If your sales have suffered as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, then this article is designed to outline the benefits of introducing video consultations to help support your sales funnel and overall strategy.
We will outline a number of technologies available to business owners which help to maintain communication and introduce additional customer service channels, limiting the commercial impact of social distancing, and maximising your sales opportunities during this time of uncertainty.
Objectives Of This Guide
The objective of this article is to help you understand:
- Which problems the COVID-19 pandemic presents to customers and business owners, and opportunities that have resulted from this;
- How the competitive landscape has changed in recent weeks and the importance of remaining dynamic and responsive in order to survive and prosper;
- The benefits of pivoting your online strategy towards a remote, virtual offering.
By the end of this article you will learn:
- Key capabilities and functions of several technology platforms and the process of introducing these into your business model to support your sales team;
- How to nurture your database to maintain communication, customer service, and sales support to help drive more sales in light of the global pandemic;
- Future digital strategies to secure and maintain business continuity.
Table of Contents
- What’s The Problem?
- Why Does This Matter?
- The Solution: Video Consultations For Remote Selling
- But First… Is Your Website Up To Scratch?
- Choosing The Right Virtual Software
- What Are The Benefits Of Video Consultations?
- Getting The Message Out There
- In Summary
- It’s Time To Get Started!
- Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Problem?
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world, best described as a human tragedy with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes (nor will we perhaps ever again) and it’s creating widespread concerns and disruption to life as we know it.
Customers Are Feeling The Pinch
Whilst the threat to public safety is the major threat, in a commercial sense, the global economy is being placed under significant strain with customers feeling the effects of global shutdowns, restrictions, delays, and shortages. Customer service levels have also taken a hit as the world goes into panic mode.
Even companies as large as Amazon are struggling to keep up with demand surges, with customers experiencing significant delays and items being prioritised based on necessity. It’s becoming harder to spend money to buy what you need and as a result, customers are choosing to pause any unnecessary spending.
Business Owners Defaulting To Survival Mode
As markets crash and uncertainty, fear, and apprehension spread throughout the global economy, business owners are feeling the pressure of surviving through these uncertain times, with business continuity high on the priority list.
Most businesses aren’t geared up for a worldwide pandemic. The speed of the COVID-19 outbreak has uncovered some sobering realities, taking its toll on those who were unable to pivot their strategy fast enough.
Why Does This Matter?
The UN’s trade and development agency have predicted a $1 trillion cost to the global economy with rolling recessions likely to follow.
Government shut downs, enforced quarantine laws, and social distancing are contributing to a reduction in buyer confidence with businesses struggling to find ways of keeping their doors open for business. All products and services not deemed to be an “essential” expense are under threat and businesses providing these non-essential items are poised to become the latest victims of the virus in a commercial sense.
Social Distancing Laws Are Limiting Human Interaction
As governments continue to enforce increasing levels of restrictions and legislation around social distancing and quarantine laws, this presents a challenge to businesses who traditionally interact with their customers face-to-face. Customers are forced to remain inside their houses, prompting an immediate need for business owners to consider new ways of communicating with customers in order to reduce their risk of lost sales opportunities and/or a dip in customer service levels.
Travel Bans Are Reducing Global Trading
Worldwide travel bans are further contributing to a reduction in global trade. Customers are now forced to remain in their home countries in a state of quarantine and the transporting of cargo and international goods has taken a huge hit across several industries. Our interconnected world that originally boasted more than 40 million flights per year (source: Statista ) has now become a world of village islands once more.
The year 2020 will long be remembered as one of the toughest years on record for businesses trading internationally. Offices are shutting down, supply levels are at dangerously low levels and revenue is down across an extensive number of industries all as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Businesses must now look to alternative methods of facilitating international trade in order to survive.
Customers Are Beginning To Feel A Disconnect
With restrictions mandating social isolation, travel bans, and worldwide uncertainty around future events, a social disconnect has begun to take hold between businesses and consumers. Given the dynamically changing market place, businesses are struggling to adapt and pivot their service offering fast enough. As consumers battle threats to their job security, purchase decisions are becoming more considered and sales cycles are lengthening. The Coronavirus is also creating an influx of social anxiety around social spending or unnecessary purchases, meaning businesses need to connect with customers now more than ever.
