By Alex Jackson, Arc Reactions Growth Manager
We all know chaos. Chaos is the monster of the unknown that strikes quickly and suddenly, without remorse or recourse. So, that begs the question, as a digital marketing agency, how do you pivot the course during chaotic and unprecedented times?
“When life gives you lemons, work with your neighbor to make a lemonade stand.”
Incorporate the human element
Humans share a desire for consistency, predictability and normalcy. When we lose these things in our routine, our brain enters a heightened state of awareness. As global circumstances continue to unfold, we are being stripped of any sense of normalcy we knew. We have all struggled in one way or another, and now we seek a new form of regularity.
As an agency, you have felt the hit. Some clients will or already have dumped you, for various reasons, mostly related to cost and a lack of revenue on their end. Organizations everywhere, from the mom and-pop shops to the Fortune 500s, have felt the blow over the past 4 months. So, what comes next?
It’s time to be the voice of reason and direction for your clients. Now more than ever, they need stability from somewhere. You can provide that by drawing on your knowledge and expertise to help them create an actionable marketing strategy that meets their needs and helps them to communicate the current state of affairs within their organizations, while simultaneously developing a game plan for the remainder of the year.
3 ways to build strong client relationships during unprecedented times
1. Have real conversations with video calls
We live in a text, tweet and instant notification world. Capitalize on this pause in the hustle and bustle of life to call your clients. Human connection is desperately missed by everyone right now. Make the interaction personal and unique. If video calling is a part of your repertoire, even better. Do not be afraid to let people “into” your lives via a video call. It will only contribute to the authenticity and productivity of your conversations and help you build great relationships with your clients.
"It’s time to be the voice of reason and direction for your clients. Now more than ever, they need stability from somewhere."
2. Lead with empathy, listen first, share second
In times of prosperity, it is easy to become complacent in our interactions with clients, allowing them to become transactional. As the global community is forced to shift and adapt at a painful and costly speed, it is vital that we remember to be human first. Schedule a call with your clients to discuss how things are going beyond work. Ask questions and develop a personal relationship with every client still on the books. If they haven’t dumped you as an agency, you need to acknowledge and recognize they see value in your relationship—build on that.
Empathy is not a one-way street. Share your concerns and challenges (within reason) with clients. They will appreciate the authenticity. Offer suggestions, solutions and stories of how you have adapted and are overcoming the current circumstances. Offering up your own struggles in these times will help people connect and empathize with you as well.
3. Give it away for free if you can afford to
The concept of giving away your services for free can be daunting and potentially downright insulting, but—never has there been more economic uncertainty than now. Decision-makers in all levels of businesses are responding to these tumultuous times in full-crisis mode.
Your current clients who operate in industries that have been hit the hardest, but who are positioned to survive, deserve special attention. These companies, whether present or prospective clients, could benefit from a simple token of support (for example: monthly social media management services). This, of course, is a scaled version of your paid service offering and is a limited time offer, potentially 3-6 months while we all weather the economic storm.
"Empathy is not a one-way street. Share your concerns and challenges (within reason) with clients. They will appreciate the authenticity."
How to clean house and restructure your agency during a period of uncertainty
Growth and times of prosperity create a lot of fantastic opportunities in our lives. As an agency, it becomes easier to let bad practices slide, not address internal processes and place less value on a “lean” mindset. Times of challenge and adversity create an opportunity to re-evaluate everything you offer and how you accomplish it.
1. Start with an honest evaluation of self and purpose
Everyone, everywhere is struggling in the face of uncertainty right now, and this is no secret. As the leader of your organization, your team is looking to you for answers and certainty. It is hard to offer right now, but not impossible.
It starts with honesty and transparency. Starting with yourself, make sure you know your “why” and are anchored to it. Once you have anchored yourself, anchor your team. Involve them, ask them why they are part of the organization, engage them and get them to contribute to the strategy and the game plan for your business. Present ideas and ask for feedback. Build a sense of family amongst your team. Finally, communicate that purpose using the collective voice of your team, not just the CEO or Agency Director.
2. Map out every service, process and procedure your team performs
Aligning your team around a central purpose and vision is critical. The next step is to look internally and evaluate how you are executing. It is easy to lose focus in a “lean” mentality. Now, more than ever before, it is so critical to understand precisely where your business is creating waste through its inefficiencies.
Process mapping can be a time-intensive endeavor, but will help you to clearly visualize the start-to-finish for every product or service your organization offers. The benefits of process mapping also spill onto your team, enabling them to visualize the processes they engage in and offer suggestions to improve workflow and decrease waste.
3. Reduce, automate and collaborate
Automation of marketing and sales tasks is not a new concept. Maybe it hasn’t been a top priority for you in recent years—now is the time that it should be. As an agency, your clients are seeking innovative, cost-cutting solutions that yield long-term benefits and ROI. Your goals are simple, you want to stay gainfully employed and continue to create value.
"Now, more than ever before, it is so critical to understand precisely where your business is creating waste through its inefficiencies."
Identifying high-cost processes with large amounts of redundancy are opportunities to implement and demonstrate success with automation platforms. Solving a problem internally with your own marketing and sales processes is an excellent opportunity to pilot the technology for use with clients.
Finally, collaborate and conquer. Seek out a Martech SaaS provider in the realm of the business problem you are seeking to solve. Capitalize on agency partner programs that allow you to act as a product vendor and provide clients with a regular management service without taking on the technical debt and cost associated with solutions development.
4. Now is the time to focus on customer experience
COVID-19 is changing the world, and the new normal is causing shifts in consumer journeys. In these unusual times, agencies need to stay focused on their customers to maintain loyalty and trust. Businesses should track, forecast and document all the changes in customer needs and behaviors and use these insights to improve their CX strategy.
“Making customer experience a top priority is the only way for businesses to survive in the crisis.”
It is impossible to deliver an excellent customer experience without a clear understanding of your customer and the jobs they are trying to get done. If you have an ideal customer persona, you will find all the necessary information in its profile. If you don’t have one, create it. You can use the persona not only to work out or reimagine your customer experience strategy, but also to develop highly personalized marketing and sales strategies and initiatives.
5. Look at the journey from your customers’ perspective
Due to the pandemic, Internet usage has surged 50% in some parts of the world, and digital interactions are quickly replacing traditional channels. Businesses can no longer view eCommerce as a secondary channel. They need to understand how people engage with them today to deliver the experience that their customers expect.
Consider using online tools like UXPressia to build customer journey maps collaboratively and in real time. A customer journey map based on a well-thought-out and researched persona can help you understand the journey of your customers under the current circumstances. By visualizing interactions between the persona and your product or service at all stages, you can identify customer experience gaps and opportunities to act on.
Alex has a passion for inspiring and enabling change. Building on his background in Emergency Services as a Firefighter and Flight Paramedic, he utilizes service design thinking to help clients effectively go to market. Today, Alex is the Growth Manager for Arc Reactions, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They provide a full suite of traditional digital marketing solutions as well as manage and integrate innovative Martech solutions for large Western Canadian-based firms.
To learn more about Arc Reactions and the services they offer, visit their website.