Lead Generation During COVID-19—Tricks, Strategies & Techniques Guide

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With over 13,000 new cases every day worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world, and the number is only growing. No one knows when this pandemic will come to an end. Since it has impacted the global economy in terrible ways, the global stock market is plunging, and just recently, the oil industry also crashed with barrel prices going in negatives. It is projected that the current market scenarios might lead to mass bankruptcies

It is no surprise that businesses around the country are struggling, and are expected to struggle for at least the next few quarters. It will take over a year for these companies to get even and make up for their losses. The worst impacted industry here is the travel industry that is projected to lose over $820 billion by the end of the pandemic. Luxury is the next worst-hit industry, and the ports are empty. With such a downturn, many companies have resorted to laying off their employees, with Canada itself losing around a million jobs in March. The estimated cost of the COVID-19 pandemic to the global economy is evaluated at $2.7 trillion. 

What Does it Mean for Marketers?

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The market is expected to be in the downturn for the next couple of quarters, at least. Within the departments of companies, marketing has taken a significant hit as companies resort to focusing their capital in other safer strategies and necessary operations, and cutting down marketing budgets. There are a few well-justified reasons for this: due to the uncertainty of jobs and income, people are spending less money on things they don’t need, which has led to a decline in web traffic. There is a drastic change in the demand and supply cycles as well; on the one hand, there might not be any demand for the services you provide, and on the other, you might not have enough inventory to meet the demand.

With the cut in the marketing budgets, many companies have resorted to cancelling or delaying their marketing ad campaigns with the hope of riding out the downturn unscathed. The most glaring examples of this are the number of tech summits and events that have been cancelled in the last couple of months like Adobe Summit, Facebook F8, Google I/O, and various Apple product launches.

On top of all this, pay-per-click advertising is also facing issues. Despite the turbulent market and a significant drop in web traffic, the PPC ad prices are nearly the same as before. Hence, the cost-per-conversion rate has gone up for every market and industry, even travel.

These points are significantly affecting lead conversion, or rather, failing to even generate leads in the first place. The financial sector, despite enjoying a big boom in web traffic, is facing a conversion shortage. The travel and construction industries have seen a drop of around 40%, which is terrifying. People are hesitant to spend their money. Yet, on the bright side, however, some industries have seen a spike in traffic, specifically the media, food, and pharma industries. 

In such a situation, you might think that lead generation is futile, or you might find it challenging to generate leads.It is tough, no doubt. As a marketer and a business owner, there are many things that you can incorporate into your marketing strategy to generate leads over the course of this pandemic. Granted, the sales won’t be booming as they were a few months ago, but at least your business will stay afloat and relevant. And if you do this right, you may even come out of the other side with an advantage over your competitors. 

How Do You Generate Leads?

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The business magnate Warren Buffet once said, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” This should be your mantra during the pandemic. The experts are predicting that the global economy is heading towards a recession, with experts like Carl Icahn suggesting that there is more room for the market to plunge. Scary, isn’t it? Still, you should see this as an opportunity; you and your business need to double down now and strengthen your strategies. There is going to be less competition. Hence, it will be easier to get results, and in some cases, you might even get great deals in PPC advertising if the prices go down due to lack of demand.

So, instead of cutting down on your marketing budget, it is time to focus more on it. You need to see this as an opportunity to strike and gain a market advantage in the long run. Sure, for some industries, the returns may not be instantaneous, but in the long run, you will see significant gains. Which brings us to the point: there are two ways of lead generation during COVID-19 – you can either aim for instant lead conversions, or you can stock up on leads and convert them when the market is healthy. 

What is Stocking-Up on Leads?

Many times, digital marketing may not help you with lead generation during COVID-19 pandemic, depending on the service or product you offer. In such a case, your best strategy should be to aim for stocking up on leads. You need to use this time to expand your network since you may not be selling the right kind of product or service right now. Use this time to generate demand for your product in the future. Once things go back to normal, your audience will start looking at your company to buy your products. This surge in sales will help you make up for the losses that you may be facing right now. 

The perfect example is Apple. It recently launched its new product, iPhone SE, which is disrupting the entire mobile-tech market. With this launch, many media houses and reviewers are talking about the phone and projecting it to outsell every other phone on the market. Now clearly, most people are not going to spend close to $400 right now, but Apple is using its network to create a significant demand and hype that. And this way, when things do go back to normal, it will have queues of customers waiting to purchase the new phone.

Tips and Tricks for Lead Generation During COVID-19

With the two ways in mind, here are some of the best tips that can help you with lead generation during COVID-19, some focusing on instant lead generation, and others on stocking up.

