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Marketing Strategies

Examining The Post-COVID Buyer's Journey

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/We are months into the COVID-19 lockdowns. That means it’s been a full quarter, from mid-March to mid-June. But the ramifications of this COVID quarter will be felt for months, if not years.

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve had to drastically change your strategy to market in this new landscape, and maybe even had budget cuts or layoffs. We are also starting to see the data to prove the impact, as well — with 69% of brands expecting they will reduce ad spend in 2020. Gartner found that 65% of marketers are bracing for moderate to severe budget cuts due to COVID-19.

I am an optimist, and it looks like we may be through the worst of the storm. We’re no longer just trying to stay afloat, but we do need to find a new path through uncharted waters. But like any good marketing plan worth its salt, your focus needs to remain on the customer by putting yourself in their shoes and working backward from there. The global pandemic has impacted virtually all businesses, and by extension, your target audiences. 

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Which buyers have you lost?
  • Which industries are thriving, and which are hanging on for dear life?
  • Has your offering become vital to their business, or more expendable? 
  • How are you engaging with them now versus pre-pandemic?

You need to re-think your entire marketing strategy based on this new post-COVID buyer’s journey. Here are some thoughts on how to navigate your way in this brave new world. 

Get Your Messaging Down

We’ve all seen the stream of commercials and advertisements that feature roughly the same language: “During these uncertain times…” or, “In these unprecedented circumstances.” It’s important to acknowledge the current climate, but your messaging needs to be more than just a nod to the circumstances. Otherwise, you risk becoming a cliché. Marketers should understand the value they provide in a downturn, but also when business is booming.

The current climate is impacting your buyers in dramatically different ways. For those in the E-commerce, delivery and online education industries, this could be a time of unprecedented growth. For those in hospitality and restaurants, it’s a much different (and sadder) story. 

It’s important to also keep in mind that the personal impact of COVID-19 is tremendous. People are juggling the immense pressure of careers, relationships, children and caretaking. You should also think about the buyers you market to: How have their jobs changed as a result of COVID-19? Are their pain points the same as they were three months ago? 

The answers to these questions will inform how you tailor messaging to different verticals and buyers, and ensure your messaging is relevant and strikes the right tone.   

Engage Through The Right Channels With The Right Content

Marketing channels are in complete upheaval. In-person marketing, events and conferences are out of the picture for the foreseeable future. Depending on your marketing approach, that can disrupt your funnel. 

Your marketing strategy will be dependent on digital events and experiences more than ever. Like your messaging, your content and the channels must be personalized and relevant. Video is becoming more and more popular. But you have to be more nuanced than that: Are your buyers more likely to be on YouTube to conduct research or a webinar? Are you trying to reach an executive or a manager? Finding the right tone, message and aesthetic for your content will often be dependent on what types of channels your buyers gravitate toward. 

Furthermore, it’s important to understand why your marketing in the past was successful. If you saw success at trade shows, what was it about your booth that people were drawn to? Ask yourself how you can replicate that experience digitally and through video channels. Your brand and its personality should still shine through an online presence. 

Market With Awareness And Compassion

No matter where or when it reaches a buyer, bad marketing is always distasteful. Now the stakes even higher. There’s a narrow margin for error: You must be careful that you’re not rubbing buyers and prospects the wrong way or seeming as if you’re trying to capitalize on the current business landscape. Too many times, I see tone-deaf advertisements on the television, which start with “during these uncertain times” and end with “it’s time to buy a new car!”

Being genuine and empathetic is vital. Marketing leaders should understand their buyer pain points, but also not be afraid to talk or write about their struggles during this time. These tactics will make you more relatable and human. Be understanding of what is going on, but don’t harp on it. If you’re running promotions, think about what offers or discounts will be valued by your buyers. These shouldn’t be thought of as “sales,” but rather as authentic efforts to help buyers during these trying times.


Cheri Keith brings more than 15 years of marketing experience to ON24, including five years as an analyst on Forrester SiriusDecisions’ Demand Services team. Her background includes experience serving B2B organizations at communications agencies and tenure working within marketing organizations. She is a respected and results-oriented leader with a proven track record of moving people and programs forward.



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Marketing Strategies

Now Is The Time To Find And Correct Your Digital Strategy Pitfalls

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/Every brand or enterprise is crafting and refining their digital strategy on a daily basis. However, especially in the world of B2B, companies fall into many of the same mistakes. 

