B2B Marketing During A Pandemic


B2B Marketing During A Pandemic

We are facing an unprecedented crisis. While safety of our families and communities takes precedence, we still have our jobs to do. Despite plethora of evidence for almost a century advising against it, marketing invariably becomes a casualty during economic downturns. Reminds me of a popular adage that says, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.”

It begs the question: what should we be doing now, with our “non-essential” jobs, when we are discouraged from even leaving home? There are no trade-shows, no KOL seminars, no brainstorming sessions in Las Vegas. It’s us, our make-shift home offices, and our computers.

Since there is no playbook for times like these, at BTS, we decided to throw our hat into the ring and put together a list of things that can be done to fine-tune your marketing. It is similar to what NFL teams do during a bye week. They take a deep dive into game films, determine what has and has not worked, and make adjustments. Here are 5 things that will help you move the proverbial ball forward.

1) Content and Messaging Audit

It’s a perfect time to perform an audit of the tone, appropriateness, and channels being used for our messages. This will ensure that your marketing is not tone-deaf to any sensitivities that may exist in this ‘new normal’.

You should add content to your website homepage regarding your organization’s COVID-19 response, altered protocols, availability, hours of operation, etc. During this crisis the sales cycle will likely be longer. Now is the time to stop selling overtly and aggressively, while endeavoring to add value. Help your sales team with content that is educational and builds trust. Create lead magnets with case studies, whitepapers, eBooks, and video. Timely blog and social media posts can keep your audiences engaged and spur sales.

The basic idea is not to disappear. Your customers need to know you are still there and have staying power as many businesses crumble. Show them you feel their pain and are thinking of them using a sensitive and empathetic voice. The communication should not hint at infectious smiles, contagious content, attempts to go viral, taking a pulse of the marketplace. Also, refrain from a competitive posture. People do not need to know your products or services are faster, safer, and more economical than all others. They want to see camaraderie rather than casting aspersions. People are hurting, and they do not need to know that you are the king of the jungle. They know who the real king is at this time which has brought humanity to its knees and befuddled the greatest minds. Your prospects just want to know how you are helping, contributing, and responding.

2) Fine Tune Media

It is also a good time to analyze channel performance and budgets. It’s a good idea to shift more money online and not lose share of mind among potential buyers and customers. Take a look at each channel being used and determine if tweaks need to be made to budgets, content, and location. Educate, collaborate, contribute, respond, adapt, navigate, and share knowledge. The idea is to be an altruistic resource by demonstrating your humanity and highlighting your availability.

3) Review Website Activity

Take a look at your site’s analytics to make any adjustments that may be needed. Do you notice changes in visitors’ behavior? Is certain content resonating more than usual? Are bounce rates and/or click-through rates fluctuating? With this information, you can improve a visitor’s experience. This may mean that updated functionality may be needed to optimize your site. It may be time to add a virtual engagement space to host your conference or tradeshow booth. Updating content regularly will also boost your SEO ranking.

4) Competitive Comparisons

Analyze what your competitors are doing during crisis and pivot as needed. A competitive analysis will guide your strategic decisions. In the 2008 recession, ad spending in the U.S. dropped overall by 13%; spending on ads in newspapers slipped by 27%, radio 22%, magazines 18%, television 5%, and online by 2%.

Here is what history tells us. In the 1990s, brands like Jif and Kraft Salad Dressing experienced sales growth of 57% and 70% after boosting advertising during the recession. Now I understand that you are probably not marketing a CPG, but trends are nonetheless instructive. In the 1980’s, an analysis by McGraw-Hill Research of 600 B2B companies found that sales of companies that advertised aggressively had grown 275% over those that didn’t. Buchen Advertising tracked sales trends for the recessions of 1949, 1954, 1958 and 1961 and found that sales took a disproportionally higher hit at companies that cut back on advertising.

So, my advice would be not to get out-advertised by your competitors. There is less noise in the marketplace. When a brand speaks, it stands out.

5) Be Positive

I seem to get addicted to the news in times of crisis. There is an endless stream of negative incidents. More than a thousand lives are lost almost every day, there are people with expensive cars lined up at food banks, iconic stores are shuttering their doors after a century in business. So, it is easy to get into doom and gloom. However, we will persevere. I know this because we can adjust, the virus can’t. It can change but mutations are not planned well-thought-out events. It is just something that happens when DNA replication occurs. Virus particles don’t have a meeting to figure out how to evade our defenses and become more vicious. However, we can put our collective heads together, adjust, and defeat it to start living our normal lives.