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During COVID-19, Remote Customer Management is More Important Than Ever

How to Effectively Manage Customer Relationships Remotely with the Right Marketing Services

In-person customer interactions are a pretty major component of most business operations, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to rely heavily on remote customer management.

Social distancing parameters have had different implications for different businesses depending on the industry in which they operate, and technology is playing a leading role in almost every scenario.

eCommerce, teleconferencing, and other digital communications like email and chat are helping businesses maintain customer connections and continue offering consultations or products and services.

Maintaining business continuity has been a top priority during COVID-19, and as we’ve all struggled to get our footing in a world of social distancing, establishing this continuity through basic online interactions and communications has been sufficient.

But now that we’ve moved into the third month of the pandemic and many businesses are continuing to follow social distancing guidelines, we want to discuss a second component to remote customer management that goes beyond direct interactions.

Tracking Customer Behavior and Digital Performance to Provide Better Remote Service

To ensure your business continues to respond to and service your customers effectively, monitoring and tracking specific metrics is critical.

In a non-pandemic world, this type of data helps inform the best ways for your business to communicate and interact with your customers. And ideally, you’re already tracking some if not all of this information.

But during social distancing, these metrics not only become even more important, but can be leveraged in different ways to help your business improve customer relationships when there aren’t any in-person interactions to fall back on.

The bonus is that once things return to some semblance of normally, you’ll be in the driver’s seat for continued success.

How’s Your Website Doing?

Not every company’s website was poised and ready to take on pandemic-level traffic and demand.

B2B technology companies have experienced an influx of help desk tickets and customer service requests as businesses grapple with implementing remote technologies for their employees and customers.

Other companies have had to quickly implement eCommerce capabilities to keep products moving.

And still others have scrambled to add chat features and update website information to keep customers informed during this time.

With those specific adjustments made to accommodate this world of social distancing, what’s next? We recommend paying attention to how your website is performing so you can better respond and better serve your customers – not just now, but in the future.

You should be tracking:

  • How your customers are arriving at your site. Was it through search, from another site, from an ad, or from your social media platform? When you know how people found you, you can more easily capitalize on that information to drive more traffic.
  • What content your customers are engaging with. Once they get to your website, what pages are they viewing and for how long? What content are they clicking on? When you know what content is most interesting to your customers, you can amplify it and help drive their journey through your site.
  • Specific calls-to-action your customers are taking. If your customers download content, fill out a contact form, or make a purchase, you can track their path to making those decisions, and leverage the information they have now provided you to better serve them going forward.

When it comes to remote customer management, the more you can improve your customers’ experience and be present, the more they will engage with you and establish a brand connection that will continue past the pandemic.

And it’s not just about net new customers. Customers who already know you and have engaged with you before will expect your online experience to be an equal representation of the experience you would provide in person.

COVID-19 Equals Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

We’ve discussed previously that brands shouldn’t “go dark” during the pandemic, but rather find ways to communicate with their customers that show empathy and a pivot toward helpful, educational intentions.

Email correspondence is a great way to retain communications with your customers without overwhelming them, and if you send a newsletter or monthly email, track their engagement with your content to better understand what messages are resonating (or not).

You should be tracking:

  • Open rates. How many emails were opened? Who opened them? If you have a low open rate, be aware of whether it’s associated with a specific type of content and make adjustments to increase opens with your next send.
  • Click-through rate. Did recipients click on your email’s call-to-action to view content, visit your site, or initiate a download? If so, you can now use that information to track their behavior and follow up with a relevant communication to keep them engaged.

Your content shouldn’t be focused on your brand or making a sale, but on your customers. Educational information or purchase discounts can go a long way during this time, and the more you know about your customers and their behavior, the more accurately you can serve them up content that they’ll appreciate right now.

Social Distancing Has Created a Social Media Boom

People are home, and whether they’re working remotely or simply weathering the pandemic until they can return to work, social media has offered a sizable escape.

