These uncertain, novel times are challenging enough for us all to navigate personally — let alone as marketers. So, it’s no surprise that the question I’m being asked the most by my fellow Revenue Operations colleagues and marketers recently is, “How should our Marketing and Sales departments be operating right now?”
I’ve been pondering this question often over the past few months. Unlike your run-of-the-mill PR nightmare, a worldwide pandemic — and the corresponding economic tailspin — creates a perfect storm of three additional challenges for marketers beyond just relevancy and voice:
During this global pandemic, the NIH, CDC, and our state and local governments have been guiding us on what we should be personally doing. Wash your hands more frequently. Social distance. Wear a mask in public. While what we should be doing as marketers during this global pandemic is not so clear cut, aspects of crisis management and marketing still apply.
As such, I’ve put together a list of Marketing Dos and Don’ts to help you navigate these uncharted marketing waters.
Marketing dos and don’ts during a crisis
DO: Realign Sales and Marketing
Before you do anything, bring Sales and Marketing together to ensure there is clear alignment and a shared focus moving forward. It’s not business as usual. Your clients’ and prospects’ environments and buying behaviors are completely different during this uncertain time. Determine how they’re spending their money and reallocating their budgets. Next, review your communication strategy together — your messaging should be aligned, consistent, overly empathetic, relevant, and on-brand, reflecting your company’s core values, mission, and value propositions.
DON’T: Keep Your Goals Exactly the Same
The world has changed. Pretending it hasn’t will only make your brand seem out of touch with reality and your customers’ needs. Reevaluate your short-term (think one quarter), mid-term (over two quarters), and long-term goals (over three or four quarters or even longer-term goals) and determine whether they still apply and are achievable. If they don’t (and some likely won’t), modify them based on what you’re currently able to do given your reduced budget and staff. Then, reevaluate and update your goals throughout the year as circumstances change and you near those milestones.
DO: Reallocate Your Budget
Many B2B companies’ budgets would normally be tied up in various events right now. Since those live events have either been canceled or restructured as online events, you’ll have to figure out how to best reallocate a significant portion of that budget. Review those budget allocations and determine where it will now have the most impact to meet your goals based on the data you’re working from today. Because ultimately, crisis or not, Marketing is still going to be tasked with showing ROI.
DON’T: Cut Your Media Spend
Many marketers’ initial reaction might be to slash their entire media spend until the pandemic subsides. Resist the urge. You still need to create brand awareness in your market. Instead, assess, reposition, and continue to make optimizations where needed for paid search, social, SMS, display, and all your other paid channels. You still need them to increase awareness, build a healthy pipeline, and generate leads for Sales — after all, pipeline marketing is never-ending.
DO: Make Sure You Have a Solid Lead Management Framework in Place
A solid lead management framework is always important, but it’s even more critical when unplanned budget and staff reductions cut your precious resources short. Take this time as an opportunity to make sure you have all your lead nurturing programs in place to keep leads warm and engaged, and adjust your lead scoring to reflect your prospects’ and customers’ new buying behaviors.
DON’T: Automatically Run All the Campaigns You’d Planned Before the Pandemic
Yes, there’s a heavy influx of digital communications, but continue to be smart about your messaging, reach, and frequency. Review your ongoing and planned campaigns on your campaign calendar and ask yourself if they’re still appropriate and relevant — or if you should hit pause. You still want to build brand sentiment, but you want that sentiment to be positive.
DO: Limit the Number of Communications You Send
It’s important to maintain non-crisis digital etiquette so your prospects stick around for the long term (and your customers don’t question their relationship with you). Yes, email is one of the only avenues you have to reach your customers and prospects right now, but don’t just send an email to send an email. Quality over quantity is the best practice in email marketing — crisis or not. Make sure every email communication is engaging and relevant — or don’t send it. Set limits on the number of communications people can receive over a certain timeframe in your Marketing Automation platform, too. And if you don’t have one already, setup a preference center so your prospects and customers can control the types of communications and content they receive from you.
DON’T: Come Across as Opportunistic or Tone-Deaf
As many marketers increase their digital communications, your prospects’ and clients’ inboxes will be inundated with a variety of marketing messages. Some will resonate, and some will fall flat. Make sure your content is relevant and engaging. When you’re reallocating your staff and budget, set aside some of both for new content creation. You will need new messaging to address the current pain points your target audience is feeling, so as not to come across as tone-deaf. You also don’t want to come off as opportunistic, insincere, or superficial during one of the largest crises in recent history. That’s something people tend to remember long after a crisis has passed.
DO: Reprioritize Where You Focus Your Efforts
Make sure you’re not spending an inordinate amount of time on things like your website and social media accounts. These are things your team should always be working on and improving, crisis or not, and now isn’t the time to spend what little time you do have on what should be table stakes for your marketing organization. That said, if you haven’t already been doing this, you do need to invest the time. Instead, spend time on tactics that can have a big impact on your business with little effort, such as SEO to drive more traffic to your site and increase conversions.
DON’T: Let Your Customer Experience Gather Dust
Evaluating and optimizing the customer experience to improve customer retention and customer advocacy is always important, but never more so than during a crisis. Take this time to improve your customer onboarding experience, end-to-end sales processes, and segmentation and lead nurturing programs to help you meet your longer-term objectives.
DO: Take This Opportunity to Make Your Processes More Efficient
Zero in and focus on the areas where you can have the biggest impact with your current resource constraints. Make sure the people executing your campaigns have all the processes in place they need to be efficient, such as a standard campaign brief template, a repeatable list upload and management process, and a QA process for your campaigns. Sometimes, even the smallest of tweaks can have a significant impact on your team’s efficiency — as well as your campaign results.
DON’T: Assume Your Current MarTech Stack Can’t Do More for You Than It Has Been
Just because you’ve been using the same Marketing Automation platform for three years doesn’t mean there isn’t more to discover. Now could be the perfect time to assess your current MarTech stack. I’m not suggesting you undertake a huge platform migration or add a new tool to your arsenal. Maybe there are certain features you’re not currently using that could simplify a workflow, add a wow factor to your email campaigns, or demonstrate Marketing’s valuable contribution with customized reporting for your executive team. The goal here is to optimize what you currently have, and that doesn’t cost a thing!
DO: Outsource Where It Makes the Most Sense
When you’re stretched razor thin and constantly trying to put out more fires than you can possibly contain, you cannot expect your team to be able to handle everything themselves. During a crisis is the time to identify potential areas you can outsource to help lighten the load — and keep your team focused on more strategic priorities. Start by identifying any skills gaps that might exist in this new normal. Or, maybe your team can do the work, but their time would be better spent elsewhere. Instead of putting your valuable, limited resources on increased campaign creation and deployment, for example, consider entrusting that to a reliable partner so your team can focus on more strategic tasks.
Keeping things in perspective during a time of crisis
None of us know how long this crisis will last or whether the effects of this global pandemic will be brief or long term. Take this time as an opportunity to not only reevaluate and adjust your strategy, but to also come out of this crisis stronger and more prepared for the future.
But, more importantly, remember to breathe. Marketing is not life or death. This crisis is. On behalf of all of us at DemandGen, thank you to all the nurses, doctors, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters, delivery drivers, grocery store workers, and other essential workers across the world on the frontline of this crisis.
I hope everyone reading this is staying safe, healthy, and as “sane” as possible.
As Marketing Operations Manager, Sabrina Killian manages DemandGen’s demand funnel, marketing technology stack, demand center, enablement, and more to drive demand, meet key business objectives, measure marketing’s efficiency and effectiveness, optimize conversions, and increase lead acquisition and customer lifetime value.