Recent months have ushered in a host of radical changes to the way we do business — and where.
Specifically, social distancing has prompted a tectonic shift away from in-person gatherings to online encounters.
Leading tech companies have announced that they’ll work from home at least through the end of 2020, and some have cast doubt on whether they’ll ever return to business as usual in old-school offices. They’ve also moved pre-emptively to transform in-person events into virtual ones. (Consider Microsoft’s decision to push its big shows online at least until July 2021.)
So where should vendors put their efforts to support buyers during this precarious time? Here are three areas where the rules and rhythm of the market has changed.
Response times. Patience is part of the marketing playbook, and it’s a bigger virtue than ever now. Even though your customers are no longer commuting further than a home office, turnaround times have gotten longer.
“Now that everybody and his brother has moved online, our internal approval processes are taking longer too. What used to take me a day to approve on my marketing team now takes three,” remarked one Petri.com marketer.
Face it: Like you, your customers are operating in home environments full of distractions, and delays are compounded if a decision requires buy-in from multiple distributed stakeholders.
The best solution is to lean into the lag. Recognize that some communications are going to drag out longer than you’ve expected. Set new expectations for your management, and cut your buyers some slack — they’ll appreciate relief from a hard sell, and injecting a bit more personal give-and-take into wait time will strengthen those relationships.
Meeting times. “The era of face-to-face meetings is gone,” the Petri.com marketer declared. “Who wants to bring me in to their house?”
What’s more, you have much less time to hold buyers’ attention during a videoconference than you would during an in-person meeting. Neuroscience demonstrates that it’s just harder work to stay focused during a virtual meeting, and customers tend to have less motivation even to try.
“When you’re bringing lunch in, people at least feign interest in what you have to say,” the Petri marketer observed. “Now it’s hard to keep them from multitasking immediately.”
He recommends that you plan for a 20-minute attention span during customer calls. Pare those pitches down to the absolute essentials — and if things are clicking, sweat the details with efficient, structured follow-ups.
Marketing collateral. A corollary to the meeting caveat: Your explainers, spec sheets and assorted digital leave-behinds need to be on point.
While a hefty handout may have impressed buyers when you distribute printed copies around the conference table, brevity will leave a much better impression when your audience is on a Teams call.
“People don’t want to watch your handouts,” the Petri marketer remarked. “Slides have got to minimize. That 60-plus slide deck is way too much; you have to condense.”
Bottom line: Big changes to the way we work have slowed reaction times and shortened attention spans more than ever. They’ve also frayed nerves! Respect the novel circumstances your buyers are working in, and you’ll establish trust during a crucial time of transition.