Focus on Audience Engagement

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One of the most fundamental ways you can use digital marketing to generate leads is via social media networks. Hence, you need to focus on your social media strategy even more now. Many companies are making a mistake here by abandoning their social media networks altogether to focus on other things they perceive to be more critical. Avoid making this mistake. When your brand is active on social media, it shows the audience that your business is still up and running. It also helps you keep ahead of your competitors.

Most social media platforms offer built-in features that can help you generate leads like hashtags, live streaming, pay-to-trend, etc. Do not miss out on these features, and hence, use them to their fullest potential. Use this to bring attention to your active services and products, and to other streams of content that you are pushing out, be it blogs or webinars (as discussed below). This is also a great way to interact with your customers on a more personal level, especially during such times. By doing this, you can generate many leads for your active services and products, and you can also stock up on leads that you can focus on converting once the pandemic ends.

One of the best examples of this strategy is Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice brand that has used one of its most beloved brand ambassadors, Terry Crews, to produce social media content. Mostly, Crews and Old Spice are focusing on making public service announcements, informing their customers on how to stay safe, what precautions they must take, and how to maintain social distance. They are not only building social media relationships but also generating many leads by staying ahead of their competitors and bringing light to their essentials line of products.

Repurpose or Create Content

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Similar to the above point, content can also help you generate a lot of leads, not by public engagement, but by organic searches through SEO and SERPs. Remember, content is king. So if you had to cancel any events or seminars, then you should repurpose their content and start pushing them online or simply create newer material that is relevant to both the situation and your company. You can launch demos, resources, interactive games, blogs, articles, newsletters, etc. to keep your company relevant to the search engines. This will help in terms of SERP and SEO by generating web traffic.

However, content does not necessarily mean only blogs and articles, but also videos. You should pay special attention to videos. According to a report by Hubspot, 72% of the customers prefer watching videos to learn about products and services. Similarly, another Hubspot study suggests that 52% of industry expert marketers believe that video content offers the best return on investment (ROI) when it comes to lead generation.

A great example here is NordVPN that is focusing its content strategy on raising awareness about the online security issues for those working from home. They are targeting those working from home and convincing them to buy their VPN services to stay safe from phishing attacks and malware hacks.

Adapt Your Services

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What used to work before might not necessarily work now in terms of lead generation during COVID-19. Hence, you need to change your models to adapt your services and products to generate leads. The easiest way of doing this is by giving discounts. But if your product or service is not relevant to the current market, it won’t sell. In such a case, you can rebrand your products or invent new services to meet the current demands. There are three examples of this technique that you can learn from.

The first is the National Basketball Association (NBA) that has stopped selling usual merchandises and has adapted their products to the pandemic by selling branded face masks. The masks have a variety of team’s names and logos of over 30 NBA and 12 WNBA teams. They are marketing this to those who are looking for safe masks that can also help them contribute to their favourite teams. What’s more, the NBA is also claiming some of the proceeds from their mask sales will benefit Feeding America in the US and Second Harvest in Canada.

The second example is the Penguin Random House that has seen a significant decrease in its offline book sales. Here, their solution was the book titled Compiled Family Meal: Recipes From Our Community. This digital collection of more than 40 recipes is being sold at $5.99 digitally to the world. This is an excellent example of adapting their product to meet the current demand of those who want to spice up their meals during the quarantine period.

Yet another great example is Airbnb that completely changed its brand persona to meet the current market. With its new Online Experiences feature, the company is allowing its customers to pay to see magic shows, meet dogs, or take family baking classes online. They have essentially changed their house renting platform to something that provides random services that cater to those that are stuck at home.

Sell Your Services and Products Online

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If you have a service or a product that can be delivered to the doorstep of your customers, then going online is a great way to generate leads. People are under quarantine, so they would rather not step out. Hence, the demand is for doorstep services. Making an online website is very easy and quick. So you can use your online store and pair it with your social media to generate leads.

The best example here is L’Oreal, since this strategy has worked wonders for them. In the first quarter, L’Oreal’s organic sales plunged by 4.8%, but the sales in China bounced back once the lockdown there ended. The CEO of the company, Jean-Paul Agon, asserted that online retail in China averted further declines in sales. Additionally, L’Oreal also took their TV ads offline and focused on digital marketing to generate leads—it is a lot cheaper.

As for other luxury fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Sephora, online sales have helped mitigate many losses. This is proof that going online and pairing that with your digital marketing can help you brace against the downturn significantly. 

Give Special Offers

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Another great way of lead generation during COVID-19 is by offering special discounts and offers. Simple, isn’t it? Your brand can come up with various kinds of offers like discounts, extended trial periods, free access to some services or gated content, etc. Though people are less likely to impulse buy things, if your digital marketing strategy is focussed enough, they will be attracted to your brand. Generally, it takes ten ad-hits before a customer considers your brand.

