How do you stay top-of-mind for your clients and build relationships when you’re unable to meet face-to-face? We get some top tips from business development coach Ben Paul, founder of The BD Ladder.
The novelty has worn off and we’ve all got lockdown lethargy, says Ben Paul.
“Zoom and Teams was fun in lockdown one, but we’re in lockdown four in Auckland now, and I think people would rather go to the dentist than join another online meeting.”
He’s right, so he’s going to keep it brief when he delivers a webinar for ACE New Zealand members on 7 September titled ‘Business development and marketing in lockdown’.
Communicating with clients and peers is key in our industry – so how can we adapt our communication style when we’re all working from home?
“When you communicate with clients it’s important to get permission with everything,” Ben says. “Ask them first, can you talk? Is now a good time? When would suit you better? Maybe even text or email people first to arrange a time to talk. People are working in strange environments and aren’t running to normal time schedules.”
It’s important to be aware that people may want to share their problems – but they don’t want a solution.
“Clients will sometimes share quite a lot, and often you just need to let them vent and get it out. More than ever, we need to play the barman – pour people a drink and hear their problems. Empathise and show you care. And when it comes to their business issues, take the time to find out what’s important to them right now.”
What else are firms finding challenging about working on their marketing and business development during lockdown?
“It’s hard to get someone’s full attention these days so we have to be aware that people aren’t ‘on’ like they are when you meet them in a normal business environment. Their headspace isn’t necessarily able to think beyond the present day, and it can be quite hard to talk to clients about future plans.
“Also, business doesn’t work on uncertainties, business only works on certainties. So, if you’re in a role that’s responsible for getting new business, be aware that decision making is considerably slower because people aren’t in normal working environments.”
Is now perhaps the perfect time to work on things like a marketing strategy if other work is stalled due to lockdown?
Absolutely, says Ben, and it should be focused in two clear ways – the here and now, and beyond lockdown.
“Right now, you need to think about how you can get in front of your clients, what keeps you top of mind, what will be useful and helpful to people.
“But it’s also a good time to think about what’s going to happen in the next six months when we come out of lockdown, and your next three-year plan as well. Can you plan BD meetings, map out activities, or plan other conferences and events you want to be part of?”
Social media is playing a key role in keeping us all connected while we’re away from the office. How can we use it more effectively and what sort of content works best?
Ben says you need to have clear social media goals, such as who you want to talk to and what sectors you want to connect with. It’s best to keep content short, relevant, focused and helpful. Videos, articles and webinars will continue to perform well.
And for some firms it could be the perfect time to create rich new content.
“With consultant engineers, particularly in some of the mid to large firms, one of the hardest issues marketers face is finding the time to get all that great content and detail out of an engineer’s head. They’ve been so busy rebuilding the country that it’s been hard to get their attention. So now is a good time to have those conversations.”