Discover the answers to some of your most common inbound marketing questions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. What is the state of inbound marketing and how might you be affected?
The coronavirus is driving digital transformation. With widespread lockdown and other quarantine measures in place for much of the world, organisations everywhere are being forced to rely on technology like never before to reach their prospects and customers.
The global pandemic also impacting how we interact with our colleagues. Communications that we’d previously have described as ‘internal’ are now happening across counties, countries, and continents. From Slack messages to Zoom conferencing, we’re more integrated than ever.
So what does this all mean for inbound marketing and sales?
- How do you review your marketing strategy and adapt to these changes?
- Can you set up your field sales team to use video?
- And is your organisation equipped with the processes and technology to function remotely?
We recently hosted a webinar titled, ‘‘Now What?” and Other FAQs From Marketers and Salespeople, during which Eric Murphy, Co-Founder and Head of Revenue at BabelQuest, and Olivia Kirwan, Channel Account Manager at HubSpot, dug into answering the common questions and concerns on everyone’s lips.
The following are some of the queries discussed in the webinar, including how HubSpot itself is dealing with the crisis.
Got a question? While we can’t answer all of them, you can submit your question for consideration and we may be able to address it here on the blog.
Q: How is HubSpot responding to COVID-19 internally?
Quick to act when lockdown measures were implemented, global growth platform HubSpot put together a document on remote working to enable its people to get fully set-up at home.
Since then, it’s taken extra measures to support its employees, including the provision of a range of resources and activities for parents with children of all ages (e.g. virtual science fairs).
And it’s running webinars on mental health and global ‘mixers’ or coffee catch-ups to encourage communication and foster community between its employees.
What about its marketing activity – how has that been impacted?
HubSpot recognises that COVID-19 has placed organisations into three broad categories: survive, adapt, and grow.
With this in mind, the marketing team at HubSpot has now moved more toward a sales enablement approach. This means providing the right resources, sequences, and templates to help the HubSpot sales team sell to organisations that are adapting or growing during this time (e.g. e-learning, e-medicine, telehealth, e-commerce, logistics).
The team is also being reminded to remain respectful, patient, and understanding with those in the ‘survive’ phase and to provide them with the consulting and support they need.
Q: How is HubSpot responding to COVID-19 to help marketers and salespeople on the product side?
HubSpot has now made its range of software more accessible. This includes giving customers and prospects access to free tools which are normally paid and reducing the pricing on certain products.
By adding free tools, removing limits, and changing the pricing, HubSpot’s product team is making everything more available at a time when marketers and salespeople need these tools the most.
Here are the things that HubSpot have introduced to help businesses during the pandemic:
- Reduced the first year cost of Starter Growth Suite by over 50% (until 31st July 2020)
- Suspended limits on marketing email sends for Professional and Enterprise customers, and increased calling minutes to 2,000 per month for Starter and Professional customers of Sales Hub and Service Hub (until 30th August 2020)
- Made the paid Meetings functionality, Quotes, E-Sign, and 1:1 Video tools free (until 30th August 2020)
Find out more about HubSpot’s free CRM in our best practices and pro tips guide.
Q: How do we position the increased value of inbound marketing right now to other stakeholders?
Throughout lockdown, when people are either buying more online or resorting to online channels for the first time, digital marketing is your key to surviving, adapting, and growing. With footfall and freedom of movement restricted, it presents you with an opportunity to strengthen relationships with your existing buyers and build new ones with new prospects.
An effective way of positioning this is to consider it against the effectiveness of your offline marketing activities.
Under normal circumstances, how much budget would you typically spend organising or sponsoring in-person events, and what does the ROI look like? Then think about how these figures will be impacted by the widespread lockdown, social distancing initiatives, and travel restrictions. Take an evidence-based approach and really look at whether these campaigns are going to deliver the return you need or whether investing in your digital marketing will help you to reach the increasing number of people now researching and buying online.
“Your buyers will be searching for you, regardless of whether you’ve optimised your digital presence or not. A slow or out of date website that doesn’t deliver a good experience is going to drive those buyers into the arms of your competitors who have taken care to improve their website’s usability.”
This is why investing in your digital marketing capabilities and taking these types of activities in-house where you can resource for and manage them yourself are so important – so you can meet online demand and survive in the short-term and adapt to changes post-COVID and grow your organisation in the future, too.
