What marketing campaigns do you run while everybody is freaking out about COVID-19 and the demand of your product/service is dropping?
This is a question I am facing at this moment.
A question I am pretty sure I am not the only one tackling at the moment.
Here is a personal example on how we are handling growth at one corporate company and the lessons we learned.
Handling growth during COVID-19: A two-sided story.
For most companies, it's not the ideal moment to be running lead generation campaigns.
The consumer is just not ready to buy unless you are selling things people need at the moment (like food or video calling software).
So the question remains: "How do you handle growth in this period"?
Here are two high level things you need to work on as a growth marketer in these times.
If you are losing more customers than you are acquiring, you will go out of business.
This is why the first focus of any business minded marketer is retention of current clients.
- In these times, your sales and customer success people will be bombarded by questions that keep them from focusing on their job (up-selling or acquiring new customers).
- The cost to acquire a customer is always higher compared to keeping a current client.
By making sure all your current customers or people onboarding have all the answers they need to convert or be retained.
What we did: Our Digital Retention FAQ.
- We ran a keyword and question research on topics which are being searched for in Google to understand what answers your customers are looking for. Think: Brand name + COVID-19, Brand name + question, ...
- We compiled all the questions our customer success and sales people are getting to make sure we can reply at scale.
- We ran a question research on what questions are being answered by other companies that sell to our target audience about COVID-19.
- We ran a keyword research on topics our prospects could be thinking about such as government policies entrepreneurs can get from the government ( one of our target audience). This is also great for our acquisition later-on.
- We compiled all the questions that our customers and prospects have during this period.
- We answered most of these questions in the best possible way, starting with the questions our customers were facing.
- While we were gathering our questions and answers we started comparing several softwares that would integrate with our current solutions and allow us to move fast to create our digital FAQ.
- We picked the software solution to move forward, set-up the high level structure to make sure it made sense to our users and created our digital FAQ.
- The FAQ was created in two languages.
- We set up all our tracking, sub-domains and styling of the FAQ.
- We launched the communication on our website, launched ads and made sure all the content was ranking in google.
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system. A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. When corporate people read this, they mostly think this would take ages to implement.
Our time to market?
From idea to execution: 5 days.
- 120K+ page views within 30 days visiting the FAQ. Views from people that are clients but also prospects searching for Corona related information.
*This is just one thing we did to retain clients. The goal is to inspire you to understand growth is not just acquiring new users.
** Page views is not the metric we use to see if we retain clients. :)
First focus on keeping the ones you already have or are still open to buying from you during this period.
Acquisition: Moving up the funnel
Within the company, selling our products right now is a pain since it is tightly aligned with the amount of people actually working.
Hence lead generation to acquire people for our products doesn’t make sense at the moment.
The question still remains: "How do you still run lead generation without pushing your products in order for you to nurture later-on?"
The simple answer? We moved our campaigns up the funnel.
Which is Chinese for: we didn't run campaigns which are related to our products.
We ran campaigns focused on specific pains our customers have and solve without the need to buy our.
Here is an example:
Customers buy our product to optimise their companies cash flow by saving taxes while making their employees supperrrrrrr happy.
So moving up the funnel for us means running campaigns to help people who are in charge of optimising their company without selling our products.
Knowing that the cost of distribution dropped, we had to move forward running our campaigns.
We just had to fine tune them and change our messaging.
What we did:
- Monday: We brainstormed about running an online webinar. We decided to talk about optimising costs or getting support from the government. The same day we got buy-in from the stakeholders involved.
- Tuesday: We reached out to experts and partners who could talk about these topics. The same day we found experts who were already helping out their clients optimising costs. They had the content. We knew how to set everything up and acquire people. Win-win.
- Wednesday we gathered the content. Designed the landing page, created the ads, made the Zoom Integrations with our Marketing Automation system, designed the automation flows and rough drafted the copy needed.
- Thursday at 5pm: Our first ads went live, content of emails were finished and designed.
Our time to market?
From idea to first ads launched: 4 days.
- 750+ new leads generated without scaling ad budgets or targeting our current email base/clients.
- Conversion rate on Landing page: 15%.
- Show-up rate on webinars of 43%/
* This is just one of the campaigns we ran in this period. The goal of this example is that during this period you can sit down and wait until it's all over. Or go all-in, move fast and outcompete your competitors.
1. The biggest asset you have as a company is agility (speed of execution).
Agility involves having good connections with key stakeholders which can slow down your growth projects.
Agility comes from the knowledge of your team (we have been training in-house people for a few months to ramp up experiments at such speed). If it wasn't for the amazing talent who worked on these campaigns, we would have had nothing at all.
