The COVID-19 pandemic changed consumer behaviour forever, and savvy marketers were quick to respond. Old-fashioned values like trust, connection, generosity, and story-telling came to the fore, but digital technology delivered the personalised relationship that consumers now demand.
So, as we learn to live with the pandemic, what sales and marketing strategies will keep you close to your customers, build loyalty and brand awareness, and increase sales?
Matt Thompson, Vice President of Global Marketing, Soprano Design
“The sales and marketing trends that are producing great results come from companies who understand that customers are doing more of their own learning. Now hyper-relevant online marketing positioning will capture a larger funnel of potential buyers and convenient, transparent low-touch buying options will convert more potential buyers customers.
“We’re seeing that customers are fatigued by solution selling methodologies, meaning sales teams who are trained to teach customers about new ways of looking at technology for their business rather than being merely the solution providers will gain the trust of today’s buyers.
“Customers now have the power to dictate when and where brands can interact with them. Marketers who are customer experience-minded will be the ones to really learn how to leverage communication technology properly so they can engage with today’s buyer in the way they prefer – in the right channel, at the right moment, with the right information.”
Norman Guadagno, CMO, Acoustic
“Email marketing continues to be a strong tactic in the post-COVID world. In fact, according to an analysis from our team, email marketing engagement grew overall in 2020 compared with pre-pandemic levels.
“However, email marketing only works when you serve the right message to the right person at the right time. To make this possible, it’s critical for marketers to leverage powerful marketing automation technology to make it easier to analyse consumer preferences and behaviors. For example, we saw unsubscribe rates rise across regions as email recipients tired of COVID-related messaging without clear or relevant CTAs.
With AI-powered MarTech, it’s easier to find patterns, create consistent messaging, and quickly launch timely campaigns to engage and attract customers. Timeliness and personalization are still important post-COVID, and when email is used as the avenue for delivering your message, consumers are more likely to engage.”
Tunc Bolluk, VP APAC at Validity Inc
“Since the onset of COVID-19, businesses have had to find new and clever ways to connect with their customers in order to maintain relationships and boost sales. Ultimately, those that have been most successful are those that know their customers well and use this information to personalise communications and offers, whilst being empathetic to the situations people find themselves in as a result of the pandemic.
“To achieve this, businesses need to be collecting new and more data than ever before – and they need to find clever ways to do this, especially with the recent changes to the privacy landscape that may see limitations on the use of 3rd party data and pixel tracking. To work out what appeals to your customers, don’t be afraid to ask them for more personal information. When consumers trust a business, they’re willing to share information about themselves in order to gain better access to deals, special offers and to ultimately have a more positive experience with your business.
“Successful businesses can also use this data to regularly reinvigorate their approaches to keep customers entertained and engaged. Digital gamification is just one example and has proven to be a popular way to do this and can include things like competitions, puzzles, ranking lists, scoring systems and incentives, which are all designed to encourage engagement and connection, and ultimately conversions.”
Simon McDonald, Regional Vice President at Optimizely
“As we strive to build on the digital acceleration COVID sparked, it is essential to incorporate experimentation strategies to deliver strong results in sales and marketing. Marketers should embrace experimentation to enhance their channels’ personalisation and better support their customers.
“In a post-COVID world, providing consistent digital experiences for customers and ensuring all channels offer the same dependable level of service is valuable. For retailers, bringing the in-store experience to digital platforms is increasingly critical, which is where trialling new approaches can deliver better results.
“Marketing and sales should always include experimentation, testing new approaches, content and ways of thinking to engage customers. This process of experimentation will pay off for marketing and sales in several ways; most importantly, it empowers businesses to guarantee that they are investing in winning strategies to grow their business, satisfy their customers’ needs and protect their well-being.”
John Pirlo, Founder, Ninja Parc
“We’re not really ‘post-COVID’ yet, so I think the best sales and marketing techniques acknowledge that. People want to know that your business/experience/event is safe, that there is some flexibility in your product support for bookings or payments in the event that changes such as illness or lockdowns occur and, where it can be offered, an ‘online’ or ‘offsite’ option should a lockdown come into place.
