Your audience is rapidly going virtual. What does that mean for your marketing?

As a business that has operated in a virtual mode since 2001, we know, when it comes to marketing engagement what is “through the looking glass”.

In one sense, marketing is easy – you simply have to evaluate your own behaviours to know if a play and pitch is likely to work, i.e. would you respond to your message? In this post I am using my own behaviour as an example of a “typical” prospect.

The added dimension is how will this work with people working in a virtual environment, typically from home, which is a whole new experience for them?

How well will your tactics work and will you get engagement?

My expectation is that overall, the changes of Working From Home (WFH) attitudes are more favourable towards direct marketing approaches. There are a number of dynamics to consider, which come into play.

The major dynamic is a reduction of inhibition. Firstly, I don’t have to watch what I say. I feel I can speak far more freely as I can express my own views, without being overheard and judged by others. This means I am more likely to share information and be open to engage in a deeper conversation.

Also, I feel that I’m not distracting anyone and I don’t have to run around the building finding a quiet space where “the guy with the incredibly loud phone persona” can’t be heard!

I am also likely to be less distracted by other things going on in the office (providing I have banished the cat from the study!).
The key challenge for us outbound marketing folk, is getting our prospect into a conversation. Will they pick-up a call coming in on their mobile rather than an office landline? My experience is that they will be more inclined to do so.

Firstly, people who are not used to working at home miss the engagement they get in the office and tend to feel a little isolated, so, their inclination will be to pick-up. What is the best Calling ID to have – a mobile or landline or private number? Most people seem to respond best to an incoming mobile call, so that would be best practice. There does seem to be an aversion to picking up a “Private number”, as it implies the person wants to hide. Maybe I’m as curious as my cat, but I tend to pick those up straight away as I know I can’t return the call at my leisure. Different strokes, as they say …

A second factor is the person’s availability to pick up. Yes, there will still be lots of online meetings and internal chats going on when working from home, but, far fewer ad-hoc chats and shooting the breeze around the water cooler. For that reason, people should be more available.

Speaking of the death of the water cooler chat, this will have an impact on the level of outbound reach needed. With far less cross-pollination happening around events, products and solutions being offered, the onus falls on the outbound effort for us to connect to and influence a wider group. No more internal champions spreading the good word for us.

If phone pick-up does become an issue, then the prime fall-back channel is Social Media. In our world, this primarily means LinkedIn. Studies have shown that people tend to spend the majority of their LinkedIn networking time out of core hours and from home. All good for engaging people WFH.

Many managers are a little ‘old school’ and tend to frown on people spending too much time on social media in the workplace,often, because it’s not related directly to business. This tends to create some inhibition around using social channels in the workplace. This inhibition will no longer be there when people are working from home.

Consequently, engagement on LinkedIn is likely to be good and highly responsive. WARNING:

if you invoke a “conversation” on LinkedIn, be ready to run with it! Prove to them there is a human being at the keyboard and not an automated marketing process. I’m getting increasingly peeved at getting caught by those clever automated marketing plays that eventually get me to agree to a meeting and then …… nothing. What was the point? Ok, rant over. It’s safe to come back.

So, how do you best pitch the conversation? My advice is to keep it personal and casual.

Working from home, people tend to be more relaxed and chilled. There is also a feeling of being more of an entrepreneur or captain of their own ship and they are likely to be more engaged and decisive, which all helps to lubricate the conversation. Exit the Water Cooler chat. Enter the “Teleccino”.

In summary: with people working from home there is a new game in town and these are the changes you will being seeing

  • People will be more willing to accept phone calls to help overcome the sense of isolation
  • People will be more willing to engage in deeper conversations
  • People will be more open to sharing information
  • Less cross-pollination within the organisation so there will be a need to be in contact with more people within the organisation
  • Social media will be a more active channel than we have seen in the past and will be happening more during business hours

The last thing to consider is that this is the new future. Once people experience the joys of working from home and businesses find that it can work effectively for them, then people are unlikely to revert back to a 5 day a week existence in the office. Just think, no more commuting! Why would you do it? Anything you invest now is for the long-term and not just a temporary blip. Go for it!