The year that felt like it took eons to come has finally arrived. By this point, you have probably already figured out your marketing plan for the year. However, if we learned anything from 2020 in our professional lives, it’s that it is important to stay flexible.
Case in point: It will still be some time until in-person trade shows and conferences become an option again, which could leave your funnel of leads high and dry in the short-term. But with activity in academia and industry increasing and researchers able to kickstart projects, 2021 has the potential to revive your marketing and leave 2020 in the dust.
Check out our recommendations for specific strategies you can always pivot to and prioritize in the coming months.
Get back to a cohesive brand voice
Have you taken a look at your communications lately? The massive upheaval that was 2020 did not exclude brands. Are you still speaking to your ideal audience, or have things shifted as your company has moved forward?
When you don’t have a cohesive brand voice, or lose it, you begin to get clients and customers who may not be the best fit for your company. This may be profitable in the short-term, but your retention suffers, and everyone must work twice as hard to recover.
This happens to the best companies, too. Everyone is focused on productivity and delivering good work and it becomes easy to forget to ask: “are we still reaching the people we set out to serve?”
Here are pointers on how to make sure your brand voice is consistent, cohesive, and effectively serves your audience.
- Review existing communications materials. Does the language reflect the current social and economic climate? Is your company communicating in a way that speaks the “language” of your audience specifically? By performing an internal review, you’ll be able to see where your existing materials may fall short and update them accordingly.
- Have conversations with your current audience. The needs of your customers and clients are evolving all the time. When was the last time you had a conversation to find out how their needs have changed? Do you know what their work-from-home struggles have been? Are they even back in the office or the lab at all? Having conversations and soliciting their feedback will give you the exact insight you need to tweak your brand language to better suit current clients and prospects. One-on-one meetings can get expensive quickly, especially if you must outsource this work, however, online Zoom calls and focus groups have certainly made these efforts more accessible to companies large and small. Even if your marketing teams don’t get to do this, make sure to pay attention to what your audience is saying or searching for online, and speak to your sales team too.
- What other information is your current audience seeing? In order to create a cohesive brand voice that serves your audience at the highest level, you need to evaluate the messaging of your competitors as well.
- Make sure everyone is on board with your revamped brand messaging. This ensures that regardless of which department a client interacts with, they will be hearing the same message or voice. Consistency over confusion makes it easier to convert browsers into buyers.
Switch up your paid search strategy
Customer needs have shifted and so have their searches.
For instance, conference organizers prior to the pandemic may have searched eagerly for massive conference spaces and hotel accommodations discounts for attendees. In 2021 however, few conference organizers are doing this due to the impacts of the pandemic. Instead, it is likely that they are looking for teleconferencing options that allow them to host 10,000 people at a time without a hitch.
Same group, now with different priorities.
Understanding this is important to your paid search strategy.
With this in mind, now is a good time to check on how your paid keywords are performing. If you have had conversations with your existing customers as we suggested above, this should also give you some ideas for what they’re looking for. Are you still running ads for in-person cell analysis demos? If you have a smaller pool of customers interested in this, consider promoting your video demonstrations instead. Then let a sales representative talk through how to conduct any in-person business safely.
You can also take a peek at the keywords your competitors are ranking for and see if it’s possible to move into those terms as well. Tools like SEMRush and Ubersuggest are excellent for gleaning this type of information.
If you find that your typically high-ranking pages and services are falling below benchmarks you’ve set, likely because of the current virtual work environment, it may be a good idea to shift your paid search budget to pages that are more relevant.
With people spending more time than ever on their computers, there has been a rise in search engine volume. This rise is potentially beneficial for your business, but higher search volumes also mean a higher risk of your ads being shown in irrelevant searches. Take the time to fine-tune your negative keywords and make sure you only show up in the results of those who could actually use your services.
Finally, find the pages that are doing best and improve their landing page copy to send them even higher in the ranks. This may include adding keywords about COVID-19 information, how your services are compatible with virtual work, or additional safety measures your company is taking.
Look inward with a content audit
There’s a good chance that you got behind on publishing informational content in 2020 while you were focusing on all the personal and professional adjustments that were needed for virtual… everything.
A content audit is a great way to make up for that lag without breaking your budget with a bunch of new pieces. Take a look at what you’ve already put up in the past few years and ask: is this still relevant? It’s a similar exercise to creating a cohesive brand voice, with the opportunity to get more granular with your personas.
This is also the time to check your analytics data and see what your audience has been consuming most often. If you’ve been getting more clicks on your 2016 blog about the best kinds of lab sterilization than you have on your 2020 blogs, then turn the clock back and post an update or a part two. What has changed in your industry since that piece was published? Could this be updated or refreshed with new points? If yes, you’ve found treasure! Repost or re-share that old content with a new spin as an #ICYMI (in case you missed it). Or you could position it as a “compare and contrast” or a “then and now” story.
Better yet, you can reformat longer-form content into bite-sized pieces like infographics that will work on social media, where consumers are spending more time lately.
You are your own media company
The pandemic presents a good opportunity for scientific companies to provide in-the-moment, accurate information to their clients and the general public. A combination of evidence-based education and storytelling woven into your media assets – videos, podcasts, social media, blog posts – humanizes your brand and establishes you as a thought leader in the industry.
This doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor. Take videos for instance: A common roadblock for companies when it comes to using video is the concern that they will not be the “highest quality”. With the rise of social channels, influencers, and more tools, the expected quality of video content has adjusted to a more practical level. You no longer need to spend thousands of dollars to hire a camera crew or rent a studio. And these days, this can look entirely out of touch when your clients have adjusted to different lives themselves.
Double down on experimentation
Right now, a lot of marketers simply don’t have the option to run the programs they’ve always run. Now may just be the best time to experiment with those new tools you’ve been eyeing or run that due diligence on switching vendors.
Maybe you’re evaluating Hootsuite or Falcon? HubSpot or Marketo? We’ve talked a bit about software you can try in a previous post, and all have at least one free element to them as well. Perhaps now is the time to truly invest in your audience insights and analytics. One example is SparkToro, which allows you to search any website or social account and see metrics on what other sites the audience visits, what other accounts they follow, what podcasts they listen to, and where they are located geographically. Perhaps you want to reach biotech industry leaders, but your current followers are mostly academic researchers. SparkToro can show you which news outlets and hashtags your preferred audience uses so that you can get your content to their feed.
Explore data vendors to enrich your database of decision-making leads: Tools like Bombora and AdDaptive provide you with excellent B2B advertising and marketing intelligence. Bombora specifically provides users with buyer intent data, either with new audiences that are searching for related products, or integrated with your Salesforce CRM.
Experimentation could also be about exploring additional tools within a platform you already use. If you’re using AdRoll retargeting, are you also running lookalike campaigns to reach new audiences that match those already visiting your site? Or maybe you need to test your assumptions about the types of LinkedIn advertising that’s most effective for your brand.
Asking these questions can also be an excellent brainstorming activity for your team.
You may already have marketing plans in place for this year. But it is never too late to take a step back and evaluate if what you originally set out to do is working. Now more than ever, flexibility is your ally.Keywords: branding, content marketing, employer brand, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media advertising, strategy, video marketing