As a business-minded, well-networked person, you may have heard of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which is helping companies affected by Covid-19 to get back on track. As a marketing professional working in finance, I’m now so familiar with the finer details of its eligibility criteria that they appear in my dreams (recently mishearing “seagulls” as “CBILS” was a low point – or potentially a high point, if that’s how we’re measuring dedication to the cause).
We recently joined forces with fellow lenders GapCap and KX Media Capital to form the Growth Lending Group, which has been accredited by the British Business Bank as a provider of CBILS and is offering three products under the scheme: revolving credit facilities, invoice discounting and term loans.
This presented a huge but exciting challenge for BOOST&Co’s marketing team (a.k.a. #MT… yes, we’ve even branded ourselves) – me and my trusty sidekicks Eli H. Han, our art director, and Lottie Boreham, our digital communications executive. Charged with creating a PR strategy for a new initiative, producing collateral to promote a new set of products and targeting a new audience online – all in a short timeframe, during a lockdown that left #MT spread across London, Manchester and Amsterdam – where on earth would we start?
We knew we had to act fast, so we enlisted plenty of inhouse experts to join our marketing campaign, challenging them to help us share content as well as create it, and thus turned our team of three into a many-headed monster ready to take social media by storm. Here’s how we did it…
Creating content: it’s what you know and who you know
Needless to say, navigating a global pandemic wasn’t on our list of goals for 2020. But, armed with some tips from an ex-BBC crisis communications expert and my memories of working for a football club (an experience that enables my former boss to list “disaster management” on his CV), we knew we needed to ensure that BOOST&Co remained visible on all our usual channels.
We began by publishing our own guides to the government’s business-support measures, and swiftly followed these with a mini-series called Covid-19: The Expert View, gathering valuable insights into an emerging new world from interviewees including a chief financial officer, an experienced principal and a head of People who specialises in leadership.
Where did we find so many experts at short notice and at zero cost, I hear you ask? We looked (virtually) around our office. Your company’s expertise lies in your colleagues, the people who do the job every day: so, our principal Richard Hallett gave his forthright views on chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plans and our chief financial officer, Edd Hatfield, assured concerned management teams that HMRC would be kind (when someone eventually got through to them on the phone).
BOOST&Co has a strong company culture, so we wanted to share this expertise, knowing that many people were struggling – both personally and professionally – when the lockdown kicked in. Our head of People, Jenefer Morgan, took part in a webinar with the entrepreneur Charles Towers-Clark on how to lead in a crisis and later advised on how to ensure a smooth transition back to work. Our organisational psychologist, Heather Bingham, used the Myers-Briggs Test Indicator to assess how each of the 16 personality types would cope with working from home (check your type here – there’s some fun origami to boot), before warning against trying to return to “normal”.
We’re lucky to have a wealth of experts inhouse, but even if your company is smaller, with fewer specialists to call on, there are ways to create content from your team’s experiences. How has your head of HR coped with having to furlough staff, particularly any employees with whom they have close relationships? Which tools have your sales team adopted, deprived of the ability to meet new and existing clients face-to-face? And what do you consider to be your greatest successes in coming through Covid-19?
Our initial batch of coronavirus-related content meant that, when Growth Lending’s CBILS accreditation was confirmed, we had a platform to build on. Again, we began with the basics, such as blogs explaining our products (revolving credit facilities, invoice discounting and term loans), before turning again to our principals, all of whom were happy – or at least willing – to video themselves answering FAQs about CBILS in their living rooms.
When the scheme’s eligibility criteria were expanded to include more businesses – including the tech sector, which BOOST&Co specialises in – our partner Lance Mysyrowicz gave us his expert view on the changes, while our principals Lauren Couch and Faye McDonough looked at how Growth Lending can help bank managers, accountants and VCs to fund companies and at current CBILS trends.
Sharing content: harness your team’s networks
Having pestered your colleagues for content, how do you make sure that a relevant audience sees it? And, just as importantly, how do you analyse the data to ensure that they continue to engage with it? Scroll to the bottom of this article for Lottie’s recommendations on the best free tools to use – but you already have a secret weapon: your employees’ online networks.
I wouldn’t blame my teammates for finding marketing as mystifying as I find their spreadsheets, but the next step is convincing your colleagues to help you share content. This may take them out of their comfort zones (here’s our principal Faye, explaining the unexpected benefits that persuaded her to network online), but the ace up marketers’ sleeves is the big hit of dopamine we can offer to anyone who shares content on LinkedIn before watching the “likes” and comments flood in.
- Start with social-media training. Lottie ran in-depth sessions with our principals to explain the basics of social media and why engagement from across your team makes such a difference. LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritises content that is signalled as interesting, and “liking” a post is one of these signals, so encouraging your colleagues to engage is a great start when it comes to increasing your organic reach. Use data to show your team the impact that their engagement has – and keep repeating the golden rule: every interaction counts.
- Make it easy for people to post. As part of our company-wide #MakeMayMatter initiative – a plan hatched by our People team to keep everyone motivated during lockdown by setting fun challenges – Lottie created a treasure chest of marketing material that any of our staff can use. Social-media posts, illustrations, one-pagers, template emails, video clips, links to our CBILS blogs and FAQs… create whatever you find useful, put it in a shared folder and encourage everyone to dip in.