Q: How do I create a business case for investing in digital marketing when budgets are being cut?
Unfortunately, when times get tough for an organisation, marketing is often amongst the first to be impacted. In the current climate, this may have taken the form of furlough decisions and spending cuts. But as we’ve discussed, this is not always the best decision, hindering your ability to reach and engage your buyers at a time when you need them more than ever.
In this environment, how do you create a strong business case around digital marketing?
There are three levels to consider:
1. Why change?
If you’re planning to ask for marketing investment during a time of uncertainty, you definitely need to get the ‘why’ nailed — and to do that, evidence is the best way to go.
Take some time to audit your current marketing (assets, conversions, SEO status, etc.), and if you can, secure some qualitative evidence from key personas within your client and prospect organisations.
- What initiatives have they had to put on pause at the current time?
- Do they think your marketing speaks to their challenges?
- What do they believe will be the challenges once the pandemic has eased?
When you take an evidence-based look at the performance of your current marketing setup, do you have what you need to successfully demonstrate to your prospects and customers that your offering can solve their challenges?
Find out more about how to review your marketing strategy and adapt amidst sudden disruption.
2. To what solution?
Looking at your evidence, what marketing solutions will you need when the world starts to take on some kind of normality again? The way your customers buy will have changed, both in the short-term during the crisis and permanently afterwards. Perhaps your audit tells you:
...your value proposition doesn’t reflect the up-to-date challenges your audience faces. If so, it’s time to invest either time (if you’re doing it internally) or budget (if you need a bit of external help) in getting it to a state that when your customers are ready to invest, they know you can solve their problems.
...you’ve got lots of website traffic but not many conversions. If this rings true, then the investment you need might take the form of support around planning and implementing a new strategy to maximise the value of that website traffic. Do you need a clearer conversion path? Are your content offers not compelling enough? How strong are your landing pages, and do they conform to best practice? Maybe it’s the website itself that needs an overhaul.
Both a new strategy and a new website can take up a significant amount of time, so if your other marketing activities have slowed down, use this as an opportunity while you can!
...you’ve realised you’re spending a lot of money on disparate marketing systems (a social media tool, an email marketing solution, a form builder, etc.). If this is the case, the solution might be to create a case for investing in an all-in-one, integrated platform. Whilst this might be a high-value upfront investment, it’s likely to not only save money in the mid to long-term, but also make your marketing activities more efficient (and give you better capabilities) than using separate solutions.
3. How and with whom?
In this step, you need to outline the steps for completing the proposed solution and who would need to be involved. Transparency and flexibility are key here. You might propose a roadmap and the required people, but take careful consideration of individual circumstances within the team (perhaps some of the people you’d typically involve in this initiative have been furloughed, while others are working reduced hours due to childcare, for example).
Be flexible — if there are others in the organisation who could take on certain tasks when your first-choice person isn’t able to, note that down. Build time buffers into your plan so you can handle any unexpected delays without pushing the entire project back.
“As a marketer, you’re the custodian of your brand and the architect of the flywheel. Your purpose is to understand the market and what people need, and to find a way to respond to that.”
This is more important now than ever as the current climate is constantly shifting. We know that eventually, a sense of normality will return, but we don’t know what this will look like and what consumers will want when it’s all over. This is why it’s important to be ready for when that day comes.
Ready to build a business case? Try the ‘three-sale sale’ approach to get buy-in
Q: How do we upskill our people to do more inbound marketing internally, rather than rely on outsourcing to agencies?
From learning about building sales plans and marketing strategies to setting up your HubSpot CRM for growth and creating a paid media strategy, HubSpot Academy is known for its vast array of certifications, courses, resources, and tools. For furloughed employees who may have more time to focus on practical learning, now is a good time to test out some online training resources so they’ll be ready to apply their learnings when business picks up again.
Additionally, it’s also important to do a quick review of your digital marketing tools. Is the usage of certain tools in your portal particularly low? Enable people to try more tools and see if these add any value to the business.
If you’re asking people across the organisation to up-skill on roles they’ve never done before, you need to make sure that you not only have the technology and tools in place, but that they also have the right systems and processes set up as well.
