In the coming months, businesses are going to become more reliant than ever on their digital strategy. Without wanting to sound too alarmist, in many cases it will be the deciding factor in whether they make it through the tough times ahead.
The unprecedented, almost-total disappearance of all channels related to live events and conferences, and the increasing barriers on face-to-face business, pose an enormous challenge. Key to resilience is the development of ongoing contingencies to mitigate against this loss.
B2B companies in particular rely on the annual circuit of trade shows and exhibitions to network and build customer relations. In industries that are not digital-native, they may also be less sophisticated in their digital growth and customer relations strategies. For smaller businesses especially, used to getting new customers through word-of-mouth referrals or on the strength of a hard-won reputation, their loss is coming as a shock.
Larger companies are also now finding themselves in the position of having potentially lost millions through cancelled events. They won’t claw back the hours of time and expense spent on preparations for this year, but insurance and flexible cancellation policies will leave them with marketing budget to reassign. Digital is likely to be the clear winner here, and companies – including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns.
Of course, this means there’s opportunities out there for the taking, if you are a B2B supplier in an industry that has been slow to adapt to digital marketing. A key factor in resilience is adaptability. If it’s standard in your industry to go out and meet new customers face-to-face before you do business, adapting may mean opening new channels over web or social media platforms where introductions can be made and relationships fostered. In the coming months, your prospective clients are going to be less open to the idea of letting you walk through the door and shake their hand – and no-one really has any idea how long this will last and whether this will lead to longer-term change.
As Scott Jones, CEO of 123 Internet Group, told me “We are in uncertain times, but with the increase of remote working and a collaborative approach, companies are turning to digital channels and embracing the transformation. We have seen a real spike during the last few weeks from companies wishing to create or update websites, launch new e-commerce channels and create social media campaigns focused on home-workers and a real focus on using influencers and SEO to reach new audiences.”
Being confined to the office – or even the home – rather than on the road on sales visits or at events, means marketers have more time to develop digital strategies. This means researching where your customers can be found online, and how different approaches and tactics might impact your success. If your organization previously put token efforts into digital channels – because like a lot of other businesses, you had built your networks offline and that had always seemed to work – now is the time to revisit them. That could be as simple as giving your website and social pages a refresh, or a more innovative approach.
Ratnesh Singh, head of global business at events technology agency Buzznation told me that he found out quickly that clients did not want to lose the networking opportunities provided by the conference circuit. On top of this, they are looking for new ways to spend their remaining marketing budgets. He said, “With our corporate clients, events often consume 50 to 60 per cent of their marketing budgets. They still want to spend that money and they are open to trying something new.
“There’s a window of opportunity here – when things are back to normal budgets will be going back into live events and that’s what they will be spending their time on.
“But if they see the benefits and opportunities that digital channels can offer, this will become part of their long-term marketing contingency plans.”
As well as offering immersive 3D virtual events, Buzznation has also found that businesses wanting to become more sophisticated in their use of live social platforms. Singh said “Clients are turning to Facebook or LinkedIn Live. Often these are platforms they have dabbled with in the past but never fully integrated into their marketing strategy. Now they see value in partnering with companies like us that know how to help them make the most of these channels, to achieve better production values and more targeted campaigns.”
It’s certainly true that the coming weeks, or months – or however long this situation lasts – will be a challenging time for any company that isn’t ready to think about how they will replace the opportunities that have been lost.
As long as businesses approach the shift to digital marketing strategically, there’s no reason why it should just serve as an emergency fill-in, but could carry on providing long-term value when the world eventually gets back to normal. And of course, it would make companies more resilient to deal with any future pandemics.
Today, every business needs an online presence. Whether you run a local business or sell products online, a website, social media and other online profiles can help you reach a larger audience. Whether you’re just starting to build an online presence or looking to step up your efforts, here are some tips from members of the online small business community to help.
Create More Effective Instagram Videos
Video is the perfect outlet for getting a unique message across to your potential customers. If your target audience is active on Instagram, then you should be utilizing video on that platform. But how can you make your videos more effective?
It’s true that ads and paid promotions on social media can help you increase your reach significantly. However, you can’t really make use of these options without a solid base of organic social media content. John Jantsch explores this concept in this Duct Tape Marketing post. And the BizSugar community discussed it further here.
Fix Your Local SEO Mistakes
When you’re trying to reach local customers online, you need to be very careful when shaping your SEO strategy. There are tons of mistakes that impact businesses and make their efforts less effective. Gary Shouldis outlines some of them in this 3Bug Marketing post.
Target Adjacent Markets with Smart Risk Taking
If you want to expand your target audience, it helps to look into adjacent markets that are very similar to your current customer base. But it’s important to do this without alienating your current customers. That takes some smart risk taking, according to Ben Gibson of Marketing Land.
Leverage the Full Potential of On-Site Search
A search function is important for any website. It helps your visitors find specific types of content they’re looking for, providing a better experience overall. But simply having a search bar may not be enough. To make the most of this function, check out this Search Engine Journal post by Jes Scholz.
Get Inspiration for your Landing Page Designs
Landing pages can help you provide a more targeted experience for your website visitors, making it easier to purchase or convert into paying customers. If you’re interested in making use of this tactic for your website, see the examples in this DIY Marketers post by Lana Miro.
Examine the DNA of Shareable Content
If the content you create on your blog or website is shareable, you can extend your reach significantly. But what separates great shareable content from the rest? This Social Media HQ post by Christian Zilles includes a full explanation.
Embrace Different Ways of Promoting Your Business
If you always stick to the same methods for promoting your business, you’ll continue to get the same results. So if you want to grow, you need to embrace new methods, according to Lisa Sicard of Inspire to Thrive. BizSugar members also offered commentary on the post here.
Stop Making Simple Mistakes with Your PR Pitches
PR pitches can help you gain more attention for your business both online and off. But if you make mistakes with your pitches, they may not have the impact that you’d like for your business. Learn about the most common mistakes and how to avoid them in this RightMix Marketing post by Rachel Leist.
Create Content That Attracts Customers
Quality content can really help you step up the impact of your website and online presence. But it’s important to consider exactly how your content can attract your target customers, rather than creating generic posts. In this Social Media Examiner post, Michael Stelzner dives into what constitutes quality content.
Sales requires customers, and customers need great offers. In 2015, United States smartphone penetration existed at 75 percent, reinvigorating old ideologies surrounding the mobile phenomenon. Now, most American adults have a smartphone—and they’re engaging strong-willed business gurus ready to make a change.
Mobile networking dominates modern communication, and both B2B and B2C realms have been reconfigured to exist upon the marketer’s crafted strategies. Now, the consumer’s communication is in their pocket, both phone-based and as an Internet resource. Sales-minded professionals are urged to keep a lookout for the following five mobile marketing strategies—and you should, too.
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