We’ve all been in a highly reactive state the past few of months—something that marketing departments are used to even in stable times.
We talked in March about how to adapt to these rapidly changing conditions. While these insights and tactics are still essential to keep in mind, it’s also time to put long-term, proactive strategies back on the table.
The key thing to remember is this: Customers (both current and future) are looking for guidance right now, not heavy-handed sales. This means that marketing has a golden opportunity to stand in as an advisor and mentor, and to support them in a way that your marketing organization hasn’t done before.
What does it mean to be a mentor to your customers?
To illustrate this concept, let’s take a step back and contextualize the COVID pandemic in terms of the classic hero’s journey. At the heart of the hero’s journey is a crisis that catapults the hero into a new and unknown world. Through COVID, we’ve all been ushered into a new and unknown way of doing business. From our position in marketing and its practice of envisioning the future while also fleetfootedly reacting to changing conditions, we have wisdom to share. And, as it happens in any good story, the hero finds a mentor to guide them through the rest of the tale.
As you tap into your wisdom and jump into the story, we’ve compiled a few actionable steps to consider. (Pro tip: These exercises can be used at any time—to kickoff planning conversations, or as a quarterly team activity to keep a regular pulse on your customer’s needs.)
The diagram below shows the cycle of crisis, it’s low point, the hero’s slow journey back, along with the points at which marketers are best poised to offer guidance.
Stepping into action
Action item #1. Meet with 5 to 10 of your current customers and ask them questions like, “How has your business changed over the past couple of months?” “Where are you heading in the next year?” “What do you need to be successful?” Use this information to update your personas, buyer’s journey and messaging framework. Chances are, this has been on your backburner to do anyway. To add a little quantitative data into the mix, visit your web and email analytics to find out which blogs, subject lines, and downloads were most popular during the same time period—the numbers don’t lie!
Now you have an updated idea of how your customers are faring through this disruptive time. Use this information to help your customers grow and succeed. (This can help you grow and succeed at the same time!)
Action item #2. Bring together stakeholders across your organization to discuss the following topics:
- Are there product features or solutions you should now be offering to meet your customers’ new and future needs?
- Are there new customer groups or industries that you haven’t worked with before who might be interested in what you have to offer? Who needs help right now?
- Where are your customers looking for information and what are they planning to invest in over the next 12 months?
The road of return
We’re at the halfway point of our hero’s journey now. Time for the recovery and rebirth of your hero’s budget and your marketing content.
Now that you know where your customers are and what they need to succeed over the next year, time to help them connect the dots. You might need to create new content that speaks specifically to the pain points and solutions. Or, you can do a wee internal audit and refashion existing content to save budget.
Action item #3. Return once again to your collection of web analytics to see which content performed best. Using your new audience lenses, think about how you can repurpose this content to maximize the investment you’ve already made. If it’s a blog that performed well, expand it into an ebook that resonates with your new audience segment. If it’s a webinar that performed well, shrink it into an infographic or awareness campaign. Use this opportunity to reuse good content to join conversations your customers are already having.
At this point, it’s tough to say how where customer journeys will lead or how long they’ll take to return to more confident growth. But take satisfaction in applying a personal and problem-solving approach over a product-first one.
Customer-first marketing is nothing new, but the changes in our market today have moved it to the forefront of B2B’s focus. As marketers, if we support customers where they are, they’ll be more inclined to reach out the next time they embark on an epic business journey.