What’s Trending: Business as (un)Usual

April 13, 2020

What’s Trending: Business as (un)Usual

Marketers are natural-born tinkerers, experimenters, and optimizers. We like to test hypotheses and fail fast so we can make improvements. Every setback is an opportunity to gather data and do better next time.

Which means that in a time of crisis, we can be extra-resilient. There’s no denying that the current situation has knocked us back on our heels. We needed time to process and regroup. But now we can dive into the data and make new plans to see us through to the other side.

This week’s roundup is all about practical, data-driven advice for B2B marketers, for now and into the future. The habits we develop during this crisis will only serve to make our marketing better as we return to some semblance of normalcy in the coming months.

Read on for hard data on how B2B buyers are reacting to the crisis, advice on refreshing your content marketing strategy, and more.

1. How B2B Buyer Behavior Has Changed, and What Marketers Can Do Now

Even as the way people work has been changed, the latest data shows that B2B buying practices may not change much. Jillian Ryan reports on a TrustRadius survey that shows only 18% of businesses plan to reduce their spending. By contrast, 40% said they would spend more, at least initially, in order to make sure their employees can work from home.

Granted, most of these expenditures are aimed at videoconferencing, firewalls, and VPN software. If your solution is outside of these areas, you may encounter a slowdown. Jillian quotes Michael Brenner’s advice to follow for the duration: ‘No one is buying, but everyone is learning ... B2B buyers just aren’t buying right now. But they are researching online.’”

The survey also found that the majority of those reducing spend still plan to return to previous allocations. The challenge for B2B marketers right now, then, is be helpful and empathetic, cultivating relationships that can bear fruit when the pandemic passes.

2. 7 Steps to Create a Helpful Interim Content Marketing Strategy

Brands shouldn’t go silent during the crisis. In a recent survey of over 35,000 consumers, only 8% said they think brands should stop marketing. Customers still have needs that your content can meet. But we must acknowledge that their priorities have very likely shifted. 

Or, as Ann Gynn very succinctly puts it: “Your pre-pandemic content marketing strategy isn’t working in this new world.” Ann’s seven-step process is intended to help you change direction without spending hours on a new plan. The program covers changes in intended audience, messaging, even frequency of publication.

The unofficial eighth step may be the most important one, however: Don’t make this a one-time process. “Plan to revisit the document at least biweekly, if not weekly,” Ann says. “Reassess each step. If all is going smoothly, the review won't take more than 10 minutes.”

This process should prove as useful after the crisis has passed as it will now. It’s a good excuse to adopt a best practice for keeping your content strategy fresh.

3. How to Get Your Brand Message Right & Wrong in Times of Crisis

One of the most challenging parts of marketing right now is finding the right tone of voice. If you ignore the crisis, your brand can sound tone-deaf. But too earnest or sentimental of a message can sound disingenuous. It’s a balancing act to relate to customers as a brand that is still composed of human beings with genuine feelings.

Shelley Walsh suggests three key guidelines to follow:

  • Directly address what is happening and how this is affecting your demographic.
  • Get to the heart of what your audience is feeling right now.
  • Offer what value you can to help your audience. 

As Shelley points out, it’s not about a hard sell right now. It’s about positioning your brand as a trusted, credible and authentic advisor. You can highlight the good work your brand is doing in the world right now, and remind folks that you will still be there for them after the storm has passed.

This article includes examples of brands that are getting it right and brands that may be missing the mark right now. These real-life case studies can help you see how to strike that balance for your brand.

4. 8 Takeaways for B2B Advertisers in the Time of COVID-19

Finally, this hour-long webinar features four veteran marketers and their takes on the current crisis: Ginny Marvin, Michelle Morgan, Brad Geddes and Matt Van Wagner. In this wide-ranging conversation, they share thoughts on the current business climate (bleak but with potential for improvement), what marketers should be doing now (helping rather than selling), and what swerves to look out for (web analytics may be unreliable during the crisis).

You can read a summary above, or watch the full video below.

Play to Your Strengths

When the road gets tough, marketers can keep moving by doing what we do best: measuring, experimenting, and optimizing. And we can do it with empathy and creativity to inspire and engage our customers.

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