It was only two weeks ago that my colleague Blair wrote our first blog on coronavirus – “Contingency Marketing Planning in the Face of a Global Pandemic.” At that time, several large conferences – like HIMSS and SXSW – had yet to announce that they would be canceled. Everyone was still working in their offices. We were asking short-term questions like “Should I cancel my trip next week?”
Fast forward to today. The impacts of COVID-19 have become somewhat clearer, though no less turbulent. We now know that most, if not all events and travel are postponed – likely through at least the beginning of summer. Telework is now the norm, which has fundamentally shifted how we collaborate and communicate. Buying patterns have also changed abruptly – accelerating buying cycles for certain B2B solutions, like healthcare technology, while lengthening others.
For tech marketers, the implication is clear: That data-backed, well-researched marketing strategy you set out with in January is on pause. It’s time to move from the triage phase we were in three weeks ago to longer-term marketing planning that’s based on our new normal. Here are four ways to do so:
1. Get the most out of your event marketing spend. If you had already invested in an event that had lower attendance than usual or have an event coming up in late spring or summer whose future is uncertain, contact event organizers to find ways to further the reach of your presence – or lack thereof. Trade show and event planners have been hard hit by COVID-19, but we’ve seen them offer a lot of flexibility in order to maintain strong relationships with their exhibitors and attendees while keeping audiences engaged. Asks may include:
- Inclusion in newsletters
- Podcast, video or written interviews
- Website vendor listings
- Virtual events (webinars, educational opportunities)
- Content partnerships (whitepapers, eBooks, etc.)
2. Transfer your offline tech marketing budget online. With event marketing budgets in flux, now is the time to explore new or expanded lead gen channels. Bizzabo found that “most organizations invest nearly a quarter of their marketing budgets into live events.” Events that are canceled and commitments that are never made due to uncertainty free up a lot of budget to invest in other mediums. Here are a few to consider:
- Search ads – If you aren’t already leveraging search ads, now is the time. Search ads reach a high intent audience – those already seeking out a solution to their challenges. Amidst a lot of uncertainty about how COVID will affect B2B sales cycles, a well-targeted search advertising strategy can help to ensure that you aren’t wasting your marketing dollars on people that aren’t actively seeking to make a purchase, focusing your spend on those with high buying consideration.
- Social ads – With telework becoming the new normal, people are online more than ever. Testing social ads, especially LinkedIn which boasts an impressive 6.1% conversion rate, is likely to be an effective shift in your marketing dollars. However, unlike search ads, which can be run effectively even in times of uncertainty, whether you launch social ads now or wait until this crisis has subsided will depend on your individual business. Since social ads are a “push” marketing strategy, they should be run when there is demand for your product. If that demand is waning right now, it may be best to get your plan and creative in place now to launch once business starts to pick back up.
- Video ads – YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine in the world, which is why MarTech Advisor is telling B2B advertisers to add this channel to their arsenal. “YouTube delivers specific, customizable segments for B2B brands through exact Google Search keyword targeting,” meaning that like search ads, YouTube can help B2B brands deliver messages to in-market audiences.
3. Go all-in on your existing pipeline. Now is also a good time to take a hard look at your existing pipeline. First and foremost, revisit all of your current automation, retargeting ads and other planned outreach to make sure it’s still relevant. The last thing you want to do is turn off your existing prospects with tone-deaf messaging, like the retail email I saw the other day suggesting that recipients catch “spring fever.” 🤦♀️ Once that’s done, think about those prospects’ acute needs and evaluate where your company fits in. Do you offer a solution that will help them address a current surge in demand? Or are budgets likely to be frozen? How you answer these questions will help to answer the tone and messaging to use in prospect outreach.
4. Show your customers love – Last, but certainly not least, is a reminder to focus on your existing customers. Brands everywhere are going through a tumultuous time. Let your customers know that you are in this together and look for creative ways that you can support your customers right now. Communicating with empathy and authenticity – not using the same stale, generic messaging that has hit all of our inboxes – will help to build customer loyalty and ensure that you weather this storm together.
In this time of uncertainty, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tech marketing, but we hope these ideas inspire some hope and creativity within your marketing team. And as always, we’re here to weather the storm with you. Reach out if we can help.