If your company is already active on social, COVID-19 has presented a perfect opportunity to engage with your followers, whether by providing customer-centric updates about your business (hours, eCommerce opportunities, product sales, etc.), adding some levity with memes, or providing educational content.

During COVID-19, tracking engagement is useful to understand how your social media content is resonating with your audience. Respond to comments, offer helpful information, and engage with new followers. Steps you take now will pay dividends in the long run.

Technology is obviously a huge player in everyone’s ability to manage the pandemic, but companies should remember that phone calls can go a long way too. As we all find ourselves Face Timing and having phone conversations with our friends and family in lieu of just texting, businesses can capitalize on the same methods.

When in-person interactions aren’t possible, making your business available to your customers via phone can go a long way in reinforcing their loyalty and demonstrating company’s empathy and awareness during this time.

Plus, given the much more personalized nature of a phone call, your company is poised to establish more meaningful relationships with your customers this way, which will only elevate your customer service post-pandemic.

Fishnet Media works with companies in diverse industries to track user behaviors, digital performance metrics, and other online activities to ensure they are reaching their customers in the right ways.

During COVID-19, we have taken specific steps to help our clients maintain these customer relationships remotely, and position them for greater success after the pandemic.

If you would like to implement stronger remote customer management tools and tactics, contact us today.

Working From Home During COVID-19: How the Pandemic is Reshaping Business Functions

What Does the Current Remote Working Environment Mean for the Future of Work?

While remote work positions are nothing new, the widespread necessity of working from home during COVID-19 is a first for many companies.

The sudden shift from office to home required a lot of last-minute adjustments so businesses could enable their employees to work remotely. These adjustments became especially cumbersome for companies with multiple office locations and large numbers of employees. Files stored on company servers had to be made available to everyone from their homes through VPNs. Internal and client meetings moved to virtual conferencing apps like Zoom and GoToMeeting. And many company leaders found themselves rethinking daily workflows and processes to ensure minimal interruptions to business and their employees’ ability to accomplish tasks.

Nearly two months have passed since remote working began for companies that were able to make the transition. Much of those adjustments have been ironed out and many work-from-home employees have settled into a “new normal” – albeit a challenging one as school closures, social distancing, and a highly uncertain economy further complicate life in general. 

We understand that everyone’s work situation during COVID-19 is vastly different; before the pandemic, only 29% of Americans were able to work from home. But with this very sudden onset of the world’s largest work-from-home experiment (dubbed as such by Time), it begs the question – how could it change the future of work?

Paying Off a Trend Toward Working Remotely in a Way No One Expected

Before COVID-19 hit, many companies had instituted work-from-home policies and found success in doing so. Dell, for example, was already aiming to have 50% of its workforce working remotely by 2020, citing a desire to show their employees that leadership encouraged flexibility and trusted them to be organized and meet their daily professional priorities.

Many employees say they are more productive when they work from home – in fact, a survey by Airtasker found that remote workers actually work more than three additional weeks per year, are distracted for less time during the day, and are interrupted less frequently during the day than their office counterparts.

In 2019, Forbes called remote working “the new normal”, asserting that the advances in technology coupled with changing employee expectations were pushing many workplace positions in a remote-work direction. 

Then, COVID-19 hit and pushed thousands of companies around the world into a work-from-home scenario that only some were prepared for. 

And despite the fact that there was already a trend toward working from home,  the widespread necessity during COVID-19 has set off a firestorm of polarized speculation – will workers want to come back to the office once the restrictions are lifted? Will companies that experience success with remote working rethink how their business operates? Will employees begin demanding more work-from-home options? 

