Seize unexpected opportunities for reinvention

Joe Manausa encourages you to push innovation during pandemic downtime

Whether your employees are back in the swing of things or still sitting at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders should be pushing for innovation right now. Many organizations are likely to have under-utilized personnel, who can be redeployed to reinforce and accelerate your innovation efforts.

That has to include marketing: many markets have been reshaped overnight by the virus and its economic after-effects, and that makes it critical that businesses innovate to strengthen their position online. It is imperative that organizations create a quality content strategy.

The internet is full of garbage content

Have you ever noticed that most of the search results that you are delivered when looking for a product or service online are articles filled with nothing but hot air? Ask yourself: “Do our customers find garbage articles when searching for our products or services?”

The answer is likely “yes”. Most businesses, in most industries, lack a website packed with superb content featuring answers to all the questions that prospective customers are mulling over before they make a selection. Why not use this time to engineer the absolute best resource on the internet, addressing the questions and answers that arise when a consumer is considering your products or services?

Innovative content creates better data

Larger organizations, who tend to have the resources to buy adverts and ensure their search results, can learn from smaller ones who rely on organic search results – free traffic – to build large, loyal consumer databases. The quality of consumer traffic which arrives via organic search results is far better than paid traffic, because these individuals are in the early stages of the buying process, and they are interested in learning more about the solutions that are available to them. They are actively seeking answers to questions related to your product or service.

Imagine being able to send an email out to tens of thousands of prospective customers any time that you like. You can reach them with a new offer, new content, or a call to action. Great content helps you build a record of targets to whom you can continuously market your offerings, with a high percentage of high-probability customers.

Entrepreneurs have used successful list-building techniques that started small and ended up creating businesses due to the strength of the list. Large organizations can learn from this, drawing on the insights and experiences of their employees to understand the issues and concerns that current customers have faced. This valuable information can be used to reverse-engineer a sales-funnel on your organization’s website, which will pay dividends for years to come.

The three stages of the digital consumer

The best way to focus your efforts to innovate and rapidly develop a new content marketing strategy is to visualize the three stages at which you will encounter consumers online. Depending on your industry, these three phases can occur within seconds of each other, or may be months apart. Start with an educated hypothesis and evolve your plan over time as the hypothesis is proven or new information emerges.

Regardless of the duration, your customers’ evolution goes through three distinct stages.

Information seekers

The entry point for many consumers occurs long before you even know they exist. As information seekers, out to discover the process for buying, they often begin with a search engine. These early-stage consumers do not go to Google and type your company name in the box; they type in a search string that describes their problem, or a question that relates to what they believe might be a solution. You are not important: their attention is on their problem.

The primary reason I like to attract information seekers is that I get to establish the narrative of how things should proceed. I get to provide them with valuable information, which puts me into a position as a trusted authority or expert. I am confident that if all else is equal, people will choose to ‘work with the best’.

Comparison shoppers

After spending time as information seekers, consumers either drop out, or evolve to the ‘comparison shopper’ stage. Where information seekers are often scattered in their focus, comparison shoppers have developed some knowledge of what they want and a plan for achieving a solution.

You must have content that both attracts comparison shoppers and gives them reasons to return. Comparison shoppers want to eliminate options and move forward in the decision-making process, so provide them with the tools to do so.

Ready buyers

Ready buyers are those people who are prepared to make a purchase decision, so your website needs to have the calls-to-action (CTAs) that allow these people to buy. Most sites have CTAs, but fail to earn the trust of the visitor with great content. You can choose to be different.

Seizing the moment

It is so hard to find the time to innovate, but present conditions have put some organizations in a position to re-utilize some of their employees. If you organize a thought exercise with employees from every department, you can discover more about your customers and what you should be providing.

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Now might be the best chance you will ever have to refocus on your customers and innovate to meet their needs.

— Joe Manausa is author of The Business of Getting Business (LID Publishing, 2020) and chief executive of Joe Manausa Real Estate, a real estate brokerage listed among the Forbes Inc. 5000