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 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?


Know, Like, Trust

Any potential customer must go through a process of Knowing you exist, Liking what you do and Trusting you enough before they buy from you.

People are more cautious in turbulent times, so you have to work harder to earn their trust before they will do business with you.

Of course, the length of this journey is somewhat relative to the investment and perceived risk to the client. The bigger the ticket price, the more trust you have to earn before winning the business.

You do that by educating and motivating them with valuable content. Newsletters, videos, email drips and Facebook Groups are good ways to share your best information.


You’re in the right place

I am constantly amazed at how many times I see an ad or website or piece of marketing and the overall message is not clear.

You only have a few seconds to grab your prospect’s attention, so you need to hit them right between the eyes with your key message…your elevator pitch.

You need to let your ideal prospects know that they are in the right place.

The big mistake most businesses make is, once again, making their message about themselves.



The best marketing doesn’t talk about you

Let’s face it, most people aren’t as passionate about your product or service as you are.

They’re more interested in the problem it solves. Does it address their “pain” or fulfill their “needs and desires?”

That’s why the best marketing doesn’t talk about you, it addresses them. The best thing you can do is focus on what your niche audience really wants.

As an entrepreneur, if you don’t pay full attention to your audience’s problems, you’ll never be able to cater to their needs.