2020 taught us to future-proof our businesses. Marketers love that, right? As a guild, we marketers are the people infamous for running after the latest gimmick or fad.
That's not going to work now. (Never did, actually.)
Ironically, future proofing looks a lot like digging into the fundamentals, such as putting the needs of your customer first.
To learn more about pivoting during COVID and what's ahead for content marketers, Josh Van Dyk of censhare sat down with Justin Gray , CEO of LeadMD , in the latest episode of the Masters of Content podcast. We’ve broken down some of our highlights from the session for you below.
Let’s begin with Justin’s key takeaway for a winning content marketing strategy, despite digital noise going into overdrive thanks to the pandemic:
“Customer success is going to be the centerpiece of everything.”
As the leader for a performance marketing consultancy which helps rapidly growing businesses deploy their MarTech solutions, Justin has seen several sales and marketing organizations work through the pains of COVID. In fact, this is where he learned to pivot LeadMD’s messaging approach as well.
"We are a marketing consultancy," Justin explained, "but our unique value proposition is rooted in doing things [for our clients]."
Justin's blue-collar background shaped him into the kind of person who operationalizes his strategy, not just devises it. His approach has proven successful as marketing shifted even pre-COVID.
Back then, LeadMD focused on small, intimate, curated events, such as four or five executives around a table discussing best practices and marketing topics. To do that successfully, the team at LeadMD worked hard to bring the right people into the room. Then, the pandemic struck, and no one wanted to be in a (non-Zoom) room with anyone else.
"We've had to — number one — understand that this is the area where we were probably best set up to weather something like COVID," Justin told us. "We're so intimately engaged with our clients from a core business objective standpoint that we had that insight even before picking up the phone."
Certainly the S&P almost dried up for about 3 or 4 months while everyone figured out how COVID would impact them, resulting in budget cuts and furloughs. But the mid-market and enterprise agencies with enough money in the bank to weather a storm immediately started focusing on innovation.
"That was probably the biggest tailwind for our business," Justin explained, "that mid-market and enterprise footprint."
“What does success look like in the eyes of the client? Why did they engage with your company? What are they trying to accomplish? And where are you on the roadmap to their goal?” —Justin Gray
"Our entire CRM is organized around something that we call outcomes," Justin said.
Other agencies often organize around leads, contacts, accounts, or opportunities, but outcomes are explicit. They tell you what you're trying to achieve. They help you think through the client's pain points and what deliverables are necessary to achieve the ultimate business impact.
"Get something like that flowing from the first interaction with the client," Justin advised us. "And you have an agreed-upon definition of success."
An outcomes-based approach explicitly states what problem you'll solve, how you'll measure the success of your solution, and the budget you need to put behind it.
“We talked about efficiencies and regulations, but I feel like the biggest reason we all got into this industry is we want to help people ." —Justin Gray
Misalignment on messaging can trickle into other areas of the business and decimate fragile relationships.
How many emails do you get saying something like, "Hey, I'm Samantha, I'm your new customer success manager"? And what's the first thing that they want to do? Conduct a business review or make some other veiled attempt at upselling. That's pretty low value. That's misaligned messaging.
Nailing your message requires knowing your customer — and yourself. To align on messaging, ask yourself two key questions:
Who do we normally serve?
What does their day look like?
Next, ask your client two key questions:
What do we sell to you?
What do you think is its value?
If your client doesn't know what you sell or can't value it appropriately, it's time to refine your message.
Right now, we have a huge opportunity to leverage performance and our understanding of ourselves and our clients. We can rally everyone around that opportunity.
So, imagine you're a client: When you turn over an account rep, they should be able to reference exactly what type of client you are, what have you purchased from us, and what your investment in our product is.
What do we know about you? What are you trying to accomplish? How well are we doing at fulfilling on that promise?
"I can be a pretty pissed off client," Justin said, "and someone's asking me for an intro call. That's not my truth. That's not my context at that point."
That's how organizations perpetuate client (mis)perceptions of them: They have failed to create a relationship first.
"That," Justin says, "is going to be table stakes moving forward."
If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can find every episode here .