According to a 2019 Forrester report, “44% of B2B buyers expect to do more than half of their work-related purchasing online in the next three years.” In the wake of COVID-19, that figure is probably even higher. It is crucial that marketers create engaging digital content, leveraging every digital touchpoint as an opportunity to build trust and strengthen relationships.

Marketers have access to more target audience research and data than ever before, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to avoid pitfalls. Let’s consider the consequential B2B marketing mistakes that companies are making, and demonstrate why a digital strategy audit is the solution.

Your Content Shouldn’t Reflect Your Organization Chart

 Too often, companies — particularly B2B enterprises — build their websites and digital assets around their internal organization structure rather than a customer’s needs. As an example, imagine you are a customer looking for a mop. You surf to a company’s website to buy a complete cleaning solution, but they have separate pages for mop handles and mop heads because they operate as separate divisions. Now you have to research the parts separately, figure out what you need and ensure they are compatible with one another. That’s not a huge ask for a mop, but imagine you are purchasing a complicated business system with hardware, software and a consultative service component.

Your Messaging Should Focus On The Customer, Not The Product

Companies often lead with the news of the capability or product they just launched, but prospects don’t come to your website for product announcements. They visit because they have a question or a problem. Your messaging should show people you understand that problem. This is a best practice for all marketers, but it is especially true for those marketing to developers, engineers and the C-suite. These audiences are highly skeptical of “marketing speak” and an overly product-forward content strategy will turn them off. Plus, leading with product makes your company seem uninterested in building strong audience bonds.

Don’t Overload One Area Of The Buyer Journey With Content But Neglect Others

Another mistake that is easy to overlook when you are inside the organization is creating content around some areas of the buyer journey, but not others. If your organization doesn’t have a healthy mix of content formats, you may be making this error. For example, you might have multiple white papers and blog articles that are relevant to a prospect comparing competitive solutions, but no video to share on social media to create brand awareness.

It is also common to create content for one audience segment but forget about other personas, or simply run out of time and resources. B2B purchasing decisions involve multiple decision-makers with different priorities and needs. A complete digital strategy needs to encompass all of them, which is part of what makes B2B marketing so challenging.

Don’t Overuse Jargon

Your existing customers know your lingo, but new ones may not. It is important that your messaging and content use natural language, rather than jargon, so it resonates with your audience. This may sound like a simple one, but it can be hard to catch yourself because you are accustomed to the company’s lexicon.

Why Now Is The Time For A Digital Assessment

The first step in fixing mistakes is finding them. Your company may have slowed or even stopped marketing initiatives in response to COVID-19, so use this time to audit your digital strategy.

There isn’t an industry on the planet that hasn’t been upended by the pandemic. Buying processes have changed overnight, so even if your company has managed to avoid these marketing traps, you still need to audit your strategy and update it to reflect the new normal.

A comprehensive review should include:

  • A content audit and effectiveness assessment;
  • A website CX health assessment;
  • A channel audit and effectiveness assessment;
  • A brand message assessment; and
  • An event strategy assessment.

The good news is an audit will likely uncover low-hanging fruit — low-effort/high-impact actions you can take to drive fast results for your company. Next, you can devise a plan for tackling the bigger initiatives.

Remember, as a B2B marketer, your goal is to build relationships with prospects and to lead them through their consideration journey, fostering trust every step of the way. The missteps above compromise your ability to do so. An audit kicks off the process of doing this right.


Greg Harbinson is the Senior Strategy Director at Centerline Digital, where he focuses his time on helping companies create messaging and experiences to better communicate with their customers. His work includes building messaging frameworks, defining the information architecture for websites, designing customer experience programs and helping companies understand the best ways to solve communication problems.



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Marketing Strategies

To build customer loyalty during COVID-19, maximize interactions between transactions

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30-second summary:

  • To develop a true relationship with a consumer, brands will need to look beyond the point of sale (POS) to focus on the moments of engagement captured through the likes of social media interactions, feedback loops, customer service moments, content sharing, video connections and more.
  • Customers may re-evaluate their routines, which in essence is evaluating who they are loyal to. This may be driven by safety, convenience, online presence, etc. An economic recession always breaks old habits and remakes them anew. Layer on a health crisis like COVID-19, and then the threats to long-term loyalty skyrockets.
  • Right now, customers are dealing with many new experiences, such as working from home, wearing facemasks outside and cooking healthy meals for their families with limited supplies. Build a stronger emotional connection with customers by serving up content that supports these sometimes-difficult activities.
  • At a time when many people are struggling, offering customers wiggle room on return policies and other terms and conditions can surprise and delight—and convince customers that your brand is a keeper.
  • Supporting causes bigger than your company is a key element of reciprocity.