Of course, we don’t know. But what is clear is that working from home during this period of social distancing is likely to have a fundamental impact on the future of work. Here are a few outcomes that may occur:

  1. Companies that made specific investments to make working from home more possible, comfortable, and accommodating for employees (such as purchasing standing desks or updating their VPN for widespread remote access) may institute more flexible work from home options in the future to capitalize on those initial efforts.
  2. Companies that successfully managed a remote work environment during COVID-19 will likely view working from home as more doable than they may have before the pandemic hit.
  3. Employees who were new to working from home during COVID-19 may discover benefits such as greater productivity and flexibility that influence their preferences for at-home work environments.
  4. Employees working from home during COVID-19 may find it lonely or tedious given the length of the quarantine, or simply not feasible for the type of work they do or their at-home setting.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have made the transition to remote working happen a lot sooner than the more gradual progression being predicted, but how companies across the country will react once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted remains to be seen. 

Easing the Transition Back to the Workplace Post-COVID-19

A big part of the transition back to an office setting once restrictions for social distancing are lifted will be whether employees feel safe after so many weeks of living through the pandemic. It is up to companies to help their employees feel like they can go back to work without exposing themselves to any health risks related to the COVID-19 virus. 

There are a few key steps companies can take to make the workplace safe and welcoming after a return to work:

  • Ensure the workplace has been recently cleaned and is ready for employees to safely return
  • Provide employees with masks, cleaning solutions, and hand sanitizer to allow them to maintain control over their workspaces and personal health.
  • Make adjustments to the office layout to ensure employees can maintain at least 6 feet between each other.
  • Stagger any work-related activities that would normally require numerous people to be together in one room, such as large company meetings.
  • Ensure your office space has effective air circulation, especially if windows cannot be opened to due weather or the office itself.
  • Before reopening the office to employees, communicate frequently with them about plans to return to work and the office setting to ensure you answer their questions and instill confidence in the office atmosphere.
  • Be understanding of employees who may not feel comfortable with returning to work, or may not be ready. Some larger companies should consider staggering employee returns so the office isn’t completely full at any point for a certain amount of time.
  • Be mindful of employee health – encourage anyone with health concerns that begin after returning to work to immediately remain home.

What Working From Home During COVID-19 Has Taught Us

If your company is one that was able to transition to a remote working environment to weather the COVID-19 storm, you’ve likely faced challenges whether you were already allowing employees to work from home. 

One thing every company has learned during this time is that allowing employees to work from home is vastly different from having to transition your entire business to a remote setup. 

We also know that the transition back to the office once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted will present its own challenges.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has also reinforced the importance of working together – we’ve seen this outcome everywhere, from live television shows that have moved to virtual mash-ups, to the heightened use of conferencing apps and video chats among friends and family. 

With personal relationships and within work environments, social distancing has arguably led to a greater focus on communication and collaboration simply because those things take a bit more effort these days – and we hope to see these outcomes continue post-COVID-19.

Don’t Panic! Marketing During COVID-19 is an Opportunity to Slow Down

Focusing on Being Strategic and Purposeful in the Middle of a Pandemic

 

 

At a time when toilet paper and hand sanitizer are flying off shelves (if they were even there to begin with), it’s only natural to feel a sense of urgency. And B2B and B2C marketing during COVID-19 is no exception – marketers are scrambling to keep business flowing as our way of life shifts almost completely to online interactions.

We’re here to offer a bit of what we hope is reassuring advice: instead of feeling panicked, look upon this time as an opportunity to slow down and focus on strategic marketing tactics that will keep your business moving rather than at a deer-in-headlights-style standstill.

Seize the Quarantine

There is some benefit to essentially being forced to reevaluate your marketing strategy to adjust to a new normal. It’s something most marketers have never done except of their own volition, and even then, decisions and actions have been based on a known way of life that includes in-person interactions.

The principals of strategic marketing during COVID-19 remain the same as before: reach your audience in the right way at the right time.

What has changed is the way you go about administering that strategic marketing. How can you accomplish your marketing goals but do it in a way that works in a COVID-19 world?

Sticking to a Strategic Marketing Mindset for B2C Marketing

Once the spread of COVID-19 made it clear that “business as usual” would be anything but usual, companies had two options: completely turn off marketing efforts to avoid sending the wrong message during a challenging time, or, adapt.