The Solution: Video Consultations For Remote Selling
Whilst the Coronavirus crisis has created a sense of unrest throughout the global economy, now is a great time for businesses to be proactive. Physical social isolation has led to customers seeking connection through other channels, which has resulted in people spending more time online than ever before. The size of the online audience and the opportunities it presents have never been greater.
Businesses have a present opportunity to introduce tailored online services that provide convenience, personalisation, support, and customer service, and thanks to today’s modern age of digital connectivity, companies can easily achieve this through remote video consultations.
There are a variety of software and technology options in the market to set this up, keeping your sales team actively engaged with prospective and current customers. So while face-to-face consultations have been mothballed for the time being, screen-to-screen conversations are becoming the new norm. Customers are not only accepting this shift in behaviour as necessary during these times, but we’re beginning to see a broader expectation that businesses must provide remote customer service applications geared towards convenience.
In other words, video consultations are not only rapidly gaining mainstream adoption, but the lasting impact of this viral disruption will mean that video becomes the preferred medium of consumers into the future.
Going Remote With Your Sales Strategy
Setting up video consultations is one way of adjusting your sales strategy. It provides customers who are interested in your products or services with the ability to interact with you without having to leave the comfort of their homes.
Given the ongoing restrictions around social isolation, video consultations are an effective way to provide an immediately accessible service to customers, with tailored convenience to keep your sales funnel topped up with enquiries, leads, and ultimately sales.
Given the fluidity of the market, speed of decision-making and implementation is a critical success factor, with businesses forced to adapt and respond quickly in order to survive. When it comes to digital consultations, a major advantage is that they can be relatively swift to set up, giving business an immediate solution to dipping revenue.
Real Humans, Not Chatbots
When we speak about video consultations to assist in remote selling, we’re not talking about chatbots. Whilst the use of chatbots can be effective for handling generic enquiries through your website, as covered in our Ultimate Guide To Chatbots, there is nothing quite like human interaction during times of crisis.
Instead, we’re talking about the introduction of specific software and technology to link customers with your sales team, helping to facilitate conversations that are ultimately geared towards conversions (or sales).
It’s Easier Than You Think
There are a number of technologies on the market which enable you to quickly set up video consultations for remote selling. In a nutshell, you will need communication software that primarily provides the ability to speak face-to-face with customers, with potential secondary benefits also extending to sharing your screen, sending documents/files, and looping in multiple users to ongoing conversations.
Grow Your Database For Email Nurturing
Data is still one of the most valuable assets on the planet. Building an extensive database will help any business increase its value in terms of intellectual property, whilst also providing an ongoing channel of communication with your customer list. It is also a lot less expensive than acquiring new customers, with repeat sales more likely to arise as a result of a past positive purchase experience with your brand.
Setting up lead capture forms on your website to facilitate digital consultation bookings will help your business grow its database, giving you the perfect opportunity to introduce email nurturing campaigns.
These nurturing campaigns offer the perfect communications tool for regular touch points with your customers, with special offers, periodical sales, general news, and company updates all helping to keep your business and brand top of mind, whilst also promoting future sales and transactions.
Driving Revenue Through Personalisation
Even though you may have customers enquiring about your products or services today, the chances are they may not be far enough down the sales funnel to make a purchase decision right away. People currently have more time on their hands, giving them the ability to conduct more research than ever before, and in some cases this means the customer is months away from making any purchase decisions.
As a result, this presents an opportunity to keep in touch with personalised, timely and relevant updates in times of crisis, helping to nurture the customer through your sales funnel until they are ready to finally make a purchase – most likely once the dust settles from the global pandemic.
Personalised email marketing campaigns can help business owners:
- Optimise customer journeys with relevant offers and messages that align with decision drivers and different stages of the customer journey;
- Establish trust and brand awareness, positioning the company as one of authority, integrity, and quality within its industry;
- Tailor communication messages to guide customers from being an initial tyre-kicker through to a qualified sales lead with a clear intention to make a purchase;
- Refine their customer profiling based on analysing open rates, clicks, and engagement metrics to refine demographic targeting and budget allocations; and
- Better understand what their customers want and which trigger points leads to sales.
