Many business leaders right now are recognizing this brutal reality: their current sales and marketing methods are not built for these trying times.  

The pressure is building for companies to get their sales back up, but it’s a real struggle. 

Clients are putting projects, jobs, and events (and accounts payable) on hold indefinitely. Many consumers have lost their jobs or are worried they will soon. Social distancing requirements are continuing to create substantial barriers to the business’s normal flow everywhere from the retail floor to the manufacturing floor. Travel is still heavily restricted, and uncertainty abounds.

While many have held on to the hope that they could ride this out and get back to normal, the truth is, there is no going back to normal.

Over the last two months, I’ve personally consulted with over 100 different business leaders in all industries, from manufacturing to catering and from professional speakers to marketing agencies. These conversations have given me a unique perspective on how this crisis is impacting businesses and how it is shifting over time.

I can summarize all that I’ve learned in one sentence. We all have to start working very hard to create success in the new normal, and the first place we have to start is with our sales and marketing.

I can almost guarantee your sales and marketing need to change in 2 ways: in the message and the method. In this article, we will talk about how you can pivot your message now. In part 2 of this series, we will discuss how you can modernize your method and get ready for success in the new normal.

Why your messaging has to change

Back in January, we were taking orders. If someone knew about you, that’s about all it took to get them to buy. Times were relatively easy, and we could get by with sloppy messaging. We could be a little unclear because the market was mostly unconcerned. We could be just like everyone else because there was plenty of business to go around.

And then March hit, and the world shut down. Today, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have to fight tooth and nail for every sale. With all the uncertainty right now, if you don’t crush it in your message, your prospects will not buy from you. They are going to wait. Because the world around us is shifting and changing every day, that deal is as good as it is gone. 

As a marketer, sales rep, or business leader, you have the formidable responsibility to help your prospect overcome their uncertainty and engage in business with you.Your old sales pitch, your old website, and your old ads have to change to do this. 

As a marketer, sales rep, or business leader, you have the formidable responsibility to help your prospect overcome their uncertainty and engage in business with you. Click To Tweet

Here are four things you can do with your message right now:

1. Contextualize your content

Our economy and our businesses and our clients have experienced trauma. Everyone is wondering what this means for them, their safety, and their livelihood. 

In the StoryBrand world, we teach that our brains’ primary drive is to help us survive and thrive, and they are handled in that order. We have to have survival sorted before we can move on to thriving. And I can tell you this, not a lot of buying is happening to help people thrive right now.

This means you need to focus your messaging to help your clients understand how your product or service is essential to their survival. How will it keep them emotionally well, physically safe, and financially secure? If you are B2B, how will your product or service increase sales, keep their workers safe, cut costs, or reduce their risk.

Here are a couple of pointers:

  • Look at all of your top-selling points. How were they affected by the crisis? Are they more important now? If so, how can you communicate that clearer?
  • Take the focus off of your survival for a moment and ask yourself, “How has this impacted my clients?”
  • Ask yourself, “What can I/we do to help right now?” It’s easy to focus on what you don’t have, but it’s better to focus on what you do have and how you can put it to use serving your customers.
  • Take your existing content and edit it slightly. Sometimes all you need to do add phrases like “in times of crisis,” “in these uncertain times,” and “when you are stuck at home” to your existing content.

2. Create urgency

There is an incredibly strong urge to wait and see right now. I’ve found that the typical response in the market is to freeze, to wait it out. You’ve probably felt the same way yourself. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.

You must show how your product or service can have an impact today. Most urgency right now comes from our survival instinct. If you do well at contextualizing your content, you’ll have a head start on creating urgency, but you still have some work to do. 

To overcome this mentality; you need to develop a greater sense of urgency. Here are a few simple strategies that can help you create urgency: 

  • focus all your content on how it helps them survive,
  • use time-bound offers, 
  • offer short-term discounts for long term deals, 
  • donate a portion of this month’s sales to front-line workers, food pantries or other charities

3. Reduce risk

Many businesses and individuals feel exposed and at risk. They are worried about their future (especially over the short and medium-term) and unsure about what will happen. 

The vast majority of business owners I’ve spoken with are hyper-focused on preserving cash. Many individuals I know have tightened their spending belts to protect them and their families.

It may go without saying, but health is still a major area of concern. Business leaders are trying to keep their employees healthy and productive. Individuals are also going to great lengths to keep their loved ones healthy and safe.

Your business then needs to position its product or service to reduce your client’s risk more than it increases their risk by parting with their cash.

Here are a few ways you can reduce the risk for your customers:

  • Make use of generous payment terms
  • Assume the risk of your product/service not working with a generous refund policy
  • Focus on the break-even point: how long will it take the investment in your product or service to pay for itself.
  • Focus on how your product or service can be used safely and even increase the safety of your customers, their employees, and/or their loved ones.

4. Be clear

The market is maxed out on mental processing power. We are re-thinking the core functions of our lives and work that were previously on auto-pilot. If your marketing isn’t clear, if it isn’t obviously connected to their survival, you are going to struggle to get their attention. Don’t make your success in sales, dependent on their ability to perform mental gymnastics.

You need to be clear as you tell them precisely what you do, exactly how it helps them overcome a problem they are experiencing right now, and exactly what their life will look like with that problem solved.

I promise you, those businesses who do all three of those things well will succeed even in trying times when others fail. 

Here are a few ways you can be clear with your message:

  • Focus on your customers’ current problems and how you help solve them
  • Empathize with the difficult realities your customers are facing
  • With your words, paint a concrete, visual picture of a successful future for your clients.
  • Give them clear steps forward. Despite the uncertainty in the future, you can still provide clarity in the present.

Wrapping up

A clear message is more important today than ever before. To gain traction in times of crisis, you need to take a moment to adjust your message to matter in the moment and make sense for your customers. Once you’ve clarified your message, you are then ready to focus on pivoting your method to get your clear message out in front of as many potential customers as possible. I’ll show you what this is important and exactly how to do it in Part 2 of this series.

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