Walmart chose to adapt. They quickly released a television ad celebrating the “retail heroes” responsible for keeping things moving during the pandemic. It was poignant, well-timed, and smart – able to promote their business in a subtle way (we’re here for you) while tugging the heartstrings of retail employees and consumers alike.

Of course, strategy has always been part of marketing. COVID-19 has simply forced B2B and B2C marketers to be strategic in a different kind of way.

In a world that is inundated with advertising and brand messaging, we would argue that going dark during this time is, quite simply, a bad marketing strategy.

In March, global communications company Edelman conducted an international survey to measure brand trust during a pandemic.

Overall, respondents felt brands were integral to addressing major challenges of the pandemic, like employee protection, product availability and pricing, and fostering a sense of community. The survey found that 55% of the 12,000 respondents believed brands to be responding better to the pandemic than their governments.

The most telling takeaway was the 71% of respondents who said they would break ties with any brand perceived as putting profits before people. This is a salient point for all marketers during this time – one that has been likened to walking a tightrope.

What B2C Marketers Can do for Customers During COVID-19

Your business can be on the right side of the tightrope by remaining strategic and thoughtful in your marketing during COVID-19. Your marketing won’t look the same, but it will go further with your audience and maintain the brand loyalty you fought hard to establish in the first place.

Here are some broad tactics to follow when developing your marketing strategy as the pandemic continues:

  • Review existing marketing plans. If you already have emails and ads in your marketing mix that were created before COVID-19 and may send a tone-deaf message now, shut them down and begin reevaluating new content that is sympathetic and helpful given today’s circumstances. Or, consider pausing emails and pivoting advertising dollars to other marketing efforts that would be more impactful.
  • Provide freebies, discounts, or deals. Now is not a time to be selfish – in fact, with so many consumers struggling to make ends meet in the face of layoffs or drastically-altered work situations, necessary products and services at a reduced or at no cost will go a long way.
  • Focus on community awareness. Brands should take this opportunity to use marketing for community education about the pandemic and advice for staying healthy. Demonstrating that you care and aren’t tone-deaf to this very real global crisis is not only reassuring to your customers but helpful for maintaining loyalty.
  • Join the fight to flatten the curve. If your company has the ability, dedicate some portion of your business toward fighting the spread of COVID-19 or provide consumers with needed resources.

These approaches are different from your normal marketing strategies, and you can certainly continue marketing as long as it is considerate of the current global landscape and your customers’ individual needs.

The “New Normal” of B2B Marketing During COVID-19

For B2B companies, the pandemic is having a different impact on marketing decisions, largely driven by the shift in B2B buyer behaviors as many businesses have been forced to rethink their budgets and spending in light of the economy’s recessive activity.

Some companies, such as technology and software manufacturers or providers, are buying because of the boom in remote work and society’s sudden overwhelming reliance on digital communications. The pandemic has also bolstered business at healthcare and pharmaceutical companies as demands for these products and services has skyrocketed.

Other companies selling less essential products or services, however, are more focused on simply weathering the storm. COVID-19 has forced many B2B buyers to cut spending and trim budgets in deference to preventing layoffs and financial losses or simply avoiding having to shutter their business.

What B2B Marketers Can Do for Buyers During COVID-19

As B2B buyer behaviors shift during this time, B2B marketers must also make adjustments to remain valuable and understanding of customer needs.

Here are some tactics for B2B marketers during COVID-19:

  • Audit your current marketing. Market research since the spread of COVID-19 began shows that many keyword searches in the B2B sector are down significantly as buyers shift their behavior. It may no longer make sense to spend on advertising – to ensure your marketing tactics are sympathetic to today’s environment, review your ads and content to promote value over sales.
  • Produce educational content in deference to marketing products and services. If your buyers aren’t buying, they will likely still be researching solutions and taking advantage of industry resources to bolster business any way they can during the pandemic. By providing thought leadership content like webinars, eBooks, or whitepapers, you can provide educational value at a time when it’s needed most.
  • Reevaluate email communications. Many B2B companies have regular, automated email communications that during COVID-19 will either get lost in someone’s inbox or viewed as inappropriate depending on the context. Now is a good time for B2B marketers to shift email communications to value-add material over products and services and leverage educational or community-focused content that will resonate better with buyers.

