Episode 210: Business as Unusual: How I’m Handling My Marketing and Sales Right Now
It’s a new month, and let’s be real, it’s one with a lot of questions and many answers. For this episode as part of the business as unusual series I’m talking about finding and booking clients in the midst of COVID-19.
Bosses, this episode is going to be full of real talk about the realities of finding and booking clients in the middle of a pandemic.
Before we jump in, I want to be frank. Everything I’m going to share today is based on what I’m actually doing today. While I strive to do that as much as humanly possible, I’m getting real tired of the barrage of quippy advice that’s coming at all of us about what to do. And it’s mostly coming from people that have NO better idea than you or I. And lots of it is coming from people who aren’t actually doing any of the things they suggest. Hell, most of them don’t even work 1:1 with clients….so thanks, but no thanks.
I’m putting those people on blast now as the last thing any of us need right now are glossy, soulless answers. Or yet another PDF guide telling us WTF to do right now. Nope, nopity, nope. This chick here is D-O-N-E with the shenanigans all over my social media and inbox.
Facts: No one is immune to this. I’m 15+ years into my business, and I’m certainly not. (More on that in a second.) We’re about to see who the real leaders are, as they’ll be honest about how this is impacting their business, and the rest, the fakers and takers, well, they’re going to be unmasked.
To set up this episode, I wanted to have a frank discussion with you about sales and marketing, as while we may be feeling queasy or avoidant about it, it doesn’t mean we need to stop. Instead, we need to evolve and adapt, and not in a “let me cash in on the COVID” kind of way.
Since the pandemic started, I’ve lost three contracts. And given that we usually serve between 8 and 12 clients at a time in the agency, that’s not insignificant. One of them, our second biggest client, is on hold. Another isn’t renewing. Those two clients alone are a chunky piece of revenue.
But that’s only part of the picture. Yes, revenue is taking a hit, but I’ve got a plan for that. And that plan is to keep on keepin’ on with my marketing and sales. And here’s what I’m doing, to hopefully inspire you and give you some specific ideas on what you could be doing.
Marketing: Being of Service
Let’s start off by talking about what I’m not doing. For Scoop, we’ve put our blog content on hold so we don’t burn through it when it’s not going to be seen. We’ve stopped out cold outreach for the time being, and we’re focusing on going back to the most basic of basics.
My gameplan for the foreseeable future is to keep having conversations. Most of those are happening on “dark social” as I check in with people in my network, offering to help where it makes sense and generally being of service.
While this may seem like it’s not really a strategy, it’s what’s appropriate for me today. I have a strong network of people I’ve worked with over the years, and I genuinely care about how they’re doing, so this is a productive way for me to keep moving forward.
If you’re trying to figure out what marketing you *should* be doing, I urge you to look at what you’d normally do and decide what works now, and what may not.
I’m looking at how to show up consistently in the same way as I did pre-pandemic, and not suddenly going into hyperdrive creating a million and one things. People need calm, they need reliability and they need professionals who can support them now and in the future.
Most of all, when it comes to your marketing, you may need to go back to your toolbox as some tactics will stop working or just won’t work as well. I know I’m paying attention to other lead gen methods such as referrals and inbound right now, and thinking about how to shift my energy there in the short-term if this continues much longer.
Sales: They’re Still Happening
Sales are still happening. Business is still happening.
While I lost three clients, I gained a new one, and I have more in the works. In many industries, many businesses are still running albeit in a different way.
I’m not alone making sales. I’m not magical. One member of the Agency Mastermind signed a client in the TRAVEL industry of all things, so there’s definitely work out there, it may just be slower or different than we’re used to.
Another agency owner I’m friends with shared with me that she’s picked up multiple projects in the last two weeks as past clients have time to do them now.
The truth is, it’s not up to you to decide there’s no business out there, unless of course, you’re in an industry that’s completely shut down.
If your industry is heavily impacted, this is a chance to innovate and to potentially look at others that aren’t. It may be a time to test a new offer or approach to doing things.
For all of us, there’s an opportunity to reinvent how we do business.
When it comes to sales, I’m working very hard to be realistic and land new clients without giving away the gains we’ve made in the last two years when it comes to pricing and quality of clients. That may change if our revenue or cash flow is further altered, but for now, I can afford to hold that line. (And if I can’t, I won’t be romantic about it.)
With sales, each one of us needs to decide what right for each of us based on our financial situation. Yes, I want you to maintain those gains, but if you need cash money in the door now, you may need to find the middle ground. Before you make decisions about pricing or packaging, get clear on your actual situation and don’t price things in a way that’s desperate or leaves money on the table. There’s typically a sweet spot between the easy yes and premium pricing, and we may need to work a little harder to find that for the time being
Finally, for some of you, there may be hidden opportunities with clients you currently have. They may need more help. They may need new things. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to work with someone they already trust.
Now, I’m not saying you roll up and say, “hey, have work for me to do?” but pay attention to what’s happening. Ask questions and keep your finger on the pulse of how things are being done right now. For one of our clients, we’ve been handed multiple new marketing programs as they need a team they trust. It could be a project, it could be more, but don’t miss out on opportunities under your nose. These are great opportunities for quick wins.
And when it comes to the actual selling to new clients part of things, don’t decide what people can or can’t afford. Stay out of their money stories, and focus on articulating the value of your services.
This isn’t the time to be modest, own what you can do and the results you bring. Maybe it’s time to up your proposals or improve your packages to show that off – because I suspect when all is said and done people are going to have greater discernment about how they spend their money.
Also, I’d expect a longer sales cycle than normal as part of a natural reaction to both the pandemic, and the follow-on economic impact. Your follow-up game is crucial right now. Don’t assume things are a no until you actually hear no from your potential client.
Speaking of which, as much as I’ve been talking about a recession coming for well over a year, let’s hold off on using that word. We don’t know what recovery will look like, so like other people’s money stories, let’s not make guesses about what recovery will look like, because we just don’t know.
In short, my marketing and sales are still happening, and yours should be too. They may evolve or change, but there’s business still to be done. Especially as people will always pay for services and expertise to get things done.
Finally, if you’re looking at your numbers and you’re not where you want to be, that’s okay. This is not the time to wax poetic about our growth plans. Some years will be about growth, others about building foundation and every so often, there will be one that’s simply survival mode. It’s a cycle, and we need to get okay with that.
My plan has definitely shifted from growth mode to survival mode, and that’s entirely reasonable. For each of us, resetting our expectations about revenue for the time being is healthy and it in no way is a failure. In fact, getting right with what survival mode looks like is what will help us get back to a place where growth is possible.
I fully believe we will get through this, and what’s on the other side will be worth it. I think you all know, I’m not a Pollyanna, but I see an opportunity for positive things to come out of this from innovation to reinvention for us as business owners.
Links for this episode:
- Real Life Insights From a Year of Client Proposals
- What I Learned About Finding Clients in 2019
- How to Win New Clients With Your Proposals