By Elizabeth Cal and Ryan Chana

Key takeaways:

  • Marketing is critical for companies to flourish during and after COVID-19.
  • In order to succeed, create quality content, use a number of marketing tools in tandem, and focus on data analysis to determine best practice.

We know how COVID-19 has impacted our personal lives, but we wanted to understand how it has impacted global companies who use trade shows, events, and in-person meetings to interact with their customer base. How have they pivoted their sales and marketing strategies? What has worked and what has not? What new strategies will be maintained in the post-COVID-19 era?

We sat down (virtually) with sales, tech, and marketing professionals from a number of different global companies to see how they have pivoted their marketing strategies to adapt to the reality during and after COVID - and found success.

"When sales go down, marketing goes up."

Max Sommer, Head of Marketing and Communications at Anton Paar

With internet traffic up 50-70% month over month during COVID-19 months (March-June), we’ve experienced information overload and zoom/screen/webinar fatigue etc. What kind of tools should you use to gain and retain people’s attention for qualitative interactions in the future? What quality content should you focus on?

According to a recent study, Salesforce found that 44% of email recipients have made a purchase in the past year based on a promotional email, 64% opened an email based on the subject alone, and 70% used a coupon from a promotional email. None of that is very surprising. What we have found and that our contributors confirmed, is that 55% of consumers find direct mail marketing to be the most trustworthy form of marketing which led to 84% purchasing an item after seeing it in printed format. Really? Print? Isn’t that a bit antiquated? One might argue it’s a great way to separate yourself from the pack; it’s another touchpoint.

"The last thing you should do in a downturn of the economy is reduce your marketing;
instead, you should increase it."

Mark Meade, Senior Vice President for Shared Services at Quantum Spatial

How did you change your marketing strategy?

Mark Meade, Senior Vice President for Shared Services at Quantum Spatial, explains that not only did they increase their webinars and podcasts, but in an effort to offer more than just internet content Quantum Spatial used Gelato’s Global Print On-Demand platform to retarget and add another touch point for their customer base. They mailed out quality, customized content in tandem with their online presence in order to stand out, attract quality customers, and get them to a specific landing page.

"The key aspect to convert marketing leads into sales leads is the quality data analysis that each company conducts consistently throughout the process in order to propel the next touch point," explains Meade.

Brindesh Dhruva, CM&TO at Bray International, Inc., focused the tech and marketing efforts on creating quality content via their new sales platform and then analyzed the data to adjust and move the needle. By keeping a close eye on the data, Bray International has actually seen a steep increase in attendees, downloads, shares etc. based on their initial marketing efforts. They have been very mindful that whatever is developed needs to be sustained beyond COVID. The goal of most companies is not just reacting for ‘what works right now’, but working on content and building platforms that will be permanent.

"We haven’t invested more in marketing, but shifted the budget in certain areas. Since we won’t attend trade shows, we’ve invested that money into accelerating tech platform tools that support our sales team," says Dhruva.

In the medical device industry, where face-to-face interactions with Physicians and staff is critical, Depuy Synthes had to get creative. Chelsea Childers, Senior Marketing Manager at Depuy Synthes (Johnson & Johnson), explains that COVID-19 brought to light some inadequacies that they wouldn’t have otherwise realized they had.

"When connecting in person wasn’t an option; it forced us to learn how to build relationships virtually, which was initially the biggest challenge. We realized the importance of our marketing and sales teams working as a cohesive and seamless team rather than as separate entities," says Childers.

Mark Gimson, Director of Marketing and International Sales at Cla-Val, explained that Cla-Val took a two-pronged approach. They understood that not only would the type of interaction be different, but because of internet screen-time, the quality of the content needed to be more creative, as well. Cla-Val created Cla-Val University for the customer base to have access to a wide variety of material since in-person training and interactions weren’t an option. Cla-Val now focuses on analyzing the data of each interaction to adjust and propel marketing strategies in the future.

Cathy Richardson Global Brand and Design Manager for Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence Division said, “Methodical and strategic content that focuses on educating and connecting on a basic human level, not necessarily selling.” She went on to say that people want to connect on a deeper level because right now they can’t do it in person. Cathy gave some examples of how Hexagon has connected with its customer base using webinars to educate, 'Grab a Coffee with an Expert’ types of human connections.

The intent, as Cathy puts it, is to keep the conversation going and it not just be ‘sales, sales, sales’ or ‘COVID, COVID, COVID’ but to show the human side of the company. To show a layer of humility and emphasize the importance of the people behind the brand. Beyond that, she and her team spent some time focusing on how to nurture their customer base once content was published. They fine-tuned surveys and data analysis for each activity to progress the leads from marketing to the sales team.

"At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel."
Max Sommer, Head of Marketing and Communications at Anton Paar

Max Sommer, Head of Marketing and Communications at Anton Paar, expanded on this notion when he said that Anton Paar approached it’s customer base and marketing strategy with the Maya Angelou mentality, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” It’s that mentality that Anton Paar believes will propel their business forward now and in the years to come.

Navigating the immediate future

According to all six companies, collaboration across teams, and indeed across markets that may have been siloed before COVID-19, changed the way they worked. Not just for now, but for the long term.

Their new strategies required new connections and ways of working internally in order to reach those external customers. Marketing was at the centre of that, not only taking on the traditional “sales and marketing” activity, but a quasi-HR function that brought the companies closer together to better serve both employees and customers.

With the future being as hard as ever to predict, one thing is for sure: staying nibble and adaptive will be critical to success. As Richardson said, “when traditional industries were affected we decided to focus on the ones that are emerging” - it’s these tactical shifts in strategy that will keep marketing leaders on their toes, not only adapting to new industry shifts but also re-evaluating the traditional marketing mix.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash