When you work in marketing, you can't afford to live under the rock. You have to be intensely aware of all the events and shifts in society. What used to appeal to your target audience two years ago might be unacceptable right now. Subjects that were considered inappropriate to bring up are now the centerpiece of discussions. Some taboos are lifted and brought in front of the public, signifying a shift in approach regarding our life choices and values.
B2C areas aren't the only ones affected - B2B spheres also must make changes in society into account to make sure that their voice sounds genuine and their mission is clear and comprehensible to the target audience.
So, if you rely on email marketing to deliver you leads and sales, you must make sure that your campaigns aren't old-fashioned, out of touch, or give away a fake, insincere vibe. The latter scenario is particularly bad for business - modern consumers can forgive not being able to keep up with times, but they won't tolerate a company that tries on values and trends it doesn't understand or believe in. Nobody likes wolves in sheep's clothing.
Does it mean that you must change everything about your business model and email marketing to adjust it to societal innovations? Not exactly. Staying true to yourself is important - companies who manage to find a balance between maintaining their identity and acknowledging the new voices are the ones found most trustworthy. Being aware of the change and knowing what will be on everybody's minds is the key to correcting your business strategy. Worry not: this blog post is here to guide you through the three core societal changes that must be recognized by your email marketing and approach to doing business!
1. Humanity is not a weakness, it’s a mark of quality
The development of social media and online platforms makes it extremely easy to exchange opinions. Quite soon, people across the world realized that they have tons of things in common - and they're mostly united by their distaste for brands and industry leaders who fail to understand basic human emotions and human needs.
Remember all those Zuckerberg memes? They’re not about Mark’s odd appearance - it’s his detached and odd behavior that makes people doubt whether he knows how an ordinary person lives their life.
Also, you probably caught yourself cringing whenever you see a business celebrity showing a complete lack of awareness of the modern issues or offering an unrealistic solution due to living in a guarded community without being exposed to the hardships an ordinary citizen has to deal with every day.
“Why do they act like this?” you keep asking yourself. “Who are they even targeting? It feels like they want to promote something to me, but they just don’t know me.”
Many brands fall into this trap. They started successfully and they have been following a business model and a marketing strategy that was working for them for years, but now, they keep coming across negative responses from the public, and they find themselves at a loss.
Why would this keep happening?
The maladaptive behavior is based upon trying to offer a solution for any situation. Brands are oblivious to actual issues but act like they know everything because they are used to such a pattern. They try doing what global marketing required them to do for years: they try to lead and direct. Even when they aren't sure about the situation, they try to pretend that they’ve got everything under control…and since it's painfully obvious they don't, people don't feel assured. They feel annoyed by such obvious deception.
The truth is, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even clearer that the trend of “heroic” brands and leaders has become outdated. Your average consumer has become a lot more independent - they don’t look up to you for answers, they don’t want you to guide them. All they want is proof that your brand has a soul.
What does a brand's soul look like, though? In fact, there is no standard. It's something that your audience can connect with on an emotional level, something wholesome and sincere. In general, the way to discover your brand's soul involves several steps.
This is something no USA-based brand would allow itself to do back in the 2000s. It was imaginable for a brand leader can't admit that they don't know something or have no answer. Back then, it was a valid strategy because the world was a bit more stable and predictable. However, right now, anyone who acts like they have a perfect plan and can predict any outcome is taken with a grain of salt at best, a huge distrust at worst. However, what do you achieve by admitting that you go through your fears, concerns, and difficulties too?
- You don’t take your audience for fools. Your potential buyers and loyal customers are smart. They can't be deceived by fancy words or promises because they read analytical reports and watch the news. If you keep up with the overly cheerful "this is fine" attitude, your targeted consumers will call your bluff sooner or later and leave you for a vendor who doesn't insult their intelligence.
- You show that you are braver than you seem. Yes, admitting your fears shows that you're actually a brave person. You aren't afraid of that part of yourself. Therefore, you won't take steps directed at maintaining your fearless facade instead of helping your target audience. You own your doubts and concerns, no shifting blame, no sweeping everything under the rug. And your audience will respect you for that.
- You are in control of yourself. Denying your fears and concerns, pushing yourself at the workplace up to the point of burning out…that's the opposite of staying in control. Sooner or later, it will wear you down, affect your decisions and turn your customers and employers against you. You don't need that. Be honest with yourself and the people around you - it will repay you tenfold.
