As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt across the country, reviewing your business marketing plan and tracking your progress may be one of the last things on your mind. However, business and economic uncertainty is the exact reason you should be taking this time to re-evaluate your marketing approach, to help end 2020 on a high note and set up a strong 2021.

During our latest Expert Connexions discussion, mConnexions Principal Strategist Julie Holton sat down with Kim Hafley, Marketing and Recruitment Director at Foster Swift Collins & Smith law firm, along with mConnexions strategists Alexis Neumann and Katie Rexrode, to provide valuable insight and direction on how to make the most of the next six months and keep your business’s marketing efforts on track.

Kim has led the marketing team at Foster Swift law firm for more than 11 years. Before that, she was the Vice President of Marketing at Two Men and Truck’s headquarters. Since the pandemic began, she has quickly had to reprioritize and shift her marketing strategy to better support the firm with its more than 100 attorneys and multiple offices.

“We’ve all had to broaden what we do,’’ she said during the roundtable. “If you look at it from a pure traditional marketing standpoint, we have to keep branding a focus going forward while we are also reacting very quickly to change. We also had to look at the tools and technology we use. For anyone interested in marketing, you have to be just as passionate about technology and psychology as you are about marketing because the three are just interwoven so closely together.”

“You’ve really made a shift in these webinars,” Julie added. “When we think of a webinar, we think of everyone sitting back on their computer to watch. Instead, you’ve created this interactive, dynamic environment… and it wasn’t even a part of your original 2020 marketing strategy!”

How has marketing strategy and approach changed in 2020?

Since March, marketers have had to be more creative in their approach due to social distancing restrictions. With no end in sight to the pandemic, they will continue to have to think of innovative ways to network and promote their companies.

“Sales and cashflow are always going to be at the forefront of any business,’’ Alexis said. “The economy is on an unpredictable path and spending remains questionable. However, instead of focusing on the things we can’t do, what are some opportunities that we do have? Like human connection, building more brand and business loyalty, highlighting our ties to the community. What are some creative ways we can focus on other brand and business elements that will help strengthen us for when we go back to business as usual.’’

Like other businesses, Foster Swift has had to make logistical and strategic changes to navigate the pandemic. One change Kim made was adding webinars into her updated marketing plan. While the firm had hosted them in the past, they weren’t a key component of her original 2020 marketing plan. When the pandemic hit, Kim knew webinars would allow attorneys to provide key information to their clients, while also promoting the different services the firm provides.

“It goes back to the basic marketing definition – it’s about fulfilling a purchaser’s wants or needs,’’ she said. “It really gets down to knowing what the needs are right now. What do we need to do to make Foster Swift a viable productive business while also supporting the people we serve?”

More than 20 webinars later, the marketing team at Foster Swift has heard positive feedback from both their clients and attorneys, and they are planning more webinars and interactive meetings online. Kim said they also work to repurpose the content through as many outlets as possible including email and social media.

How can we create effectively build brand awareness in a time of such uncertainty?

Creating content, and repurposing it, is a great, low-budget approach for businesses of all sizes, Alexis said.

“Our thought process has to be… how can I provide the same kind of content, the same types of opportunities to my clients and customers but in a digital way?’’ she said. “You can’t be afraid to experiment with video, with live meetings, with roundtable discussions.’’

To make sure you are on the right track with planning, look into resources you may already have available to you. Allow your employees to be ambassadors for your brand. There are always people who can help and creative ways to market.

“Marketing can be really overwhelming, even in normal times,’’ Katie said. “Check out what your competitors are doing. Decide what you are comfortable with and aim for the low-hanging fruit and that’s going to help you overcome fatigue and feeling overwhelmed. You are networking from your desk so you have to get creative.”

Kim said when she reintroduced the idea of webinars at her firm, some attorneys didn’t feel comfortable participating. So she encouraged them to do what they felt comfortable with and to consider partnering with others in the firm to help them.

“But you know what they did feel comfortable doing? They felt comfortable taking that email blast or link and sending it out,’’ she said. “When a senior attorney takes the time to send information, guess what? Our clients watched it.”

How important is goal setting this late in the year?

As business leaders and marketing teams review their 2020 marketing plans, they may be feeling overwhelmed by what to do next while also realizing that how they market now may be different from anything they have ever done before. It’s easy to feel fatigued and unsure. Focusing on your goals for your company will help you develop your plan.

“One of the things we have been talking about with our clients is really being able to go back to the basics when it comes to our marketing plan,” Julie said. “What are your business goals and how does that tie into what your clients and target audience need from you?”

Review your goals from the beginning of the year and make sure they are still applicable today. Consider your client needs and who your potential customers are in the coming months. Make adjustments to your plan that will help you successfully grow in the second half of the year.

Once you decide your marketing strategy, you must track your approach so that you can better assess what is working. Be deliberate and ready to listen to your clients and employees so that you can best optimize your efforts.

Do my customers even want to hear from me right now?

YES. Connect with your customers in everything you do – whether it’s social media, phone calls, email blasts, or webinars. Always remain authentic to your brand and mission. Grow your network through industry organizations, your community, or through social media platforms. Those connections are what will keep you focused for the next six months and will carry you into next year.

“Stay in touch with that human element,’’ Julie said. “We talk a lot about authenticity in our marketing and being genuine in how we are conveying our messaging, but it’s not just about the messaging, it’s about people connecting with people. We are all going through this.”

Make sure your marketing tactics include the critical information your clients need while also genuinely connecting with them.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone,’’ Julie said. “Yes, we are in front of our computer screens and yes we are socially distant or physically distanced right now, but picking up the phone, texting, calling, and asking how someone is doing, just checking in. Tap into your network whether it’s your social network, your business network. If you don’t have a strong network, reach out, and get connected.”

Remember as business owners, leaders, and marketers, our best approach is to help people while also showing customers just how valuable your business is to the community.  You are a subject matter expert in your field, so help your clients by sharing information that your customers will find valuable.

“You have time you’ve never had before to really look at your business and self-audit,’’ Katie said. “Look at your customers. Take a minute to audit what you have been doing and what competitors are doing and what charitable organizations are doing. Use this time to develop your approach so you can end the year on a high note.”

Use this time to help others. When the mConnexions team started the Expert Connexions Facebook live series, the idea behind it was to provide information to clients and community members as quickly as possible by connecting them with experts. It wasn’t created to be a marketing tactic, but because it was so useful, it evolved into a valuable resource for clients, customers, and community members.

As you look ahead, don’t feel like you have to have all the answers right now. Start small and know you don’t have to tackle everything at once.

“If looking out the next six months is overwhelming, then don’t,’’ Julie said. “Look at the next few weeks. Look at the next month. Look at the next two months. Take it a month at a time if you have to. That’s okay. The important thing is to not be so fearful that you are paralyzed into not taking action for the next six months. Reach out. Connect. If you are feeling fatigued and if you feel like you need a break, take one. We’ve learned that as much as we need to get work done today, there’s always tomorrow. So, whether you need a couple of hours or the day, take the time you need and know that you’re not alone as you are adjusting your marketing strategies.”

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Watch the mConnexions Expert Connexions Roundtable in full: