Don’t go to work. Stay six feet apart. Only one package of toilet paper per customer.
So much of what we hear right now is about what you can’t do (and mostly for good reason).
But while much of the business world has dropped into a holding pattern, opportunities are also staring you right in the face.
So look up.
Here are seven things your Sales and Marketing teams can do despite the chaos around us.
1. Move your no-longer-an-option biz dev practices online
No more trade shows in the foreseeable future. If you’re knocking on doors, nobody’s in there to answer. And cold calls are falling on deaf ears.
You’ve been talking about modernizing your biz dev strategy for years. But suddenly you don’t have another choice.
So let’s do this thing.
Last week our firm conducted a free online event called “Prospecting in the Absence of Trade Shows and Travel” and over the course of 45 minutes (plus another 45 minutes of Q&A) I broke down this exact process:
- Identify who your best and most profitable types of customers are and document them in writing (here’s a worksheet to help).
- Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator with Prospect.io to build a list of those companies, identify the specific people you need to reach and collect their email addresses.
- Craft genuinely helpful content around what these people actually care about (their individual pain points, personal objectives and most common questions).
- Deliver that content via personal, customized outbound emails to those exact people.
- Pair your campaign with paid social ads (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, etc) that specifically target those same individuals and companies (as well as others who look like them).
317 registered for the event and over 200 attended live. If you weren’t among them, I recommend watching the recording.
2. Follow the demand (and channel your Sales and Marketing energy accordingly)
Pause for a moment and think about who’s actually buying right now.
Most companies aren’t exactly itching to invest in large capital expenditures at the moment. But maybe some are. So who? And if not, what are your customers buying?
Here’s a quick story to inspire you – and fresh off the press too.
Our client J-Pac Medical does outsourced assembly, packaging, and sterilization of single-use medical devices.
Or at least – that’s what they did a week ago.
But in literally five days’ time, their incredibly smart and nimble crew shifted an entire production line to manufacturing face shields that are desperately needed to protect medical workers in New York City and elsewhere as COVID-19 cases have spiked exponentially.
J-Pac found a way not only to meet a dire need, but to keep their business moving forward during a super uncertain time.
Our job as their marketing team? To help them get this message in front of Procurement staff at hospitals, State Health Departments across the country and other organizations that needed thousands of these products yesterday.
Over the course of a few (very busy!) days, we helped J-Pac craft their message, write a press release, film the simple video of their President above, build a list of private and government organizations who are looking for this product and launch a targeted digital ad campaign to reach them.
I realize of course that an operational shift like this may be more natural for a company already manufacturing single use medical equipment.
But the lesson is simple:
Follow the demand.
Who’s still buying? And what are their needs during this time? How can you adapt quickly to meet that demand?
Channel your sales and marketing resources accordingly. Because elsewhere, much of that energy may be wasted.
3. Extract and publish the knowledge of your company’s experts
A handful of our manufacturing clients live in the packaging world, the medical device manufacturing space or other industries that are so busy they can’t keep up.
But others in the automotive or oil & gas industries have more time on their hands than they’d prefer right now.
If that’s you (or you fall somewhere in the middle), here’s my advice:
Use this time to extract knowledge from your own people to help you produce amazing content:
- Your Engineers
- Your Sales Professionals
- Your Account Managers
The people on your team who interface with your customers every day are the ones who know the ins and out of their businesses best.
These experts on your team see your customers’ problems and challenges in action all the time.
So while they’re sitting at their dining room tables in the coming weeks (or months) hammering out whatever they can, ask for permission to interview them. Tap into their brains and pull out the amazing insights stored up there.
- Record your interviews using Zoom
- Publish those video interviews on YouTube
- Break them into smaller videos to use on LinkedIn
- Transcribe them using Rev.com and publish the text in your blog
- Break down that long-form text into snippets you can use in email newsletters for your existing customers and leads
The possibilities are endless.
But you can’t fake great content. It all starts with your company’s experts.
So grab their time while it’s more readily available. Hopefully it won’t be for long!
Here are two articles and a tool that should help:
- How to extract expert knowledge from your team and turn it into incredible content
- “I need what’s in your brain” – Why we insist on interviewing subject matter experts
- Content Planner Worksheet
4. Learn how to do video-based prospecting
Wait! Don’t skip ahead to number five yet.
This is actually a lot easier than you might think.
Five years ago, sending a talking-head video of yourself in a sales outreach email might never have crossed your mind. But here we are in March of 2020 and the tools we need are both accessible and idiot proof.
Just a few months ago, I wrote a thorough (and unintentionally well timed) article titled “Video-Based Prospecting: An Easy, But Comprehensive Guide“. So if this topic interests you, I recommend reading it.
In the meantime, here’s the quick summary:
Free or very inexpensive software tools like Loom (my preference), Soapbox and Vidyard let you record yourself (and/or your screen) right from your browser. They host the videos for you. So all you need to do is push a button, start talking and then copy and paste the link into your outbound emails.
