, the more reassured they will feel.
Fundamental #3—Adapt your sales process
If your sales process has traditionally been high on in-person interaction, you have to embrace a new reality. Virtual consultations and remote selling are here because people are afraid of or are prohibited from in-person interactions. But these ways of doing business are not a passing fad.
As younger Millennials and members of Gen Z start to age into your core demographic, their buying and sales process expectations will be heavily virtual and contactless. Catch the wave now so you can turn the flow of sales on in your own business immediately and so you can master this new modality far ahead of the curve.
Fundamental #4—Go for the long money play in your business
This is a perfect moment to increase your sphere of influence, grow your business-to-business network and expand your list of referral partners. Business owners everywhere are facing the same realities you are facing. Create your list of the top 10 companies in your market that you would love to do business with and build those relationships. Relationships forged in times of crisis are welded with stronger steel, and owners are more likely to respond to a new connection, if made in the right way, in this phase while they, too, are adjusting to a new normal.
Fundamental #5—Address safety concerns
While not everyone is terrified of the coronavirus, those who are need reassurance. Communicate more than you think you should about the ways you are adhering to all possible safety protocols. Customers don’t know what actions you are taking to protect them unless you tell them. For those who want to know the details of your social distancing and sanitization protocols, make it easy for them to find that information.
Draft a letter to your customers telling them what you are doing to protect them and send it via email or traditional mail. Make it a publicly available notice with links at the bottom of all of your outbound emails, on your social pages and on your website.
You never know where your clients or potential clients are in their journey with all of this, so it’s a wise and prudent play to break down any barriers that may be preventing them from doing business with you.
COVID-19 has forced all of our hands to secure our fundamentals, to up our game, to modernize. Be fearless in being out there, in front of your ideal clients, ready to serve them, ready to build relationships, ready to tackle any hurdle with optimism and ingenuity, and you will be well on your way to surviving this and thriving beyond it.
Madeleine MacRae is a business coach and sales trainer who focuses on bringing her clients cutting-edge information mixed with just the right amount of inspiration to help them accelerate their success and achieve long-term results. She has helped thousands of companies thrive during the COVID-19 crisis. She is offering complimentary consultations
SIDEBAR: Crisis messaging
The right kind of marketing during a crisis can create sales opportunities. Experts suggest three types of messages:
Positive—Communicate how you are helping the larger community.
Valuable—Develop content that educates, entertains or inspires people.
Empathetic—Make a real connection by showing your human side.