Agility comes from the amount of external stakeholders you need to get something from. We have trained our internal team to such a level that we can run most things in-house unless we need specific knowledge like connecting API's or setting up advanced flows. Here is where we rely on our network of people supporting the business.
2. Business review meetings are king to track progress and understand where to focus on.
We scaled up our business review meetings and digital spend performance meetings to understand the trends and how to navigate through the noise. We therefore knew exactly which segment of our business was in most danger.
3. Keep in mind retention is mostly not situated in the marketing department.
You'll need to work closely to get buy-in from all departments involved to move fast. Keep each department close and try to make them the owner of certain tasks.
4. Asking sub-domains in a corporate environment from your IT team is always a long process.
Having created at least 10.000 landing pages, I know I always have to ask our sub-domain from IT asap to get things live. Once you agree on an idea and it involves IT. Make sure your product manager or yourself reports an incoming ticket asap before moving ahead.
5. Start small and scale from there.
On Thursday I asked the team: "If you would do one thing differently, what would it be? (I am a firm believer of always be improving)
This is when I received the mistake I made.
The mistake I made while running through this process is going for 2 different webinars at the same time.
I wanted it to be big while needing to go fast. Two things that don't go hand in hand.
This resulted in a lot of last minute changes and double work. Hadn't it been for my hunger for growth, we would have launched a day earlier and we would be sipping pina coladas on Thursday.
6. People have no clue how to start a campaign from scratch, here is my workflow I use in Asana to divide tasks with the team:
- Gather the content you want to communicate about in a google docs, align with external partners (speakers),... While gathering the content think about it like this: If I would create a landing page, what would need to be on it? (general tasks example)
- Create the Landing page, Thank You page,... This is your cornerstone of every single communication going out (emails, ads, ...). (this falls under acquisition to-do's).
- Create the content for each distribution channel. Since an email to current clients is very different from running ads to people who have never heard about you, tweak the content to each distribution channel. (Distribution to-do's)
- Make sure everything works from workflows in your marketing automation to linking API's to make sure everybody gets their Webinar Link. (Activation to-do's)
- Last but not least. If you don't measure you will never know. Set up the tracking and dashboards needed to track performance. These can remain high-level until validated (this falls under tracking). My personal favorite? Connecting the leads coming in through slack for the team and myself to keep being motivated and track who is coming in.
What does studies show about growing companies after recessions?
In 2002, McKinsey published a study of 1,000 U.S. companies covering the period 1982–99, which included a recession during 1990–91.
The study focused on what happened during the recession that affected performance after the recession.
Those who came out on top were classified as “leaders.” As the authors found:
While most companies tightened their belts, successful leaders, trading lower short-term profitability for long-term gain, refocused rather than cut spending [. . .] Yet in expansionary periods, successful leaders spent significantly less on [selling, general, and administrative costs] than did their former peers.
Greater discipline during boom times offered more flexibility during lean years. And getting it right in the lean years, Bain reports, has a massive impact on companies’ growth rate after things improve:
So if you think this is the time to tighten the belt, here is a question I always get:
Should you decrease or increase your digital marketing spend during the corona crisis?
Here is my take on it based on simple economics and our current data
If you look at digital channels, you'll find that they follow the same philosophy as economic markets. When the demand goes up, the prices go up to balance the supply. When the supply goes up, pricing goes down to balance the supply.
The same is true in a digital world while being at crisis.
The world is now being struck with closures and curfews which lead to a lot of work-from-home mandates.
Since more people are sitting behind their screens, the supply on distribution channels is going up.
On the other hand, we see a lot of companies decreasing their online marketing budget to save costs.
This leads to a decrease in demand on these distribution channels.
Based on simple economics, this means the following:
"Since the supply of online attention is going up and the demand to reach these people is going down, the prices are also going down".
Based on our client data we can see that the cost to reach the exact same people before the crisis went down with an average of 427%.
If you are not doubling down now, you are actually missing out.
The decrease of costs is the mindset people are in right now.
You can't use the same language or messaging as you did before the crisis. You'll need to adapt your campaigns and messaging to this specific moment.
What does a thoughtful campaign look like?
Hyundai’s Assurance program, which debuted in the 2007–08 financial crisis, is a great example. They offered car buyers the opportunity to return a purchased or leased car if they lost their income within a year of the sale.
Made it to here? Lovely.
Now I am curious about your thoughts.
What are the things you have seen or are actually doing this Corona crisis to manage growth?
Let me know in the comments.
Because keep in mind.
"There's always an opportunity with crisis. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to reexamine its policies and practices." Judy Smith.
April 29, 2020