John Seroka: 6 Marketing Best Practices to Ensure Continued Business Growth During and Post-Pandemic
John Seroka is Principal with Seroka Brand Development, Brookfield, Wis. He and his team specialize in working with companies in the mortgage industry, fintech, hard money and the commercial real estate finance sector, assisting them with developing strong brand positions/differentiation, brand experiences and helping them reach their goals in sales/origination volume and market share. The company’s website is https://seroka.com.
When the pandemic first emerged, some businesses were inclined to pull back on their marketing efforts altogether. Others quickly shifted their messaging to be more sensitive to the state of the world. And all businesses had to shift their marketing tactics in some form or another to ensure they continued to communicate with key audiences in the new, socially distant and virtual world we now find ourselves in.
All these necessary adjustments only serve to highlight the importance of marketing during the pandemic, and dollars being spent is evidence of this. Marketing budgets as a percentage of revenues and company spend have risen to record levels during the COVID outbreak, as marketing activities play a key role in retaining customers and building brand value.
Thanks to the rate drops that have occurred since the onset of COVID, refinances have gone through the roof. But that doesn’t mean mortgage companies can rest on their laurels. Marketing is still a necessity even while the market is hot, as rates will eventually go back up. The fact is marketing drives long-term revenue. That is why it is an essential business activity throughout the pandemic and after it has subsided.
During COVID, you must ensure you are communicating clearly about your business and any changes that may be taking place in terms of how you are operating and the resulting impacts on applicants and borrowers. Amidst all the challenges consumers are dealing with, it’s important to cater to the needs of your customers and prospects as much as you can, on an individual basis if possible. Showing compassion and demonstrating empathy in your marketing efforts during these challenging times will go a long way toward cementing these relationships which will work to your advantage in the long run.
Here are 6 marketing best practices you should begin employing now to ensure your business continues to grow during the pandemic and after it has ended.
1. Create memorable content
The first step you should take concerning content is to adjust posting/publishing timelines or even pausing or removing certain content to be sensitive to the COVID crisis and its impact on your key audiences. Reprioritizing the content you push out right now is essential because you must communicate in a way that demonstrates your company is conscious of the pandemic. That said, do not make it your only focus. Acknowledge it, but don’t dwell on it.
Then, develop a list of timely, relevant topics and begin creating content around them. To ensure your content is valuable to your audience(s), it should be relatable. And the best way to accomplish that is to tell a story. Ultimately, you want to use your marketing content as a vehicle through which you build relationships.
As you develop your content, be aware that Google’s rollout of BERT back in December 2019 allows it to better understand searches. It favors longer form, in depth content and accuracy of that content. The BERT update also enables a better understanding of natural language searches and knows how to value each word in a search phrase to provide the intended result. So, it is more important than ever to pay special attention to length and make sure headlines/titles answer questions that are asked in a natural language search.
Finally, optimize the content you create by using it across a variety of marketing channels. Turn that white paper into a webinar. And turn that webinar into an article. And turn that article into a blog post. Post it on your website. Send it to your customers and prospects via email. Create a video around it and post it to social media channels. Certainly, the challenging part is creating the content, but once you have it in place, repurposing it for different communications vehicles is relatively easy. It’s a smart practice that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
2. Consider webinars
With so many people working on laptops from home right now, webinars are a great way to build relationships and rapport while keeping a safe social distance. They can also help establish your company and colleagues as thought leaders. Here are a few important things to keep in mind:
• Ideally webinars should be no more than 30 or 45 minutes, including the time you set aside for questions and answers.
• Consider panel discussions. This format typically goes over well because of the interaction among the panelists. They tend to build on one another’s thoughts which helps to capture and keep participants’ attention.
• Speaking of interaction, make sure the webinar itself is interactive. Allow participants to submit questions in chat boxes and answer them as you move through the webinar content. Also, take advantage of polling during the webinar. Both help make the presentation more exciting and informative.
• Be sure to record webinars so they can be used in other mediums…emails, social media, blogs, etc. ─ and even break them up into bite-size pieces for additional distribution.