Note that we don’t mean that you should cry in front of your target audience or turn into a doomsayer. Being vulnerable means acknowledging the fears and worries of your target audience because you experience them, too. It means openly speaking about the support your customers and team have been giving you all that time. Being vulnerable the right way is saying, “I can’t do this alone. I don’t have all the answers. But I will do my best to be there for you, so that we can overcome these challenges together.”
The new period won't give you a smooth and predictable business landscape any time soon. The need for unity and collaboration is at its peak. Don't push your potential customers away by trying to be a solitary soldier. Reach out to them, thank them for being there with you, be honest about the upcoming changes in your company and remind them that you're here for them because you want to contribute to their problem solving with your experience and services.
Speak and explain, do not declare
Another old-fashioned strategy a large fraction of brands can't let go of is the manner to preach and push. There is always this message, "We know what you need as a doctor, a mechanic, a stay-at-home parent. We know how you should brew your coffee or clean your bathroom or bring up your kids."
It used to make people feel at ease. But right now, it's irritating and borderline disturbing. We all want communication, not being exposed to a glossed-over agenda. Since natural communication is a lot messier than a firm and unwavering corporate tone, many large businesses and brands find themselves struggling to adapt or don't even see the necessity to do so. The latter leads to them being unable to build connections with potential buyers and promote their product with full efficiency.
Even if you work in a B2B area, you don't get a free pass. Your B2B clients are human too - and when the pandemic struck, they found themselves scared and at a loss. They are still working on regaining their footing, and sending them a marketing email written in your usual tone, without addressing their issues would rather push them away from you than bring you closer.
So, how do you make sure to make your conversations two-sided?
- Explain yourself. When you generate leads through cold outreach, you want to tell your recipients where you come from, how you learned about their company, and why you decided to contact them. Strengthen your point with numbers and information about your company and stay as transparent as possible about your goals, mention why you chose that time and moment to engage a decision-maker. After knowing all the precursors, your prospects will appreciate your honesty and will feel much easier about talking to you.
- Gather feedback. Starting with the gaming industry and ending with retail, nobody likes customer research that was clearly done behind closed doors. Since nobody knows how companies gather information, such research doesn't hold any water and only gives reasons to suspect that no questioning was done and the brand leaders have no idea what their target audience feels. Right now, human-centered brands and companies give preference to engaging their potential buyers and asking for their opinions via social media, questionnaires, and polls. Alternatively, they take a call with their most loyal customers and ask them for their honest evaluation of their company, business, and approach.
- Give what’s necessary. Abandon the disgusting habit of forcing your prospects to buy the product that profits you instead of guiding them to the product that can help them. That is so last decade. Make an effort to dive into the thoughts of your potential buyers, discuss their problems and explore what kind of solutions they have tried already. Being able to offer a sympathetic ear can take you a long way. Buyers and consumers got desensitized to ironfisted narratives that dictate them how to act, but when a vendor is willing to pay them attention and walk with them through all the options available, they respond eagerly and will hear you out in return.
A more caring and empathetic approach to your customers will add more value to your conversations - it will let you separate relevant connections from the irrelevant ones, locate and pick people who will boost your brand, and stay with you for long.
Don’t be boring
Not being boring doesn't equal clowning around or coming up with lame jokes. Everything that can get our attention, keep our eyes glued to the screen, and make us explore information with gusto definitely can't be boring. So, you should entertainingly present your company and services and make them useful to your target audience.
Being creative, interesting, and imaginative opens you to a lot of opportunities for bringing out your brand's personality and highlighting its uniqueness. Not exploring them properly would be a huge miss.
- Create informative events. When your work is dedicated to complicated matters and you want to keep your potential customer educated, it makes sense to fill them in yourself by building a community that allows you to speak about your work and elaborate on the most challenging aspects of your industry. Webinars, conferences, consultations - everything lets you contribute to enriching the knowledge of your prospects.
- Offer benefits to loyal prospects. We all need to belong. Everybody loves to feel like a part of the group or even a secret society, with secret language and gestures...if you plan on building a loyal customer base, make sure that your clients get rewarded for staying with you. Make them a part of your loyal customer program, coining a fancy name for them and letting them enjoy privileges: exclusive content, free samples, free consultations, faster updates, etc. There are many things you can come up with to show your love.
