Whether you are serving a growing industry, or helping your clients in a niche that might be struggling, you will need to potentially adjust how you manage clients, the recommendations you give, and what you talk about to get them to commit to marketing in uncertain times.
Here are a variety of strategies you should employ to get more clients, keep the right clients going, and ultimately grow your hands-off agency during tough times.
1. Give Leadership
Virus or no virus, economic declines are driven by fear. And fear is a powerful emotion. Fear in and of itself can create a path of decline where someone expects the future to be worse, so they cut back spending and advertising. As a result, they get fewer customers and as a result their business suffers.
In uncertain times people are more fearful. These actions driven by fear can make things worse and create even more intense fear, which leads to further actions that make the economy worse. It can often seem irrational and it probably is. You will hear government leaders and officials talk about ‘restoring confidence’ in the economy. It’s a hopeful idea, but just like you can’t just ask someone to love you, you can’t just ask people to not have fear and restore confidence.
Ultimately if you want a client to spend money with you they need confidence in what you can do for them.
Have you ever noticed when you get off a plane that you unconsciously follow the crowd through the airport to security checks or your luggage? Just like animals unconsciously move in a herd, people do the same when it comes to the economy. They don’t know what to do so they look for a group to follow because that feels safe. Unfortunately when it comes to the economy, the herd typically makes the wrong decisions over the long term.
People can both ‘herd’ and follow the crowd and also do independent thinking. Smart business owners are no different – for some things they will be making informed careful decisions and for others they will just unconsciously rely on following the crowd. This is the same reason why more of the general public tends to be buying stocks just before crashes. Remember how every kid was a crypto currency expert before bitcoin crashed hard in 2018?
Ultimately the average business owner is a bit lost in this situation. Most are stressed with the crisis and overwhelmed with information. When it comes to their digital marketing they need someone to guide them.
They actually have a desire to have someone help them navigate something which they don’t have the time to fully understand on their own. They want to put their trust into someone to make the right advertising decisions, and while they may be understandably skeptical, if you can give them that leadership and build that trust during crisis times you end up with a very loyal client.
Many businesses cut ad spending in a crisis due to a feeling of uncertainty. Not because they have clear metrics telling them to do so. They stop spending as it feels safer than dealing with the uncertainty, but they will keep spending if you can give them leadership.
You might be wondering yourself what advice & leadership you can give. Our AmpiFire users are already trained with a lot of useful insights such as providing what we call ‘snapshot reports’ of their marketing plan. They can give their clients some easy to digest and simple direction, and I will also give you some key tips right here. The important point to take home here is that you should be presenting a path to your clients that will take them to a better place.
Ultimately people want good news and they want hope. If you have a solution, present it to them.
The first step to giving good leadership is to listen. Talk to business owners and ask questions. Stop selling, ask questions and shut up and listen. Most will open up to share the problems they are facing, what types of clients are making them the most money, what their options are during lockdowns, and other useful insights.
This not only gives you more to talk about, but also gives you an understanding of the pains you can help solve for them. Not to mention that it helps to build up your knowledge on their industry. As someone on the outside who can see the forest for the trees, after speaking with 5 business owners you will already have useful things to share and talk about if you’ve been genuinely curious.
3. Acknowledge the Situation
Trying to pitch a business during a crisis without acknowledging the crisis is an odd thing to do. It would feel weird.
One of the first things I do is ask the business owner how they are doing during the crisis, and how it’s affected them. They usually have a lot to say whether it’s good or bad. You’ll quickly see patterns for what is happening in an industry and you can point them out.
For example, when speaking with Dentists during the lockdown the first thing I say is something like…
‘As you know things are tough right now and this lockdown is making things very difficult for you. What’s important is making the right decisions to get through the crisis as best we can, and put ourselves in a leading position coming out of it’
For a business that is growing, like an eCommerce store for home fitness equipment I would say something a bit different…
‘The crisis has created some challenges for eCom stores, but as you know sales are up. This has created a great opportunity for you, but also a challenge. There’s a limited window to further establish your brand and online presence and move ahead of competition while you can. The customers you win now can be your best return on investment in the long term, but it’s important to act quickly’
4. Raise Leading questions about the future
Overall business owners will be feeling uncertain and skeptical and they will have become a bit irrational by the stress of it all. They will want to stop spending to be safe, but as a leader you need to help them be brave to spend money on things that can still get them a return.