This will enable a smooth adoption, ensuring that employees understand the new processes or different ways of working (e.g. using more video for sales outreach). It’s about behaviour, activity, and transferring knowledge between departments so everyone works cohesively.
Q: How do we prioritise demands for better reporting with the need for data cleansing?
Better reporting is vital for accurate revenue forecasting, but you need clean data first.
Think about it this way: your reporting is only as good as the data it’s pulling from. When your data is incomplete, cluttered, or invalid, it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of what’s going on. And if there’s one thing you want right now, it’s accuracy. You need to determine what your data should look like and which information will be most useful.
But you won’t know where to start with a data cleanse without a clear understanding of what reports you, and the wider organisation, actually need.
This will determine which data you need to review to make those reports as accurate and insightful as possible. Pull the reports in question and review them.
- When you look at reporting and creating dashboards, is your data any good?
- Are your lifecycle stages inconsistent?
- Do you have the right contact details? Are there duplicates?
- It could be that certain parts of your data aren’t segmented properly
Equipped with these findings, work backwards to discover which data points you need to cleanse to improve the quality and strength of your reporting going forward.
Are you concerned about having incomplete, cluttered or invalid data? Here are 7 simple steps to clean your CRM data
Q: We want to create content, but how can we tell which topics are most relevant for our audience right now?
The answer to this question reverts back to your personas. Think about who you’re targeting and put yourself in their shoes. What content would be relevant to them?
Of course, ‘putting yourself in their shoes’ is easier said than done. Consider also that while everyone is going through the same pandemic right now, every organisation will be experiencing it differently, as will every person within those organisations.
To uncover what new challenges are keeping your buyers up at night, your best approach is to ask them.
Interview your existing customers to gather qualitative data on how their paint points, aspirations, and business goals have been impacted in the short-term. Ask the same questions of your database to build up a bigger, more quantitative picture. Ask them how they anticipate their needs changing in the future, and repeat the exercise in three months’ time to see what they actually need and how their market has changed in the long-term.
Simple outreach like this can replace the newsletter or database communications you’d normally send out, meaning it will take no more time or effort. And if you’re on HubSpot or you have similar automation tools in place, you can reach thousands of people with personalised outreach in little to no time at all.
“All this information can be used to write informative, genuinely valuable comms that you know will help your buyers.” Dr Thomas Brown, Head of Content, BabelQuest
Q: If your sales team needs to ramp up quickly, what's the best way to get them started?
Whether you’re in sales or marketing, HubSpot’s video tool, Vidyard, is at your disposal for engaging with customers and prospects. When the pandemic first hit, video was first on many organisations’ lists as a means of continuing to reach out to, engage, and nurture prospects through personalised interactions that imitate face-to-face meetings.
We’ve written extensively on video before, so for more top tips and best practices when adopting and using video across your organisation, check out the following resources:
- How to Set Up Your Field Sales Team to Use Video in One Week
- HubSpot's Vidyard Integration: Best Practices and Pro Tips for Video That Delivers
- Using the ‘Three-Sale-Sale’ Approach to Adopt Video Across Your Entire Sales Process
Q: How will this increase in video and other remote practices impact the future of business?
Nothing is certain right now, least of all the future. But it’s fair to say that many organisations who simply hadn’t considered flexible or remote business practices before now have had their eyes opened to both its potential and their ability to adapt to it when needs must.
Video networking, virtual meetings, and video sales all have the potential to redefine the way that we do business going forwards. And while we can’t say for sure how business will change in the near future, we can say with some certainty that it will change.
New habits are forming as sales teams wake up to the realisation that they don’t need to travel for days or weeks across the country in order to meet a prospect face to face.
There will always be times when international travel is necessary, but how much could organisations like yours save by reducing the amount of travel in favour of virtual conferencing at the cost of a small monthly subscription?
And we all know how challenging it can be to prove the value — never mind the return — of offline events. Consider instead how much uptake there has been in virtual networking and webinars, with all the benefits of instant lead capture, rich contact data, and clear visibility over what your prospects and customers are interested in learning (and which pages of your website they go on to view/products they go on to buy as a result)?
Adapting your inbound marketing around COVID-19
Nothing is certain, but everything is changing, and the wind is blowing towards digital.
We hope some of the answers shared here will help you to adapt your organisation in the short term and prepare for change in the future, so you can continue to meet your objectives and grow — whatever the weather.