With the pandemic seemingly stretching past the half-way mark of 2021, the ability of marketing and sales teams to generate leads at conferences and other in-person events continues to be impossible for most. Marketers in every industry have suffered, but despair quickly gave way to determination. The world keeps spinning, after all, shuttered as it may temporarily be.
Now that we’ve been living in a digital-first reality for more than a year (time flies when you’re having none), sales teams have accepted that they can’t just use their professional networks and personal charm to make headway with sales prospects. In the past, sales teams have also been responsible for escorting customers through each stage of the buying cycle, ultimately owning the funnel. But there has been a major transition away from that approach due to business constraints in a COVID-19 world.
Suddenly, marketing has become the main force guiding the buyer’s journey, right through to the decision-making process. Marketers now own the majority of the cycle, including every stage from awareness, all the way through purchase.
Trying New Things
Examples of how restricting the pandemic has been for lead generation include a substantial decrease in quality event attendance due to opening up digital events; more activation on content, social, and nurture marketing that remains synchronous with the customer journey, which detracts from the typical top-of-funnel focus; and significant shifts in budgets to focus on operationalizing marketing systems that are set up for automation.
Marketing and sales teams that found their footing in the crisis and recovered better than others often initiated in more collaborative conversations to reinforce engagement with customers and rely on new effective outreach. There were a few proven alternative paths forged to generate high-quality leads in the face of pandemic uncertainty.
First and foremost, a sweeping reevaluation of content occurred in order to drive value in the new era of COVID-19, as well as detours of delivery to reach personas in new ways. Marketers also learned that the conversation with the customer should begin with a collaborative path instead of pitching first. Perhaps most important, a newfound focus on all customers and in all areas was prioritized, as staying connected with each individual customer is so crucial to a company’s bottom line.
4 Marketing Strategies for the Win
When it comes to how sales teams generate quality leads through (hopefully) the end of the pandemic and into 2022, there are a handful of actionable strategies to employ. I predict the most successful brands will follow these four movements:
- Budget shifting: Organizations should pivot to put more emphasis on paid social, search engine marketing, and other paid channels to make up for the loss of traction in organic reach. According to a Gartner study in August 2020, 78% of business-to-consumer marketers and 69% of business-to-business marketers expect their digital advertising spend to rise over the coming year. In 2019, Hootsuite shared a report showing that the organic reach for Facebook posts decreased about 2% while ad impressions increased by more 30%, which is telling.
- More personalized outreach: Utilizing digitized systems, marketers can see that a company has visited your website so many times in the last few weeks, read a blog post about enterprise tips, took a look at your service page, or viewed your pricing page for enterprise companies — a strong indication that they’re not only your target audience, but also interested in the products or services you’re offering. Sales teams can then use that buyer-intent information to create a highly personalized outreach plan. It’s the next-best-thing to a knock on the door or an in-person meeting.
- Better alignment between departments: Getting sales and marketing on the same wavelength starts with better communication, ensuring similar metrics are used, and helping each team understand the challenges the other faces. When sales and marketing are properly aligned, everyone’s happier, including customers, and the ROI delivers.
- Increased use of video: With the lack of in-person meetings and events a reality for the foreseeable future, the consumption of video will only increase — and the sales industry is noticing. A big percentage of customers (43%) are interested in watching more company-produced videos, which provides a great outlet for building brand engagement and inspiring other actions, such as subscribing to your newsletter or making a purchase.
The past year and a half have been trying for everyone. Industries and individuals have suffered, but perseverance has prevailed in the face of unfathomable adversity. Everything seemingly has changed, but not all is lost. Marketers and salespeople know the old ways of connecting won’t necessarily work in the new world. The more flexible they can be, the more successful they will become.