Most brands focus their marketing energy at driving transactions. From years of experience, they know how to nudge a customer down the sales funnel with a well-timed discount offer or well-placed retargeted ad. However, these techniques are not as effective during the COVID-19 crisis… and may not position them well as consumers return.

In order to protect long-term top-line revenue, brands need to look past short-term profits and focus more on lasting relationships.

To develop a true relationship with a consumer, brands will need to look beyond the point of sale (POS) to focus on the moments of engagement captured through the likes of social media interactions, feedback loops, customer service moments, content sharing, video connections and more.

One reason interacting at just the POS is not enough is simply that because transactions are fewer and further between during this time. With unemployment rates in the double digits, many customers simply do not have the discretionary funds they did before the pandemic.

Those who are still employed may feel anxiety about their financial security, as well as their emotional wellbeing. These feelings of stress and anxiety pose another challenge for brands during the pandemic.

Customers may re-evaluate their routines, which in essence is evaluating who they are loyal to. This may be driven by safety, convenience, online presence, etc. An economic recession always breaks old habits and remakes them anew. Layer on a health crisis like COVID-19, and then the threats to long-term loyalty skyrockets.

To weather the storm, your brand should address these emotions, not avoid them. Pivot your experience to create a human connection, not just a transactional one.

Address customers’ concerns and current situation through authentic engagement and meaningful interactions, and you will build loyalty that will have lasting impressions… long after COVID-19 passes. This pivot is key for most brands’ post-pandemic revival.

Three ways to drive emotional loyalty between the transaction during COVID-19

Three main emotions drive customer loyalty: the need for a habitual routine, a desire for status and feelings of reciprocity. As mentioned above, a crisis-situation will almost always disrupt consumer’s habits, and it usually makes them care less about status and exclusivity, too.

All this makes the notion of reciprocity ever so important. Customers right now are highly emotional and want to feel valued and heard by the brands they choose to engage and interact with.

They want brands to reflect their own values and priorities, and may even want the ability to contribute to a greater cause. This is one reason that socially conscious brands like Everlane and Patagonia took off after the last recession. They gave customers good reasons to stick around even during tough times.

Keep these principles in mind as you brainstorm ways to engage customers in between transactions during and after the pandemic:

1) Add value with non-sales content

Right now, customers are dealing with many new experiences, such as working from home, wearing facemasks outside and cooking healthy meals for their families with limited supplies.

Build a stronger emotional connection with customers by serving up content that supports these sometimes-difficult activities.

For example, Best Buy offered tips for setting up a home office rather than pushing computer sales. Share your helpful content via email, on social media or anywhere else you connect with your customers.

2) Make your policies flexible

At a time when many people are struggling, offering customers wiggle room on return policies and other terms and conditions can surprise and delight—and convince customers that your brand is a keeper.

For example, Marriott paused points expiration for its Bonvoy loyalty program, as well as adjusting the hotel chain’s cancellation policy to be more flexible during the pandemic.

Announcing policy changes is also a good excuse to reach out to customers to keep your band top of mind, without pushing a sale.

3) Find ways to give back to your community

Supporting causes bigger than your company is a key element of reciprocity.

For example, shoe brand Tom’s, a pioneer in this space, is donating one-third of its net profits to organizations on the front lines of the pandemic. You do not have to donate cash; in fact, the contribution might be more impactful if it is tailored to your business and its products or services.

Recently, many restaurant chains including Chipotle have donated free food to healthcare workers.

Address emotions now, but plan for the post COVID-19 future

The instability and uncertainty we all feel today will not last forever. However, brands that respond empathetically and effectively to customers’ emotions during this crisis will be best positioned to weather the storm.

Old habits are broken during a recession — but new habits are also established. In addition, those who keep customers engaged between transactions, building valuable emotional loyalty, will become part of those new habits as they form.

In order for brands to truly understand customer’s emotional drivers, you should look into tools like Kobie’s Emotional Loyalty Scoring to help re-segment and decipher customer reactions to messaging, benefits, and offers.