3. Record videos
Videos have become an incredibly popular marketing vehicle because people watch them ─ and they will go out of their way to find them. These days, people would rather watch a video than read text. Consider these statistics:
• Video has become the most used format in content marketing, overtaking blogs and infographics.
• 80% of video marketers claim that video has directly increased sales.
Best of all, you can leverage video in a variety of ways…distributing them on social media, during seminars, for product/service launches, in blog posts, sales pitches and emails to name a few. And they can be created fairly easily in-house. You don’t have to write lengthy scripts and hire a professional videographer. All you really need to do is ensure the audio is working, lighting is good, and background is appropriate.
Videos between 15 seconds and 2 minutes perform the best, but that does not mean you should avoid a long-form video when there is a need for one.
Another option to consider is live video. Why? Because it:
• Allows the audience to steer the conversation
• Shows your authenticity and transparency
• Offers the element of surprise
Be sure to keep your live video to 45 minutes or less. And remember, this is a spontaneous medium, so do not use a script.
If you’re asking yourself when you would ever use live video, the suggestions below work great because they allow for audience interaction to ask questions and steer the conversation in the direction they wish:
• Homebuyer seminars
• Planned market updates impacting homeownership that Realtors®, homebuyers and homeowners can attend
• Any new launch of technology or other products by lenders that can impact how Realtors can do business with them or make their lives easier
And don’t forget to record your live videos so you can distribute them later through various media channels.
4. Optimize social media
The relationship your company has with key social media channels has taken on a whole new level of significance right now. A non-strategy is a non-starter. This is a good time to step up your engagement with the key platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…and start taking a very close look at TikTok.
Develop a content calendar and a content distribution strategy. Determine what KPIs you will track and manage. Now’s the time. Believe me, you will be rewarded with more followers, interactions and ultimately an enhanced brand image that will reinforce other campaign elements to drive new business.
There are advantages to incorporating a more robust social media presence into your marketing strategy right now. First, social media platforms allow you to monitor the challenges your customers and prospects are facing during the pandemic in real time. And secondly, it’s an inexpensive outreach method that can help you:
• Reach your audience
• Build relationships
• Communicate with consumers of all ages
• Share a variety of content
• Grow your brand awareness
• Improve audience engagement
5. Send emails
Did you know that email is the top communication medium? And for good reason. People read their email! And when executed properly, email campaigns can generate an impressive percentage of leads and conversions.
Competition for inbox attention and email deliverability were a couple of the biggest email marketing challenges in 2019.
Here are some tips that can improve response rates:
• Prime your IP. Start campaigns by delivering small batches of emails and then ramp up slowly. This will build IP trust.
• Check your Sender Score. Your score has a direct impact on the deliverability rates of your emails.
• Segment your customer and prospect lists prior to campaigns…the more targeted and personalized, the better. Personalization just by name is no longer adequate in 2020.
• Avoid being too salesy, especially during the pandemic.
• Ensure your email content is relevant by leveraging behavioral data.
• Do not send more than one or two emails per week ─ more than that borders on annoying.
6. Update your website
Updating your website can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s an important exercise that should be done regularly because it helps boost rankings for SEO. Not only that, when you consider your website only has about 15 seconds to make an impression, keeping it relevant as the business environment changes (especially during a pandemic) is of utmost importance. And thanks to COVID, Google Ads spend is down across most industries, so now is the time to spend on paid search! A few things to keep in mind when embarking on a website update:
• Make sure there are mechanisms in place to capture data, so you know what is performing well on your site and what is not.
• Offer site visitors the opportunity to sign up for email – it’s an easy way to grow your prospect list.
• Be sure contact forms are easily accessible on your site so people who want more information can get it.
• Refresh content by reviewing each web page to ensure all content is up-to-date and relevant.
• Consider adding a chat bot to give your audience the ability to get answers immediately, or schedule a call if the chat is more complex and requires human interaction.
If you incorporate these best practices into your marketing plan during the pandemic, you will reap the benefits before all the chaos comes to an end, and long after social distancing is a thing of the past.
(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at email@example.com.)