Like everyone else, marketers continue to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis as new updates roll in and the future remains foggy. After sharing several pieces in our COVID-19 Marketing & Strategy Resources hub, we sat down with Launch Marketing executive team members Shawna Boyce (Executive Director, Accounts and Operations), Jeff Raymond (Executive Director, Client Engagements), and Christa Tuttle (Founder and CEO) to get their answers to questions that are still on marketers’ minds.
1. How can (and should) B2B brands connect with their audiences during this time?
Shawna: First, there has to be a compassion in connections. Every marketing communication should be extended with an understanding that people are working in a very different environment – in their homes instead of offices, or maybe even in a different state or capacity than before. These circumstances should inform how you connect. Tactics like direct mail are giving way to digital communications being an even bigger part of the marketing foundation.
Christa: Content marketing remains very relevant but needs to be compelling enough to break through the clutter. Digital clutter is even stronger now, so it’s essential to stay a little bit more creative with online communications. Keep the compassion, but don’t shortchange creativity and relevance. Audiences are dealing with a lot, so it can be a good idea, depending on your industry, to create content that’s a little more fun and easier to digest, such as infographics, short videos and eBooks.
Jeff: Another way to approach compassion in messaging is to think of it as “sensitivity.” Make sure your messaging is coming from a genuine place and not leaning too heavily on sappiness and sympathy that may appear forced or disingenuous. It’s certainly a unique time and audiences can grow weary of an inundation of the same “in this difficult/unprecedented/trying/tough time…” messaging. Also, people’s priorities have changed, and marketers’ priorities need to adjust along with them. That’s why it’s important to revisit personas and actively converse with your team about what’s different for your audiences today. Taking the time to do so will inform the right actions.
2. How should B2B organizations market differently depending on their specific industry segment or vertical?
Christa: It’s important to understand what the specific industry segment or vertical is going through right now. Some segments are being harder hit than others. As with the personas, these industry impacts must also be considered, with everything from messaging to offerings. Make sure you have a clear idea of what is happening. For instance, is there an upward trajectory? This will be a smaller segment of the population right now, but it does exist. Or is there a downward trajectory and why?
Shawna: Businesses that have online, SaaS or streaming focused products, for example, Zoom and Netflix, are enjoying increased business as a result of the disruption, meaning that their marketing will be executed differently. For instance, creating and sharing more content around how to use the tool or how to engage with the product or service. Other organizations, who are having a downturn, are having to think outside the box and market in different ways. This can mean adjusting their customer experience, whether with more virtual and digital channels, moving away from offline or provide different offerings and adjusting messaging to match the changes being experienced.
Jeff: The first question to connect with these audiences is, what are those individual audiences going through? Then the second question is, what is the industry as a whole going through? Different industries and verticals are having new pain points. Some of them may be the same, but say, for instance, you have a list of ten pain points, maybe the bottom two that you were tracking or speaking to have risen closer to the top of pain points to prioritize. Then you need to refocus marketing messages on those more relevant pain points.
3. What can B2B leaders do to specifically support their marketing teams?
Christa: B2B leaders should allocate time for planning and assessment. There can be an inclination to act and act quickly, but acting hastily without a well-formed plan can lead to less than optimal decisions. Dedicate the same time that teams have always been afforded (or more) to planning, collaborating, and ideating. If everyone acts at once without alignment, a disjointed and likely unsuccessful marketing effort will be the outcome.
Shawna: Since efforts and strategies which used to work may not be working today, a trial and error component should also be incorporated into planning. The only way to truly know what is and isn’t working is to test. Make sure that the ability to capture and analyze the data you need to measure performance and message resonance is in place.
Jeff: Considering the uncharted territory, your plan for even a few months out will likely require adjustment along the way as the new normal comes into focus and audiences continue to shift. Having some flexibility in your plan is key as well as continuously measuring your B2B marketing efforts. This means always providing your team with and supporting them with tools and the time to measure the results so your teams can truly understand what’s effective for your audiences.
4. What should B2B marketers focus on to prepare for the remainder of the year and beyond?
Jeff: Again, effective measurement and reporting is crucial because as you’re trying new things in your marketing and messaging you’ll naturally have some hit and miss. Objective data helps to quantify what’s resonating well and what is not and then informs adjustment. Also, ensure flexibility and agility. 12-month plans that were put in place based at the beginning of this year didn’t consider this disruption. And plans far reaching plans put in place now can’t fully envision what things are going to look like 4 months from now.
Shawna: Keeping spending top of mind and reassessing the budget should be a top priority. Certain aspects of marketing, such as events, have been canceled, so that’s opening up other opportunities within your marketing budget. If you have the ability to spin those budgets and be really strategic about where you’re spending the budget, then that’s ideal. If part of your updated plan is to increase your digital presence, then potentially you can use the extra budget to get the tools that will help support measuring this increased online marketing.
Christa: There can also be a tendency right now to be short-term oriented. Many may be focused on month-to-month success or even survival, but it’s important to balance this short-term perspective with a long-term outlook. Think about the impact short-term actions will have on your long-term relationships with audiences or the long-term outlook for the business. Ensure that you’re not sacrificing anything and that your marketing is building something that will create and support a sustainable relationship with your audience.
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