Marti Beller is President at Kobie Marketing. Beller has more than 20 years of loyalty marketing and customer engagement experience after most recently serving as senior vice president of global loyalty products and platforms, Mastercard. Prior to her tenure at Mastercard, she served as president of Connexions Loyalty (formerly Affinion Loyalty Group), where she led the customer engagement and loyalty strategies of multiple global brands, including top credit card issuers, worldwide hoteliers and national airlines.

The post To build customer loyalty during COVID-19, maximize interactions between transactions appeared first on ClickZ.



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Marketing Strategies

Tips and tools to combine content marketing and PPC

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30-second summary:

  • Many businesses opt for content marketing because organic traffic is free. But, this strategy makes them miss a great opportunity to grow fast because combining SEO-optimized content with PPC speeds up the lead generation process.
  • Online businesses need to know specific use cases for content marketing and PPC to assess the value of the strategy.
  • Less than half of small businesses (45%) invest in PPC.
  • PPC and SEO content marketing can bring in more leads by capturing more quality traffic with more effective keyword optimization of blog content, lead magnets, and landing pages.
  • To get the most value from content marketing and PPC, businesses need to master keyword research, searcher intent, and the consistency between the landing page and ad optimization.

As someone who primarily engaged in SEO and content writing for small businesses, I didn’t really care about PPC advertising.  

Maybe because of people like me, only 45% of small businesses invest in PPC 

I thought that the best way to bring high-quality leads was with super optimized content, so paid advertising was the realm of bigger companies. That’s the mindset of many small business owners. With teeny tiny marketing budgets, they have to choose between SEO/content and PPC. 

SEO/content often becomes their choice, especially of those with interest in content creation and a lack of real marketing experience.  

SEO was my preferred choice, too, and I saw PPC as something secondary. 

Boy, was I wrong about this!

After a couple of projects involving PPC promotion, my view of the strategy completely changed. No, they didn’t change how I thought about SEO, but they showed how amazing the results could be if you combine the power of both strategies. 

To all SEO specialists still not using PPC and the other way around, here’s what you’re missing.  

1. More effective content thanks to PPC-tested keywords

Developing a content strategy is one of the most complex and important tasks for any SEO specialist. They use keyword research tools, PPC tools, Google Search Console results, and other methods to find those precious keywords used by customers.  

When they find the keywords they think are good for targeting SEO/content marketing, they begin a slow process of creating content. I wrote oh-so-many blog articles, eBooks, checklists, reports, and other content to find out the keywords that attracted the most conversions.  

All of this takes a lot of time.  

In fact, to write a super effective blog post, you need more than six hours 

Source: OrbitMedia 

When you’re done with writing the draft, there’s also proofreading, editing, making visuals, and keyword optimization. To cut a long story short, you might need a few days to complete a good article that can bring quality organic traffic.  

But that’s not the end of that road.  

Google, too, needs some time to index the article and rank it. In fact, it might take between two and six months to rank in the top 10.  

That’s a bit much, agree? 

To top it all off, the keywords you’ve chosen for your content might not the best ones to target. If you make this mistake, you’ll have to learn your mistakes and start all over again (welcome to the world of SEO content writing, folks). 

Is there a way to speed this time-consuming process up? Yes. It’s PPC.  

It can get you in front of the audience and allow you to test your keyword ideas much faster. If you have content to test, use PPC ads, and equip them with the keywords.  

Get them out there and see what people respond to best. You can have some great results as early as a few days, which is pretty much impossible with SEO/content marketing.  

Another great news is that you can run A/B testing. This means running ads featuring different keywords for the same content piece. If one performs much better than the other, update the content with the more popular keywords.  

So, the takeaway here is that running PPC campaigns for content is a much faster way to test keywords. Start by finding keywords with research tools and make some ads, and you’ll be more likely to discover how your customers look for businesses like yours.  

Related:  

2. More leads from lead magnets

In content SEO, we often create lead magnets 

They are content pieces like reports, white papers, eBooks, webinars, videos, and other valuable content that people need to sign up to access.  

You’ve seen tons of them before. A common example is a banner promoting an industry report with an irresistible CTA on a blog. It says that you need to provide your email address and name to access it instantly.  

Click on that CTA, and you’ll go to a landing page with the lead capture form.  

Like this “The Ultimate Agency Guide to Video Marketing” landing page, where everyone can download a guide with helpful tips on video marketing.

Example of lead magnets landing pages

As you can see, the content is offered in exchange for some data. Not a bad deal of a guide packed with useful instructions for businesses.  

