What’s Trending: Get Proactive With Planning

July 20, 2020

Woman working at desk at home with dog on her lap

Suddenly, we’re halfway through the year. Even as individual days and weeks seem to stretch on forever, we’re well into Q3. The headlong rush to the end of the year has begun — before we know it, 2020 will be in our rearview mirror.

Now is a good time to pause, take stock, and plan for the rest of the year and the start of 2021. The uncertainty and upheaval of the past six months should certainly inform our planning. We should plan for more flexibility, to cover more contingencies, and to adjust our messaging to meet our audiences’ current reality and needs. 

This week’s roundup is designed to help you fill out your marketing strategy to work better — as the cliche goes — “in these unprecedented times.” You will find advice on marketing in a recession, ways to make your content more effective for B2B buyers, and more.

1. B2B Sales In A Slow Economy: How New Business Relationships Can Fortify Your Future

Don’t let the word ‘sales’ in the title throw you off: This post from Marketing Insider Group is about how sales and marketing can work together to build stronger B2B relationships. For Grace Frenson, it’s about focusing both departments on meeting customers’ immediate needs. That means less promotional content, less overt selling, and offering more value.

“Companies have … decreased their spend on promotional ads. However, they have ramped up the release of educational content in the form of guides and webinars,” Grace says. Brands that can show they are dedicated to their customers’ well-being can build relationships that will last long after the crisis has passed.

However, now is not the time to cut marketing budget or reduce operations. “If you use marketing tools … don’t try to cut costs by stopping your subscriptions with them,” Grace advises. Businesses that continue to invest in empathetic, helpful marketing will be better positioned than those that choose to shutter their content teams.

2. From Mechanical to Meaningful: How to Humanize B2B Case Studies

If overly promotional marketing is off the table right now, that would seem to rule out case studies, right? They’re literally advertisements for your product or service, offering little value beyond helping people decide to make a purchase.

According to Josh Nite, however, case studies can be valuable, substantive, even exciting to read. “In theory at least, B2B case studies should be exciting stories,” he says. “Each one is a three-act story arc of overcoming adversity and solving a problem.”

There are two key ways to make case studies more relevant for your audience: First, focus on telling a human story, not just the story of your product. Second, add valuable advice for your reader that will help them even if they’re not ready to buy. Josh highlights LinkedIn Marketing’s Salesforce case study as an example — it contains practical advice for people looking to develop a live video strategy, along with the Salesforce success story.

When they’re engaging, human-centered and actionable, case studies can be content worth reading and a useful sales tool.

3. The Four Prerequisites to Successful B2B Marketing Planning in 2021

We tend to talk about 2020 as a “bad year,” as though all our troubles will be magically whisked away at 12:01 on January 1st. The reality, of course, is that 2021 will still be carrying plenty of 2020’s baggage. “While there is no way to know what 2021 will look like,” says Rhoan Morgan, “it’s a fair guess it won’t look anything like our pre-pandemic world.”

Marketing leaders can plan for this uncertain future in a few specific ways. First, Rhoan says, it’s important to be tuned into organizational shifts in strategy that will affect your marketing goals. The opportunities and challenges your CEO and executive team are facing will make a difference in your department’s expectations; as such, it’s important to have a seat at the table.

Rather than trying to execute a major departmental transformation, it’s better to focus on optimization of your core competencies. “Marketers need to be able to demonstrate (and continually augment) the value they deliver,” says Rhoan. Continued optimization can help marketers deliver more value to the organization. In addition, if marketers focus on improving their attribution models, they can further optimize and prove that they’re getting results. “Marketers who use this time to realign, optimize and measure performance will be instrumental in leading their companies to long-term success,” she says.

4. Here’s One Content Marketing Trick for Every Step in Your Conversion Funnel

Of course, even as marketers take a less-promotional approach, we still are responsible for leading people to a purchase decision. Content marketing is the go-to tactic for bringing customers into the funnel, but the most successful content marketing strategy takes a full-funnel approach.

As the title promises, Ann Smarty offers specific advice for each stage of your customer’s conversion journey. In the early stages, Ann recommends focusing on SEO — particularly on search intent, not just keywords. 

Further down the funnel, you can turn awareness into interest by asking intriguing questions. “Focus on asking (and answering) popular questions that people tend to ask when researching your topic or product online,” she says. Tools like Google’s “People also ask” and the website Answer the Public can help you find the most interest-piquing questions to answer.

Finally, Ann offers tips on crafting more effective calls to action, and ways to nurture customers after conversion that can lead to a future relationship.

Plan to Succeed in Q3 and Beyond

It does feel like the business world has become more volatile in the past six months, and there are undoubtedly more shakeups on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to plan — it just means your planning must be flexible enough to adapt to change, and your team must be alert and ready to shift priorities. 

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