We took this picture last month when we were in Arizona for B2B Marketing Exchange. Typically, B2BMX kicks off a series of industry tradeshows for us. Little did we know, it’d be the first and last conference of the season.
Since then, we’ve watched our nation come face-to-face with the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no need to repeat the numbers. Headline after headline report new cases, new hospitals shortages, new worsts when it comes to one-day drops in the stock market.
Even if tragedy hasn’t hit close to home, the massive sense of uncertainty reflected in the markets and the media is undeniably real. It’s flooded into each of our lives in many tangible and intangible ways—including our jobs as B2B marketers.
I think the first thing we can all admit is that there’s a lot we don’t know.
Things We Don’t Know
From a marketing vantage point, here are three big unknowns that I find myself thinking about daily:
1. How long will it last?
In addition to the four seasons, B2B marketers have event season. We plan campaigns and content calendars around our events and industry trade shows. Now, we’re all down to one event, the coronavirus quarantine.
Under the current situation, many of us are hard-pressed to find alternative sources for demand gen. We’re going back to the drawing board to reforecast and overhaul our plans for 2020. But how long should we plan to be in quarantine? Will a 30-day plan carry us through this crisis? How much longer will restaurants be closed, events cancelled, and work made remote?
2. How will my company be impacted?
While the long-term economic impact of this pandemic has yet to be determined, the immediate effects are clearly devastating for industries like food services and travel.
But what about B2B software? What about my industry, and how will my company fare through this crisis? Everything from job security to how quickly sales will bounce back are all up in the air.
3. What’s the best marketing strategy in a global pandemic?
The best strategies build off of past successes and failures.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to learn from experience when it comes to global pandemics. In 1918, television wasn’t even invented yet, and now we consider TV ads “traditional” marketing. These really are unprecedented times.
I’ve been scouring articles about marketing during a recession as a proxy, and there are a handful of studies from the 80’s that document the effects of advertising during economic downturns. The numbers in this McGraw Hill study seem convincing, and the logic behind maintaining ad spend to accelerate recovery makes sense.
However, this pandemic has put such unique limitations on basic human behaviors, such as gathering in groups, that I find myself doubtful of expert predictions and in search of more concrete advice.
Here’s What We Do Know
“Successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a [global pandemic]; they adapt them” (Harvard Business Review).
I feel comfortable swapping out “recession” for “global pandemic” here because whether there’s social, political, or economic change, the ability for a business to adapt is essential to its survival.
Adaptation is not waving a magic wand for complete, instant transformation. It’s a series of small changes—modifications and adjustments—that make something more suitable for a new purpose.
B2B marketing has become increasingly multichannel in the last decade, which has made marketers more resilient and adaptable. Even with events off the table, we have a number of other channels to work with and time-tested tools to help us market through this crisis.
Here are three:
1. You’ve got existing customers – focus on supporting their success
Customers need to know that they have your support now more than ever. We’re all learning how to live and work more digitally together, so communicate with empathy, and provide assurance where you can.
Make space to ask questions, share success stories, and learn from each other. When you develop customer-exclusive content and organize virtual user groups, you’re reinforcing your company’s commitment to customer success.
For most organizations, new business is projected to fall, but remember that renewal is revenue too. Marketing organizations often put most of their energy into demand gen, but now’s the time to act on every opportunity to impact revenue.
2. You’ve got data – use it to learn about the customer lifecycle
If you do account-based marketing, you’re measuring a whole range of marketing and sales activities, such as:
- Total website traffic
- Number of website visitors from each target account
- View throughs from display advertising
- Campaign interactions before a target account’s first conversion
- Surges in third party intent
- Surges in first-party intent data, including the topics their most interested in and the frequency of their visits
Times have changed, but you still have these pieces of data, and more! Your analytics and ABM tools are online, so you can log in from anywhere. Triblio customers like Dodge Data, routinely rely on account activity data to shape marketing campaigns and activate sales plays, and they will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
Taking this time to dive deep into your customer lifecycle can also inform larger business decisions like forecasting and reallocating budget. You’ll want to know which campaigns have had the most influence on pipeline, what messaging resonates best with your target accounts, and where there’s the biggest drop off in engagement.
3. You’ve got an arsenal of digital tools – stay in the fight for market share
When we come out on the other side, will you be better or worse off than your competitors? How you market through this crisis will make a huge difference.
Continue to communicate well. Face-to-face may still be the strongest form of communication, but it’s not your only option, and marketers especially know this to be true. That’s why marketing campaigns include a wide range of “soft touches” through content marketing, social media, website design, high-ranking search results, and more.
We take every opportunity we can to grow awareness and communicate our value proposition.
In the coming weeks, challenge yourself to see how much ROI you can get out of your digital channels. Lean into your digital channels, and fail fast at testing and optimizing new campaigns.
Of course, there are many more questions for marketers to ask and many more ways to adapt. In a letter to customers, our CEO addresses some of our top concerns at Triblio and outlines some of the commitments we’re making to employees and customers during this time.
We are all trying to figure out what the coronavirus pandemic means for us—our personal lives, our social circles, our work. As we at Triblio think about this situation and what it means for marketers, we will continue to share what we’ve learned and develop resources to help our customers in their marketing journeys. Follow us on LinkedIn, and visit our resource center and blog to stay updated.