This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Jaymie Scotto Cutaia, founder and CEO of Jaymie Scotto & Associates (JSA), a public relations and marketing firm for the telecom and data center industry.
As the anniversary of the pandemic is upon us, it’s time to take stock of where we are and what comes next. We’ve witnessed too many businesses fail as lockdowns, curfews, protests, and delayed relief continue. In many cases, there’s just not a lot of runway left for us to ‘get it wrong’ - to guess - on ways to get business done efficiently while chaos continues around us.
So as Covid-19 and other uncertainties bleed into 2021, let’s talk about ways we need to consider bolstering our ability to connect, conduct business and grow our industry’s ability to provide critical infrastructure globally, particularly during a time when the world needs us most.
Checking The Current Temperature of Telecom Public Relations and Marketing
With so many changes over the past year - from conferences embracing digital formats to the big shift to a digital workforce - strong marketing and PR are in demand more than ever. In a recent study by the American Marketing Association (AMA), 62% of the respondents said marketing’s importance has grown during the pandemic, which makes sense as our workforce and our ability to connect and conduct business are now 100% virtual.
Our clients, and many other savvy companies in our industry, kept their competitive edge during the pandemic by investing in their digital brand and assets. Funds that would have been reserved for travel and in-person event sponsorships were redirected to new websites, search engine optimization, digital advertising, intent data research, account based marketing (ABM) campaigns and company-branded virtual event and/or podcast series. To be sensitive to the times, the goal was to avoid large blasts of outbound messaging and instead spend time and resources on clearly defining and understanding ideal prospects. Then you can craft, distribute and optimize targeted one-to-one or one-to-few personalized communications.
How To Plan for an Uncertain Road Ahead
To plan ahead, it often helps to start by looking back. When constructing a long term marketing and communication plan, first look at the relevant data - both successes and failures. With the advances of digital marketing, there’s a data trail that we can track to get an understanding of what’s been successful and what requires further tweaking or removing from our going-forward plans. Marketing results are a combination of strategy, timing, targeted messaging, tactics, optimized communication channels and more. With Covid-19, many of us dramatically pivoted our time and resources last March. Twelve months later, we now have enough distance from this pivot to track the numbers, examine the data, and refine our best practices moving forward.
With data in hand, start with a half-day workshop with your primary decision makers to define your core brand objectives and your 2021 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Come to a consensus on answers to questions such as: What are the keywords that you want your brand to own in 2021? How many headlines do you want your company to be part of in 2021? How many qualified leads do you need to provide your sales team each quarter? How do you define a qualified lead? Compare this year’s answers to what your company accomplished last year following your pandemic pivot.
Once you define your KPIs, then consider tactics to ensure the success of these KPIs. For example, if you want your company to earn 6 headlines quarterly, that means you’ll need to pitch 30-40 publications quarterly (depending on your relevant media relationships, ability to pitch and track record of success). Create a calendar of all these tactics, and assign items to the responsible parties accordingly, tracking KPI wins regularly throughout the year.
Smart Budgeting for 2021 Through Focused Targeting
We’ve seen a marked increase in customer experience budgeting for 2021. By this, I mean investing in the entire buyer and customer journey - to ensure a positive experience throughout. Consider how prospects might find you through their own online research, and how they might reach out to you via website, chatbox, phone or email. Who responds and how? How quickly do they become customers and then how soon after that, are they so delighted with your company, that they become cheerleaders of your brand, including participating in your press releases, case studies and even referrals?
A great exercise to consider is refreshing and refining ideal prospective company profiles and buyer personas. What current clients are amazing and you wish you could clone? How large are these companies? What technologies do they use? What do they value in their relationship with your company? Which companies have similar firmographics? Who are the key decision makers within these prospective companies? What are the words that your ideal prospects use to define their pain points and to search for their potential solutions? Are these words how you describe your own products and services? What time frames do they traditionally operate in? Are they ready to buy now or six weeks from now? By doing your homework on your prospective client upfront, your outreach becomes much more personalized and poignant. We find this also reduces the time required to confirm the sale and increases the likelihood of newly-signed customers becoming advocates for your brand.
Forecasting The Future
2021 will hopefully be the year when vaccinations are widely distributed, crazy new strands are kept at bay, and there’s an overall return to ‘normalcy’. But I do think the pandemic will leave its lasting effect on all of us. It may be quite some time before we are comfortably shaking hands, or moving our offices back into tiny cubicle spaces. Due to the pandemic travel restrictions back in March 2020, businesses had to dramatically transform to remote distributed workforces and cloud-based technologies and security platforms, turning what would have been a 10-year digital transformation into immediate and necessary deployment. For the companies who did it well, I imagine it may be quite some time, if ever, for them to return to the old ways of doing business, particularly as some of our ‘old ways’ were not efficient. It’s far easier to have zoom calls with Australia, Hong Kong and Canada in 3 hours, than book plane tickets and circle the world in two weeks with exhaustive business travel. And we’ve become much more comfortable with video chats, virtual huddles and online collaboration, even with kids, pets and spouses running around us. The old notion that ‘if we work from home we are not really working’ has been absolutely tossed out with the rest of 2020’s trash.
So as the way we do business shifts to the future, so do our buying journeys and therefore our marketing campaigns, including tracking and optimization. Technology, and our critical infrastructure the technology relies on, has allowed us to remain operational, even from home. So my prediction is that 2021 will be the year where we refine how to effectively connect virtually. Now is the time to optimize on our best practices and turn our environment into an efficient, positive, and potentially even nurturing space for ourselves, our companies, our industry and our world. Ideally this is the year we come together to heal and grow.
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