Acquisition and retention strategies in the COVID era

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, marketers have had to pivot their messaging in order to better reflect our current reality. While some businesses have been stunned into paralysis, cutting down on marketing expenses and activities, others have found ways to produce thoughtful and value-add content that provides a competitive edge.

We hosted a virtual roundtable for senior New York-based marketing leaders, where we discussed how COVID-19 has affected marketing strategies across industries. Chug Abramowitz, ex VP Marketing, Spotify, graciously led the conversation. You can see a summary of major discussion points below, and view a recording of the webinar, here.

Major changes in the wake of the COVID-19

Businesses quickly recognized the importance of virtual activities, many pivoting their approach to nurture existing customers, instead of driving new leads into the pipeline.

“We went from a marketing team that was focused on PR, trade publications, events, and ramping up our digital spend, but then everything stopped. Paid media was abandoned and we pivoted to more organic channels, which allowed me to spend more time on processes with our client success team and sales team to develop sales-enablement material and build up our pipeline and full customer lifecycle,” says Liam Barnes, Formerly WiredScore.

Tai Nicolopolous, Marketing Principal at SeedInvest says that “Raising (capital) for businesses like online pharmacies has been a no brainer, but raising for brick and mortar retail and hospitality has been challenging. We’ve really put our focus on organizing webinars, virtual events, organic content, and thought leadership that expresses the benefits of early stage VCs.”

“We’ve been hyper-focused on building technology that helps our users (agents) save time despite the new restraints of COVID. Compass is focused on helping agents grow their businesses. The funnel for selling and buying (houses) is just being compressed. There was initially a big dip of people wanting to sell and buy homes, and now it’s on the rise because people are wanting to get out of the city. As a consultant, I advise startups to delay a month or two to and do research and organize focus groups and surveys to figure out messaging and inform their content strategy when it comes to developing a new product,” advises Christa Patrylak, Growth Marketing Consultant (Compass, SoulCycle, HBO, Ubisoft & Clorox alum).

Halting paid search: yay or nay?

Some businesses halted paid search efforts altogether, while others have taken advantage of low cost-per-click (CPC). Some participants feel that now is a good time to participate in riskier experimentation with paid since the financial barrier to enter is so low.

“Initially our focus had been on SEM, which was where we were mainly driving acquisition from. We soon realized people were not searching for meeting space right now, so we switched to talking and engaging with current customers but being very targeted (going after certain population groups for very specific use-cases for them),” says Samantha Goldman, Vice President Marketing, Breather

“Interestingly, our traffic was through the roof from organic channels like webinars, PR, and content. When we began to invest again in paid search, we noticed a 75% decrease in CPC,” says Brad Rosenfeld, CMO at Biz2Cred.

“We are now trying to monetize the base of our existing users. In our industry, the big players have reduced marketing spend, so we want to ramp up our SEM and have that first mover advantage,” continues Brad.

Agility and COVID task forces

Companies that come out of COVID-19 stronger will be those that shift their priorities along with society’s shifting priorities. The roundtable participants discussed how marketers can adjust their messaging and stay agile in preparation for a post-pandemic landscape.

“We set up a ‘COVID task force’ internally, including a Slack channel where people can converse (like a scrum meeting). Based on extracted data from our platform, we found that people were spending a lot more on food and pets in mid-March. We were able to give marketers insight into consumer data to help their ecommerce efforts,” says Raj Nijjer, VP Brand Marketing, Yotpo.

“We also set up a ‘COVID task force’," shares Aviya Landesberg, Head of Marketing, Lyft. Initially, we took a lens to our entire roadmap and pressure tested it to see if the messaging still worked in the COVID climate that we’re experiencing. We decide to lean into our LyftUp channel”, which is an umbrella for our social impact work. We’ve been able to develop a lot of content around these communities that we were serving and build our campaigns around that important messaging developed by our COVID task force."

“There’s something to be said for leveraging existing communities. We have a Slack channel full of our most active users. We would run new messaging by them, and ask them what problems they were currently facing. Some of our new feature enhancements have come about this way, like our Zoom integrations. Getting feedback from a customer perspective on the content we were about to produce was incredibly helpful,” shares Ammon Brown, VP Growth,

What comes next is impossible to predict, as we’ve seen thus far in 2020. Robert Walters continues to organize virtual roundtables to share thoughts, experiences, and best practices among senior leaders of the sectors that we serve. To sign up for future events, or watch our virtual events on demand, visit our dedicated Webinars page.

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