But you can ask them leading questions which will bring them back to common sense…
- Do you think there will still be demand for [dentists] when the crisis is over?
- During the crisis what ways can you still make money and keep the doors open?
- Who are your best and most profitable clients during a crisis? What if we could get more of those?
- Historically crises are short and when it passes what position would you like your business to be in?
Questions like this will give you great information while also allowing them to sell themselves.
5. Focus On the Opportunities & Make a Plan
Those leading questions reveal opportunities or areas which you can focus on. For example, during the lockdown many dentists are still providing emergency services, but are completely invisible online for such treatments… that is an area where you can help them.
Another example is helping to advertise their delivery services or pandemic sanitation measures. Remember in the digital marketing space someone else like AmpiFire can be doing the fulfilment work, so you are more focused on finding and pointing out the opportunities.
Present these opportunities in a plan so they can see where they lack visibility or customers, what you can do to get more of them, and how many new clients they would need from this to make a profit.
6. Use The Crisis to Grab Attention
As soon as the outbreak hit the U.S we started reaching out to businesses we’d never worked with before and offering to get the word out about how they are dealing with the lockdown.
This very timely and specific outreach got their attention as it is what was on their mind. This is a truly unique situation where every business owner has the same problem and you can immediately hit the topic that is on their mind and get their attention.
7. Build Relationships While Business Owners Are More Receptive
Additionally many business owners have had a bit more free time as they are working from home under quarantine, so we were able to reach many more business owners that were otherwise too busy.
With digital marketing one client can easily be worth over $10,000 per year in profits for you while someone else is doing the marketing fulfillment for you, and you are paid as a middle man who connects it all together. So by stacking these relationships with businesses owners it can lead you to make a lot of money in the long run.
They Need You Now More Than Ever
Point out to business owners that the internet is more important than ever for their business. Social distancing could be around for a long time, and on top of that many people will have become accustomed to finding businesses online. The pandemic has accelerated our usage of the internet and those habits will hang around.
8. Be Persistent And Consistent
This is key. As the world makes more sense of this situation, you’ll find that business owner’s minds might be a little scattered all over the place.
The key is for you to keep yourself at the top of their minds so when they turn to digital marketing to make up for losses, you’ll be the first person they contact. This is just the normal reality of getting clients, and it’s no different during a crisis.
Don’t take rejection lying down
You’ll find that some business owners might say no upfront or be very skeptical. The crisis might even make them a lot more resistant due to the stress they are under. But being persistent pays, the more you can talk and engage with someone the more you can learn about them, the more you can figure out how to help them, and the more they will trust you as they get to know you. Even if you are just chatting over email.
9. Care about them more than the money.
This is very important. These events will create a space where people will look for trustworthy people to spend their money with. If you genuinely show that you are interested in the well being of the prospect and their goals, you’ll have a better chance at closing them.
LISTEN to what they are saying. Address their fears, concerns and problems and position what you’re offering as the vehicle to help them get through the difficult time ahead. If you can’t figure out a strategy for them that will give them a profit then that’s okay, offer to stay in touch and move on.
You may also want to consider offering discount or reduced services for businesses that are really struggling. You might offer lockdown discounts and sell your services really cheap to help them through the tough time.
You could do this by giving them a set period of discounts such as 3 months, or simply while the lockdown remains in place. You ensure they understand you are doing this to help them through a tough time, and once business is back to normal prices automatically go back to normal too. Getting them to agree to that upfront so you can increase your billing automatically will save you having to re-sell the price rise in future.
10. Bring It All Together
Ultimately for a digital agency selling a marketing service online, and having another company fulfil the work, the overall business does not change all that much.
If you already have a digital agency you have it pretty good in comparison to many other businesses that are suffering. You are in a growing industry, can pivot to sell into the industries that are stable or growing during the crisis, and only need to make small adjustments to your sales material and how you speak with clients.
You will likely lose some clients who have been hit hardest and may have to reduce fees for some other clients. While at the same time others will see an opportunity to increase spending. You can win new clients by reaching out or advertising in different ways like we’ve discussed and ride the wave of growth of some of the emerging winners of the crisis.
If you wanted to start a digital agency now is a great time to do it, and remember, for every business you help, you are in turn doing your bit to help the economy.