Amanda Crangle is founder & team leader for Lamplight Digital Media. Crangle can be reached at [email protected].
On a Wednesday morning in May 2020, after a quick trip to town, I drove my normal route home. Wednesdays are busy in the small town where I live. You will find ranchers driving from all over the county headed to the local livestock auction.
Today was different. Today the parking lot was empty, void of any neighborly banter, clear of any traces of cattle. The big marquee out front had a new sign over it. “Closed indefinitely,” it read. My heart sank. It felt surreal.
What we thought would be a couple of weeks of lockdown had turned into a couple of months. Our town became even more sparse as people stowed away at home, hiding from an invisible enemy. The once friendly smiles in the store were covered with masks. Folks looked down wherever they went, as if in mourning for the life we had taken for granted for so long.
I pulled into our driveway and my husband came out to help me unload groceries. For a moment I was surprised to see him. I was not used to him working from home.
Inside the house, our kids sat in front of their computers, headphones on, staring intently at their teachers. Our life had changed drastically.
How to Adapt to a Virtual World
If there is one thing we all have in common right now, it is that we each have some version of this story. As with any challenges in life, they are what you make of them. In our industry, we are blessed to have fewer challenges than others.
With less money going out on fuel, clothing and vacation, many people have opted to invest it by improving their homes where they are now spending the majority of their time. In Q2 of 2020, Home Depot and Lowes enjoyed a combined $13.5 billion increase in net sales compared to Q2 2019.
Through our digital marketing agency we also saw an increase for many clients in leads and sales. Many of our clients have enjoyed a record-breaking year. Some have not.
This begs the question, how do we adapt to a world where people are comfortable purchasing all types of items online? How do we encourage people to let us into their homes when they are actively avoiding contact with other humans?
You may be anticipating this article to share the winning strategy for virtual presentations. However, before we learn to run, let us learn to stand on our own two feet.
Communicate Your Brand, Build Trust & Listen
Do you mind if I ask you a question?
If I am your ideal customer, why should I choose to do business with you rather than your competitors? Before you read on, write down your answer.
Your response to this question is your value proposition, also known as your “unique selling proposition.” It is what sets you apart from everyone else. The chasm is great and growing larger by the day between the water treatment dealerships who have proactively fine-tuned their value proposition and those who have not.
No longer is “we’ve been in business since 1932,” a compelling reason to buy. No longer is “we have great service,” a unique offering. No longer is “we have cutting-edge technology,” the driving factor to call people to action.
These are claims nearly any company can make, which water down the power of your value proposition.
In my 12 years marketing for more than 100 water treatment companies, I have learned that without a strong value proposition, no amount of ad spend, SEO prowess, pithy social media ads or fancy virtual presentations will help you gain market share. It comes down to your value proposition, which is your brand promise. The more people experience this brand promise to be true, the stronger your brand will become.
In the age of COVID-19, how do we communicate our brand in a way that evokes trust, inspires action and builds brand equity?
The answer is simpler than you may think.
Gather data by asking the right questions.
Many of you already know how to build rapport once you are in someone’s home. You ask questions and then shut up and listen. You reflect back to the person what is important to them and tailor a solution to the problems they are experiencing.
But how do we know what people need long before we ever meet them?
Here are a few ways to find out:
- Ask your customers what problem they were trying to solve when they started searching for answers online. Then ask them why it was important to them to solve this problem. After five levels of “why,” you will hit paydirt. Dig deep to find the real answers.
- Ask your customers what inspired them to choose you over the competition. Again, go through five levels of “why.” Think they will be annoyed? Think again. People love offering advice and opinions. Just look at your Facebook newsfeed.
- Ask your customers what almost stopped them from buying from you. Again, why was this important and what factor made them move past that concern?
- Ask which alternatives they looked at and why they did not choose another option.
- Take what you have learned and ask your marketing partner to test ads on Google and Facebook, highlighting the common threads from your customer conversations. Make sure there is proper tracking in place so you know what generates the most leads at the lowest cost.
- Ask your marketing partner to test this new verbiage on your website against the existing content and, again, track to see if these changes improved the rate at which your site converts web visitors into leads.
- Use online polls and surveys to ask questions as people visit your site. Use both qualitative and quantitative questions.
- Read competitor Google and Facebook reviews to find common complaints. What negative feedback do people regularly give about your competitors and/or your industry as a whole? Do you or can you do better?
The Secret: How to Survive in the Age of COVID-19
Once you see what is working, craft a single sentence that showcases your value. Test it. Share it with everyone in your organization. Help them understand this is the promise you have made, and they each have a role in helping people experience this promise. Use this in all your marketing, your appointment setting, sales and service.
If your team is not asking questions of your local market, testing and improving based on their feedback, it does not matter what slick tool you are using for virtual appointments or what shiny objects you dangle on your website. Your business is headed for a cliff, and the accelerator is at the whim of market variables. You will lose market share to those who do a better job of gathering, interpreting and optimizing consumer data.
On the flip side, if you feel as though you excel at asking questions of your target market, reflecting back what is important to them, and clearly communicating and implementing a tested value proposition, it is likely you have already answered the question, how to survive in the age of COVID-19.
You are likely to survive the zombie apocalypse too.
You will probably also know if you should offer virtual presentations and how to do this successfully because you have asked your market what they want and how they want it.
There is not a guru, expert salesman or marketer out there who can tell you what to do to help your customers better than your customers. Learn to ask the right questions and listen without bias. You will not only survive, you will thrive.