Unsurprisingly, many content producers often turn to lead magnets for quick lead generation.  

Ozan Gobert, a senior content writer at Best Writers Online said, 

“Lead magnets work well for both B2B and B2C businesses aslong as they have some value for customers. You can generate some high-quality leads with them, as they typically attract those interested in insights and tips inside.” 

If a blog has thousands of visitors every week, then there might not be a need for PPC promoting lead magnets. But is that true for your blog? 

Many people think they can manage without the ads (I was one of them). Basically, it’s because they think that great content will “sell” itself. 

Despite what they might think, not so many blogs are that successful in attracting visitors. In fact, more than 90% of web pages don’t get any organic search traffic from Google.

Ahrefs stats on PPC and content marketing

As you can see, only about 1.3 percent of web pages out there get decent traffic. Just for that tiny share, promoting a lead magnet with PPC advertising might not be necessary every time. 

Obviously, the situation is very different for the rest.  

If your website doesn’t have a lot of visitors, too, then creating lead magnets might be pointless. They’ll just sit there only to be discovered by a few people per week.

Not good because you need more leads.  

If you wish that there was a way to get more people to pay attention to, there is actually a way.

And it’s PPC, of course. To get some emails, you need a well-crafted PPC campaign that leads people to the landing page where they can sign up to receive the content.  

You can try to bring people with keyword-based ads promoting the lead magnet. If you choose the right keywords, the ads have a much greater chance to attract leads than SEO alone.  

This is how it works: PPC does the job bringing in visitors, the content converts them into leads by having them complete the capture form.  

To increase the chance of people signing up, the value of content is critical. But, the visual appeal is also a major consideration. You need tools for creating visual content like images, graphics, and infographics to add to your lead magnets.  

3. Better marketing campaign performance thanks to a smart keyword use

Many businesses out there don’t realize they can bring much more quality traffic to their websites if they focus on best-performing keywords in both SEO, content marketing and PPC.  

Much more traffic.  

When an SEO/content marketing specialist and a PPC marketer share a list of relevant keywords, they can decide how to divide them to: 

  • Target the most promising keywords together to bring the most traffic 
  • Identify the keywords that are the most difficult for SEO and target them with PPC and the other way around
  • Define which search queries to focus on with each lead acquisition strategy

Ultimately, the cooperation between the PPC and SEO teams can result in a much more effective keyword strategy. In turn, this strategy could attract more traffic to your websites. 

Important note

To make content keyword optimization work, you need to master searcher intent or purchase intentPut simply, searcher intent is the reason behind a search query.  

For example, the query “Samsung a10 review” implies that the searcher is looking to do some research but has not made the decision yet. If they search Google for “buy Samsung a10 cheap”, then they might be ready to buy.  

Each intent defines how you should create content. It matters a lot for SEO because Google’s goal is to provide its users with the most relevant results.  

Dive Deeper: Tapping into Google’s Algorithm for Searcher Intent. 

4. Create landing pages that convert more visitors

A landing page is the heart of any PPC marketing.  

But, in many cases, PPC specialists aren’t the best persons to write the copy for it. By engaging content and SEO specialists and having them work with PPC folks, you can create a keyword optimized copy that also appeals to the readers.  

For example, PPC specialists can provide keywords and ideas for optimized headings and subheadings for attracting traffic. In turn, content writers contribute by creating a copy that’s easy to read and entices the visitors to act.  

So, the collaboration of PPC and SEO/content teams can result in campaign landing pages that generate clicks and converts.  

A good way to start doing PPC campaign landing pages is to create a checklist to cover all bases. This checklist can include images, copy, sign up options, etc. 

Know more: Studying the anatomy of a successful high-conversion landing page

SEO and PPC: Two are better than one

I’m not exaggerating when I say that SEO and PPC are a marriage made in heaven. I am positive that these points described in this article prove that.

Don’t make a mistake I made by neglecting the power of PPC advertising. Combined with SEO and quality content, you can greatly increase the quality of your traffic.

If you’d like to try them together, feel free to start by doing PPC ads for your best-performing blog articles. The results you’ll see will definitely impress and inspire you to try more. Thanks to this article, you’ll know your next steps.

Ana Mayer is a project manager with 3+ years of experience. She likes to read and create expert academic materials for the Online Writers Rating writing review website.

The post Tips and tools to combine content marketing and PPC appeared first on Search Engine Watch.



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