“Generally, the vibe right now is not about hard selling, it’s about offering fun, escape, assurance, support and showing people you can offer the chance for them to be part of a community – an ‘inner circle’ that is your business, its staff and fellow customers. People are placing much more value on that sense of trust, care and belonging than ever before due to the nature of the world we live in at the moment.”
Gordon Starkey, Chief Operating Officer, ELMO Software
“If the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that companies that can act with agility in all areas of their operations will end up as the winners. This is especially true for the sales and marketing functions.
“Marketing teams who can quickly re-allocate budgets and pivot messaging to align with the challenges their customers are facing right then and there will be miles ahead of the competition. This skill set was formed during the peak of the pandemic but isn’t going to go anywhere soon. Businesses have learnt that faster decision-making and more flexibility across creative, budgeting and media will help accelerate growth in our new landscape.
“It’s not just agility that has become a more common concept across business functions, but the smarter use of data too. With data-powered technology now readily available to businesses of all shapes and sizes, more organisations are adopting automation of their processes and systems – including in the marketing space. With automation, brands can leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand and better sell to their customers.”
Sean Rooney, Director, Amire
“Throughout the pandemic, people have spent more time online to purchase goods and services, connect with people, and entertain themselves. That trend has ushered in a more permanent change to online behaviour. Greater online penetration means more potential eyeballs on your website and more chances to engage via social. Brands need to meet their potential customers where they are – and that’s online.
“With consumer confidence high and people more engaged than ever online, now is a good time to review your marketing and advertising strategy to identify and take hold of any digital opportunities the current environment may bring and make sure that you’re competing effectively online.
“Those brands investing significantly in SEO, Google Ads or Social are gaining market share and outpacing competitors. If you have dabbled in this area but are yet to explore its full potential, now is the time to jump in.”
Ben Crow, Marketing & Partnerships Executive, WLTH
“Since our launch at the start of the year, we have been able to successfully drive a large volume of leads through our digital marketing channels, specifically via Google and Facebook. However, over the last few months, we’ve noticed a number of changes to these platforms as a result of digital privacy changes from Apple and Google, which has forced us to change our approach to reaching potential clients. Due to being diligent with these changes, we have still been lucky enough to successfully achieve cut through via these platforms, which has been assisted by also having a strong product offering and market-leading home loan rates.
One of our biggest priorities now is to assess how we can be strategic when it comes to reaching more Australians, in order to continue to drive a high volume of Marketing Qualified Leads for our lending specialists at WLTH. Strategic partnerships have been performing well for us as a business, and it is a channel that we will be continuing to grow. By collaborating with key partners we are able to help them to provide an additional service and value add for their clients, while also driving leads for our lending team. We are always looking for new opportunities for partnerships and are excited about how these will help us scale the business in the future.”
Andrew Duncan, founder and managing director, Sorted Services
“We are still in the very early days of learning what worked during COVID-19 and preparing for what our business will look like post-pandemic. While some facets may still be unclear, we’ve set our immediate attention to digitalising our business at a much greater pace than ever before. In our eyes, growth will come from providing customers with a great customer experience, and that will almost always involve technology as the enabler.
“Another priority is finding the best way to create awareness or gain the attention of our target audiences. We are exploring ways our content, in particular video content, can provide real value to respective target customers, as well as a way to create a positive position of authority. This is a challenge for traditional businesses, but far less daunting for startups who aren’t encumbered by legacy policy or brand restrictions.
“We’re also looking to grow via “product led growth”. This is where the product or service itself drives ongoing growth through its very design. We are seeing this in many markets including financial services, health, transport, travel and property. Viral growth is built into our platform and our partners in the way it is designed to help specific customer types that connect with each other. We will continue to focus on the customer experience and connectivity and look for partnerships with like-minded businesses to grow. There will also be a place for more traditional marketing activities but beyond the covid phase we will not be relying on them alone.”
Kat Warboys, Marketing Director APAC, HubSpot
“Over the past year, we’ve seen Inbound marketing strategies working incredibly well, while outbound sales strategies are struggling. Buyers are more in control than they’ve ever been before, and companies delivering a great digital customer experience are thriving.
