The impact of COVID-19 for marketers and the sales pipeline is two fold.
- Fewer personal interactions (e.g., cancelled conferences and appointments) reduce opportunities to meet new prospects and service existing customers.
- Financial uncertainty creates hesitation to spend. This challenges marketers, sales teams, and anyone invested in the P&L to figure out how to mitigate the financial hit coming in Q2/Q3.
So… How can sales and marketing teams mitigate some of the financial impact associated with COVID-19?
We think most companies have a tremendous opportunity to generate more non-branded leads digitally.
What is a non-branded lead?
A non-branded lead is someone who is searching for your product or service online, but not looking for you by name. For an orthodontist, a non-branded lead might be someone Googling “braces near me.”
If you sell anti-phishing software, a non-branded lead might be someone Googling “enterprise anti-phishing software.”
Sounds obvious, right? But in our experience, most agencies and digital marketers take credit for website visits and conversions coming from branded searches and leads.
What is a branded lead?
A branded lead is someone Googling the name of your company or the brand name of your product.
This is someone who has already heard of you through referrals, word of mouth, community outreach or more traditional advertising (billboards, television, trade shows, etc).
For an orthodontist practice, a branded lead is someone Googling the name of the doctor that works at the practice.
If you sell anti-phishing software, a branded lead is someone Googling the name of your company or the brand name of your flagship product (e.g., someone Googling “ironscales anti-phishing software”).
Branded leads come from people already know who you are. This group of people was going to find you anyway.
There is very little that the digital marketing agency is likely doing to create this demand, because it already existed.
COVID-19 has greatly reduced the number of in person marketing opportunities between businesses and prospects.
Cancelled conferences, events, outreach and walk ins means less opportunity to meet new prospects that had not already heard of you.
A great way to mitigate this reduction is to pursue non-branded leads online.
So how do you generate non-branded leads?
There are three main ways to generate non-branded leads online – SEO, Paid Social, and Paid Search (like Google Ads).
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This means that when somebody Googles the product or category of products you sell, your website pops up organically in search engine listings. For example, if you are an orthodontist, a non-branded SEO lead would be someone who searches for “braces near me” and finds your practice.
SEO is fantastic, but it takes a few months to make an impact.
If you don’t already have an SEO strategy in place, it may be harder to get this up and running in time to make up for COVID-19 losses in Q2.
That said, doing this work now can help you make up for losses in Q3 and Q4.
Also, so much of SEO is about content creation. So if you are finding that you or your employees don’t have quite as much to do given social distancing, there is an incredible opportunity to have your team start producing massive amounts of SEO-focused content.
A good digital agency can quickly provide guidance on what content to create to make the most use of the downtime.
Paid Social (like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn ads)
You can use social media channels to advertise services, special offers, product demos, and other marketing materials directly to POTENTIAL consumers.
You can often target by demographic, location, profession, financial status, among other things.
People will be spending more time on social media over the next few weeks because of social distancing.
So this can be an incredible time to build brand awareness, socialize your offerings, and start collecting data on who is interested in your offerings.
The challenge with paid social media is that you don’t really know if the people you are serving ads to have the specific problem you solve.
For example, you can serve ads for “kids’ braces” to wealthy suburbanites in a particular zip code, but you can’t ensure that everyone looking at those ads has a child that needs braces.
So it can take longer to get people into your sales cycle, which may not provide the immediate relief needed in Q2 and early Q3.
So, what’s the best way to create immediate relief for your sales pipeline?
We believe that non-branded PPC advertising is the best way to quickly combat a shrinking sales pipeline.
Paid Search (“PPC” and, often, “Google Ads”)
PPC is about serving ads to people looking to solve specific problems online.
For example, if someone Googles “Invisalign near me,” we would serve an ad about your company and how they specialize in Invisalign.
The benefits of paid search are that you can get ads up and running fast and start to generate new leads very quickly.
But here is the key … you must be focused on non-branded leads. This means you need to build super targeted, small campaigns aimed at very specific keywords and offerings.
In the orthodontist space you need to set up different campaigns for different services – a campaign for “orthodontists,” a separate campaign for “braces,” and another for “invisalign,” for example.
In the anti-phishing software space, you need different campaigns for keywords related to “anti-phishing software” versus those related to BEC (business email compromise).
And most importantly, you need to filter out all branded terms (name of company, employee, etc.) and set up a specific campaign for those branded searches and conversions.
If you do it right, you can drive new leads for your existing products and services efficiently and inexpensively.
At a time like this, every new lead matters.
By pushing marketers and other stakeholders to pursue non-branded leads, you will open up opportunities that you never knew existed.