During the past 7 years, I have preached one thing to those whom I consult with regarding marketing automation and content: Be human!
Yes, we are in a crazy time right now. This pandemic is impacting so many people and businesses, and there are many unknowns about the immediate and long-term future.
With that said, it’s more important than ever to understand how to communicate to your prospects and customers in a way that aligns with the times we are living in.
Now is the time to step back, audit, and reassess your messaging as a company.
In Marketing the Number One Goal of Content Is Trust
But today trust alone won’t cut it. As marketers and brands, we must also show empathy
Yes, empathy. Look at your current marketing messaging and make sure it comes from a place that shows you are imagining yourself in their shoes. Understand what they are thinking, the challenges and fears they may have right now. Then, address them in your own words on your website, email, and other communication channels.
Put yourself in the shoes of your contacts and ask yourself how you can serve them during this time. As you do this, here are some things you can do to optimize your marketing optimization strategy during this pandemic.
As an example, I received an email that was very much on point when it comes to trust and empathy. It came from the President & COO of JetBlue, Joanna Geraghty.
Not only is she showing empathy about how Covid-19 is impacting everyone, but she talks about the airline industry as a whole. She goes on to discuss the emphasis JetBlue is putting on social distancing and the cleanliness and sanitization of the cabins. Geraghty continues in her address to speak to their emphasis on taking care of their customers, crew members, and pilots during this time. She even discusses how JetBlue is helping the community. This video sure does a great job of earning trust.
Geraghty is showing empathy through her vulnerability. The whole airline industry is struggling just like many people are struggling. Seeing her face—not a spokesperson, not just text on a screen—made it personal, real, and relatable.
So during this difficult pandemic time, what can you start doing with your existing marketing automation strategy? Maybe you are asking yourself if you should even be making changes at all?
We can all agree that times have changed, your prospects and customers' lives have changed, and nobody knows when things will go back to the way they were. If nothing else, I hope that sometime down the road, we are all able to look back at our marketing efforts during this pandemic and beyond, and know that we did what was right for our customers. We were human.
With that being said, let’s dive in.
1: Audit Messaging for Sales and Marketing
Proper messaging has always been of the utmost importance. This applies to whatever form of content that you are creating, whether it’s website content, gated content, videos, blog posts, promotional materials, or emails.
In the past, company messaging was often created to move the sales needle. But it didn’t always do this in a helpful or educational way. Trends like inbound sales and marketing have taken off over the last few years as companies build messaging around the consumer and their needs. But now, no matter where a company may be with building the right content and message, the world has changed over-night.
My friend, Dan Tyer from HubSpot, wrote an article back in 2015 that resonates today more than ever. It’s called “Always Be Closing Is Dead: How to Always Be Helping in 2020” (it’s continually updated and worth the read).
There is a lot of meat in the article, but I want to focus on just one of Dan’s bullet points:
- Determine if your prospect has a problem you can solve.
In the article Dan states:
If the prospect has a problem completely out of sync with what your company offers or doesn’t need any help for the foreseeable future, get out!
That quote is really on point. While the article was written for sales, it applies to marketing efforts too. I’d recommend applying it not only to prospects but also your entire contact database whether it be leads, prospects, customers, or strangers on your website.
Messaging in general all boils down to this:
- communicate the right message
- at the right time
- to the right audience
- in the right situation
And boy oh boy, how the situation has changed.
Whatever platform you’re using for your automation, whether you’re running HubSpot or something similar, I urge you to jump in and start looking at the following.
2: Audit & Update Your Automated Emails
Are your emails helping your audience? Are you running the risk of annoying your contacts and having them tune you out
You need to mitigate the potential risks to current and future growth of your business right now and update your messaging.
First and foremost, your emails need to be helpful, kind, and transparent. Avoid messages that feel cold, distant, or insincere. Be human, remember?
With marketing automation, email workflows can be triggered by people’s actions or they can be initiated by a salesperson. These emails are usually pre-written based on previously assumed circumstances the reader may be experiencing, and ideally they have some good personalization as well. But, those predetermined assumptions and circumstances were made in a pre-pandemic world. Whatever you do, don’t let tone deaf emails get delivered to your contacts. Don’t come off as being out of touch.
