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Every now and then, I like to scroll through old emails to clean out my inbox, make sure no loose ends are hanging around, or go on a frantic search for a document someone claims they sent. Inevitably, these trips often lead me down memory lane.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was looking at a few company-wide emails we sent back at the start of the pandemic in 2020. I found an email from March 2020, detailing our pandemic plan. In that email, we prioritized mental and physical health, keeping in contact with team leads, and working from home as much as possible. We also mentioned we hoped to open the office back up in a couple of weeks (nope!) and adjusting to the temporary (ha!) new normal.
But we also had another pandemic plan: we were going to build a sales and marketing team.
Why we hired during a pandemic
We’re a software and IT consulting service, so most of our pandemic-related plans were pretty standard. Focusing on mental health, cutting down on unnecessary expenses, shifting to remote work. So why did we decide to build out an entire team? While the norm was to slow things down or hunker down for a bit, why were we pressing forward?
With almost 30 years in business, we had never had a full-time dedicated sales and marketing team. Our process for business had always been waiting for the phone to ring—and for 30 years, that had worked. We relied on referrals and the occasional Google search to found us business.
But during a pandemic, that wasn’t an ideal strategy. The phone may not ring as often, and then what?
Our goal was to be more aggressive. Instead of sitting back and waiting, we needed to go out and found clients. We wanted an active sales team making cold calls and managing relationships. We needed to push our website forward with fresh content and SEO. We figured that brand awareness and marketing would be more important than ever, as business opportunities may not be as ample as they were before. We had never really pushed our brand before, but we had to establish a brand identity so people could recognize us in a natural way.
On a practical side, it also allowed us to offer more services. We had always offered web design and development, so it made sense to add SEO and marketing as another service.
Letting experts be experts
We had used marketing teams in the past, but they were never full-time—they were generally contracted out for brief periods or brought in to help with clients.
We wanted to look for people who could join our “half human, half geek” team. This means we wanted knowledgeable gurus who were experts in their field but who could also break down their work into human terms. We weren’t looking for robots who would simply do work. We were looking for people who wanted a unique challenge, took initiative and self-managed, and were easy to work with.
Our first hire wanted a flexible job to spend additional time with his family. One marketing hire was a Nashville native living in Europe who we found on Indeed. Another hire was a family member of a current employee. Our marketing director came from a client referral.
The most important thing for us, though, was that each hire was a serious expert in their field. We know it’s impossible to know everything about everything. An experienced web developer won’t have experience with every CMS (content management system). We don’t expect our business intelligence analyst to help develop a mobile app.
We were entering an unknown area for us with a sales and marketing team, and even though it was scary, we needed to let our experts be experts. And to do that, we had to give them the tools to succeed. We got ourselves set up on HubSpot to track sales deals, set up email marketing campaigns, manage social media, and create Google Ads campaigns. For the SEO side, we set up SEMrush and Screaming Frog to not only analyze our own website but that of any future clients.
Where are we now?
Even though we’re not out of the proverbial COVID woods yet, we’re thrilled with the decision we made to expand our marketing and sales team. Our social media and email marketing ventures helped connect us with clients, potential clients, and a new audience in general. Impressions for our brand name on Google grew 15%, while our social media interaction grew 50%. Our organic traffic grew 55% in a year, and we were able to bring in more web-based leads than we ever had.
In addition to the numbers, our sales team was able to attend virtual and in-person conferences, connecting with several organizations in our area to build strategic business partnerships. We were able to speak at conferences and make appearances on some podcasts.
We also found that we were in a better position to handle client inquiries and streamline our sales processes. With a dedicated team in place, we could coordinate what deals were coming down the pipeline and were better able to coordinate how we interacted with clients and leads.
Here are 5 sales automation workflows to help you close more details.
Being actionable and aggressive and trusting our expert team worked. A year later, and we’re happy with our plunge into the unknown. Was it scary and difficult at times? Definitely, but we were able to grow our business and offer more services for our clients.
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