Posted by Barry Rosen, Partner and Chief Integration Officer at Communica
At our core as marketers, we are professional optimists. We see obstacles as challenges to be solved with creativity and communication. We see setbacks as pre-cursors to steps forward.
We believe deeply that good marketing can find success in any climate.
Which is why, as unprecedented events have forced so many people and companies into a black hole, we’re urging our clients to be proactive in staying connected to their markets. We want them to understand that during this period – when all sales interactions, customer travel and events are restricted – how they engage with their customers and prospects can help salvage short-term revenue and have a big impact on their post-crisis performance.
Let’s look at several areas of concern to B2B companies right now where Marketing can drive real value:
Staying connected to customers and prospects
With offices depleted or closed, travel discouraged, and non-essential meetings on hold, it’s difficult for sales teams to maintain normal interaction with customers and prospects. Rightfully, many companies have relied on video conferencing platforms to get as close to the real thing as possible, but that’s almost table stakes. Marketing can find ways to help you stay in closer contact with your constituents, add value and stand out from the crowd. Here are some examples we’ve been working on with our clients:
- Weekly, or daily, podcasts or vlogs (video blogs) to provide important updates or insight to customers and prospects about rapidly changing situations.
- Individualized webinars tailored to a single customer or prospect, or groups with a common perspective (e.g., same industry, size, situation), particularly effective for early- or mid-stage activity like product demonstrations, case study reviews, or customized ROI presentations.
- More frequent blog articles to help customers understand and manage new marketplace disruptions or uncertainties.
- Online discussion forums to communalize customers, giving them a focused place to share crisis survival ideas and experiences.
Turning cancelled events into opportunity
Many companies are left scrambling to make up for important cancelled events like a formal sales presentation or industry tradeshow. Rather than viewing these as missed opportunities, turn them to your advantage. Consider these examples:
- Imagine you were preparing to compete in an important, in-person pitch showdown to a buying team when the crisis came to a head. Most likely, your competitors will default to a video conference or webinar-style presentation to replace the in-person presentation. Marketing can help you gain an advantage by executing a live streaming video presentation, featuring multiple presenters from your team, with multiple camera angles and live switching between speakers. You can overlay slides and graphics and your remote audience can interact in real-time with questions and comments.
- Now-cancelled Spring tradeshows were sure to feature many companies introducing new products. Rather than launch with less momentum, or delay until shows can be rescheduled, hold your own virtual show or product demonstration. Marketing can create live interactive events, product demonstrations or educational presentations and promote via social and digital channels, even targeting specific prospect accounts.
Seeking ways to be more relevant
The current crisis may be unlike any we’ve experienced before, but for B2B companies trying to navigate their way through, at least one fundamental rule still applies: The more relevant you are to an individual, the more engaged they will be with you. Here are a few examples where Marketing can increase your relevance:
- There’s no requirement that all visitors to your website must be presented with the same content. In fact, today’s circumstances actually present an opportunity to strengthen your connection to visitors by personalizing your website to key characteristics. Examples range from location-based personalization (e.g., with each state enacting their own social-distancing requirements, your website could offer specific content relevant to visitors from Ohio, with different content for visitors from California), to firmographic-based personalization (e.g., visitors from manufacturing companies that can’t operate with a remote workforce can be presented different content than those from service companies that can), even to individual company personalization (e.g., presenting information intended only for visitors from a specific company).
- Crisis situations spur altruism and many companies jump to participate in fundraising or community service activities. Public relations specialists can help you identify the most relevant opportunities, organize your efforts, rally participation and build community equity that can create ongoing value.
- Remember that nothing makes you more irrelevant than a tone-deaf message during a crisis. We encountered an example of a restaurant operator in Ohio who received an email from a staffing company promoting services to help restaurants find workers. The email came two days after all restaurants in the state were ordered to be shut down.
The need for Marketing in tough times
Optimism is great, but there’s also plenty of research to support a strong approach to marketing in tough times. In this 2017 post, John Kypriotakis of Lysis International reviewed some of the evidence. The bottom line – your marketplace puts a value on doing business with companies and products that they trust, and anything you can do – particularly now – to build that trust is an asset.
We don’t know when the B2B world will return to what we knew. But we do know that business will march on, and there are actions you can take now to both survive today and thrive tomorrow.