Blog The BusinessOnline B2B MarketING Blog
March 30, 2020

How B2B Marketers Are Turning To Digital Marketing In The Face of Coronavirus

by Dave Schafer
Categories: Uncategorized

 

While the view from your office has likely changed, the expectation that marketers deliver leads is immutable. It just IS. There’s still a need to fill your B2B pipeline, even though all the usual spigots have temporarily run dry. 

Hold that thought…

You also need to say to yourself in a calm voice; “My CFO may soon want to scale back my marketing budget.”  

It’s not because finance doesn’t like marketing, it’s because businesses simply need cash in troubled times. 

GULP…  What are YOU going to do? 

The business world has changed drastically over these past few weeks, but there’s nothing stopping you from developing a marketing strategy to excel in the new normal. 

Here’s the silver lining, 62%  of B2B buyers say they make a purchase decision based solely on digital content. Many buyers don’t even need a live pitch as long as you have effective digital personalization in place. 

No time to wait! Let’s dig in! 

Shift Budgets To Digital Media

Conventional wisdom is to shift or increase spend in digital and performance advertising. Use the increase to promote product launches and initiatives planned for the event. Use paid social to directly target buyers who had meetings or are on your account-based marketing lists. 

When your marketing has to perform there’s no better place to put budget than into performance marketing channels.  Tracking every dollar of ad spend to revenue is an absolute necessity and that can be done with digital performance better than any channel.  Paid search is an easy investment because you only pay on a per-click basis and every click represents demand. 

In times of austerity, competition typically recedes which means less competition and lower prices at the paid search auction making paid search an easy channel to maximize spend.  SEO as a channel may require some patience as it takes time, but from a pure ROI standpoint, there is almost a no better investment.  

Paid social can be a strong opportunity for targeting high-funnel prospects who are not yet in the “Googling it” phase. Using target account lists, where possible, can help cut down on waste to ensure you’re reaching only your most important potential customers. Paid social can also be a great retargeting tool to further nurture prospects with thought leadership. Test beyond just LinkedIn for maximized CPC efficiency! 

Segment & Message To Care For Those In Need

COVID-19 hits some segments of the population harder than others. Similarly, you may need to identify segments of your TAM/TAL “population” that need special care because their industry is hard hit. How can you help them become ready buyers again? Think as marketers, but also as empathetic humans. What are their biggest challenges and pain points? How can you help enable and empower your buyers? Be aware of webinar fatigue, as there will be an uptick of options for your audience. Consider podcasts and personalized video. For webinars and virtual meetings, don’t be afraid to be human and have fun. We’re all feeling the stress.

Sanitize Your Account And Lead Data 

Similar to how the CDC recommends deep cleaning for preventing COVID-19, a good place to start is with your account, contact and lead data. This data spans your CRM, Marketing Automation, Sales Enablement, and other systems.

Sanitizing your data isn’t just about cleaning data, it’s about creating a better customer engagement experience for customers who are now demanding a full-funnel marketing experience. 

FUN FACT: Only 12% of marketers have high confidence in the accuracy of their data so clean, unified data will likely give you better insights and ROI to compete in uncertain times.

You’ll want to ensure that all leads contain a lead source so that every lead is accounted for. This is no different than health official logging patients with COVID-19 to identify hot spots. Also, associate contacts with opportunities for a holistic view of influencers and sponsors in the decision-making process. Again, this is similar to how health officials map individuals who have been in touch with a patient to better contain the spread.

Strengthen Your Email Creative And Show ‘em Your Face 

Marketers who use segmented campaigns get a 760% increase in revenue. 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. Those facts add up to one clear truth, email personalization drives serious ROI! It’s efficient. And by efficient, we mean fast, smart and cheap.

If the economy flatlines and paid budgets drop, you can still drive revenue with well-segmented email campaigns to your house list. We all get a lot of email, but not a lot that stands out, so add a personal 1:1 video message to make this powerful medium even more impactful. Research shows 64% of consumers are more likely to buy after seeing a video and  65% of executives will visit your site. In light of the current climate, be sensitive to the nature of the creative and get to the point.

Send Direct Mail to Create A Personal Touch

Did you know direct mail pulls a higher response rate than any digital marketing medium. Period. Response rates range from 5x to 9x higher than email, paid search, or social media. Direct mail works well because of your ability to segment audiences and personalize content. Also the pleasantly surprising nature of a dimensional direct mail piece creates good in-person theater, very much like an in-person demo. Try targeting different roles within a specific account and tailor the content just for them. Whether you simply print out an article and send it with a personal note or create an impressive dimensional mailer for the C-suite, direct mail delights. Also consider developing a mail campaign to encourage engagement via a webinar or virtual meeting. 

If you’re thinking, “Hey Dave, where the heck will I send direct mail to?” Fair enough. Offices are closed. So you’ll want to look into a swag management platform like Printfection where customers can self serve and have gifts sent directly to their homes. 

Test ABM Platforms That Scale Personalization (And Reveal Your Audience Faster)

After you’ve cleaned your data and identified key segments, it’s now time to reach those exact segments with the right message and entice them with a personal offer. In other words, Account Based Marketing. Companies using ABM generate 208% more revenue from their marketing efforts. A full 40% of buyers say they are much more willing to buy from a supplier that tailors content to their needs. While account-based marketing (ABM) has been around for years, the rise of AI-based platforms allow you to target at the account-level, reaching the precise personas within your target accounts. Now might be a good time to reach out to ABM platforms like 6Sense and DemandBase. As part of the evaluation process, ask for intent data from your own website — they will quickly share a list of companies most interested in working with you today.

