We're now a few months into a global pandemic that sent the economy on a downward spiral, and no one really knows when we're going to see the end of the lockdowns, closures and aftershocks of COVID-19. That said, we all still have businesses to run and customers to satisfy.

While we’ve got all the things we need to have our marketing game up and running, like free email marketing services, PPC ads, all of our SEO knowledge and an army of landing page templates available, there’s still not a lot to do in real rough times.

COVID-19, for example, changed the marketing game as we know it. It seems like there aren’t many prospects interested in signing up for newsletters or promotional efforts like Facebook giveaways, let alone hosting a giveaway in the first place.

Not when they actually need to know more useful things, like…staying safe for example.

But is that true? Is nobody interested in actually becoming a sales lead? Or do you just not know how to turn them into one? Are we just biased and discouraged by the lack of sales leads coming our way? Or, do we just not know how to turn people into a viable sales lead in the first place?

And, the main question, how can marketers navigate a global crisis without losing sales and leads?

Connect With Your Long-Term Customers

Sales leads are not something to be taken lightly, but they’re not something that you should place as the end-all-be-all of your business.

Your long-term customers always come first, seeing as it’s way more cost-effective to retain an old customer than to acquire a new one.

Cost of keeping a long-term customer infographic

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Your long-term customers are the ones that keep your business up and running. All the more reason for you to actually keep them happy by giving them all of the much-needed updates.

So, go ahead and post on social media, on your blogs, anywhere in the web that would be beneficial for you. Reach out and let them know what the next day is going to look like in relation to your business.

Entice them with information and remind them how much you appreciate them.

For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, more than most businesses encouraged remote work. But what did that mean for their services? What did that mean for their own product?

Send them an email stating all of the changes, make presentations that will be informative and engaging and keep them on their toes for new offers and products. The last thing you need is for your prospects to think that you’re slacking off at a time like this.

Ads That Can Make a Difference

Some would argue that ads are the last thing one should implement right now, and that some approaches could even be seen as insensitive attempts to turn a profit during a crisisBut hear me out for a second.

We live in a world where Twitter live, Facebook live and all things live are drawing a crowd. People actually engage with that sort of thing. And who doesn’t love being in the know?

This is the reason behind needing some real-time content when it comes to your paid ads. And real-time content is actually the heart and soul of interactive advertising.

Word of warning though: do not overdo it. Be as objective in your content as possible, otherwise it may look like you’re actually trying to exploit the situation, which will definitely not sit well with your audience.

Let me give you an example. During the pandemic, most of us were l advised to stay home, right? Subsequently, big brands have tried to create content based on this principle. Like Nike.

Nike ad for corona virus

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Plenty of other businesses and brands have encouraged online purchases and have managed to actually enhance their support teams.

Oh, and cutting down on shipping costs really did help.

The point is,online shopping is what will save you from losing sales at this point in time. Your real-time content could be a paid ad as part of an Instagram marketing campaign or even a part of an SMS marketing or email marketing campaign.

Whatever the case, make sure that you have a corresponding landing page that will be able to convert users. Make it interactive, use a pop quiz to entice (I’ll get into more depth below) and actually get users to think about purchasing something from your brand.

Finally, use any marketing channel that you have available to you. SMS marketing and email marketing complement each other perfectly and content that you share on those two channels can very well be the basis of your next social media ads campaign.

Leave no stone unturned, just don’t be salesy. Be informative first, and the sale will follow.

Make Sure to Remain Up-To-Date

Whatever your business is, keeping up-to-date and retaining an informative profile is something that you should aim to do when times get rough.

You need your prospects to think of you as a brand that cares more about the customers than about its profit - which is what you should be doing anyway, regardless of what’s happening in the world.

A great way to show that would be a weekly digest for your newsletter subscribers. So, you can send out email marketing campaigns that will consist of news, segmented and cherry-picked according to region.

Now, if you’ve got a plan on how to overcome difficulties, bringing it up would be a very good idea.

So, let your prospects in on your little secrets. Are you planning on introducing remote work to your employees? If so, how are you going to do that? Are any of your products of use for it? For example, if you’re going to partner up with a platform like, say, Contena and offer remote jobs (in this platform’s case, remote writing jobs), then you’ll need a digest that mentions that.

