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COVID-19 Demand Generation Marketing Marketing Trends

B2B Marketer’s Survival Guide: Adapting to a Changed Landscape

By Jill Richards & Johannes Hoech

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people and businesses. Many of us are now working from home and trying to stay productive amidst a barrage of unsettling and sometimes confusing news.

But what is productive at this moment? How do we, as B2B marketers, set ourselves and our companies up for success as we navigate this crisis? This blog will provide some information to answer those questions. We will also be hosting a live interactive webcast with more detail on this topic on Thursday, April 23rd, at 9 am PT / 12 noon ET /5 pm BST, and we invite you to attend. You can sign up here.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Despite the confusion of the moment, one thing is clear: the landscape for marketers has changed. That 2020 plan cooked up in Q4, likely won’t work now. But how do you know what has changed and in what ways? Here are some highlights to give you some perspective.

1) The crisis has not had a uniform impact across sectors.

Many sectors have declined while some are actually growing. It’s important to know what’s happening in your target sectors. Here is an excerpt from a recent article by McKinsey & Company:

Source: McKinsey & Company: How marketing leaders can both manage the coronavirus crisis and plan for the future

2) Website activity and exploration is up, but deal creation is down

Source: HubSpot: Benchmark Data: How COVID-19 Is Impacting Sales and Marketing Performance

3) Selling is out; marketing is in

Marketing is at the fore now in its role of understanding current market needs and translating that to product and sales teams in ways that are sensitive to the market and its needs

Source: Lisa Nirell: Stop Messaging, Start Making Meaning: The Secrets of Growth CMOs

Join us! We’ll share additional information in the upcoming webcast.

Success and Survival Will Require Being Proactive

We’ve shared this taste of available data on what’s happening now because, as a marketer, you know it is essential to be informed by data to assess any crisis. Information is power. It gives you something to work with and can be a catalyst to action.

Marketing teams that proactively evaluate their environments and options rather than freezing in fear will be in far better shape now, and as the crisis passes. So, it’s a good idea to create a path to survival and success by acting: gathering data on your resources, your customers’ needs and your options for retooling,

As a starting point, you can simply determine which of these categories you might be in:

  • SINKING: Cutting expenses and staff without a clear plan for success, in a cash flow crisis
  • SWIMMING: Changing tactics to more digital conversations, but sticking with the same market approach and budget
  • SURFING: Actively adapting focus, spend and staffing to pivot now to drive future business strategically

The Marketing Crowd Has Your Back

To move you into the Surfing category, we’ve compiled several practical ideas from colleagues and research that you can implement now. Again, we’ll have more information as well as Q&A in our webcast, so if you need more ideas, we encourage you to join.

At a macro level, there are more significant changes you can think about driving to ensure success. These are things like:

  • Shifting the business online. From your offerings to remote working, consider how/what you could move online. This can not only save costs but also open up new opportunities to serve customers.
  • Shifting to digital marketing. Many already have digital as a major part of the mix but what if you have to shift everything to digital for the foreseeable future? Can you? What changes are required in your marketing stack, your budget, your staff, your content, your metrics?

At a more tactical level, almost everything is a candidate for change or adaptation. Think about:

  • Getting (even) more customer-focused. Now is the time to listen to customer needs by convening (virtually) your CABs or just doing a weekly listening tour inviting customers to speak with you and share what is happening in their businesses. Ideas for products and revenues always emerge from these kinds of conversations.
  • Re-forecasting. Things have already changed, and you need to get started re-forecasting leads, opportunities, and revenues to be able to make adjustments. Think about areas of decline and those that might be growing or could grow.
  • Update your messaging. If you are making any changes to offerings or products, you’ll certainly want to update your messaging. But, this is also a great time to turn down the volume on sales language and adapt your messaging to be more educational and supportive and less deal-oriented.
  • Change your offerings. This is an ideal moment to introduce promotions or pricing that earn long term loyalty by actually helping your customers. What do they really need? What can you do for them that no other company or your competitors cannot?
  • Retool for virtual selling. Enable your sales teams and revise your outreach to replace in-person interactions in your marketing and sales successfully.
  • Shift to inbound. Task inbound marketing with more of the lead load by enhancing SEO, social, and content to align with educational and updated offer messaging.

While investors may be less optimistic and are focused on reducing spend and surviving, this is an excellent moment for B2B marketers to shine by adapting well to the current realities, being the voice of the customer, and delivering value to the executive, sales, and product teams.

Thank you to my co-sponsor Jill Richards and to all of our friends and colleagues who have shared their time and ideas to support our B2B marketing community.

Jill & Johannes

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