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Embracing Digital Marketing in Times of Pandemic: Six Questions with Lucy Fisher

Lucy Fisher analyses the importance of embracing digital marketing and facing the challenge of the pandemic, especially for small organisations and charities.

Lucy Fisher is a freelance marketing consultant, with a solid background and vast experience in marketing, communications, and event production. She has spent more than ten years working with a variety of clients in the healthcare space, from small businesses to international companies. Through her knowledge and carefully-crafted strategies she has been able to help her clients to thrive and turn their ideas and intentions, into action and results.

The incredibly difficult and challenging context of the pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for her to pay particular attention to those who may need assistance the most, but may not have the tools. She is intent on aiding local businesses and charities to rise to the challenge and reach their objectives.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what inspired you to pursue a career in marketing?

I’m a freelance marketing consultant working primarily in the healthcare space, assisting companies and charities with their digital marketing. My interest in healthcare stems from my degree in Pharmacology from Edinburgh University. Whilst at university, I was involved in event organising and also marketing for the Edinburgh University Snow Sports Club, which gave me good experience for my first graduate job in London, organising conferences for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

There was a lot of marketing involved in that role, so from there I used the skills I had learnt in the corporate world and moved towards what I personally cared about, which was healthcare charities and companies. I have been working with local and overseas charities for four years, helping my clients with their digital marketing strategy, event marketing and fundraising. As a consultant, I have the flexibility to help different organisations and work on multiple projects, which is what I really enjoy.

What is the top marketing channel that you think a company should use and why?

It is very hard to pick just one because marketing is all about the experience as a whole, combining marketing messages through different channels; but if I had to choose, I would say email marketing. It’s a great, direct, and personalised way to communicate with your customers. I would recommend that companies, regardless of size and industry, whether commercial or non-profit, start building up an email database. Especially during the pandemic, it has become an even more important communication tool for businesses.

One thing I would stress is to be very careful how you use your email database – you need to build trust with your customers, and using email marketing the wrong way can be damaging. First, you need to understand your audience, build up knowledge of who your customers are and what they want, and then you can start sending segmented messages, tailor-made for that customer, so that you can engage with them on a more personal level. Send the right quality and quantity of emails, and give people the option to choose how often you communicate with them. You can also use emails to tell your customer base about all your other great channels – to build your followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram – whatever is most important for your business.

How has the pandemic affected your clients and how have they adapted to cope with these challenges?

All of my clients have been drastically affected by the pandemic. Charities who relied on fundraising events as their main source of income have had all events cancelled; so new revenue streams had to be found. Other charities who run support services online had to switch to start using webinar software to reach their users, or to train their new volunteers.

Event companies had to quickly switch from face to face conferences and meetings, to online webinars and virtual events, which requires implementing technology and putting new marketing strategies to reach the right people. I’ve helped some clients implement new marketing automations to help streamline their communications with their users.

Due to this, there has been a huge uptake of digital technology, for general business use and specifically in marketing. My clients have had to decide which technology or software to use, get trained in how to use it and train all their staff or volunteers or service users – it has been a big period of change for all.

A survey conducted last year in the UK, showed that about 50% of charities still did not have a digital strategy in place; the pandemic has accelerated this change for many. Decisions had to be made quickly and things put into practice, which has been key to implementing digital strategies. The most successful have been able to change and adapt continuously throughout the different stages of this pandemic, not just initially.

The digital transformation has actually opened up new potential for some clients; those who have been able to adapt quickly and embrace the challenge, and see the inevitable move to the digital world as an opportunity, have been able to find new revenue streams and maximise their results.

What advice would you give to companies who are looking to embrace digital marketing?

Work with someone who can help you reach your ideal customer through the right channels, and use these to give your customers what they want and need. You can hire an experienced consultant or agency, or if you are a charity on a small budget, simply utilise the skills of your trustees.

It depends a lot on where you are starting from, but learn who your ideal customers are, what they want and need, and find ways to reach them. Build a relationship they can cherish. Create a plan that takes your customers on their journey, personalise your content for them, build trust, make them want to bring new customers on board. This is where email can excel as a communication channel, of course in conjunction with social networks and the rest of the digital options available. Use social media advertising if necessary. Also, Google provides a free ad grant for charities specifically, and you can get up to USD 10,000 a month of free advertising, which is a great way to drive traffic to your website.

Finally, I suggest incorporating some degree of marketing automation: as your database grows you will find this can be a game changer.

You have mentioned webinars; do you have any advice for a marketing team that wants to run a successful webinar?

It has become really important for companies to make themselves stand out in a crowded market, as so many people are running webinars now. Even so, webinars still remain a great marketing and communication opportunity, as people are engaged in your topic so often want to find out more. Use webinars to share content – do not run a sales pitch – use the opportunity to prepare quality material, share expertise and create an experience that really serves your customers.

Webinars have now extended into an endless array of possibilities, from training to panel discussions to marketing and more. Just as I mentioned with emails, I think that it is key to design activities that add value, that allow the customer to feel their time have been well spent. Use features like polls and live Q&As to keep your audience engaged, and then take them to the next step of the journey – what else might they be interested in after signing up for your webinar? Even as in-person events start to return, webinars will still be used by many, so it’s important to find a way of working that suits your customers and helps your business succeed.

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Now is the time to embrace digital marketing, to find the professional help you need, to reach out to your customers, to understand who they are and what they need, and make sure you are efficient in providing for them. The digital world has made it easier —and more important— than ever to understand your clients and offer personalised content. There might be, in this particularly hard time, a great opportunity to change, to learn, to adapt, to become better, both as individuals and as organisations.

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