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When Facing Uncertain Economic Times, You Need a Proven Process


Bill Walsh, the legendary former San Francisco 49ers head coach, knew how difficult it is to think clearly and make sound decisions during a big game. Walsh’s solution? Pre-plan and meticulously script out the first four offensive plays before the opening kick-off. Walsh referred to these as his “openers.”

Walsh knew that the fewer high-pressure decisions you make during a game, the better. The same is true in business. COVID-19 is to local business owners what the Super Bowl is to the 49ers. Business owners are making rapid decisions, under tremendous pressure, and with ever-increasing levels of uncertainty.

While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I can help you reduce the number of decisions you face right now by giving you a proven process for your digital marketing—a game plan, if you will. What I’m about to walk you through is the Blue Corona equivalent of Walsh’s “openers,” a series of proven plays designed to guide your business in this time of uncertainty.

While no one has ever faced anything quite like this before, Blue Corona was born smack dab in the middle of the Great Recession, the second-worst economic downturn in history. We’ve used our proven process to help more than 1,000 local businesses increase sales, optimize their marketing investments, and differentiate their brands online. We also use it to grow our own business, and our track record for success is outstanding—as recognized by eight consecutive times on the Inc. 5000.

Here’s our proven process:

  1. Track everything, and make data-driven decisions
  2. Treat your website like a virtual customer service and sales rep
  3. Maximize your online real estate, starting with search engines
  4. Continuously optimize your visit-to-sale conversion rates
  5. Establish and promote your company as the AUTHORITY for what you do in the markets you do it in

Let’s go through the details of each step of the process.

Track Everything and Make Data-Driven Decisions

When times are good, some business owners expand their definition of what constitutes smart advertising and marketing. Instead of focusing on rational, data-driven decisions, ego starts to creep into the decision-making process. While it might feel good having your buddies tell you they saw your face on the Jumbotron at the UNC basketball game, I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are far more productive ways to spend your precious marketing dollars if we’re measuring success in terms of return on investment (ROI).

Digital marketing allows for more precise, specific, and measurable marketing campaigns. That precision leads to better and more quantifiable results than traditional advertising campaigns—and it all starts with the right tracking and analytics. To track things accurately, you need Google Analytics, a call tracking program (Don’t have one? Check out ours), and someone to help you combine that data with your sales data.

When times are tough, you want to refocus your advertising, marketing, and promotional dollars to the marketing channels (SEO, PPC, email, etc.) that deliver the best return on investment. While this might seem like common sense, it’s amazing how many business owners rely on their gut intuition instead of data.

By tracking everything, you will have the ability to see opportunities and problems that your competitors cannot.

Treat Your Website Like a Virtual Customer Service and Sales Rep

Your website is arguably one of your most valuable marketing assets. It’s one part customer service rep and one part sales rep. Your website is the face of your company, day or night, 24/7, 365 days a year. Your website is immune to COVID-19, and it doesn’t need time off.

Treating your website like a virtual customer service rep means thinking carefully about the needs of your customers and coming up with ways your website can address those needs.

GAC Services online troubleshooterGAC Services, an award-winning residential HVAC and electrical contractor in Maryland, created an online troubleshooter that takes homeowners through a step-by-step process to uncover what might be wrong with their home’s HVAC system. Giving DIYers an online way to figure out what is going on with their system reduces the number of non-lead calls taken by GAC Services customer service reps, while simultaneously increasing trust with homeowners not willing to do repairs on their own.

Go to your website and take inventory. What key messages are you trying to convey to your customers? How clearly are those messages displayed throughout your site?

Of course, your website isn’t just a virtual customer service rep, it’s also your company’s hardest working and highest performing sales rep. When treating your website like a sales rep, you need to set goals. Your data determines if your website is meeting or exceeding those goals and you must also ensure the sales-oriented pages of your site represent your best pitch to prospective customers.

Your website is an economic engine capable of continuing to conduct business regardless of the outside influences.