- Give your clients a break. Sometimes it feels nice just to relax and have some rest, without thinking about business or urgent tasks. Naturally, it's not your duty to provide entertainment, but just in case there are people with a creative streak in your team, and you're up for some experimenting, you can try entertainment campaigns that let your prospects just spend time-solving puzzles, reading interesting reports and finding something new.
When you're allowed to be entertaining, you can truly be yourself. This is your chance of discovering more about the personality of your brand and using that knowledge to emphasize your most unique aspects, put yourself in front of your target audience, and open up to them from a new perspective.
2. Cybersecurity matters as much as home security
Since a major part of business processes switched to remote, everybody started realizing the importance of protecting their personal accounts, business Gmail profiles, and every digital storage containing valuable data. Sadly, this realization came after several loud cases of spoofing, phishing, and data theft that cost companies billions of dollars. In addition, it applied a lot of mental pressure on employers and employees who are now vulnerable to blackmail and deception by cybercriminals.
This is why it’s your responsibility as a company to acknowledge that importance and contribute to keeping your target audience protected from harmful influence. Even if they don’t become your customers, they must be kept safe from phishers and ransomware developers.
- Be a good neighbor. All safe neighborhoods are made that way with the help of the community. All homeowners look after one another, making sure that everybody locks their door at night and there are no suspicious faces around the block. Cybersafety isn't any different in that regard. Of course, you can't know about anything going on your prospects' PCs, but you can guide them and show them how to make their digital workplace safer, warn them about possible threats and keep them updated on the latest dangers posed by cybercriminals. For example, you can let your recipients evaluate their knowledge of cybersecurity and see how it can respond to modern challenges by sending them a poll or a test that would show them their cybersafety awareness score and suggest to them how to increase it. You can also provide them with the news digest related to mailbox security and direct them to the tools and ways of strengthening your defenses.
- Protect your good name. Your fight against cybercriminals starts with you. Take your safety guidelines seriously and don't swipe every deflected attack under the rug. Be outspoken about your stand, bring that case in front of your target audience. Let them know how to handle such assaults on your defenses, describe all potential losses, and make it clear that you aren't afraid. Develop corporate discipline and teach all your teams how to take care of their mailboxes and protect their personal data. The less afraid you are of discussing core cybersafety issues, the easier it would be for you to exchange information with other senders and work together on standing your ground.
- Launch safety webinars. Since spoofing and phishing became a real problem for users, it makes sense to hold discussions on improving safety and breaking the recent cybercrimes down to figure out how to avoid data theft and protect financial information submitted by clients. Collective responsibility and awareness considerably contribute to the efforts of all organizations and developers working on providing anti-malware and improving algorithms for catching spoofers.
In our line of work, we also take time to educate users who are new to the digital work model and only dipping their toes into email outreach, so their introduction to the remote workplace will go smoothly and without any issues.
3. Environmental awareness is more than a fashion statement
How contributing to fighting climate change can improve your business model? By investing in it, you invest into your reputation and open new ways of interacting with your target audience - for example, as a B2B institution, you can connect with other companies that are aware of climate change and discuss how you can combine your efforts to make your contribution more effective. Also, it allows you to participate in webinars and workshops that explore the new possibilities to apply business strategies that reduce your carbon imprint.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Fighting climate change is good. But don't exaggerate your abilities. Think about how you can really help to save the environment - promising to switch to green energy may be too bold and costly right now, but donating to carbon offset and supporting organizations that restore forests is something you can do. Report all eco-friendly steps that you have implemented already, but don't boast the steps that you haven't introduced yet.
- Don’t preach, shame or lecture. Going eco-friendly is not a marketing step. It's your way to give back to the world, and it should be your conscious steps to take these measures and connect with other communities. Informing your customers and prospects about your efforts and explaining what difference your steps make is one thing. Being too insistent or even judgemental of the companies that aren't at your level is just mean. If you want to get people interested or ready to contribute to helping the environment, be kind, gentle, and, most of all, informative. Inspire them to make their choices.
Being aware of the climate change means agreeing to share the collective responsibility. Do your part, communicate with fellow companies that contribute to keeping the environment safe - and it will teach you and your prospects to unite around the common cause.
Societal changes always sound threatening. But experienced marketers know that these changes provide opportunities and ways to upgrade their email campaigns. We hope that this blog post revealed the most obvious trends to take into account for designing your business strategy.
Discovering a brand's soul and putting it into the very core of your business model may be a complicated process and completely new to some business owners, yet the result will give you an advantage over your competitors that are still figuring out this new human-centered era of empathy, safety, and awareness.