Many companies will be finding themselves with a diminished workforce, hibernated operations and a huge sense of uncertainty about what the future holds.  Very few small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will have put in place plans to help steer them through this period of crisis, the scale of which even the most senior board members are unlikely to have ever lived through.

So, with such unprecedented levels of uncertainty, is the best thing to simply put everything on hold and re-evaluate as soon as some certainty comes back to the economy? To wait until the worst of the Coronovirus outbreak passes and the pandemic shows signs of abating?

For most SMEs, putting everything on hold risks dealing a fatal blow as the economy begins to pick up again.  Even with emergency government funding, most SMEs don’t sit on the levels of cash that are needed to pause all activities and then simply resume on the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic.  These companies need to be poised to recapture as most of their lost revenue as they can when businesses and consumers begin to spend again.

So, what sales and marketing activity should be done now?

If you’re business-to-business (B2B)

If your business is predominantly business-to-business (B2B), meaning your customers are other organisations, then a very worthwhile activity to keep your sales and marketing teams busy over the next couple of months is high quality sales lead generation and qualification.  Teams that are not furloughed will find themselves with more time to focus on researching lead lists, finding the right decision makers and analysing in more detail what each of these businesses’ needs are.

These are all things that under business-as-usual practice we wish our teams were doing.  However, the reality for many SMEs is that they are too under resourced to be able to do this when it’s business-as-usual.

Here are our top tips for keeping B2B sales and marketing activity levels high and productive, throughout the Coronavirus lockdown:

  • Quality lead generation and research; If you are buying lists, take the time to go through them in detail and avoid taking a “spray and pray” approach. Make the most of Linkedin – now is a good time to upgrade and accelerate your network.
  • Carefully scripted qualifying emails; personalise your communications and make it relevant to each recipient.
  • Move leads through the pipeline; however, do not expect to close and transact. A sensible expectation is to come out of this with a well-developed pipeline ready for closing.
  • Meaningful account management; now is a good time to get on the phone or a video call to better understand your accounts, connect with them personally. Map out your account plans for the next year, base them on your clients’ needs and tailor your approach to each.
  • Data housekeeping; everyone’s least favourite job, but now is the time to do it. Remove duplicates, label data correctly, add market relevant notes, add social handles.
  • Refresh sales and marketing collateral; especially useful to focus on online assets initially as those can be used to refresh your customers’ websites and other digital channels which are being more widely used through the lockdown.
  • Tone of voice; throughout this period it is important to be aware of the tone of voice being used. Be considerate, be compassionate, and do not expect everyone to respond quickly.  Many people will be furloughed and not be able to respond.

If you’re direct-to-consumer (D2C)

If your business is largely direct-to-consumer (D2C), then you may find new opportunities have arisen throughout this crisis.  Consumers are still spending across many categories, albeit largely online as the offline channels are pretty much all off limits.  However, many D2C businesses will be trading far below normal levels, so a marketing and engagement strategy needs to be executed which can reinforce your brand and empower your consumers for when they are ready to transact with your company again.

Think of new and genuinely value-added ways to digitally engage with your existing consumers, your followers and those customer segments that you have yet to successfully transact with.  Almost everyone is stuck at home, not all are in the same situation, but most people will welcome a break from the monotony of lockdown.  So think about how your brand can run online events, partner with relevant influencers and experts.  Use them to draw in your consumers and genuinely give them a much-welcomed distraction, as well as educate them on your products and/or services and wider brand values.  Facebook Live and Instagram Live are excellent platforms for this type of engagement.

Here are our top tips for engaging with your consumers throughout the Coronavirus lockdown:

  • Live video streaming; filter questions ahead of the session and have someone logged in who can pick out relevant questions as they are posted. Don’t worry about the kids bursting in, or the dog barking… everyone is in the same boat!
  • Run competitions; give out prizes, encourage video content from your winners, such as unboxing their prizes for example. Video content is key.  Share across all relevant platforms.
  • Partner with influencers and experts who can add insights and value alongside your content.
  • Partner with complimentary brands that add value to your target consumers. Again, many brands are desperate to remain relevant through this lockdown and sharing resources with synergistic brands can lead to a great win: win result.
  • Engaging email content: don’t make it all specific to your product, but think about educating your consumers about your wider brands’ beliefs, values and ecosystem.
  • Value adwords; as many brands step back from digital ad spend you may find an opportunity to bid on terms that were previously out of your cost-per-click budget. Now is a good time to see how well they convert.

At times of crisis such as these, teams, suppliers and customers need more communication not less.  The methods of communication are likely to be new and unique to many, and the topics covered are often not going to be all business-as-usual topics.  But people need to feel connected and businesses must continue to exist in order to bring any positive change to the world.

Stay well, stay safe and stay busy.