“Today’s top marketers have also fully embraced the power of content and their social media presence. According to our recent State of Marketing report, 8 in 10 companies are investing in social media marketing in 2021, with many businesses turning the mic over to their customers, tuning into how prospects and clients feel about their interactions with their brand.
“Personalisation has also been a clear driver for results. This year, 77 per cent of marketers reported seeing more engagement with emails that had a stronger emphasis on hyper-personalised messages, showing transparency and authenticity in a year where businesses and sales teams had no choice but to be upfront with customers.
“With more businesses operating in a digital world, customers are demanding more personalised experiences whether that be through quality content or social media. Remember, it’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell it.”
James Sykes, Head of Strategy, Paper Moose
“The Pandemic has sparked change in consumer values and behaviour, both globally and regionally. In Australia, we are witnessing value shifts across specific touchpoints. On balance, we’re becoming less materialistic, and more concerned with bigger picture issues, such as the health of the planet. More people than ever before are shopping online and starting their own side hustles, consequently, carbon-neutral e-commerce delivery services, such as Sendle, are booming. People and corporates want to give back, we’re doing our bit with the Change Makers – our corporate giving programme.
“Driven by adversity, there is a tangible desire for greater levels of acceptance and equality (between genders, races and sexual orientations). With movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter, we’re seeing that disparate groups are now willing to band together to disrupt the status quo.
“We’re also witnessing a move towards localisation; this trend is here to stay. State-imposed restrictions mean that Aussies are shopping, socialising and holidaying closer to home, so we are seeing a rebirth of community. Our agency ran a campaign for BWS, ‘local luvvas’, which sought to empower the public in choosing the contents of their local liquor shop, and simultaneously supporting hyperlocal, boutique brands that were previously flying under the radar. A double-digit uplift in sales demonstrated a genuine passion for supporting local distilleries, breweries and wineries during tough times.”
Ben Pfisterer, CEO and co-founder, Zeller
“As community and workplace dynamics have been flipped on their head, agility has become the commodity of the moment. Business owners are having to remap their once well-trodden sales journeys to ensure the best results in a post-COVID world.
“In this new normal, results come from knowing where your customers’ eyeballs are focused from one day to the next and understanding how to get in front of them. We’re seeing a shift away from investment in onboard transit marketing with fewer commuters travelling to or from offices. These ex-commuters are now shopping locally and are best targeted through local area marketing on platforms like Facebook or Nextdoor.
“Customers want easy, accessible ways of interacting with businesses. This can be anything from contactless EFTPOS payments to home delivery – your marketing strategy must align with your business strategy and customer experience. As we witness a stark shift in consumer behaviour, planning for the year ahead is simply not an option. Instead prepare for shorter, more tactical marketing campaigns that generate impactful results and connect you to your customer.”
Lisi Schappi, Director of Design, Deputy
“If you want to be able to market or sell, you need to take an inclusive approach to the way you communicate with your audience and potential customers. This is something I feel really passionate about at Deputy where we’ve recently undergone a huge brand refresh to ensure we’re speaking to an audience of shift workers (that account for almost 80% of the global workforce) and being mindful of the unique challenges they face culturally, economically, and so forth in a post-pandemic world. It’s no longer enough for brands to simply market to ‘customers’, without thinking about who those customers really are and what they’re challenged with every day.”
Yasinta Widjojo, Marketing Manager, Pin Payments
“The biggest shift we’ve seen in the last year has been the transition from physical to digital. Businesses that previously relied on brick-and-mortar stores, could no longer do so and had to find new and innovative ways to survive.
“This change permeated every part of a business; from how payments were handled, to how customers were attracted to overall marketing strategies. But it’s also created much better efficiencies, analytics and overall transparency about how a business is operating.
“While digitalising your business will require some investment, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Lean on your business relationships, like customers and suppliers, for what works best.
“Businesses who are harnessing this transition, with the latest software, tools and online marketing strategies, are seeing the greatest operational and sales results. But it’s important that businesses don’t revert on these digital strategies when restrictions lift. Maintaining consistency when building a strong online presence is paramount in today’s post-COVID-19 world.”
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