Audit each of the emails you have in workflows and each of the templates your sales teams may be using for outreach. Look to adjust the overall message or tone as needed. Times have changed, your audience is now possibly in survival mode, and you need to change your content to be more empathetic of their situation.
3: Audit & Rethink Your Newsletters
Newsletters are a fantastic way to stay in touch with your audience, but you need to find ways to make them relevant in today’s complex reality. You can do this by making your newsletters personalized and designed for segmented audiences. Segmenting your audience could be something as simple as leads vs. customers.
Have a different message that goes out to each audience that discusses things like how your business is responding to COVID-19. Reassure your audience that you are here for them, when they are ready.
Also, don’t make your newsletter only about you. Perhaps curate other content around the web that would be helpful to your audience. This is not a time for being worried about sharing someone else's content if it’s helpful; it’s time to be a company that is empathetic and garners trust. Don’t have qualms about sharing content that isn’t your own. Your readers will benefit from the good content, and you benefit from providing it to them. Don’t be afraid of being the caring, thoughtful human that you are.
The big point I want to make here is that this is your audience, your contact list, your customers. Your community. Hopefully your brand has earned their trust already. Continue that relationship and be a resource for them during this pandemic and find ways to impact their lives in a positive way.
Minor side note: Don’t just email to email. Consider the message you are sending, and realize inboxes are filling up from other people and companies that are sending out many COVID-19 emails.You do not want your message to get lost in the inbox. Keep in mind this golden rule: send the right message at the right time to the right audience.
4: Video Wherever Possible
We are living in a work-from-home world. If you are in any sales and marketing role, you are probably on Zoom (or other virtual workspaces) daily, speaking with prospects or teammates. So, congratulations, you are now a video superstar. Kind of.
The point is your contacts, leads, and customers need — no they crave — human connection. Go forward and build that human connection with video.
Video can and should be deployed on your Contact Us, Demo, or Sales page, as well as any high-impact page on your website. Video should be used in sales, whether that be in the form of a one-off video to a prospect using a tool like Soapbox from Wistia, Loom, HubSpot’s built-in 1:1 video tool, or during a sales call using Zoom. Granted, while your prospect may choose not to be on video with you on Zoom, don’t let that stop you. You are building more trust and showing more empathy with every video call you have.
Videos can even be a part of your automation emails as well. Do you have a particular question prospects ask all the time, or a problem that you have solved? Make a video and have it be a part of your updated automation effort. Granted, video can be a big undertaking, but with simple tools available, you can at least do a quick, topical video very easily.
Video is a great way to show empathy, and to show the human side of your business.
OK, I already know what many reading this are thinking. “But Doc, I need to be more professional looking on video. The quality will be bad.” And to that I say, “so what!” It’s the message we want to relay, and the connection we want to create. Look, this is a very forgiving time online right now. Many companies have employees working from home (97th Floor included). Honestly, no one cares about the video quality or that you are wearing a nice work-appropriate shirt with no pants on. (Shhh - What people don't know won’t hurt them. But seriously, are you wearing pants?)
Joking aside, here is an awesome example of a video that Silicon Slopes that featured our very own VP of Digital Advertising, Jasmin Bennett. Jasmin has recently published a couple of articles on our blog discussing the grants that Facebook and Google are offering small businesses. Silicon Slopes decided to interview her using Zoom and share that content to their community across the web.
Here is the tweet with the video interview. Check it out.
Silicon Slopes Live: Jasmin Bennett, 97th Floor https://t.co/EakjvbZcbi— Silicon Slopes (@siliconslopes) April 3, 2020
In a way, this is another form of content curation, like I mentioned in the newsletter section above.
Silicon Slopes saw an opportunity to share great content that is very relevant to their audience who’s struggling right now. The video itself was recorded on Zoom while Jasmin was working at home.
While many may say that the production value of that video could have been higher, remember, the main point is the content itself! This piece of content was created and shared at the right time to the right audience, and that is what is important.
At the end of the day, this specific piece of content builds trust with the Silicon Slopes' audience, all while they show empathy in the current world we live in.
This is a crazy ride we are all on right now. We know that many companies may be having challenges with their marketing automation, messaging, or overall content marketing strategy. While this post, or these words are not meant to be a shameless plug, please know that all of us here at 97th Floor are here to help and talk through the challenges you are having. No strings attached!