- Use every network, even if it’s niche. A lot of your LinkedIn connections won’t need a CBILS loan, but some may realise that the scheme is relevant to a friend or relative, and pass the details on. Heather, our psychologist, recently wrote about seven common leadership styles and which ones are likely to succeed in a crisis (find out which type is yours here). This encompasses our work on CBILS, but its psychological insights have attracted a different audience – the ideal outcome as we broaden our appeal to help us deploy significant CBILS funds.
- Show me the money. Our people are numbers people, so rather than enthusing about an exquisite turn of phrase, we give them data that shows how many leads our efforts produce. When Lance set Lottie a target of hitting 400,000 impressions, she transformed it into a challenge for the entire company to help her meet – and smashed it, notching up 1.2 million impressions in a week. Having proved what’s possible, our new target is 20 million impressions by the end of August. Watch this space…
Tell your team that marketing is key
Working on CBILS with our partner, Growth Lending, has provided unexpected opportunities that we’ve embraced. We’re getting to know the group’s excellent marketing team, Julian Hornby and Isabella Hills, as we liaise with them on everything from Salesforce reports to telling the story of Growth Lending through Eli’s brilliantly illustrated slides (call me girly, but I love a debate about the precise shade of hot pink that defines Growth Lending’s brand).
Working together more effectively is always a bonus, and one key factor has been integrating #MT more fully into the wider team. Our work to generate CBILS leads has given us an increased profile across the business, with the People team creating a regular slot during our company-wide video calls in which we can outline our targets, set challenges and report on whether our efforts are paying off.
This isn’t our egos talking (although the feeling of increased involvement does give us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside), but an acknowledgement of the fact that our colleagues have gained a genuine understanding of what we’re doing, how and why – and of the importance of their participation in the push to promote our new products.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Did you check if your leadership style is suited to a crisis? I’ll admit that my type (laissez-faire) isn’t – but during Covid-19, the strengths of my team have ensured success, as we’ve talked, laughed, head-scratched and brainstormed through it all.
I’ve been proud to watch Eli produce a mountain of original illustrations during a fortnight’s quarantine after flying back to London from Amsterdam, and to see Lottie so motivated by those 1.2 million impressions that she couldn’t wait to return from a break in the Peak District to whip up more CBILS leads. Marketing is a collaborative endeavour, so the key is to keep your team motivated – and that will get the rest of your colleagues excited too.
Let technology do the work: the (free!) tools that work for us
We’ve been fortunate during the pandemic, in that none of #MT has been furloughed or made redundant (if anything, we’ve massively expanded our team by enlisting the rest of BOOST&Co), but not all businesses will have been so lucky. If time and resources are not on your side, don’t be afraid to turn to technology for a helping hand. Here, our digital communications executive Lottie Boreham shares her favourite free tools for maximising even the smallest team’s capabilities.
For maintaining your social-media presence
Remembering to post regularly on social media may seem like a low priority when your team is busy, but maintaining your presence now is likely to pay dividends in the future. Take the pressure off by using a social-media scheduling tool – there are tons of free versions available online, and even the bigger players, such as Hootsuite, have basic packages that cost very little or nothing at all. Take a morning, schedule a load of posts and suddenly you’ve created two weeks’ worth of social-media coverage.
For staying in touch
With many people still stuck at home, social media and email are key communication channels between you and your customers. Many email marketing platforms have free versions with basic functionality: we use MailChimp, but HubSpot, Sender and MailerLite are other tools with varying price plans. Try a couple and pick the one that suits your needs.
For generating ideas
The pandemic has dominated social and traditional media for months, and audiences are beginning to get bored. If you’re struggling to find new angles, SEO tools are your friend. Sites like BuzzSumo and UberSuggest on NeilPatel.com enable you to type in a keyword and see all the iterations of searches including that keyword, potentially providing you with questions about your product or service that you didn’t know needed answering.
Google Trends is another way to check the popularity of specific subjects, and if you have a Google Ads account, the Keyword Planner can also offer suggestions for content ideas. Businesses tend to create the content they’d like to share, rather than the content their customers want to see, so avoid falling into that trap by checking for popular topics first.
For keeping on top of projects
Every marketing team is a busy marketing team, but holding yourself accountable to deadlines and projects will improve your efficiency. Project-management software comes down to preference, but we love Trello for its collaborative nature and clear visualisation. We create a list for each month, with cards for every campaign or piece of content that we plan to produce. You can then set deadlines, attach creatives and add comments and tasks – particularly helpful when teams are working remotely.
For tracking your progress
We’ve found that data is the key tool for encouraging our numbers-focused people to contribute to our efforts, but when time is short, you don’t want to spend hours poring over spreadsheets. We use Google Data Studio to amalgamate all of our key data sources: its simple, clear and colourful visualisation shows your progress at a glance. Better yet, the data-input process is automated, so your Data Studio Report is always live, meaning there’s no excuse not to know which of your campaigns is generating the most traffic…
For breaking the content-creation cycle
Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. This is a bit of a cheat, as it isn’t really a tool, but a mindset – though those are free too! It’s a common complaint of smaller teams that they don’t have the time or resources to constantly create new content, but if you haven’t used a piece of content at least three times, you should consider whether it was worth creating in the first place.
Breaking news stories and press releases aside, everything you produce should be created with longevity and versatility in mind. Got a long-form article? Turn it into five quote-cards, a four-slide deck and an article for native LinkedIn, then ask colleagues to star in videos that highlight key parts of the article, especially if you’re covering a complex topic. All of a sudden, that one piece of content has become ten, with minimal extra effort. L.B.