Marketing in Real Time
An interview between Marie Rourke and Julie Heinrich
In times of challenge and crisis, the power of community is powerful. Since the beginning of widespread lockdowns in March, Ingram Micro Trust X Alliance members have come together once a week to share experiences and best practices established in response to COVID-19.
We interviewed Julie Heinrich, marketing and business development coordinator for CTSI, a fast-growing MSP in Lubbock, TX, who shares how they’ve changed their approach to sales and marketing to be more fluid, digital, and personalized to meet the needs of their clients, and their community, during this unprecedented time. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: Julie, what actions have you been taking with your customers around COVID-19?
Julie: Our account managers really took this all to heart and personally reached out, either via email or phone call, to every single one of their clients.
Every conversation was around, “How are you? How is your family? Are you guys staying healthy?” There were no sales conversations. It was all about letting them know that we care about them and that “we're here …we're still operating 24/7 …and if you need us, please call us.” That resonated a lot. We talk about being in the relationship business. But at the end of the day, you need to demonstrate that you actually ARE in relationship with clients.
Q: Recognizing this isn’t the “new normal,” what have you been doing to help clients keep focus on the future?
Julie: We’re continuing our focus on strategic IT planning for the short- and long-term, asking our clients: “What does your business look like after this? How are you being impacted now, and how might you be impacted in the future? What's your workforce going to look like when this is over? Will you continue to allow employees to work from home?” Based on their answers, we are making sure that we have what they need in place and are ready for the next move.
A top priority in all of this is to help our clients address what is currently happening and keep them thinking forward. We can’t stand still. MSPs need to work with their clients as much as possible, and be able to shift and readjust as needed.
Q: Talk to us about what you are doing today to stay connected to clients.
Julie: We have always been in the “relationship business,” which really resonates even more so now. So, we are drilling down into that, putting people first, putting the client first. We are not only having conversations with them about how they are doing personally, but also how their business is doing and how we can impact their business. We are also helping them to think long-term because even while we're all in this situation today, it won’t last forever.
We are working with clients on strategic IT planning, to support where they are and where they want to go. What priorities need to shift in order to succeed in the “new normal?” And how can we help their workforce adapt and work effectively? With a plan in place, it's not so scary and they can be more prepared for what’s ahead. This empowers them to make decisions, and gives them insight into what is coming and the best way to respond and take advantage of opportunities.
Q: What advice would you have for your peers, other MSPs and marketers?
Julie: First and foremost: Don't be silent. This is not a time to be quiet or go under the radar. This is the time to let people know that you are still there for them, and you're up and operating. And while things might be a bit slower (or even at a standstill), you have to find ways to move forward, engage your team and your clients—letting them know you are there to support them and have their backs, so they can focus on their core business …on their employees …and on doing what they need to do to get through this.
Q: Clearly this isn’t the time to hard-sell anyone. What are you doing differently around customer engagement?
Julie: From a marketing standpoint, we are working to educate our clients. We’ve been doing a drip campaign focused on how they can put a plan in place while they work from home, what that looks like, what they need to consider. We walk them through the process. And this isn't just for clients. This is for businesses that maybe don't have an MSP, or maybe they have an IT department with only a couple of people who just aren't sure what to do next. We want to connect with them and guide them, so they have what they need to plan and execute well. Having a plan gives them a roadmap for moving forward, and a tool to reference should something similar happen again. And, that gives us an opportunity to let them to know that we are here if they need us.
We also work to educate them via our communications. We usually do about one a week. That way we can continue to stay current, relevant, top-of-mind.
Q: You mentioned being a lot more flexible with your marketing game plan. What are you doing differently today?
Julie: It used to be that we’d start planning months in advance. Now, we are taking a week-to-week approach to execution. Depending on current events, we can adjust what we do, what we say, and who we target. With everything changing day-to-day, you must be fluid with the design and details of your marketing messaging. You have to be able to make adjustments quickly. Stay true to the brand, but make sure you can be agile and responsive wherever possible to reflect the times. We have designed our campaigns so that we can easily change things up. From video to email drip campaigns, everything must be easy to edit moving forward.
Q: From a marketer’s perspective, what else has changed?
Julie: Front and center for me is building more of a digital presence. I am a marketer based in a small West Texas town, where we're very “face-to-face.” We love to have one-on-one conversations. When I go to shows, my marketing is a lot more personal. Now we’re shifting to connecting digitally, and that is a transformation for me. I have a sticky note on my monitor to remind me every day to “be digitally present.” As marketers, we need to stay dialed in to what's going on in the world. Granted, we are not having face-to-face interactions at the moment, but again, we can’t go silent. Social media use is tracking at an all-time high--screen time has increased about 40%--we have to be more digitally present and embrace social selling from home and when we get back to the office.
Q: How has being physically distant changed your routine and your approach?
Julie: It is definitely something that's been an adjustment for me, but I've been able to hear and see (virtually) more from my friends, my family, my community, and my clients. The whole thing has made me more present with (and for) them. I am listening more intently now to conversations and what everyone has to say...and I love that.
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