Marketing lessons from a global pandemic

Marketing and business is always evolving, especially in the digital age, however the events of the last few years have accelerated change faster than ever.

As the Covid pandemic swept the planet, lockdowns and social distancing meant that the way we did business had to change quickly in order to survive.

Our customers became adept at researching and buying online. Services that were once offered in-person suddenly became virtual. The way we work, travel, shop and entertain ourselves changed almost overnight.

For many this was catastrophic. Many businesses simply became less viable and many are still only just getting by.

But for others a new world of opportunity opened up. (more…)

What are you really trying to achieve?

Marketing can be very confusing for many small business owners. Especially digital marketing.

And that’s understandable. It’s difficult to keep up with everything you need to know when it comes to the increasingly technical and ever-changing world of marketing when you have so many other things to do running your own business.

So that means, when a business owner finally decides to reach out to a marketer or an agency, they often ask the wrong questions. They tend to focus on the tactics that they think they need.

Can you fix my website?

We need an Adwords campaign!

Can you help with our content marketing?

Do you do Facebook advertising?

…and so on.

But what is worse, is that many marketers and agencies simply respond to the request around the tactic. This means the client gets what they think they might need, rather than what they actually need.

They should be asking the client, “What are you really trying to achieve?”

You see, behind every request for marketing help is usually a much bigger need. And it is usually around growing the business or attracting more leads and customers.

But, quite often, the initial request is the wrong one.

Here’s an example…

A few months ago a new client approached me asking for help with their Adwords. They had launched their business 9 months earlier and engaged an agency to manage their search campaign.

As is common, the campaign burned through thousands of dollars of ad budget, sent a lot of traffic to their site, but resulted in no new customers.

So eventually they decided to speak to someone else about it.

The first question I asked was, “What are you trying to achieve?”

That led to more questions about the business, their target market and their goals.

They didn’t need Adwords. They needed a great strategy to attract, nurture and convert customers.

So we worked with them to design one.

In the first month of that strategy being live they have generated over 120 leads, scheduled 12 meetings and signed 5 new (high lifetime value) clients. All for just $290 in advertising spend on Facebook…not Adwords.

The difference is that they now have a proper strategy, not just a tactic.

Marketers shouldn’t be mere order takers.

We need to ask potential clients what they really need? What they are really trying to achieve.

We need to go deep on their business and understand their audience before we even consider talking tactics.

Because the wrong tactic done well, is still wrong.

Do this first

The most common mistake I see in marketing, especially in small business marketing, is committing to a tactic without a real plan.

Sometimes it might be driven by budget.

The business doesn’t have much to spend on marketing so they might decide to focus on an organic content strategy “to save money”. So they start posting nice pictures on Instagram, or their Facebook page. Or they create some short videos of their business and their team and share them on YouTube or Instagram. Or they write a few blog posts.

Then they wait for the money or enquiries to roll in. But they don’t. So the business owner loses interest, realises this takes too much of their time and concludes that this form of marketing doesn’t work.

Sometimes it’s driven by the latest trend.

Instagram is hot. Let’s try that.

Snapchat is hot. Let’s do that.

TikTok is hot. Let’s start an account.

And nothing happens. So the business owner loses interest, realises this takes too much of their time and concludes that this form of marketing doesn’t work.

Sometimes it involves using a tried and trusted tactic that has been around for years and gets results for other businesses in the industry.

Adwords. Facebook advertising. Display ads. Search engine optimisation (SEO). These have been proven to work for thousands of businesses. Let’s give one of these a try.

Suddenly they’ve burnt through the budget, there have been a lot of clicks and maybe a big increase in traffic. But no more enquiries or sales. So the business owner loses interest, realises it costs too much and concludes that this it doesn’t work.

I’ve seen it happen time and again. I’ve lost count of the number of business owners I have spoken to over the years who have tried tactics like these and told me they don’t work, or they got no results.

The problem is that every single time they focused on a tactic but never had a proper strategy.

All of these tactics can work, but they need to be part of a bigger plan to attract, nurture and then convert customers.


Before you waste time on another social media post…

Before you waste another cent on paid advertising…


Take the time to build a proper marketing strategy.

A strategy that…

– identifies your ideal customers

– understands their “real” needs and desires

clearly communicates how you can help them address these needs and desires

– has a way to move these people from passive “viewers” to interested leads

– has a process to nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy

– has a “Hero Product” that makes it easier to start doing business with you

Once you have a strategy like this…then you can start to plug in the best tactics to achieve your goals.

