There is a lot going on in the world right now. In the past several months, many businesses have felt the impact of the current climate and have felt the need to pivot, shift, and adjust how they both run and market their businesses.
In most cases, change is good. However, it can be difficult and may even lead to roadblocks and barriers that feel impossible to rise above, especially when it comes to marketing. How do you prove the worth of your products or services when many businesses are simply trying to stay afloat?
We’ve taken a look at some of the current roadblocks to marketing for, and have come up with a few ways to overcome these barriers and continue to meet your marketing goals, even amidst the current turbulent climate.
Current Barriers to Marketing
A constant and often stressful news cycle
Much of the news lately has been stressful, and it comes in a constant stream with little breathing room in between. With the majority of the attention focused on absorbing and responding to current events, it can be difficult to recapture the attention of those who may benefit from your products or services.
An end of year that looks very different from any other we've ever seen
This year has shaken the world up, and there’s no telling how it will end. Measuring and reflecting on the effectiveness of a business over the course of the year will look very different than it has in previous years.
Staff and management spread out and working in a different climate
The increase in employees working remotely has been hugely substantial. Many businesses have realized that not only is remote work possible, but in many cases it is also more efficient and can cut expenses. The adoption of a remote workforce means that staff and management are spread out across the continent and, in some cases, the world, making it trickier to remain focused on a shared goal.
Uncertainty about the future
There’s no way to tell what will happen next. What changes will we see moving forward? Will everything shift back to what it was, or will a new normal be established? The only certainty we have is that any news will be speculation for the near future.
4 Ways to overcome marketing barriers in 2020
1. Focus on your customers.
An important shift to make is to bring the focus back onto customers. At the heart of every business, the goal is to offer a product or service that will benefit and serve customers. So why would you ever forget about customers altogether? Become even more familiar with who you are serving, and aim to communicate with them as often as makes sense for your business. Sending out surveys, conducting customer service check-in calls, encouraging feedback, receiving reviews, and responding to them are all ways to show that you are listening to what your audience has to say.
Polls and surveys are easy to create online and can be shared via email or on social media. SurveyMonkey is one of many systems through which you can create polls and surveys to allow customers to let you know their thoughts. Post a survey link to social media with a quick blurb about why you created the survey and would appreciate responses, add a survey link at the bottom of an email newsletter, or even send it out as its own email; you’d be surprised how many people will take a survey if they are told how their results will help improve their own experience with your company as well as how it will help the company as a whole.
Lancôme released an email during the pandemic which acknowledges that there is something happening in the world that is not the everyday normal. They promote a buy one, get one product sale with the main idea that “now is the time for generosity.” Although
it is still sales-focused, it offers something to the audience (a free product with a purchase of one other) and is not ignoring current events altogether.
Another UK-based company, Pasta Evangelists, acknowledges in their recent
email that while people are unable to visit restaurants, it is possible to recreate the experience at home and offers a resource to assist in your home-cooking attempts.
2. Connect with your audience
Who is committed to your brand? Who has continued to stay with you or maybe even increased their spend, and why? What do these customers have in common? Is it your customer service, reliable product, company ethics, company culture, etc.? Take that information and use it to connect with your target audience. How have you been of value to your customers? What are they saying about you? Tell stories that your ideal customer can relate to, and be customer-centric. The last thing customers want right now is to feel like businesses are all about the money; they want to see authenticity, and that is what will cut through the noise and show customers that your business has much to offer.
Authentic social posting
At the start of the pandemic, Local Vermont distillery Barr Hill posted about their authentic sorrow over having to close their doors while the quarantine began. Their unfiltered post, genuine words, and hopeful message came across to viewers as truly authentic, caring, and showed that the company cares about more than just a profit.
Barr Hill continued to post throughout the pandemic about their efforts to create and distribute hand sanitizer to healthcare workers. The company was eventually able to distribute and sell its sanitizer to the general public; yet posting even when they were still developing public distribution plans shows that they were engaged with their audience, showing viewers what they are offering, and how they aimed to help during the pandemic.
3. Establish partnerships
An uncertain future has forced businesses to be flexible. What would be possible now that may have been put on the back burner before? Establishing partnerships that benefit both your business and your customers can move you forward and help you get past the barriers you are met with when it comes to marketing your products and services.
Stepping back to the example company mentioned above, Vermont distillery Barr Hill teamed up with other local companies, including Aqua Vitea Kombucha and Runamok Maple, to develop and distribute their new hand sanitizer product. Not long after, the distillery was able to partner with the Vermont Strong movement to send the bottles to Vermont healthcare workers and first responders. This partnership not only allowed Barr Hill to create and distribute their sanitizer product, but it also strengthened community ties through partnering with other Vermont companies. These are partnerships that the distillery may be able to leverage and use to support one another in the future.
4. Maintain a collective goal
With staff spread out across the globe, it can be too easy to lose sight of your goals. Be sure to keep in regular contact with your employees to ensure that everyone is focused on the same goal, whether it be to educate potential partners on the benefits of your services or to connect with your audience in a real and authentic way.
Establishing and following SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) is one of the best ways to create goals that can and will be accomplished, especially if there is any potential for the uncertainty of the future.
For example, if you want to grow your engagement on social media, simply creating a goal along the lines of “Increase social media engagement” is not enough. Use the SMART guidelines to establish a goal that is more feasible to accomplish and will be measurable. For instance, an update to the social media engagement goal could be to “Increase social media engagement by 25% on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram platforms each in the next 6 months.” Only you will know what “attainable” and “relevant” will be, but a good rule of thumb is to include a measurable number, a specific act (like increasing engagement), and a set amount of time (months often work well).
Flexibility to readjust goals
If the need arises, you should be able to readjust your goals based on employee feedback. If everyone is working towards a SMART goal that seems like it just isn’t right or not working out at the moment, stay flexible, and readjust goals accordingly.
Using polls and/or surveys to find out how employees are responding can help you to understand if a goal is the right fit. For example, after conducting a quick employee survey about whether social media or email sends more traffic to a website, you may need to shift your marketing focus and put more resources into one channel over the other if you find that one is working better. The world is unpredictable at the moment, so it is valuable to have the ability to pivot, shift focus, and change things up quickly.
No one knows what will happen next in the world, but we’re all figuring it out together. Aside from focusing on and connecting with customers, establishing meaningful partnerships, and setting SMART goals, the main steps you can take in order to overcome marketing barriers in the current climate are to focus on where you are right now and improve as best as you can in the moment.