SIA members share how they are connecting with customers and adjusting their business practices during the outbreak
In a recent virtual meeting of SIA’s Membership and Marketing Committee that brought together representatives from approximately 25 SIA member companies, the topic at hand was how companies were responding to the current business climate shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. The discussion is expanding into a virtual meeting/webinar on April 20 featuring experienced senior sales and marketing leaders (Register and learn more about our “MarketingShare” virtual event).
Based on that initial meeting and from numerous conversations with sales and marketing professionals, here are some of the current ideas:
Connecting and Conveying Empathy
Experts providing marketing services said the focus they are providing clients is to convey empathy, not leading with a hard sell in this period.
“This is the time to say how your firm is doing and share what you’re doing for the community,” explained one marketing agency leader, who said he is getting a lot of questions from clients who are asking him whether this is an appropriate time to reach out from a sales cycle standpoint.
Other members said that they have had the time to connect more deeply with clients via remote virtual meeting tools or traditional phone calls; they said that despite the physical distancing, they have become socially closer on a virtual level, having time to rebuild relationships and have meaningful conversations with clients.
Two SIA members on the committee call said their firms are offering some new pro bono professional services; not only is it a meaningful gesture of goodwill, but members also said that these kinds of gestures are likely to be remembered once the crisis concludes.
Members said they were evolving their social media practices, but not with the same style of content – again, sales and marketing leaders said their focus was on community support messages rather than focusing on products or quick sales.
Leverage the Downtime: Train and Upgrade
Multiple members said they were finding time in the slowdown by taking advantage of downtime to focus on technical training. Members were launching webinars on their solutions or opening up their entire training catalogs, hoping that integration and service staff would take the time to attend programs and courses. Another member noted that they have reached out to partners about producing jointly operated online webinars and training offerings. “Don’t go it alone,” said the U.S. head of that firm. Initial indications, members said , were very positive, with strong attendance and viewership of these online programs.
Another member noted this is a great time to discuss any system upgrades, given that facilities were emptier and schedules were more available. Other members echoed that sentiment noting that sometimes clients can feel they are too busy to do even quick shutdowns for upgrades, but that this situation offered new opportunities for having pending system or software upgrades completed – of course, the caveat was that upgrades depend on securing access to the client facilities.
Sales Must Go On, But Not the Same Old, Same Old
Many members participating in the call said they were being flexible on prices to retain customers or to allow customers to expand usage of remote services, given that government orders are requiring more remote access.
Members also said they are looking at various incentive programs including discounts and/or deferred initial payments. Some members also explained they have the authority to temporarily adjust existing contracts and pricing models to be cognizant of financial challenges that customers are facing.
One SIA member we spoke with said they are staying in touch with customers and developing new customers by offering 90 days of complimentary remote cybersecurity services. It’s a move that allows them to be responsive to their clients’ needs and build a business relationship at the same time.
Another member, which offers system design tools, said they’ve been actively training integrators on how to take advantage of remote/virtual calls and videos to do virtual site assessments and remain productive even when clients are not inviting them onto their facility sites.
One member said business development staff in their firm had a new task: Simply reach out to existing and prospective clients to find out “what their new reality is.”
Not All Easy Street
Many businesses admitted they’re still struggling with even some of the basics, like how to effectively manage teams that are now fully remote.
Others said they are trying to prepare for what they know will be notices of cost-cutting measures from their clients, whether that’s clients needing deferred payments or clients that financially require discontinuing certain services. An active discussion was how to respond in these scenarios, and one suggested model was to consider allowing clients to “pause” services, to suspend use of those systems for a set period of time with a corresponding pause in billing.
Ultimately, members said they’re focusing on any positive aspects. The goal, as SIA Board of Directors member and principal of GSA Schedules Inc. Lynn de Séve summarized nicely, is to “be flexible and maintain your customers.”
Our virtual conversation continues in this interactive virtual meeting/webinar where SIA members will be able to openly talk through how to handle sales, business development and marketing aspects of your business during the pandemic and during the recovery phase.