It’s the first step I take with any client irrespective of the reason they initially engaged to help their business.

I take my clients through my Marketing Accelerator in order to identify and map out all of these things first. Then we decide which tactics will suit the strategy.

And if you do this first, you will also start to enjoy great results from your marketing.

Not now, later

Around 50% of the leads you generate will never do anything. And that’s ok if it doesn’t cost you much to generate leads.

But the good news is that the other 50% will take action.

There are usually around 15% who will do something in the next 90 days and you need to have something in place to convert them.

The remaining 35% are really where the gold is buried in your list. They’re the ones who say, “not now, later.”

They might take up to 2 years to make a decision for a variety of reasons. They might not be ready or they might not be convinced yet. But they will end up doing something.

The tragedy is that most businesses don’t have a way to nurture these leads and end up missing out on the gold.

Nurturing does two things:

  1. It helps you stay top of mind for when they are ready.
  2. It helps you build your “authority” and increase the chances that they Know, Like & Trust you enough to take the next step.

Here’s how it can work….

I signed a new client last week.

He originally downloaded one of my lead magnets around 18 months ago.

He booked a meeting with me a month later, we discussed his business and I made some recommendations about how I could help him.

He didn’t proceed. Seems he wasn’t convinced yet.

But I continued to nurture him with helpful emails and information.

Finally, last week he was ready and signed up at our meeting.

If I’d given up on him the first time I would have never won his business.

The good news is that nurturing leads costs next to nothing once you have built a great system. It just works away in the background until they’re ready to take action.

What are you doing for those who say, “not now?”


What do you do?

I met with a potential new client this week. They approached me about a specific marketing activity but I quickly knew that this wasn’t their real need.

How did I know that?

I asked them the same question I ask every business owner I speak to…”What do you do?”

For the next 5 minutes they explained their new business to me. At they end they asked me, “Does that make sense?”

Nope. Clear as mud.

It’s a problem I encounter almost every day. Most business owners aren’t actually very good at explaining their own business in a succinct and meaningful way.

That 5 minute explanation should have taken 5 seconds. Ten seconds at most.

Until they get that message right, the rest of their marketing will struggle to be effective.

Your short explanation should quickly identify who you help and what problem you solve for them. It shouldn’t be about you.

If that quick elevator pitch hits the mark they’ll definitely want to know more. Like, how you do it…what is your process / system / difference.

When someone asks me what I do for a crust, I could say I run a digital marketing agency…we do strategy, SEO, Adwords, lead generation funnels, websites etc. And their eyes would glaze over and they’d lose interest very quickly.

Instead, I tell them that “I help small to medium business owners attract more of their ideal customers sooner.”

That usually leads to them asking how I do that. Then I can explain my process.

I know that they don’t really want a digital marketing agency. They don’t want Adwords. They don’t want SEO. They don’t want all the mysterious and technical stuff we do.

But they do want more of the right customers. And they’d like to get them ASAP.

The thing is that most people aren’t as passionate about your product or service as you are. And they probably don’t understand  (or even care about) the technical aspects of your business.

They’re more interested in whether it solves their “problem”. Does it make their life better or easier?

In order to explain that you need to dig deep on your ideal target market and understand their real needs as they relate to your business.

You need to imagine that “what do you do” actually means “how can you help me?”

Crafting a good message isn’t easy.

It takes time. It takes real insight into your audience.

But it is one of the most important things you can do.


Too many tactics, not enough strategy

The wrong tactic, done well, is still wrong.

I come across this almost every day when talking to business owners. In fact, I saw a perfect (bad) example of it yesterday.

I was talking to a business owner I have known for many years. He has a good wholesale business with a high quality product for the hospitality industry. But his marketing has always been more miss than hit and he desperately needs to grow his customer base.

The reason for that is that he gets roped into tactics by people who might mean well but have very little idea about how to get him more customers.

The latest example is signing up with an agency to create and post content. They’re posting on his Facebook and Instagram pages and on his website. I’ve seen the content…it’s nice, it’s cute and I’m sure it’ll make him feel good for a few weeks.

But it won’t land him any new customers. In fact, I predict in 6 or 12 months he will wonder why he has paid this agency so much money but his business hasn’t grown. Again.


Because these are just tactics.

Pretty little tactics, done nicely, but with no real effect.

What he needs is a marketing strategy.

