As “COVID-culture” permeates every organization, the C-Suite is focused on the profound economic impact of the virus – today and tomorrow. For many, this sudden change means a top-down mandate for all business functions, along with a practical approach to ensuring business continuity.
Over the last few weeks, our team has had numerous discussions with business leaders in different industries who are just starting to emerge from the initial shock of this crisis. And they are all asking the same question: Half of our marketing strategies – if not more – can’t be deployed as usual. What should we do?
The siloed approach to the buying cycle that we see so often, with marketing cultivating leads and sales closing the deal separately, doesn’t work anymore. The only way forward is for companies to empower marketing to take responsibility of as much of the funnel as possible so sales can focus on closing as many matured, cultivated and real leads
Advertising, marketing and communications must now demonstrate a tangible and direct business effect. Marketers need to ask: Are our activities increasing sales, driving leads and/or reducing the cost of sale and time to market? While these questions should be asked no matter the circumstance, they will now become essential to any marketing initiative.
Leaders are realizing that the sales funnel they rely on is no longer operational. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, companies can’t make use of many of the traditional channels (the left side of the model). While people are sheltering at home and prioritizing social distancing, out-of-home advertising does not make much sense. Advertising in airports and trains, billboards along roads and highways, tradeshows and in-person meetings and product demonstrations – all are on hold for an indefinite period of time.
Even before this crisis, the buyer’s journey was already making a dramatic shift toward a digital experience: 67% of a buyer’s decision journey is now digital, and 57% of the decision-making process is done before a customer reaches out to a sales person. These numbers will only grow further as we rapidly change our habits to adapt to a new way of working. As we work from home and become increasingly comfortable conducting virtual meetings, adapting new ways of making decisions and interacting with a speed we’ve never seen before, we will significantly move the digitization of the funnel.
COVID-19 is not causing this trend. It was already in progress, but it will accelerate rapidly under the current circumstances. Companies should invest in new ways of doing business that support full funnel visibility to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. When the economy does open up again, businesses will be ready for a new chapter.
Marketing must acquire more ownership over the buyer’s journey. The right side of the model above outlines several tactics marketing can use throughout the entire funnel, not just a small piece of it.
Companies need to create cross-function taskforces that connect and measure all stages of the funnel across the different marketing functions – from media buying and branding to performance marketing and events. Top funnel KPIs cannot be measured alone – only in connection with a final conversion lower down the funnel. Full funnel visibility enables this by connecting each action to concrete business results.
When companies recover after COVID-19, they should not fall back into “old school” lead generation campaigns focused on collecting non-qualified names and contact details. The customer experience reality – that has been there for some time, but accelerated with the COVID-19 situation – is that customers and prospects expect relevancy and value from any company they would consider doing business with.
Companies and brands can take some immediately steps that can improve there business output.
Acknowledge that the buyer’s journey is not linear. It will involve multiple digital touch points over a period of time. In order to make it easy and efficient for the buyer, implement functions such as ‘save content’, and the ability to recognize the user / company to provide a relevant experience:
Improve the experience on digital properties to make sure that they are efficient and customer-friendly:
Implement matrix that provide an understanding of:
Act like a startup. Be agile, learning from opportunities and mistakes, and pivoting when necessary!
Today’s extraordinary business situation has accelerated the need for digitization and closer marketing and sales coordination of the funnel. Companies should use this time to speed up the transition and move to more customer-aligned ways of doing business. Embrace it as a long-term play, not as a short-term emergency condition.