Finding opportunity in uncertainty: How B2B brands can adapt their marketing plans in the current climate

Business as usual?

What is “business as usual” in the time of social distancing?

The Coronavirus has changed the way we work, and British businesses are facing novel challenges. Many are seeing their marketing spend slashed, events calendars turned on their heads and sales processes called into question. In the B2B space, the lack of in-person communication from life in lockdown looks on the surface to be an unshakeable hurdle.

Nevertheless, there are opportunities here.

To quote Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish from Game of Thrones (remember that?)

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder”.

In our last blog, we discussed the importance of agility during this trying time.

As the situation changes and the news unfolds daily, the best thing a business can do is seize the moment, assess their strategies and pinpoint potential opportunities for improvement.

Problem: Your marketing budgets are being slashed

If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. The intense uncertainty created by COVID-19 has affected businesses across a range of industries, causing many to strip back spend to keep the lights on. Losing a large portion of the budget you had carefully earmarked for key campaigns is a hard pill to swallow.

Solution: Now is the chance to focus on what gets results.

Efficiency in marketing is key to driving growth and creating a predictable revenue generation model. If your marketing budget has been one of the casualties of COVID-19, now is the perfect occasion to cross-examine the efficacy of your marketing spend.

Implementing a test & learn mantra into your marketing team can breathe life into disjointed digital ad campaigns, or poorly performing landing pages.

Once the business landscape moves towards some semblance of normality, your marketing activities will be much leaner, and hopefully more capable of scaling up once budgets are back up and running.

Problem: All events have been cancelled

If events play a key role in your marketing strategy, there’s a good chance you’re now looking at a calendar punctuated by question marks and colour-coded cancellations. How will you increase visibility with your target audience when you can’t get in front of them through conferences, exhibitions, presentations and workshops?

Solution: Take this time to fully embrace digital events

Most marketing professionals will have been burnt at some time in the traditional events space. Costs can spiral out of control and return on investment can be difficult to calculate. 

Ever since the Prime Minister announced that large gatherings were to be banned, businesses have had to tear up their well-crafted event plans and pivot to a strictly digital calendar. Given the current state of the nation, now is the perfect time to embrace this new marketing channel until restrictions are lifted.

Where the ROI on traditional events can be difficult to measure, taking events online allows for total trackability on spend and value. Better yet, digital events can be recorded, edited, and shared across other marketing channels, greater amplifying your message and growing your brand recognition.

Problem: Your sales collateral requires in-person presentation

Countless marketeers have been guilty of creating sales collateral that probably needs collateral to even interrupt it. A savvy salesperson can talk to the collateral and keep the sale on track, but in the absence of in-person presentation, businesses are quickly realising now is the time for a content overhaul.

Solution: Use this time to improve collateral so that it speaks for itself

Creating impactful marketing & sales collateral not only benefits sales at the bottom of the funnel – they can also greatly increase leads at the top of it. Collateral that can speak for itself is known as a “lead magnet” and can be an excellent way to capture new leads.

Collateral that is easy to understand and can solve a problem for a potential customer is an excellent sales tool to whet the appetite of new business, and can be distributed on landing pages, social posts and e-mail campaigns.

The more accessible your collateral, the more likely your prospective clients are to refer back to it as a helpful resource and keep you front of mind.  

Problem: You aren’t having enough face-to-face meetings with prospects and clients

Face-to-face meetings have been around since the dawn of modern man and are still one of the most efficient and sincere ways to get new business and build relationships. COVID-19 has interrupted the very building blocks on which business is built on, and “nice to e-meet you” is not going to cut it moving forwards. When it comes to human interaction – now is the time that you let your brand do the talking for you.

Solution: Take advantage of social media to create a community around your brand

Social media has long been the cure for businesses in desperate need of an injection of character. Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn are all excellent marketing channels to create a dialogue and engage your customers while they are currently locked down. Sharing video content, infographics, giveaways and blog posts are all easy ways to rejuvenate neglected social communities and start a conversation around your brand.

How can businesses introduce agile marketing over the coming months?