Strategic Marketing During COVID-19 Isn’t Just for COVID-19

The marketing strategies you enact during COVID-19 will set the tone for your company’s success in the long run. This isn’t just a temporary solution, but a chance to rethink your marketing strategy in a way that will benefit your business in the future when things have become more normalized.

Long-term thinking will not only prevent you from making bad marketing decisions during the pandemic but will help shape your marketing going forward.

And long-term thinking never harmed a business.

If you’d like help developing strategies for your B2B marketing during COVID-19 that will pay dividends into the future, contact us today.

There’s No Better Time: Strengthening Your Digital Marketing Strategy During COVID-19

Digital Marketing Tools and Solutions to Keep Your Business Moving During the COVID-19 Crisis

The fast-moving trajectory of the Coronavirus throughout the world is having a significant and continuing impact on businesses, forcing many to strengthen their digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. 

Since the spread of the virus began, we at Fishnet have had a unique perspective on the implications for any businesses’ digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. Most noticeably is how the virus has shifted consumer perceptions, behaviors, and habits, putting far more at stake for businesses than just a change to working remotely. 

Depending on your industry (because there are winners and losers of the Coronavirus outbreak) there can be significant impacts. 

When consumers change their focus – and especially when there is a fear component at play – web traffic, leads, and sales can go down. Ads can become less effective as people reserve their time and money for things deemed more pressing. Strategic content may attract fewer eyeballs as people invest their attention in other areas. 

Another more abrupt implication of the COVID-19 crisis has been the cancellation of trade shows, conferences, and festivals large and small worldwide. While many organizers were able to convert their planned event into a digital experience, such as holding panels, presentations, breakout sessions, and discussion forums online, many were simply not set up for that type of functionality, and millions in anticipated revenue were never realized. 

But Don’t Despair – There is a Solution!

The COVID-19 ripple effect will be felt whether you’re a B2B, B2C or DTC company; however, whether your topmost concern is event coordination, keeping your audience engaged, or just generally keeping your business afloat – or all three – a big part of the solution is your digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. 

And we’re not just talking about advertising and content optimization. When the opportunity to be face-to-face with your team, your customers, or your prospects is no longer possible, digital tools and solutions can be excellent stand-ins for all kinds of in-person activities and business functions. 

Your company also likely has extra budget from travel plans or events that have since been canceled, and now is the perfect time to reallocate those monies toward digital efforts that can salvage some of those interactions rather than yield zero activity or results. 

Start with Internal and External Digital Collaboration 

By now, your company is likely into its second or even third week of remote working. 

If you’re not yet leveraging a remote collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom for internal or external meetings, you should be. The first thing you should do is get your company set up for virtual workflows.

But you can’t stop there. Weathering the COVID-19 crisis from a business perspective is about more than remote meeting tools. Your audience is still out there, and the question now has become: how can you continue reaching them with the right message during this very different time?

Digital Solutions That May Not be on Your Radar – But Should Be

Now that reality has set in that no live gatherings, happy hours, in-person networking events, or business meetings can be held in the near future, it’s time to consider your options to keep the lights on for you, your audience, and your prospective customers and clients.

To get people together, even when you can’t physically be in the same place, marketers are turning to live or recorded online options to make it happen. 

