Most marketing plans for 2020 have most likely landed in the rubbish bin in light of the corona pandemic and its consequences. Which is why new concepts are now needed! But what should B2B companies be paying attention to? Which measures should now be focused on? Five tips for marketing during the crisis.
Marketing during the crisis: advertising despite the coronavirus?
The corona pandemic has put a heavy strain on B2B marketing. Because supply and demand have collapsed worldwide, and trade fairs and conferences have been cancelled, long-term sales prognoses, sales objectives to be achieved, and sketched-out road maps have now become obsolete for most companies. Projects and campaigns, either planned or underway, are being re-aligned and immensely sized budgets are on the brink.
Just how hot the situation is or may be in the future can be seen in the numerous surveys and estimates given by market monitors. For instance, the Zentralverband der deutschen Werbewirtschaft (ZAW, German Advertising Association) forecasts a decline in advertising by at least 40 per cent in April 2020 – across all channels. This forecast corresponds to numbers from the market and advertising research specialists WARC. In their Global Advertising Trends report, companies in the media industry reckon with a huge sales plummet in the first half of 2020. And a survey amongst 16,000 members of the Chief Marketing Office Council (CMO Council) revealed that 90 per cent of them assume they will have to adjust their marketing on account of the crisis.
The ZAW forecasts a decline in advertising by at least 40 per cent in April 2020 – across all channels.
The only question is: how? In our interview with crisis expert Kathrin Behrens, a freelance communications advisor, she supports “communications which focus on values such as responsibility and solidarity”. The owner of KB2 Kommunikation recommends that B2B companies essentially leverage a mix of emotional marketing and factual communication – both during the crisis and afterward.
One thing, however, is clear: marketing must continue during the crisis – despite the current decline in sales. Those who cut their marketing now will have problems later on when the restrictions due to the coronavirus have been lifted. The pandemic may not only change people’s purchasing behaviour today – it may have a long-term effect on the way they consume. It’s therefore now about working on one’s own abilities and keeping the presence of your own brand alive.
5 marketing measures for coping with the crisis
The corona crisis can also be seen as a chance for companies to develop new marketing strategies and to cater to their clientele in a better way. The opportunity is ripe, since lots of time and personnel potential can be used in another way as business slows down. However: the clock is ticking. After all, the competition never sleeps. Those who react faster and early on by adapting their marketing concepts will get ahead in the game.
1. Reinforce trust in the brand
In uncertain times, people’s need for credible information is stronger than ever. And they are looking for this information more and more on the Internet. This can be seen, for instance, in the higher number of comments on social media platforms. A survey from allfacebook amongst 730 representatives of companies, agencies, NGOs, public offices, and organisations in the DACH region revealed that 44 per cent of them have recorded more interactions on their channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, than before the crisis.
Companies should therefore reinforce their activities on the digital level more so today. They have the chance now to present themselves as a trustworthy and competent partner who takes the worries of their B2B customers seriously in this crisis and offers them solutions. This also creates a feeling of closeness and has a beneficial value at the same time. For instance: scheduled concepts for cancelled events such as trade shows can be turned into digital formats like online information events or webinars.
But what’s important to remember: digital communication is not a one-way street. Companies should pick up on the questions and concerns from the B2B community and discuss them in a dialogue. In this way, they signalise that they are also both an interested and interesting business partner particularly in these times.
2. Communicate the status quo and the need to act
The corona pandemic has thrown a wrench in numerous plans and projects. But how exactly does this effect a company in any given case? A thorough stocktaking is required for setting up a new B2B marketing strategy during the crisis. As part of this, the following aspects should be examined:
- How high is the current and expected loss of the company in total?
- How wide is the remaining financial leeway for marketing?
- Which leads can still realistically be reached and which ones not?
- Which communication channels offer more chances at the moment than others?
- Where does it make sense to re-align any leftover budget?
Based on the answers to these and other relevant questions, fields of activity can be identified and the matching measures put into place. The status quo should be analysed in shorter intervals than normally, as new occurrences and regulations due to the coronavirus can change the situation at short notice. The result: adjustments already made may have to be updated once again.
3. Cultivate contacts and leverage retargeting
If the current situation has freed up time for marketing, it needs to be used wisely. This not only goes for the development of the overall strategy, but also for very concrete measures. These include, above all, the cultivation and refreshing of contacts.
For example, information about “dormant customers” may be hiding in your own database; customers who you don’t normally have time to communicate with during everyday business. Such contacts can now be reactivated. The data needed for this can be found, for instance, in the CRM system.
Ideal are CRM solutions which offer marketing automation. On request and largely on their own, they get in touch with leads or target group members who have been neglected to date. These include:
- Interested persons with whom there has been no contact since their initial dialogue with you
- Interested persons who once signalled a need but then no longer had contact with you
- Existing customers from whom you haven’t heard in a long time
Retargeting is ideal for these groups of persons. Retargeting allows you to communicate to decision-makers, etc. via targeted digital ads who have popped up during their customer journey but were not followed up on since then. Generally speaking, immediate or presently reachable leads should take precedence when refreshing communication with contacts.
4. Provide currently relevant content
B2B customers, too, are going through a difficult time and are on the search for help and solutions. Companies should respond to this and provide more content to quench customers’ increased thirst for information. And as fast and competent as possible. The right input can, for instance, come from these sources:
- Google: which relevant topics centred on your own field of activity play a leading role during search requests? The answer is provided by Google’s news section, for instance. It presents the latest news on keywords, which companies can use to gain inspiration.
- Employees: lots of know-how can be found in your own workforce. For example, customer advisors know exactly what topics their B2B customers are dealing with at the moment. These and other in-house sources of information are a good basis for content that can be quickly realised and in a targeted way.
- Industry media: online or print special interest magazines are also suitable as sources of ideas. Renowned authors can also possibly be won over for exclusive reports at short notice, for example as influencers.
- Updates: previously published company-own reports that are relevant may no longer be up to date with current news. So the time can now be taken to update them.
In addition to these measures, the basic tips for the search engine optimisation of your B2B website continue to be valid.
5. Present business ideas digitally
Traditional meetings or conferences with customers are either no longer taking place during the corona pandemic or are highly limited. This makes it more difficult to organise B2B pitches or to take part in them, amongst other things. An alternative to personal dialogue is online meetings via audio or video transmission. Especially important when it comes to sales pitches are channels such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. Here are some tips:
- All participants must be able to perfectly master the basic use of standard meeting tools.
- Presentations must be adapted to the digital format in terms of their content and visuals.
- For sales pitches, nothing should distract from the message. Acoustic or visual sources of disturbance must be completely ruled out.
- As your own employees are most likely working from different locations, they cannot communicate with one another during a pitch as well on a non-verbal level since their body language is more difficult to identify. This is why they should discuss their strategy and target range more intensively in advance, as well as go through several scenarios to ensure that they are not thrown off course during the conference due to unexpected developments.