A strategy that…

– identifies his ideal customers

– has an insight into their “real” needs and desires

– communicates clearly how he can help them address these needs and desires

– has a mechanism to move these people from passive “viewers” to interested leads

– a way to nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy

– and a “Hero Product” that makes it easier to start doing business with him

Once he has a strategy like this…then they can plug in the best tactics to achieve their goals.

I’m working with another client who services the same industry with a different offering. They get an average of 215 new leads every month with their marketing strategy. These are names and addresses of ideal clients who have genuine potential to become paying customers soon. And a nice percentage of them do. Every single month.

Meanwhile, my friend with the pretty posts and aimless tactics receives an average of 5-10 “Likes”and 1 “share” per post.

I know which I would rather.

The 3 F’s

Modern marketing is confusing, right?

There is now an overwhelming amount of marketing options to consider. It’s no wonder marketing budgets are stretched thin and most businesses get a poor return on their spend.

But if you want to start getting a lot more leads, enquiries and clients this year, you only need 3 things

Focus. Funnels. Follow-up.


Traffic light marketing

Not everyone who visits your website is ready to buy today.

In fact, there are three types of people that come to your website: visitors, warm leads, and hot prospects.

You need to provide a different offer for each one of these groups. I like to set them up like traffic lights – green, orange, red.

First, there are visitors. They are cold traffic and they are skeptical. The best offer for visitors is the “green offer”. For me a green offer is usually a lead magnet — the free thing that we give away in return for an email address.


Why you need momentum

What do you think is the most important aspect of your business?

Money? Clients? Growth?

They’re all very important, but there’s something else you need that can guarantee these outcomes.


When a business has momentum almost every problem disappears or can be easily overcome. It’s an amazing feeling for a business owner.


Consider a virtual offering

For some businesses the pandemic was a blessing in disguise.

Forced to close their doors to a physical offering, many quickly looked to alternative revenue streams. Some will never go back to their previous model.

You see, we all hold a certain amount of intellectual property in our business. It’s just that many of us have relied on traditional methods of delivery up until now.

But by packaging that intellectual property and offering it in a different way it can be possible to take your business to another level.


The wrong channel

Whether it is organic activity or ads, a surprising number of businesses use digital platforms and social media aimlessly or based on what is “popular” right now.

Most of these channels hold great opportunities to engage with your customers directly, expand your reach and build relationships. But you need to be on the right ones to reach your ideal audience.

Not all social media platforms have the exact same audience. Users on Facebook differ from those on business-oriented LinkedIn and more lifestyle-oriented Instagram.


The importance of being nimble

The onset of the pandemic saw two types of businesses: those caught like a rabbit in the headlights, and others who made rapid changes to suit the times and their audience.

The most nimble businesses are those who know their audience extremely well. They understood their needs and they knew how this crisis would affect them. They were also able to communicate with them quickly and effectively due to their valuable databases.


Launch, Test, Improve

It is rare that any marketing is immediately “perfect”. Assumptions must be tested. Ideas must be polished.

A big mistake a lot of businesses make is that they quit a campaign too soon if it’s not delivering ideal results.

But quite often the best results come after testing and improving the campaign based on real world feedback and responses.

It’s not that the whole campaign is bad or wrong, but possibly parts of it aren’t quite right…yet.


Make it easier to get started

In every business transaction there’s always somebody who has to take a chance.

Typically it is, “You pay me or hire me, and then I’ll do the task that you requested.”

And that can lead to a lot of indecision for the prospect who is expected to take a “leap of faith” when selecting a business to, hopefully, solve their problem.

But it’s crucial to understand that most business relationships aren’t a one-time purchase, they’re a long term relationship.

You don’t just want the initial sale, you want the lifetime value of the relationship.


Here’s where the gold is buried

You need to be really disciplined about lead nurture.

This is where so many marketing dollars are wasted.

People don’t go out of their way to buy from you. They need to be prompted and reminded.

Capture leads then nurture them. Remember, only a small percentage are ready to buy “now”. Your marketing needs to also allow for those who are more likely to buy “later”.

That’s where the gold is buried.


Your second greatest marketing asset

If the most valuable thing your business can have is guaranteed regular customers, then the second most valuable asset is a long list of potential customers who you can nurture.

Most advertisers make the fundamental mistake of spending most of their time and money trying to drive people to their website and convincing them to buy “now”.

But “now” is not the same for everybody. It is very important to appreciate that, while many people might be interested in your offering, they might not be ready to act yet. So why ignore them and waste your advertising only speaking to those who are ready today?