You can even try out lead magnets, i.e., incentives that you offer up as a specific reward in exchange for their contact information. People are spending more and more time online, and they have not much to do, so give them such incentives. Once you have their contact information, you can then proceed to implement the sales funnel to cultivate more leads. Lead magnets expose your customers to your brand and influence relationships between you and them.

Even if you decide to give them free content, they will be part of your service ecosystem, and once things go back to normal, they will likely buy your services post the discount periods. Hence, this way can help you both generate instant leads but also stock up on future leads. If done smartly, this technique can help you build long term relationships with your customers as well.

The examples include Adobe, HBO, and Aston Martin. Adobe is supporting educators and students with free access to its creative cloud apps, helping those who have switched their operations online. On the other hand, HBO is giving away 500 hours of streamable content for free to its customers. And Aston Martin is offering up to $10,000 discounts on its cars with attractive lease rates. As for Adobe and HBO, their new customers are likely to stick to the service as they get comfortable with their ecosystem.

Host Webinars

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Marketing events are a great way of generating a bulk of leads in a short period, but given the current situation, they are nearly impossible to organize. As mentioned before, many significant summits and events of Google and Facebook were cancelled. Yet, there is an alternative to this: online sales presentations. That is, you can host virtual events for your prospective customers to generate leads. 

The closest alternative to marketing events is webinars. They allow you to simulate the live event experience quite effectively, but in a more one-way kind of an approach. Here, you can hold Q&A sessions, accept comments and queries, and also address your customers’ reactions. According to GoToWebinar, 73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders claim that webinars are currently the best way to generate high-quality leads. You can either target your audience in the pre-awareness stage, awareness stage, consideration stage, or the decision stage. 

There are many great examples of brands holding webinars, but the best one is Ahira Consulting that is offering not one but three online webinars to its prospective clients. These seminars focus on working remotely and work effectively in the time of such a crisis, and how to manage remote employees. 

Another great example is Cannes, which has planned the Lions Live virtual event for June after its 2020 Lions International Festival of Creativity got cancelled. This event will focus on educational and networking opportunities for its audience and will feature classes and hangout sessions with creative industry leaders and speakers.

Target Your Community

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With most of the world being under quarantine, long-distance shipping can take a hit, and also, most people don’t want to travel far, given the risks of infection. In such a case, you can target your local community and engage with them for lead generation. You can implement various strategies like forming groups and forums for your local community to connect with you, or by giving free delivery or discounts. Try to help out your community as best as you can. However, if you provide online services, then you can also aim to help your online community. This will not only help you make a difference, but it will also garner a lot of appreciation from your community. So, this strategy will help you gain short term leads as well as long term relationships.

There are two great examples of this, Ale Asylum and Pebbles. The first company, a Winsconsin based brewer Ale Asylum has recently launched its newest beer FVCK COVID. The aptly named beer is targeted towards its local community with home delivery, given that its taproom is shut. Additionally, a section of the profits will also be donated to frontline healthcare workers. Here, it is not only generating a lot of lead with shock-value publicity thanks to its name, but it is also helping its local community.

The second example, Pebbles, is more focused on its online community. This cereal brand is paying independent artists $1,500 whenever it features their works in its new video series called Daily Yabba Dabba Doo. This campaign is meant to support creative professionals linked to the brand during such turbulent times, while also providing fresh content for kids stuck at home. So how does it help its business? The kids, watching the video series, will get inspired and associate the cereal brand with inspiration and art, and they will ask their parents to buy them the Pebbles cereals.

Ending Note

Despite all the points mentioned above, one thing you should never do is exploiting the already tense situation. The people of the world are already facing a lot of uncertainties, and your brand must not take advantage of this fear. Not only is this unethical, but if you get caught, you face the risk of getting cancelled. Exploiting their worries is a very near-sighted approach that won’t take your company far in terms of brand value. Instead, you should focus on the long term goals.

So, use this guide to help your brand generate leads for your business. By using these tips and tricks, you will not only generate leads and profits but also have the edge over your competitors when the pandemic ends. While they will be scavenging for leads, you will already have a well-established network of customers and leads. Also, you will have converted enough leads to earn a significant profit that will help you boost back your operations once the pandemic ends. Hence, be creative, use the given tricks and techniques, and do not exploit your customers. Double down on your digital marketing strategies, and soon enough, you will see significant lead generation despite the pandemic. Now is your chance to gain a substantial market share in your respective markets.

Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches. Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.

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