In many manufacturing companies, logistical and operational changes are happening more frequently than ever before. Timely communication with customers and prospects around logistical changes is critical. At the same time, with canceled trade shows and sales reps operating virtually, marketers must balance urgent communications with extracting more value than ever from their websites and digital marketing. 

I’ve been working as a manufacturing and industrial marketing consultant for over 14 years. Through that time, I’ve supported small, overstretched marketing teams and have helped them prioritize their efforts within tight budgets and downturns, as they continue their path toward digital transformation and greater ROI from their marketing efforts.

The COVID-19 disruption creates a unique opportunity for sales-driven organizations to strengthen relationships with customers and gain greater online visibility. Because time and budgets are limited, this is an effort that must start small and build incrementally. 

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Here’s what you can do today, and plan to begin implementing over the near term: 

Clearly communicate changes to your customers and prospects. 

Craft external messages about any logistical or operational changes in terms of how they impact your customers. Be succinct, confident, and reassuring. 

What’s changed? Have hours changed, or are there changes to the way you’ll interact with customers at specific locations? 

What’s stayed the same? As an essential business, many manufacturers are continuing to support their customers without interruption — make this clear to them and reassure them they can count on you during this time.  

TIP: Are you considering reopening as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease? Check out our Marketing Guide for Businesses Reopening After Coronavirus.

Implementation steps: 

  • Put an alert bar or notice on your website, ideally at the top of the page, and link to another page for more details. Be careful not to hide the primary message of who you are and what you do. 
  • Email important updates to your entire list of customers and prospects. If you don’t have a way to mass email your list, now is a good time to pull together that list and start using a set of online marketing tools like Constant Contact’s to get your message out quickly. 
  • Sales reps should call customers individually, and follow up via email if they can’t connect. Now isn’t the time for a hard sales pitch, but rather a check-in to see how they’re doing as individuals, how their business is adapting, and find out if there’s any way that you can help. 
  • If hours have changed or any locations have closed temporarily, update your Google My Business profile accordingly. 

Stay in touch and offer helpful information

Sales reps should continue to reach out frequently as the situation changes, staying top of mind with customers but always leading with human connection and helpfulness, not sales pitches. Don’t shy away from closing deals of course, but focus on relationships and pipeline.

Use your email list to communicate with your customers and prospects frequently, with any important updates or helpful information. An ideal email frequency is every two weeks, but only do this if you have new updates or helpful information to share. Once a month is a good cadence to reassure prospects that you’re still there for them or share a helpful customer success story. 

Pivot marketing messaging 

Review any ongoing email, digital, or social media marketing campaigns. What may have been relevant before COVID-19 may now seem overly commercialized, too long-term, or otherwise irrelevant based on today’s situation? Pause irrelevant campaigns immediately. Quickly pivot your messaging to show empathy, grit, and your ability to help people in challenging and uncertain times. 

Inventory aging websites

With trade shows postponed and sales reps out of the field, your website becomes even more important and visible. You may not have the budget for a website redesign at this moment, nor would you want to wait several months for progress.

Start inventorying what’s working and what’s not. Prioritize improvements based on the biggest problems and opportunities and start making gradual improvements over time. When in doubt, fix the homepage first (it should clearly say what you do and who you help), and the contact page (make sure it’s uncluttered and doesn’t get in the way of your best prospects contacting you).

Overall, be there to help your customers and build relationships

While deals may be smaller in size and slower to close in the current environment, now is the time to build relationships that will flourish after we get through the downturn. The effort you spend now can help position you to be top of mind when uncertainty eases and budgets open back up.

The team at Constant Contact is here to help. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the customer support team, engage on social media, or chat with fellow small business owners on the Constant Contact Community who are also learning to adapt.

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