Maximize Your Online Real Estate, Starting with Search Engines

The web—a lot like football—is a game of inches. You and your competitors are competing to be found at the top of Google, and every inch you move up on the page means an increase—sometimes an exponential increase—in leads, sales, revenue, and profit.

If time and money were limitless, you would put your business everywhere online where a prospect or a customer might be—everywhere. Considering everyone (other than Geico) is limited by budget, you need to set marketing priorities. Priority number one should be putting your brand in front of prospects who live within your service area and who demonstrate a need for your products and/or services.

This is why we say “maximize your online real estate, starting with search engines.” Search engine marketing—pay per click advertising and search engine optimization—allow you to target prospects based on their intent. Think about it. Displaying an ad for your HVAC company on Google after someone searches “furnace replacement Northbrook, IL” is going to offer a much better ROI than someone seeing a display ad on Instagram for your business.

Redirecting more of your marketing budget to search engine marketing is a great way to protect your business during challenging economic times.

Continuously Optimize Your Visit-to-Sale Conversion Rate

What percentage of the visitors to your website—those living inside your service area—end up contacting you (vs. leaving your site for a competitor’s site)? Most business owners have no idea what their website’s visit-to-lead conversion rate is.

This is unfortunate because there are clear benchmarks by industry. For example, if you own a residential plumbing company and you convert fewer than 15% of your website visitors into leads, you’ve got a major opportunity on your hands. Improving your site’s conversion rate will get a greater return from every dollar you spend on advertising and marketing.

At Blue Corona, our mantra is: Track > Test > Tweak > Repeat.

Think of your website as a sales funnel. By “track,” we mean that you should track each conversion point along the funnel. By “test,” we mean that you should be constantly running tests to try and maximize each conversion rate, and “tweak” and “repeat” are obvious.

Here’s a graphic to illustrate what we mean:

Visit-to-lead conversion funnel by Blue Corona

You’re already spending time, money, energy, and other resources to increase leads, so it only makes sense to do your part in ensuring these leads convert into sales.

Establish and Promote Your Company as the Authority Online

Years ago, consumers relied on salespeople to educate them about a product or service. Today, every consumer has the world’s largest library at their fingertips—the internet. Your goal, through the content on your website and your overall digital presence, should be to educate prospects and customers to the point that they see you as THE AUTHORITY for what you do in your respective market.

When you go to Google and search “home improvement store,” who do you expect to come up? For most people, the answer is The Home Depot. How about when you search “outdoor store”—who do you expect to come up? For most people, the answer is REI. Both The Home Depot and REI are recognized as authorities in their respective spaces.

Look at their websites. Look at their digital presence. You want to do a scaled-down version of what they’re doing. That’s how you become a recognized authority, and like John Cougar Mellencamp likes to say, “authorities always win.”

Great leaders embrace chaos, conflict, and crisis because they know that times like these help leaders stand out from the rest of the pack.

Likewise, great companies embrace economic uncertainty. Great companies know that the tendency when economic conditions go south is for weaker companies to retreat.

There is no better time to lift your company’s authority than a societal or economic crisis.

While some of your competitors will start to slash budgets and cut back on services, you have the unique opportunity to get a leg up on them and become much more trustworthy. During all of this chaos, you can establish yourselves as the authority in your respective industry by continuing to deliver genuine value to your customers. You can provide them with stability, which right now is worth its weight in gold.

Conclusion

“Making decisions off the top of my head was a recipe for a bad decision. Flying by the seat of your pants is no way to travel,” said Walsh. Translation: Anyone who thinks they make better decisions under pressure is delusional. In times like these, you need a proven process to rely on and a partner you can trust.

If you have any questions about our proven process or how you can apply it to your digital marketing, don’t hesitate to contact us. There will be no sales pitch. We will do our best to help you, so when the dust clears, we’re the first call you make to help you with your digital marketing.


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