But First… Is Your Website Up To Scratch?
By introducing video consultations to your business model, customers are provided with an immediate benefit of accessible, convenient, and timely customer service support from your sales team. However, before setting up a virtual consultations model, business owners should ponder the following considerations, by asking themselves;
- Is my website set up to provide an easy, free-flowing user experience with clear navigation, accurate information, and strong calls to action to facilitate online sales?
- Is my website hosting strong enough to handle an increase in traffic should I become overwhelmed with an influx of new traffic?
- Do all features on my website work properly (plugins, buttons and links) and have I tested my website forms to ensure they are working and all leads are being received?
- Is my sales team trained, available, and capable in resourcing a new digital model of virtual consultations in place of traditional selling methods?
If you answered “no” to any (or all) of these questions, it is imperative that you address these before setting up a remote digital sales funnel, as these components may limit the degree of success of your campaign.
Choosing The Right Virtual Software
Once a customer submits their information via your website form, they will expect a member of your team to contact them shortly thereafter to handle the enquiry. At this point you have a potential sales lead, so timely follow up will be crucial, however the software you use for this stage of communication is also critical.
You will want to use a software that allows the following basic functions:
- Smooth, clear, video conferencing;
- Easy to use screen sharing capabilities;
- Document management (uploading, downloading, and sending);
- Efficient user management for multiple conversations and profiles.
Whilst there are a host of software options on the market, each with differing levels of functionality, it is important to not limit yourself to just one option. Offer your customers the choice out of several technology platforms ranging from common to purpose built, as this will ensure your digital consultation is accessible and suited to your customers’ technical ability.
Everyday Video Chat Apps
Depending on the level of interaction you require with customers, you can choose to work with a host of commonly used apps or programs to facilitate video chats for remoate consultations. From Facetime, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp Messenger through to Skype, WeChat and Microsoft Teams, there are varying options available on the market – most of which are free to use.
Whilst these are great programs/apps to offer customers in online consultations, aside from video chat functions, they can be somewhat limited in terms of additional functions that support sales-related communication. For example, if you are looking to transfer documents, or share your screen, or even conduct on-screen recordings, you’ll have to consider looking at more purpose-built software for virtual conferencing and online collaboration.
Purpose-Built Video Conferencing
Google provides a suite of apps in the video conferencing space, each with their own set of unique benefits. Google Duo is often described as Google’s version of FaceTime whereas Google Hangouts is the longest running messaging and video chat service in Google’s series, offering screen sharing and group conferencing functionality of up to 10 people. If you wish to add more people, Google Hangouts Meet provides a paid option for more advanced video conferencing capabilities.
Go To Meeting offers a customised platform that is ideal for collaboration, with handy features like its Voice Commands, Cloud Recording, and its renowned Commuter Mode making it easy to host (or attend) meetings on the go, ideal for companies who are often out on site or away from the office.
BlueJeans is also a popular choice with business owners as it doesn’t require participants to create an account – only the host needs to sign up for a profile. With the ability to have up to 25 attendees in one meeting, this paid app is a great option for video conferencing.
One of the most widely embraced programs in current times is Zoom which offers a range of memberships, including the option for a free account which enables you to host up to 100 participants. Supported by group collaboration features like webinars, chat functions and customised meeting IDs, Zoom provides everything you need in one place.
If you’re working in an industry that requires high definition video conferencing such as property, fashion, home entertainment or architecture, Lifesize provides screen sharing in 4K resolution with up to 10,000 people at once on live streams. Whilst not a free app, if you are after high definition in a highly visual industry, this app presents a viable solution.
Free Versus Paid Software Options
Above are just some of the solutions available on the market and it can be difficult to ascertain which one is the most suitable for your business.
An important step in making your final selection is to first consider if you want a free or paid software, followed by how many people you need to be able to communicate with in each meeting, as well as a list of additional functions you require as non-negotiable.
Provide Your Customers With Choice
One size does not necessary fit all when it comes to selecting a software to use for your remote video consultations. For the same reason that not all marketing works for all customer target markets, you need to offer a variety of tailored options according to your customer groups. Providing choice is essential to ensuring your new remote offering is accessible to all customer groups regardless of their technical ability, age, or familiarity with video chat software.
