The coronavirus is continuing to have a major impact across our society and economy. As companies deal with the repercussions and try to assess its impact, we are also facing the difficult realization that demand is likely to decline across most sectors.
But as B2B marketers (and sales practitioners), the fact remains that we’re still on the hook for generating and delivering on pipe goals that may now seem impossible. This challenge is particularly daunting because some of our most trusted marketing tactics are no longer available. All conferences and field events are canceled. And with so many people working from home, direct mail simply does not make sense right now. Additionally, a hard sell in this environment risks coming off as tone deaf while people deal with more substantive issues.
So how should B2B marketers operate in this new reality? Here’s a list of seven tips to help you navigate this challenging environment.
- More guiding, less selling. After only a couple of weeks, LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels are rife with examples of poorly worded or poorly timed campaigns. I won’t add to the public scolding of specific brands, but unless you are selling hospital masks or ventilators, no one wants to hear that “now is a great time to buy XYZ!”. But the people who normally make up your buying committee are likely confused or worried. They are trying to make sense of how to continue performing their jobs. Taking a consultative approach, in which you are legitimately offering advice and guidance, along with concrete tips on how to adapt to these extraordinary times, goes a long way. Maybe this will lead to a meeting to discuss how your products or services can help. Or maybe it just positions you as a thoughtful leader during difficult times. Either way, you are setting yourself up for success in the long term.
- If you haven’t adopted an account-based strategy, start now. With demand waning and budgets tightening, this is not the time to waste precious marketing dollars chasing people or companies that will never buy your products. During tough economic times, focus is the key. Zero in on the accounts that matter—those in your target account list that are in-market for your solution. You might decide to take a 1:1 approach and invest heavily in winning a handful of strategic accounts, or tackle a few thousand with a broader, 1:many approach. Either way, you’ll be glad of the higher return across lifetime value (LTV), win rates, and customer retention that ABM delivers over traditional marketing efforts.1If you are about to make the leap into ABM, or just looking to sharpen your existing account-based approach, check out the ABM Stack Evaluator, which includes about 20 marketing and sales tech vendors, to discover the right technology to support your strategy.
- Tighten your sales and marketing alignment. Now more than ever, we can’t afford to have leaks in the funnel. Make sure your account activities are coordinated across sales and marketing. That starts by working together to identify your target accounts and it extends into how both teams engage with those accounts. Don’t think about alignment in terms of a handoff though. Sales and marketing should both engage accounts across the full funnel. In addition, marketing should be enabling sales to close deals by delivering holistic insights into digital signals, such as website engagement and broader web activity.It’s even more difficult during these unusual times to align your teams. At Demandbase, we have taken specific steps in the past few weeks to ensure sales and marketing teams are communicating effectively. We’ve added a weekly “Customer Working Group” meeting so that the marketing and CS team are coordinated in helping our customers weather this storm. Also, with our markets evolving so quickly, we’ve added a weekly “information sharing” meeting with sales leaders to ensure we are all up to speed on the latest developments, including feedback from customers, prospects and partners. And of course, our Slack channels have blown up as we continue to share everything in nearly real-time. 2
- Prioritize your team’s actions based on intent signals. Even when taking an account-based approach, you’ll want to prioritize your outbound effort to focus on the right accounts. But how do you know which accounts are in-market and showing strong buying signals? Real-time intent signals around keywords and browsing behavior tell you which accounts are researching topics relevant to your solution. Armed with these insights, you can direct your sales and marketing efforts towards the accounts that are most likely to buy. It’s that simple. 3
- Double-down on digital. Because so many in-person channels are offline due to COVID-19 restrictions (such as conferences and field marketing events), we are more reliant on marketing technology to scale our efforts. Digital advertising is clearly one channel that can continue to scale and reach our target audiences during these difficult times. Consider how your account-based ad strategy is primed to deliver engagement through advertising. Website personalization is another avenue for B2B marketers, as we strive to make every engagement on our site as relevant and meaningful as possible. AI-based assistants, chat and customer experience management technologies can all be valuable components of an updated go-to-market plan.
- Invest in your own professional development. While vendors and sponsors bemoan the loss of conferences as a lead generating channel, it’s easy to forget that these same conferences are often a primary source of professional development. Adobe Summit, Sirius Decisions Summit, ABM Innovation Summit, HIMMS — all are important sources of learning and growth. Just because these conferences are shut down, it doesn’t mean that professional development must stop, particularly when so much content is now online. Use this as an opportunity to gain new professional skills. Land that new product certification or take that industry credential you’ve been meaning to complete. At Demandbase, we’ll be offering our online ABM certification courses free of charge – just use code CAREERGOALS at the registration page. Many other vendors are doing the same. Don’t be stranded in solitary isolation—make this time count towards your overall career goals.
- Don’t use the current challenges as an excuse to not innovate. Let’s face it- any idiot can invest $10M in a marketing initiative and make an impact! But great marketers can move mountains with $100K, or $10K, or even $1K. One of my pet peeves is marketers who say “I don’t have enough money to be innovative”. (Actually, it’s second only to people who claim that they “don’t have enough time to be strategic”. But that’s a topic for another blog.) I am incredibly impressed and proud of how the Demandbase marketing team has, within a couple of weeks, completely pivoted our marketing direction. Brainstorming new ideas, creating new tactics and developing new approaches to engaging our customers and prospects. And many of these ideas have come in collaboration with our SDR and sales teams (see tip 3!). This goes beyond just making the best of a difficult situation. We are developing a new approach that will have a lasting impact, even when we return to brighter days.
We are all navigating extraordinary, even unprecedented times. The seven tips I’ve listed above are likely a small subset of the things we can all be doing as this crisis unfolds. The B2B marketing community is filled with amazing, passionate, and talented people. I’d love to hear from you, as we can all continue to learn from each other.