  • Stay Face-to-Face with Video: Bring live or pre-recorded video events to your audience. Video is a quick, easy way to engage your customers, answer their questions, have topical discussions, and book meetings. And with social distancing essentially eliminating real-life interactions, video is a welcome, personalized way to maintain and grow relationships with your audience. 
  • Deliver Product Experiences: If your company was planning to reveal or show off a new product at an upcoming event, digital tools can help you provide your audience with a virtual look at the product or a live demonstration.
  • Live Stream Anything: There’s a multitude of tools out there that enable your company to live stream any kind of content, whether it’s an exercise class or a tutorial. Social media platforms like Facebook Live or YouTube Live are great options, or you can leverage video apps like Zoom.
  • Make it a Webinar, Podcast, or Audiobook: These aren’t new concepts but they can be lifesavers right now when it comes to delivering content to your audience digitally. Consider what type of information you’d like to share and how to best disseminate it in one of these ways. Take your customers through a multi-step guide to using a product or solving a problem you know they have.

In addition to live or recorded online interactions, there are additional ways to leverage digital tactics, and if you’re not updating or taking advantage of these yet, now is the time to do so. 

  • Social Media: Your customers will primarily turn to your social channels to communicate with you and check for updates and timely information, such as a change in your hours or the date and time of your next webinar. Make sure your business is accessible and responsive. Update your social pages, post any relevant news, and maintain quick response times.
  • Website: Your customers will also visit your website to check for updates or reach out. Make sure your website is accessible, contains updated information, and has visible links to your social pages so users can get everything they need from you without having to dig.
  • Blog/Content: If your company has a blog or news page, or both, keep them updated! Depending on your industry, there may be a decent amount of relevant information worth sharing during the COVID-19 crisis. Share these updates on your social pages as well to increase visibility.
  • Email Newsletters: Does your company have a database of email subscribers? Leverage that list to begin communicating regularly with news and updates your customers will care about. If you haven’t launched an email effort yet, this is a great time to get started with an email client and get your company into your customers’ inboxes. Go one step further and leverage a CMS platform like Salesforce to manage your database.
  • E-Commerce Channels: Many businesses in the retail industry have had to shut their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, making it almost mandatory to continue sales opportunities for customers online – the alternative is far less desirable. Activating an e-commerce platform is completely doable in a short amount of time, and can be very successful with additional tactics like website push notifications to give your subscribers a clear understanding of what they get when they click. E-commerce and push notifications aren’t just for retail either – any industry looking to increase product marketing online can leverage this tactic.
  • SEO and Advertising Tactics: Now more than ever you’ll want to attract your target audience to your website and content. Luckily, most people are spending more time online and in front of their televisions right now – Neilson reports a 60% increase in content being watched online and on TV simply because people are staying home. What a perfect time to reach your audience through search or targeted advertising.

Implementing these tactics can be a game-changer for your business and digital marketing strategy during COVID-19, and making it happen is as easy as partnering with a digital marketing agency. 

However, before launching these digital marketing tactics, make sure you’ve gotten a handle on the thing that’s going to drive audience engagement in the first place – your audience. 

Now, More Than Ever, You Need to Understand Your Audience

In order to deliver digital content your audience will want to engage with, your company has to have an understanding of what will resonate with them. What are they doing online? What are their pain points? Have they interacted with your website before, and if so, in what way? 

The more purposeful you can be in your digital content production, the better the results will be from enhancing your digital efforts. With every company looking for ways to captivate at-home audiences in this distracting and stressful time, you’ll get the best outcome from understanding your audience first. 

And while it might seem like the COVID-19 crisis is dominating every piece of content we come in contact with, you can still connect with your audience. The pandemic is simply changing the way we engage with each other and do business.

Hopefully, in not too much time, the Coronavirus will pass and we’ll all be able to reclaim the normalcy in our lives again. Until that happens, we all need to make adjustments to deal with the challenges to business operations in all areas. 

Because we are a digital marketing agency, we not only have extensive experience with a wide repertoire of the digital technology tools and solutions that can help your business successfully leverage your digital channels, but we’re ready to do so. Whether it’s because of a pandemic or because of a need to generally reposition your business, we’re able to jump in and help optimize your operations – no matter the industry you’re in.

And none of these digital tactics become irrelevant during normal business operations. Implementing them now will only mean you’ll be in a better position from a digital standpoint after this COVID-19 crisis passes. 

Contact us today to discuss what could help your business during this time, and beyond.