After all, you’re looking to provide convenience so give your customers the option of selecting what works best for them and what is the easiest for them to manage. For example, older generations of customers may prefer to simply follow a link from your email or answer a FaceTime video call as opposed to having to sign up, create a profile, and search for your meeting ID.
As the old saying goes….keep it simple!
What Are The Benefits Of Video Consultations?
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on global economies, in particular the digital marketing space where ad costs and competition have been decreasing for some industries (accurate at the time of this article being published).
While a majority of companies and industries have taken a hit, these small pockets are experiencing an uptake in conversion rates simply because their competitors have left the room. Reduced competition brings new opportunities for businesses who can adapt and pivot to an online service offering.
Reduced Risk And Overheads
Remote selling facilitates enquiries and connects businesses with customers through the convenience of an internet or phone connection with reduced overheads from staffing and rental costs. By separating customers from your employees, you are reducing the risk of infections due to less contact with the public, also helping to maintain business as usual.
Less Commitment, More Convenience
This also brings with it the added benefit of less commitment from customers who are becoming more cautious with their money. This is where video consultations can provide an accessible solution for companies and customers beginning new conversations without the inconvenience of in-person consultations.
Having the option to provide sales support for potential customers through remote software is a game-changer for most businesses. You can continue on with business as per your usual levels of service once you have invested in the software, website architecture, and human resources to facilitate a smooth, customer-focused process. In turn this provides extra flexibility for customers and helps your business continue on with trading as usual.
Getting The Message Out There
Once you’ve implemented everything you need to be able to start offering remote consultations, the next step is getting the message out to your current and prospective customers.
Add Your Video Consultations Offering To Your Website
Providing your website is up to scratch and ready to take on incoming enquiries, you can add a dedicated landing page to your website which promotes your new digital video consultations offering. Explain what you are providing and the steps that customers can take in order to book appointments with your sales staff, and be sure to include clear call to actions to encourage website browsers to become prospects by completing your form.
Before you press that ‘publish’ button, it is also worth double, triple (even quadruple) checking the website form to ensure that form submissions are being received and confirmation messages are being sent out to the enquirer.
Additionally you can add a pop-up form to the website which can activate once a website browser lands on your homepage, or anywhere specifically on your site. These forms need to have a clear call-to-action for browsers to leave their details, asking for specific contact information in order to service their needs.
Be sure to strike a balance of asking for enough information that you qualify the lead, but not too much information that you scare off potential leads who may not wish to provide a copious amount of personal information.
Similarly, you can add a sticky header/footer to your website as a a fixed form or call-to-action button that facilitates bookings for remote video consultations. These are often less detailed forms which ask for basic details such as name, phone number, and email address, making it easy for customers to complete the form quickly with minimal effort.
You can also add a new website banner to your homepage to promote your digital sales consultations, with designs that capture the attention of browsers. When combined with a strong headline and a clear call-to-action button, banners can be great ways to capture the immediate attention of browsers arriving on your site.
Communicate With Your Database
Once you are set up and have your landing page, forms and website content ready to go, it’s time to get the message out to the masses. Engaging your current database is the logical first step as 52% of consumers say they made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience (Zendesk).
Email newsletters blasts or SMS updates are a cost-effective way to engage your existing database with an instant update that drives traffic to your new offering. Another popular way is to send out a social media update across your company’s social platforms, with links to your website and enough information to generate click-throughs.
Be sure to include links where relevant, whilst outlining the benefits to your customers and the reasons behind why you have introduced this new facility. Focus on pain points and the industry problems you are helping to solve, with the promise of the same expert advice and service from the comfort of your customers’ home.
Expand Into New Markets
Reaching out to the wider community with a unique service provision like digital consultations can be done through a variety of paid channels. Depending on the size of your market budget and existing advertising channels, you may have access to mass media, print advertising or outdoor ads to drive home your new messaging.