ABM-ify Your Retargeting Pool

Here’s B2B retargeting logic in a nutshell. Typically, only 1% or less of your site visitors convert in a single visit. So what are you doing to close the other 99%? Retargeting.  Reaching out to past visitors on sites they normally visit has proven to be an essential way to bring them back to you and increase the opportunity for a sale. If you’re not yet doing full-fledged ABM, here’s a way to ABM-ify your retargeting pool. Segment your retargeting ads to serve up content the prospect needs to help them move further down the funnel. You’ll need to tag existing content by stage: top, middle and bottom of funnel. After a prospect engages in with top-funnel content, next serve middle funnel content. When they engage with that, serve bottom of funnel content that connects them directly with sales or a demo. We suggest using LinkedIn because the platform enables account-level targeting, so you can serve ads to the key influencers at those companies.

When The Show Must Go On, Go Online With A Virtual Event

One way event planners can guarantee the health and safety of employees and visitors are virtual events. Going beyond just a webinar, the technology allows individuals to enter a virtual event space, visit trade show booths, watch live webcasts, and interact with each other in chat rooms. Some industry players note virtual events are 75% less than the cost of live attendance and no risk of contagion. What’s more, virtual event visitors’ behavior is tracked, analyzed, and visualized, allowing companies to truly understand who their potential buyers are and where they may be in the buying cycle.  Added bonus: these leads are available in perpetuity.  Once you’ve built the event, you never have to break it down and can repurpose it over and over. 

Do Your Own “Thing” Using Video Conferencing 

If a virtual trade show isn’t right for your business, ask partners and event organizers if they’re able to host a digital effort. Can you co-create an experience where attendees can “visit” each company to learn more about their products and services? Can panels and presentations move to a livestream broadcast or other virtual solution? Coronavirus concerns or not, webinars play an integral role in B2B buyers’ journeys with 39% of marketers agreeing webinars are one of most valuable influencer content formats. And 63% are willing to spend 20 to 60 minutes watching a webinar. Certain offers are better at prompting face-to-face meetings with a prospect. Free evaluations, assessments, quality scores, and consultations are an excellent way to demonstrate value and build a relationship without travel. You could also offer a free gift card as a thank you follow up.

FUN FACT: Zoom Video Communications stock has increased as a result of the outbreak, as more companies help to prevent further spread of disease.

Get Social With Would-be Attendees Using Video

If you have access to an attendee list from your canceled event, reach out to participants directly. Now is an ideal time to repurpose your trade show budget for a new video marketing campaign. Paired with email, PPC, or social media promotion and outreach, a well-crafted video is often as effective and engaging as any other type of digital content. You can also repackage your trade show explainer or demo video into a short “teaser” video of about 10-15 seconds. Use this to run a pre-roll ad on YouTube or another social media channel targeted to your demographic. On Instagram, video is the most shared content type. And LinkedIn users are 20 times more likely to share a video than any other kind of content. While you’ve got LinkedIn open, consider joining new groups to connect with peers, share ideas, news, and info about your solutions. This is especially effective if you can organize with other attendees for broader reach. 

Two Closing Thoughts (a.k.a. Things You Should Be Doing Anyway)

Connect Your Campaigns To Pipeline Revenue, Before The COVID-19 Kills Your budget

Proper marketing attribution and analysis provide a clear understanding of which marketing efforts influence which prospects to take certain actions, as well as insights into user behavior and consumer interaction so that marketers can develop strategies to increase conversion. You can do this with tools such as Bizible, Adstage and Google Ads Import to Salesforce, however, you will need an expert to configure the technologies properly and channel experts to answer key questions. 

For example, Here’s a question you’re likely going to encounter in the upcoming weeks: What if we took away $25,000 from your monthly media budget for Paid Search, what would it do to our sales pipeline? Here’s the answer: Thanks for asking 🙂 Marketing has influenced 53% of new business opportunities in the last 6 months. The average # of contacts touched per opportunity was three, with five overall channel touches. Paid Search has influenced $1.1M of opportunity with $30K of spend. So within our Paid Search campaigns, I would reallocate budget from our lowest-performing campaigns to our highest performers with the shortest velocity to generate revenue. 

Honestly, you should always be ready for this question, but you MUST be ready when they come asking for a budget. 

Start Marketing To Digital Natives, That’s The New B2b Buyer

Over the past decade, business buyers have become more self-reliant, digital-savvy and now increasingly, they expect to be served experience of their choosing. It’s time for B2B brands to connect with the digital generation. According to a study of millennial buyers by Merit, 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in 73% of product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, with one-third reporting that they are the sole decision-maker for their department. That means it’s essential to create content that speaks to your value in ways younger buyers expect. For millennials, it’s all about evoking feelings of trust, compatibility, and connectedness, in contrast to buyers 50 and older who focus more on business benefits and deliverables.

Very soon, your millennial coworkers will comprise the majority of corporate decision makers. So start improving your buyer’s journey with digital personalization— it’s the safe bet today and tomorrow. 

Can We Help You?

At BusinessOnline, we’ve always understood the tremendous impact marketing has on revenue and business performance. As we begin to navigate forward in a changed world with clients, we will share best practices, workarounds, hacks and wins.

If we can help you regain confidence in your marketing, let’s (video) chat. Stay safe!