Coronavirus has undoubtedly caused a huge shift in consumer behaviour and businesses are feeling the effect on a global level. But while these are testing times for business, it’s sensible to look at adapting your marketing strategy to potentially lessen the impact. Admittedly, in all the doom and gloom it can be difficult to see the business opportunities. However, the reality is, that certain companies will be well-positioned to benefit in the behavioural shift we expect to see.

In the B2B space, almost all in-person interaction will be on hold for a while – but this doesn’t mean businesses have to shut down. Instead, you must ask yourself where your clients and potential business have moved to. We have spent decades building a hyper-connected online community for people to work irrespective of location – and as a result, the answer for most will be they’ve moved online. 

Working from home, people will be spending significantly more time on their laptops, checking their emails, scrolling down social media channels and reading industry news. This is a real opportunity to invest your time and money in keeping your audience engaged on these digital channels, as well as capitalise on the highly engaged audiences from your previous digital marketing.

An agile marketing strategy

Put simply, an agile marketing strategy is measured on your business’ ability to adapt quickly and tailor your strategy in response to wider change. In the current climate, it involves taking a step back and a close look at what you already do and where your current marketing efforts are focused. Are there any areas which will now have limited impact and can be put on hold? What aspects of your marketing strategy can be amped up to drive further engagement with an existing audience, and what aspects of marketing can enhance your strategy in this period? To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of how we predict the marketing landscape will change in the next few weeks and how your business can adapt effectively. 

An appetite for content

Seeing as there will now be little face-to-face interaction, the appetite for content as well as the size of the existing audience will increase rapidly. This is a great opportunity to adapt your content strategy. Perhaps there is room to enhance your SEO strategy or mix in additional content, such as thought leadership, that will make up for the time lost face-to-face. Not only will this reassure your clients that it is business as usual but it will keep future business engaged with your brand while physical  meetings are off the cards. 

A transition to digital

shift towards a digital-first approach will mean more people will be spending more time online. This is a huge opportunity to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level and drive engagement across email, social and site. But first, it is vital to understand where your audience is located digitally. For B2B businesses, this will likely be LinkedIn but also their inboxes. Email is already the main point of contact, but with remote working set-ups, people will be checking their inboxes more regularly. This is an opportunity to deliver your best email campaigns yet, or test aspects of previous creatives to optimise future sends.

There is also potential to move spend from elsewhere in your marketing budget to paid social. This is a great way to strengthen your social presence, target the right people and stay at the forefront of their mind during this time. 

Internal comms

Whilst often overlooked, it’s vital to keep your internal team engaged. Social isolation doesn’t have to mean total isolation. There are many creative ways you can check-in with your team to sustain communication and keep up motivation levels across the business. This could involve regular video-call meetings, sending out team comms more regularly and recognition of individuals who have proved themselves during this time. Dedicated channels to social office banter (such as Slack) are also an effective way of keeping up morale and keeping inboxes focused. Video calls are great for checking in but the more creative you are, the better – your team will notice! 

Equally, your team’s mental health is super important at this time. Make sure you’re checking in to ensure they’re not feeling isolated and to monitor how they’re dealing with anxiety around the virus. 

Take time to evaluate your current marketing strategy 

Often we can get so wrapped up in the day-to-day of running the business, we can forget to take a step back and have a look at what’s working and what’s not. However, with the time saved from the commute and business meetings, this is an opportunity to re-evaluate your strategy:

What has done well in the last year? Which channels are performing? What is your social presence like compared to your competitors? Does your content cover the key themes you want it to? How could you amp up your email campaigns? Could your tone of voice be more consistent  across the business? 

These are really important questions to ensure your marketing strategy is the best it can be and can easily be neglected with the demands of everyday business. 

These are trying times for businesses, but, we truly believe there’s an opportunity for you to re-tailor strategy, shift channels of communication and maintain effective engagement with your business – and possibly even  increase it. Coronavirus has reshaped how we communicate in the business space, but we are now more digitally connected than ever before. Your ability to cope as a business will significantly rest on your understanding of where your audience has moved to and how you target them online.