But you can’t be babbling on your own, can you? Of course not. You need engagement.

So, encourage an exchange of opinions on your social media posts. Ask your prospects what tips they’ve got and what they’re doing in order to overcome any difficulties that may arise during times of crisis.

Communication within your community is of critical importance at this stage. It will give you all of the engagement you need, but that’s not all.

Answers contain data and data contain information that will help you plan the next step.

If, for example, most of your prospects say that meditation keeps them grounded and you’re running an online store, you know that you’ve got a whole eCommerce project with loungewear and ambient sounds in your hands.

Engagement is not the only way to enhance communication between the members of your community though.

Run contests, updates and create hashtags. Encourage your prospects to use those hashtags whenever they post one of their own tips on how to get through a shaky situation.

That way, you’re turning them into brand ambassadors. Here’s an example:

Instagram post of a cross stitch during corona virus pandemic

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This brand is using the hashtag #tellmehowyoureallyfeel. This creates the opportunity for open dialogue between that business and its prospects, which you could certainly emulate

Lose Zero Sales and Leads

The tips and tricks to nurture and curate were above. But how exactly are you going to nudge those leads further down the sales funnel and actually manage to make them convert?

First things first, nobody likes limitations. Especially when they have no choice but to purchase something online.

One option is to allow bulk purchases and ensure that you give something in return. A free sample, no shipping fees or a buy-one-get-one-free deal can get you all of the exposure you need.

Who would pass on a brand that gives them a great discount when they need it the most?

The second thing you can do is get referrals, as many as you can. Send out a campaign, combine it with a landing page and for each referral, give a small discount.

Referral rewards promotional email

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Create a customer loyalty program and provide discounts. The more they buy, the better for them as customers and you as a brand.

Of course, sending out marketing campaigns is not, like I said above, a chance to push for sales. So, ease your prospects into buying, don’t push them towards that. Real-time content will help you with this task more than anything else.

Having a blog would really help with this. You can create a blog for yourself, you can even create a different domain using various wordpress hosting providers and engage in guest blogging along with your other marketing activities.

Back to the point: real-time content. You need something that will be promoting your products by actually showing how they can make your prospects’ life easier during any type of rough patch.

Are you a florist? Show how some flowers can make a home office glow.

Are you a SaaS company? Create videos on how your employees created a home office long before there was a need for one.

Are you a makeup brand? You’d think that you’re at a loss here, but no. Videos that can showcase a look or two that one can master during a lockdown are a huge hit right now.

Create offers that make sense. Urge people to remain safe and make smart choices when it comes to their purchases.

Do it like Nikon’s online school for example. Giving out free photography lessons definitely made me want to buy a camera and start practicing.

Give free shipping to everyone. With the rapid growth of online commerce, free shipping is something that seems non-negotiable, at least for orders of a certain amount.

Also, make sure to track what’s being shipped. Provide free tracking codes for every buyer. That way, you’ll ease their worries if there are delays with the shipment.

But this is not the only occasion when you’ll need a tracking tool or two. Track the purchases. Use AI and automation tools and gather even more information. Then, create a blog post, a digest email or even a social media post that will be referring to the best uses of your best sellers.

Perhaps you’ll need to gamify the whole experience. For example, let’s say that you’re selling home office products. You can create a social media campaign and send the users to a dedicated landing page, where they’ll be able to pick out any of the home office products and create their own home office.

There’s the lead you need and there’s the engaged and "hot" prospect that is most likely to buy!

Oh, I said buy, didn’t I? This would be a good time for you to explore various payment options, by the way.

Again, social media and engagement will be your friend. Run a survey, find out the preferred payment method of the majority of your prospects and incorporate it, if possible.

The bottom line, you need to understand customer sentiment. Listen to your prospects’ words like the Gospel because, for better or worse, your brand and your customers are not meant to be apart.

Takeaway

For better or worse, trade doesn't begin or end with a brick-and-mortar store. On the contrary, a store is nothing without customers.

As evident during the times we’re in, a lockdown doesn’t mean the end of all commercial activity. However, lack of positive energy and motivation is what can break your eCommerce activity.

At the end of the day, leveraging the power of eCommerce can only mean one thing: listening to your prospects’ needs and making sure that you can provide a solution, either through your products or with the content you create.