Given customers are now spending more time online than ever before, a highly targeted digital strategy can provide an effective way of reaching customers quickly and efficiently. With the ability to create highly defined customer profiles and specific targeting, digital marketing campaigns allow you to reach a large number of customers quickly, whilst keeping a close eye on metrics that enable you to optimise and refine your campaigns, helping to boost the effectiveness of your ads and efficiency of your ad spend.
This can be achieved through a combination of Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, remarketing, content marketing, and sponsored social media placements just to name a few.
In these times of uncertainty, commercial survival will ultimately come down to how quickly you are able to adapt your sales strategy to the changing business landscape. Whilst the COVID-19 has been a huge wake up call for most businesses, opportunities can arise if you are willing and able to introduce digital solutions that meet the needs of your customers.
By introducing remote selling through remote video consultations, you can tackle a variety of industry challenges head on, in a market where;
- Customers are feeling the pinch: Now is a great time to provide convenience, extra support, and tailored services to guide customers through your sales funnel, as customers have more time for online research than ever before.
- Business owners are defaulting to survival mode: With less competition in the market place, numerous industries are seeing a drop in cost-per-click advertising and competitor activity, helping to stretch your advertising further in reaching new customers.
- Social distancing is leading to less customer support interaction: The new social distancing laws mean customer face-to-face interaction is no longer possible. Since customers are increasingly spending more time online, this creates a unique opportunity to introduce a convenient sales service to connect with and support customers from the comfort and convenience of their living rooms or couch.
It’s Time To Get Started!
The market is changing rapidly so if you’re considering a move towards going remote with digital sales consultations, time is of the essence.
Need a team of digital experts with experience in rapid discovery, testing and identification of market opportunities? We welcome you to contact us to start developing a strategy that will enable you to navigate these unchartered waters with confidence, certainty, and creativity with a focus towards growth and propserity.
We have experience in developing digital strategies from conceptualisation to implementation, with a clear focus around addressing pain points of customers with modern, dynamic digital solutions that deliver exceptional an exceptional user experience.
We’re ready, willing and able to help your business pivot and grow through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it really possible to grow given the global uncertainty of COVID-19?
The simple answer here is YES. We firmly believe that every problem is an opportunity in disguise and with the power of creative digital strategy, your business can identify niche opportunities in the market given these times of uncertainty. Competition and advertising costs are down at present so there is a real commercial opportunity available to businesses who are willing to adjust their approach in order to survive, grow, and prosper.
How do I determine if my website will be sufficient to handle video consultations?
If your website has the ability to easily add new website pages, forms and plug-in features like pop-ups, you’re already halfway there. The quality and speed of your server is also an important factor in delivering a positive user experience for your customers without the risk of system crashes in times of excessive traffic, so this is worth investigating with your current hosting provider.
I don’t have a CRM system, do I need one?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a highly recommended tool for collating and managing customer data to enable regular touch points throughout the customer journey. With an array of products on the market, this is a worthwhile investment for most companies who don’t currently have one. Depending on the complexity of your customer data and the functions you require, there are also some free alternatives that may be sufficient for your needs.
What is the difference between video chat and video conferencing software?
Video chat software means you have the ability to chat via video with customers without any additional functions, however video conferencing software has more features like being able to host conversations with multiple users, being able to send/receive files or sharing your screen with other users in the chat. If you want to do more than just video chat with clients, then you should look to invest in a solid video conferencing software.
How long does it take to set up and launch a remote consultations sales model?
With the right team of digital experts behind you, a new video consultations sales model can be set up quickly and efficiently to help get you going in minimal time. A majority of the time will initially be spent on preparing your website for the new digital sales offering, as well as time spent to identify the right software to coordinate your enquiries.
Which email marketing systems are the best for client nurturing campaigns?
There are a number of software programs available on the market, ranging from free to paid models depending on the number of contacts you wish to manage inside the software. Popular industry choices include MailChimp, Active Campaign, and Campaign Monitor just to name a few, however if you need help in deciding which works best for you, just ask us!
This all sounds great – what is the first step I should take to kick things off?
The first step is to contact our team for a discussion on how to get started. We will then arrange a meeting – a video consultation meeting 😉 – to find out more about your business so that we can provide you with a strategy that enables maximum market penetration. We’ll then just need access to your website and various marketing channels so we can begin preparing your new video consultations model.