Back in 2020, I wrote this article in the Business Journal about marketing your business during COVID-19. Since then, I’ve been blown away by how quickly marketing tactics have evolved.
Consider the digital shift our culture has recently experienced:
- You can now meet with your doctor over a Zoom call
- Children can stay at home and still go to school
- Many businesses restricted to geographic boundaries are now sourcing new customers across the US
So how has this impacted your marketing?
Since many people are now accustomed to using Zoom or Facetime, doing business with a local company isn’t as important as it once was. This means that many local businesses are now competing with companies across the country, for the same customers.
One example of this trend is the increased competition that attorneys are facing. Just two years ago, most law firms wouldn’t target potential clients outside of their county because it would mean having to repeatedly go out of town to show up in court. But today, most courts use video conferencing which allows attorneys in Los Angeles, for example, to aggressively market in other cities.
This example has played out across numerous industries and it’s resulting in local businesses becoming more strategic and data-driven with their marketing.
The crazy thing is, this national/local dynamic has resulted in a golden age of marketing where the average local business is optimizing their marketing campaigns based on CAC (cost to acquire a customer), LTV (lifetime value), and CPL (cost per lead). These are things savvy marketers have been doing for years, but many local businesses traditionally lacked the time, knowledge, and budget to get the most out of their campaigns.
And this is what has drastically changed the most in the last year and a half!
Where should you start?
Every small to medium-sized business that has had a ton of success with its digital marketing has done two things better than most:
- Create tactics around the top, middle, and bottom of their sales funnel
- Define multiple conversion points (or KPIs), track their performance, and optimize based on the success
Top of the sales funnel
When advertising to potential customers, you should consider their stage in the sales funnel. Potential customers at the top of your funnel usually haven’t heard of your product or aren’t very familiar with it. So the primary goal of marketing at the top of the funnel is brand awareness. Top-of-funnel marketing channels include traditional outreach like TV, radio, and billboards; and also generally-targeted digital banner ads, Facebook, and Instagram ads as well.
Middle of the sales funnel
Potential clients that make it to the middle of your funnel have heard of your company or the product you sell, and they’re doing research, comparing you to your competitors. So the goal to reach potential clients in the middle of the sales funnel is to educate and persuade them – but not yet ask for the sale. Targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are great middle-of-funnel marketing channels enabling you to reach potential customers.
Bottom of the sales funnel
Finally, the bottom of the funnel is where someone is ready to purchase; they’ve done their research, and they are focused on getting the best deal—this is where your company asks for the sale. Popular bottom-of-funnel channels include Google Search Ads and Bing Search Ads. Ads on these channels can appear when your potential customer is ready to buy based on their search query’s intent.
To make the most of your target audience spending more time on their devices, your marketing strategies must focus on building brand awareness at the top of your funnel and educating your potential customers in the middle of your funnel.
Importance of building trust
No matter how you’re reaching your target audience, people prefer to do business with companies they trust. This is why focusing on top and middle of the sales funnel strategies is so important because once you’ve built trust, your marketing will produce more customers.
As an example, Google “Los Angeles personal injury attorney,” click on a few of the Google Ads, then take a look at the websites those ads are promoting. Most of the sites won’t win any design awards, and yet those attorneys are gaining a lot of clients with Google Ads because they’ve taken the time to build trust among their target audience with top and middle of the funnel strategies.
Ways to build trust
Most people don’t just click on an ad and buy since buying a product or service always has risk associated with it. So they mitigate their risk by looking for contributing factors to support their decision to purchase. This is where a blog post (like this one!), a video, or a podcast can really convey your value and expertise. Specifically:
- Write a blog post or a new web page on how your industry is affected by COVID-19 and the specific steps people are taking.
- Then create Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads around this blog post to inform your target audience, but not sell them. This could even become a series of blog posts, depending on how long the pandemic and its effects last. It could first discuss who/what is affected by the virus, and then, later blog posts could explain how your industry is recovering from it.
- You will also want to install a remarketing pixel that enables you to stay in front of your potential customers throughout the sales funnel.
- Now that your audience is aware of your business, develop the middle of your sales funnel ads (both static and video ads) that detail your company’s value, experience, some case studies, and further industry insights. The goal of these ads is to only appear to people that have seen your COVID-19 related ads and have read your content.
- Over time, as your potential customers consume your content, your company will become an industry expert in their eyes.
Trust = New Customers
After three to six months of running your top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel ads and reaching thousands of people multiple times with timely and helpful messaging, you’ve finally created some powerful brand awareness and trust.
Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic has receded, you can then target all of these potential customers with bottom-of-funnel channels like Google Search & Bing Ads. These search ads will be even more effective because you’ve educated your potential clients, so they’re now aware of your product or service, they’ve already compared you against your competition, and many of them are ready to buy.
Creating a Post-pandemic Marketing Strategy
For companies with an established marketing strategy, the good news is they don’t need to start over. And for companies without a plan in place, it’s the best time in the last 50 years to create a marketing strategy!
When companies hire us as their CMO (chief marketing officer), we always start with a competitor analysis and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to understand our clients’ services, products, values, goals, and competitors. So this will also be an excellent place for your company to begin, in light of our new economic realities.
After gaining a better understanding of how your company is positioning itself and where your competitors stand, it’s time to assess every available customer outreach channel to determine the best ways to convey your message.
There are twenty client acquisition channels to consider:
- Business development
- Referral programs
- Public relations
- Unconventional public relations
- Content marketing: blog posts, social media ads, display ads, video ads
- Search engine marketing: Google, Bing, and Yahoo ads
- Offline/traditional advertising: TV, radio, billboards, newspaper, direct mail, etc.
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Email marketing/marketing automation
- Viral marketing
- Engineering as marketing (ex: creating lead capture forms)
- Hiring a sales force
- Blogger targeting
- Trade shows
- Offline events: meet up’s
- Swag products: branded promotional material
- Influencer marketing: hiring a brand spokesperson
- Guerilla tactics
Here’s a more in-depth description of every customer acquisition channel.
When going through every channel, we create one to three ideas for each. Once they’ve been recorded, we grade them based on their ICE score, which rates the idea’s impact, confidence, and ease of implementation, on a scale of 1-10. The top-scoring ideas then become phase one of the new marketing strategy.
This pragmatic approach to growth requires a company’s stakeholders to all contribute to the formulation and ranking of each idea. It’s only when there’s complete buy-in by every department head that the best ideas can be identified and implemented.
After managing thousands of marketing campaigns and over $24m on the Facebook and Google advertising platforms, we’ve learned the hard way how to ensure a successful campaign. So by employing the same measures we use above, your business can be confidently positioned as a market leader in the new economy.