Generating leads is challenging. There are so many competitors vying for attention from the same target audience and the distraction of news and entertainment is just a click away. When a crisis occurs, be it a natural disaster, a human tragedy, political upheaval, or a global pandemic, lead generation becomes exponentially harder. Rather than go into hiding until the world returns to normal, here are six tips for LeadGen success during a crisis.
I presented these tips at the Virtual HITMC Event last month. Below is a summary of that presentation.
It’s Not Business As Usual
The first tip is to recognize that in the middle of a crisis, all bets are off. Toss any marketing plans and market assumptions out the window. They are no longer valid. Why? Because when a crisis happens, priorities radically change and budgets are thrown into chaos.
Just look at what has happened during COVID-19. In February, most healthcare organizations were following their plans to improve interoperability, patient engagement, mental health and other important initiatives. By the end of March, every hospital in Canada and the US had shifted their priorities to telehealth and PPE procurement (aka supply chain logistics).
During any crisis, but especially during this pandemic, budgets have been thrown into complete chaos. With elective surgeries put on hold, hospitals have lost a major source of revenue. On top of that, they have had to furlough staff in non-essential areas while ramping up hiring for front line help. As a result, buyers will be very tentative as their economic outlook continues to be uncertain.
Marketers with their fingers on the pulse of their audiences will recognize these changes and quickly adapt their messages and tactics to match.
Focus on Revenue
Second tip: Recognize that it’s about REVENUE not leads. Most sales leaders and company executives equate leads to revenue, but as any Marketer knows, new leads are not often the best source of revenue in the short term. In a crisis, companies need to focus first on survival and that means protecting existing revenue and generating new revenue.
Protecting revenue is of paramount importance during a crisis and this means getting closer to customers (see the next section).
— Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (@HITMarketingPR) May 13, 2020
Focusing on revenue also means thinking of new ways to offer additional (needed) services to your customers who already know you, like you and trust you. In this current COVID-19 crisis, for example, many hospitals have had to bring on new staff. Offering affordable training options may be a way to generate additional revenue.
Smart Marketers realize that the best source of revenue is not new leads, but rather existing customers, SQLs already engaged with Sales and MQLs deep in the pipeline. New leads are too far from revenue to be immediately useful.
I realize it may be difficult to convince the CEO of a company that you need revenue rather than leads, so for some of you this may be a case of asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Tie your weekly marketing updates to the revenue you have helped to generate. In other words, make sure your attribution is clear.
Get Closer to Customers
Tip 3 is something that we should all be doing, no matter if there is a crisis going on or not: getting closer to customers. The best way to do this is be a reliable, trusted resource for your customers during a crisis. Above all, be HELPFUL.
We retreat to the familiar during times of crisis.
— Michael W. Roberts (@michaelwroberts) May 13, 2020
Bonus Tip: Have Account Manager and Sales Managers proactively reach out to speak with each customer personally. During those calls, LISTEN to what they need and don’t try to sell them anything. Also, don’t send eblasts or use fancy graphics in emails, pare down everything until you have authentic person-to-person communication. People have zero tolerance for overt marketing in the middle of a crisis.
Bonus Tip: Take your customer out for lunch…virtually of course. Order yourself and your customer food from the same place. Set up a video call and eat together. Just talk. Ask how they are doing. Just connect, don’t pitch.
As I mentioned right at the start, during a crisis, buyers become hesitant to commit funds and resources to new purchases. The longer the crisis lasts, the more risk averse buyers become. In order to generate leads (or any response for that matter) companies need to reduce the risk of a buying decision. This means:
- Offering an extended free trial (good)
- Offering a money-back guarantee (better)
- Offering performance guarantees (best)
Doing any of the above may be enough to push prospects already in your pipeline (SQLs) over the finish line. It also sends a powerful message to your target audience – that you are supremely confident in your own product. If you think about it, if you don’t believe in your product enough to offer customers a guarantee, then what does that say about your company?
Are you confident in your product? THAT is key. If we believe in our product WE should assume the risk and prove our worth to our clients. Offer performance / results guarantees. #HITMC @Colin_Hung pic.twitter.com/POzZjqvqtJ
— Dalton Patterson (@MrDollyPat) May 13, 2020
Help Buyers Buy
Tip 5, in my opinion, is the easiest to implement. Even during a crisis, there are people within your target audience that continue to push their organizations to purchase solutions like yours. They do exist, but you likely don’t know who they are. Why? Because the last thing they want to do is bring in a salesperson who isn’t familiar with their political situation to talk to executives. Instead, they toil in isolation using whatever they can find on the Internet.
Be the trusted resource that these hidden champions turn to by creating justification materials that can help them make the case for solutions like yours. This means more than an ROI calculator. It means creating powerpoints that they can copy/paste from to build their own presentations to executives. It means business case templates, email templates, and published studies/data that demonstrate benefits.
— Michael W. Roberts (@michaelwroberts) May 13, 2020
Bonus Tip: De-emphasize cutting people and costs from your materials during a crisis. No organization wants to be seen callously cutting staff during a crisis. They want to be seen as standing behind their people and their patients. So even if your solution will help customers save money through better efficiency, don’t talk about it in terms of headcount reduction.
Get Content Ready for Post-Crisis
At some point the crisis will end and life will get back to a form of “normal”. However, don’t expect things to immediately snap back to the way things were pre-crisis. Just think of natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, where the crisis passed quickly (relative to COVID-19) but the recovery took much longer.
Get ready for this post-crisis world by building content that will be useful to potential buyers. This means things like:
- Buyer guides: What to buy, How to buy, What to look out for when buying solutions like yours, 10 surprising signs you need a solution like yours, etc.
- Case studies that talk more about how/why your customers prioritized their project, how they convinced executives, the impact it has had on THEIR patients.
Generating leads is never easy and anyone who tells you otherwise has never worked a day in Marketing. But if you employ these tips you may perpetuate the belief that LeadGen is a piece of cake.