In an age where face-to-face communication is a luxury, business development is no easy task. Countless industries that have replied upon direct marketing, for example through networking meetings, trade shows and client entertainment, have ground to a halt.
As with all marketing, resting on our laurels puts us at risk of strategic drift. Our competitors get ahead of us as they adapt to changing circumstances. If we cannot evolve, we lose our customer base.
So how do we tackle business communication in a closed-off world?
Changing positions – pivoting towards digital
The answer is simple. We position ourselves in front of our customers digitally. You may have seen an incremental rise in webinars and live sessions during lockdown. Early adopters took advantage of a captive audience – global internet use is up 70 per cent since the outbreak.
But while these interactive sessions add value, they can lead to the dreaded ‘Zoom fatigue’. The best business development strategy combines a mixture of long-term and short-term assets.
Consumers are now spending 44 per cent more time on social networks. We need to make sure our brands are at the forefront of their minds, for example, by offering high-value, shareable content like whitepapers and reports.
The key with social media is consistency. If you’re posting more during lockdown, don’t expect it to tail off once things return to ‘normal’. Consider a long-term strategy that will get customers into phase one of the funnel.
Now that the spate of identikit ‘we’re here for you’ emails is over, it’s time to start putting out content with a purpose. We should be using this time to clean our mailing lists. Consider updating them with the latest contacts and segmenting leads to guide content.
Word of mouth
The oldest marketing method in the book continues to be relevant – but it’s going online. Take advantage of this extra social media activity. LinkedIn is a great way to refer contacts, while you should also use this time to build up your social proof. Ask your clients to leave testimonials on LinkedIn, Google, or third-party sites like TrustPilot.
Search engine marketing is, without question, the most time-consuming business development method. Pay-per-click can get you quick returns, but it should always be supported by a thorough organic strategy. As Google pledges to help small businesses with advertising costs, now is the time to invest in organic and paid search.
Search engine optimisation – a long-term strategy for COVID-19 and beyond
The pandemic has gifted us extra time to focus on our marketing efforts, including website optimisation. When it comes to SEO, the key thing to remember is that it doesn’t happen overnight. We should expect to see results in a few months, which can be as high as 12 months for a new site.
- Are there any ‘quick wins’ you can implement, e.g. fixing 404 errors, optimising meta descriptions or checking page indexing?
- When did you last analyse the competition? Who is ranking for your key terms? Backlink analysis tools can help to power an off-site SEO strategy.
- Is your site UX-friendly? We’ve moved a long way since 2015’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ – now, SEOs are planning for the 2021 user experience update. Consider a user-testing analysis to prepare for these changes.
- What KPIs have you set yourselves and/or your agency? Do you need to adjust expectations based on COVID-19? Are you getting the best ROI from your organic SEO spend?
A cost-effective alternative
Typically, agencies can charge anywhere up to £10,000 per month for SEO services, though this depends largely on the market and the current state of your site. If you’re not looking for a comprehensive DM package, you could try local SEO.
Why local SEO?
Local SEO focuses on serving customers closest to you, and can help you rank against larger national competitors. Of course, the basic principles stay the same, but the focus is on your Google My Business profile. This can help to:
- Rank you in the ‘knowledge graph’ on the map above organic results
- Display opening hours, telephone numbers and your website
- Share updates e.g. blogs, events
- Allow mobile searchers to call you with one click.
It’s also a great way of building trust. Your Google reviews show up directly, giving you social proof with star ratings. This service costs less than £500 per month and offers significant returns.
A short-term alternative
Again, it’s always best to invest in long and short-term strategies. But if you’re a new business with dreams beyond COVID-19, paid advertising is perfect. Ads for a new site have a far higher chance of appearing on page one than organic results, making this a short-term exercise in brand awareness.
Paid ads are also a great source for keyword research, which can power your organic strategy. Note that Google Ads is not for the faint-hearted: it requires constant monitoring of ad spend and search behaviour. That’s why it’s best to have an agency help out and prevent wasted spend.
After some months of investment, you’ll develop a brand reputation. Brand searches have a significantly lower acquisition cost – money which you can re-invest into your organic strategy.
Which business development method is best for you?
Return on investment is key for business survival beyond COVID-19. Before you invest in a digital marketing strategy, make sure you can answer the following questions:
- What are my objectives? More sales? Better brand awareness? What is my agency’s goal?
- Are they SMART? (Specific, measurable, assignable, relevant and time-based.)
- Do I have the funds for a monthly investment? Should I start small and invest more later?
- Am I willing to review my spend, and change in line with what works best?
- Do I have a good foundation of digital assets? Do I need to tidy up my social media/website first?
Wherever your customers are in the funnel, you need to present them with a valuable, trustworthy digital product. This will help your organic rankings and improve your UX – leading to those all-important sales.
This blog post for a legal marketing agency looks at the challenges of business development in a post-pandemic world.
- Categories:Agencies, Print Media