Given the economic impact of the pandemic, small wonder that a recent Bellweather Report highlights that marketing budgets have declined at the fastest rate since the global financial crisis. Cutting budgets, however, is not necessarily the best step for businesses looking to gear up for recovery. Bain and Co highlight that businesses that survive and thrive following recession are those that manage costs going in and invest at the right point coming out. Using a driving analogy, they explain:
“The best drivers brake just ahead of the curve (they take out excess costs), turn hard toward the apex of the curve (identify the short list of projects that will form the next business model), and accelerate hard out of the curve (spend and hire before markets have rebounded).”
For businesses looking to secure their recovery, the most important thing is not cutting spend necessarily but ensuring that the marketing budget works hard to drive leads at each stage of the customer journey, creating a healthy pipeline to fuel future growth.
When budgets are precious.
Now is not the time to slash marketing budgets indiscriminately. It is, however, the perfect time to take a step back, look at your marketing and media spend and decipher whether you’ve been making the best use of it.
Where paid channels such as pay-per-click (PPC) are concerned, it could be less about reducing your media spend and more about re-allocating it towards different types of campaigns for better ROI. Think carefully about who you’re trying to reach and what it is you want this audience to do. If you’re allocating money to display advertising in the hope of driving leads, for example, you’ll likely be disappointed with the results, as the display network is better utilised for those top of the funnel brand awareness campaigns. If your spend is weighted to early stage lead generation, you may want to increase focus on channels that have an impact in the middle or latter stages. Or it may be a case of incorporating a more personal channel such as the phone to avoid an oversaturation of digital content at a time when human interaction is prized.
Defining your audience
Most businesses feel they have a pretty good idea of who their target audience is but with recent disruption to the market, we can’t rest on our laurels. Review your strategy in the light of changing circumstance and drill down to identify which channels are driving quality outcomes. It can be surprising to learn that those who actually convert aren’t quite who you expected, and you may discover untapped potential in an audience you hadn’t considered previously.
Conducting market research is an invaluable method for gathering the qualitative and psychographic data around your customers to better understand their biggest challenges or needs, what motivates them and the types of media they respond to. Having validated the profile of your target audience, this must be reflected in the media and data you target, the content and message you develop, the segments you design, and in your lead definitions. Only then will your communications reach and resonate with the right people.
And of course, your message needs to be delivered at the right time. For example, you could have a group of customers that require a much longer lead time than others, who may need a little more nurture and guidance in the content they are served and a light-touch follow-up, rather than full-on sales pitch.
Qualifying prospects and engaging in the right way
Similarly, not every customer will necessarily come to you at the top of the funnel. Levels of intent and readiness to buy will vary based on several factors, such as how much research the prospect has carried out, the main driver for their purchase, as well as some of the psychographic elements mentioned earlier.
A robust qualification process, ideally including human interaction, will provide an accurate understanding of each of these factors so that your engagement can be tailored accordingly. Leads that don’t match the target profile can be qualified out early and those that do and show strong buying intent can receive prompt attention from your sales team. Those not yet ready to buy can be nurtured with relevant content to move them along the pipeline, until they warrant the attention of your valuable sales resource.
Find out about our expert lead qualification services
Let’s consider the different stages of the customer journey.
Reviewing your website content to evaluate how it communicates your brand story and nudges a user along to the next stage is fundamental. Your story, USPs and general ‘voice’ should be reflected wherever you are active, to reinforce awareness of who you are in the early awareness stages and strengthen that familiarity; that includes the messaging and creative assets used for any kind of organic social media presence or paid advertising.
Creating supporting content that caters to different types and levels of intent can help you segment your prospects, for example through walled articles and guides or specific newsletter subscriptions. As well as nurturing interest, you can use data capture to go beyond top-level information and really start to drill into what your audiences need from you, helping to qualify out leads, build up tailored propositions and recognise which audiences require further attention.
The purchase stage is not the time to take your foot off the gas. With the knowledge your prospects have gained and strong purchase intent, what is to stop them being taken in by an offer elsewhere?
Maintain communication by scheduling follow-up calls and offer support or advice. This is the opportunity for your sales teams to engage fully, really wow potential customers and demonstrate value with bespoke solutions that marry customer needs and interests to relevant benefits of your proposition.
No matter what your business, there is always an opportunity to convert new customers into returners and increase their lifetime value, whether that’s via upselling, cross-selling or repeat purchases. Utilise email marketing to keep clients up to date with your latest services, offers and updates, but remember to keep it personal where possible.
Follow up on transactions at regular intervals as part on an onboarding strategy; post-sale communication helps to identify any potential issues, gather feedback and satisfaction levels.
Account based services including regular personal contact over the phone or face to face can pick up from post-sale services to build valuable, two-way relationships, opening up dialogue for further sales. However, more significantly, skilled account management can call upon these relationships for deeper insight that can be converted into advocating content such as case studies and testimonials.
Continue to use social and email channels to embed this content throughout; to new or potential customers it highlights evidence-based results, whereas for your retained customers it reflects the value placed on their experiences.
Depending on the products or services you offer, you could explore ‘brand ambassador’ programmes and user-generated content. Could you set up a referral scheme to reward your loyal customers?
Meaningful communication at every stage of the funnel
As Bain & Co state,
“The strongest companies coming out of the last recession went on offense early, while many of their peers focused on survival”.
Whilst the prospect of a recession is devastating, it is also an opportunity for smart businesses to seize market share and overtake longstanding competitors. Getting the marketing mix right so that it fuels the engines of growth is a key part of the process and rather than arbitrary cuts in spend, it is a case of “doing more with the same or less”.
At The Telemarketing Company, we’ve worked with clients in many sectors for over 30 years to drive new business, reach high value audiences and elevate the customer experience through meaningful two-way dialogue and authentic human interaction. If you feel your marketing mix would benefit from a more direct and personal approach, get in touch to find out more.