Here’s an example of one I made:
So why video?
I’ll give ya three reasons:
- Video breaks through the clutter. When everything else in your prospect’s inbox is long-form text, your video message is immediately different.
- Video humanizes you. When the recipient of your emails sees your face and hears your voice, you magically transform from some guy or gal behind a curtain of words on their screen into a real human being.
- Video lets you say (and show) things that are hard to do with text. Walk through your facility and show your equipment in action. Record your screen and point out what their competitors are doing better. Hold up a product and tell them about the problem it solves.
Yes, you might feel some technology intimidation at first. But the hurdle is a heck of a lot smaller than it was a few short years ago. Consider yourself lucky!
And yes, stage fright may set in when the camera starts rolling. But no one’s watching your practice rounds. And isn’t now a good time to be courageous anyway?
5. Focus your message
Up for a quick activity? Great.
Answer this question out loud right now:
What does your company do?
(I’ll give you a few seconds).
Did you stumble? Have to think about it? How quickly were you able to answer?
And most importantly, what percentage of your answer was about the problems you help your customers solve or the goals you help them achieve (as oppose to the stuff you sell and how amazing you are)?
Everyone needs a wakeup call from time to time. If that’s you, brace yourself because here it comes…
No one cares about you. Especially right now.
Here. I brought these for you (for the tears)…
Maybe your prospects will care about you soon.
But not until you’ve demonstrated that you’ve seen their issues before, that you understand those issues and you’ve helped others like them address them.
So instead of talking about ourselves, how about if we reframe our positioning language around our customers?
Maybe something like this:
We help ____ achieve ____ when they’re struggling with ____ or trying to achieve ____.
Instead of this:
We sell the world’s best ____. Here are some of the incredible features: ____, ____, ____, ____, ____, ____ and ____. Also, our customer service is unparalleled. You’ve never worked with people like ours. Oh, and our competitors are a bunch of phonies.
There’s no better time than now to create focus and articulate who you help and how.
Here’s our version at Gorilla.
We followed Mike Weinberg’s formula from Chapter 8 of New Sales. Simplified. to craft it. I highly recommend the $12 investment.
Another great resource for helping you craft your positioning language is Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand.
You’ll be amazed at how a consistent, focused and customer-centric message across your website, emails, other marketing materials and conversations with current and future customers will change the perception of your business in their minds.
6. Market to your existing customers
I’m often stunned by the answers I get when I ask these two questions during strategy workshops with new clients:
- How big is your email database?
- How are you currently using it for marketing?
Answers to the first question usually go something like:
“Oh I don’t know – maybe two or three thousand people”.
And the typical reply to question number two?
“Well, we’re really not doing much with it. We’ll sometimes send out an e-blast before a trade show to let them know we’re gonna be there”.
People, your email list is gold.
These individuals already know you. And for many of you, they also like and trust you. This is your lowest-hanging fruit.
Go pick it.
Just consider that the same principles I’ve touched on throughout this article still apply when marketing to your existing and past customers and leads too:
Be helpful, make it about them (instead of you) and create value.
Do that and they’ll listen.
7. Build future relationships – now
For some of you, this is simply gonna be a tough stretch. No way around it.
Hopefully some of the first six ideas above will help you focus your time and energy productively while we anxiously wait for things to turn.
But regardless of what things look like for your business right now, here’s one thing you absolutely can do:
Last month I published an article titled “Give”.
It was very different from most of the content I write. But I was both surprised and excited by how positively it was received. I got more replies to that newsletter than any in the past. And now (five weeks later), I think the message is more relevant than ever.
Here’s an excerpt:
It was a good company.
Exceptional products. Smart, skilled people. Honest, hardworking folks who did their best every day for their customers and for each other.
But they were stuck.
One day, this company discovered a little, unassuming four-letter word and it caught their attention.
They brought it home, examined it, thought about it.
After careful consideration, they agreed to put this simple word at the center of everything they did.
They used it to help real people find what they needed, to earn the trust of those people, to build authentic human relationships with them and to showcase their expertise with modesty all along the way.
Before long, this company was no longer stuck.
Then, they grew.
The little, unassuming four-letter word was give.
Now’s the perfect time to put this four-letter word into practice on the marketing and sales front.
Offer what you can to your customers and prospects. Run a webinar. Publish insights on LinkedIn, on your company blog and/or in your industry’s trade journals. Send a helpful, personal video with some customized tips. And expect nothing in return.
When you make giving a habit, you earn fans. Fans become avid followers. And in time, avid followers become customers.
Being patient is difficult. Especially right now.
But I’ve been co-leading Gorilla 76 for 14 years and I can promise that few things have propelled us forward more than simply giving our insights and creating value for our audience time after time.
On that note – if there’s anything I can help you figure out right now, email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll do what I can to offer advice or point you in the right direction. And the team of 18 uniquely specialized industrial marketers standing right next to me (well, virtually for the time being of course) will absolutely do the same.