Right now, the world is faced with an unprecedented global crisis in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic. While we are all certainly concerned about our family, friends and society in general, we should also be doing our part to keep the wheels of industry (and our own company) moving.
As a B2B and technology marketer, we are in a unique position. We have products and solutions that the world may need right now (think data center, supply chain solutions, collaboration software...), and the tools likely to be highly effective in delivering those solutions.
But it's anything but not business-as-usual. As marketers, we'll need to react quickly to ensure that our marketing strategies stay on point. What might have worked literally seven days ago, is not going to be good enough now.
Here are 10 things that you can be doing now to ensure that your company (and your marketing team) are doing what they can to help.
Check your context and messaging
We all need to be sensitive that the tone of our marketing may need to temporarily change. It's likely not appropriate to be asking about face-to-face meetings or overly aggressive sales tactics. It's also likely that your buyers are just as distracted by the news cycle as we are.
Now's the time to ensure that the tone of your marketing (and related marketing CTAs) are appropriate to the current crisis and tailored to reflect any sensitivities that may exist in this new environment.
Monitor your brand's feedback
Monitoring feedback is an essential part of ensuring that you're brand is being sensitive to what's going on in the world and empathetic to your customers and their customers. You'll need to have the systems in place review brand sentiment and comments across your channels. This will help you act swiftly to course-correct as needed.
Embrace the long sales cycle
Yesterday, we may have cursed the long sales cycle. In today's environment, smart B2B marketing can use the extended consideration period as an advantage. Truth be told, unless you're selling video conferencing software or hand sanitizer, you're likely to see some delays in pulling leads through the funnel.
Monitoring your funnel activity, and coming up with ways to keep in front customers (especially top and middle funnel) is a smart strategy to get your positioned for velocity when the crisis finally subsides (and it will).
Tune your media and channel performance
It's estimated that nearly $1B in revenue has been lost in the event industry from tech cancellations. B2B marketers have lost a major part of their marketing mix.
The good news is that B2B purchase decisions are highly influenced by digital. Google thinks nearly 70% of B2B buyers are influenced by digital marketing. If there ever was a time to lean into digital, it's now. However, this doesn't mean that your digital spend strategy shouldn't be revised. Thinking through what channels might be most effective given the current crisis is important.
With Facebook, Google, Tik Tok and Twitter (among others) being major content providers around the crisis, social advertising will become more important in the short-term marketing mix. Given this dynamic, it's important to review all your media strategies and make changes accordingly. Additionally, if you're spending internationally on media, make sure to watch performance overseas carefully.
Take your events virtual, and then some
Just because you had to cancel your sales meetings and events doesn't mean that you can't also deliver extremely personalized and effective digital experiences. We've seen our clients increasingly spend their efforts on shorter virtual meetings with physical direct mail, pre-and-post digital campaigns as supplement.
Also, if you were planning a large third-party event, see if they will allow you to have access to their registration list in order to market to select high-value attendees directly.
Review your web activity and rethink offer strategies
We're all spending more time on the web, and more so during this crisis. Your own website activity can give you a window into how your general business activity is trending among customer and prospects. It may also help you tune your CTAs and offers to make the most of your web volume. If web activity does drop, you'll need to be strategic in how you make use of the volume and build an inbound strategy to recover. Working quickly on conversion rate optimization is a smart move. It'll help you plan for the short and long term performance of your digital programs.
Mine intent data for clues about your market's purchase activity
B2B marketers make pretty good use out of intent data. Now is the time to work with your intent partner to review how purchase intent is trending across your category. One simple way to leverage intent data is to look at trends over the last month or week versus this time last year. I think we're all wondering if companies are still actively hunting for products and solutions. Intent data can be a powerful proxy to monitor overall intent.
Of note, in our discussion with Aberdeen (one of our intent partners), we learned that they are launching the Aberdeen Buyer Index later this week that will help technology companies monitor purchase intent across major categories as of February 1 of this year. This data will be freely provided to the public and will give us a unique lens into purchase activity in our sector. Kudos to Aberdeen. They should be applauded for making this great data available to the tech community.
In discussions with Aberdeen CEO, Gary Skidmore he indicates that they are generally seeing some downturn already in technology purchase intent, but a big positive swing in specific tech categories (collaboration, video, unified communications, etc...). We'll be interested to see the first report when it comes out in the next few days.
Ask your salespeople for their ideas
Your salespeople are really the best source intel on market dynamics. If you have access to your sales team, ask them questions about what they're seeing and hearing among their customers and prospects. You can serve them best during a stressful time by opening a dialog with them as soon as possible. Ask them what they need and how they see messaging changing and how you can optimize your marketing efforts.
We should all keep an eye on Salesforce and CRM activity. Monitor your systems to see if deals are falling out of the funnel or moving more slowly than expected in order to give you the right information to act appropriately with a more full-funnel strategy.
Spend spare time and resources building for the future
Teams may not feel comfortable with prioritizing demand generation in the short term. They can transition marketing dollars to other foundational activities in order to prepare your company for a fast recovery once conditions improve.
For example, some of our clients are taking this time to make brand updates, improve their websites, enact conversion rate optimization projects, create templates and content, and more. We marketers never seem to have the time to do the foundational work needed to make our overall programs better. Especially with event budgets freeing up, now may be the time.
Keep management positive and informed
We marketers are always under pressure, and right now especially. Leaders in other departments need guidance on how marketing can help them during this critical time. Their reflex may be to dismiss marketing as a strategic tactic. Make sure that you are meeting with your company leadership. Show them how marketing plans to not only survive but also thrive. Most companies don't have the luxury of going dark right now... but those that act quickly, decisively and intelligently will win when we come out the other side (and again, we will).
Just like you, we're concerned about how fast things are evolving. But we're encouraged by the sheer amount of innovation and ingenuity people are showing in real-time. We each have the ability to be inventive, and we hope you and your teams see this period as a way to grow.