Focusing on Being Strategic and Purposeful in the Middle of a PandemicAt a time when toilet paper and hand sanitizer are flying off shelves (if they were even there to begin with), it’s only natural to feel a sense of urgency. And B2B and B2C marketing during COVID-19 is no exception – marketers are scrambling to keep business flowing as our way of life shifts almost completely to online interactions.
We’re here to offer a bit of what we hope is reassuring advice: instead of feeling panicked, look upon this time as an opportunity to slow down and focus on strategic marketing tactics that will keep your business moving rather than at a deer-in-headlights-style standstill.
Seize the Quarantine
There is some benefit to essentially being forced to reevaluate your marketing strategy to adjust to a new normal. It’s something most marketers have never done except of their own volition, and even then, decisions and actions have been based on a known way of life that includes in-person interactions.
The principals of strategic marketing during COVID-19 remain the same as before: reach your audience in the right way at the right time.
What has changed is the way you go about administering that strategic marketing. How can you accomplish your marketing goals but do it in a way that works in a COVID-19 world?
Sticking to a Strategic Marketing Mindset for B2C Marketing
Once the spread of COVID-19 made it clear that “business as usual” would be anything but usual, companies had two options: completely turn off marketing efforts to avoid sending the wrong message during a challenging time, or, adapt.
Walmart chose to adapt. They quickly released a television ad celebrating the “retail heroes” responsible for keeping things moving during the pandemic. It was poignant, well-timed, and smart – able to promote their business in a subtle way (we’re here for you) while tugging the heartstrings of retail employees and consumers alike.
Of course, strategy has always been part of marketing. COVID-19 has simply forced B2B and B2C marketers to be strategic in a different kind of way.
In a world that is inundated with advertising and brand messaging, we would argue that going dark during this time is, quite simply, a bad marketing strategy.
In March, global communications company Edelman conducted an international survey to measure brand trust during a pandemic.
Overall, respondents felt brands were integral to addressing major challenges of the pandemic, like employee protection, product availability and pricing, and fostering a sense of community. The survey found that 55% of the 12,000 respondents believed brands to be responding better to the pandemic than their governments.
The most telling takeaway was the 71% of respondents who said they would break ties with any brand perceived as putting profits before people. This is a salient point for all marketers during this time – one that has been likened to walking a tightrope.
What B2C Marketers Can do for Customers During COVID-19
Your business can be on the right side of the tightrope by remaining strategic and thoughtful in your marketing during COVID-19. Your marketing won’t look the same, but it will go further with your audience and maintain the brand loyalty you fought hard to establish in the first place.
Here are some broad tactics to follow when developing your marketing strategy as the pandemic continues:
- Review existing marketing plans. If you already have emails and ads in your marketing mix that were created before COVID-19 and may send a tone-deaf message now, shut them down and begin reevaluating new content that is sympathetic and helpful given today’s circumstances. Or, consider pausing emails and pivoting advertising dollars to other marketing efforts that would be more impactful.
- Provide freebies, discounts, or deals. Now is not a time to be selfish – in fact, with so many consumers struggling to make ends meet in the face of layoffs or drastically-altered work situations, necessary products and services at a reduced or at no cost will go a long way.
- Focus on community awareness. Brands should take this opportunity to use marketing for community education about the pandemic and advice for staying healthy. Demonstrating that you care and aren’t tone-deaf to this very real global crisis is not only reassuring to your customers but helpful for maintaining loyalty.
- Join the fight to flatten the curve. If your company has the ability, dedicate some portion of your business toward fighting the spread of COVID-19 or provide consumers with needed resources.
These approaches are different from your normal marketing strategies, and you can certainly continue marketing as long as it is considerate of the current global landscape and your customers’ individual needs.
The “New Normal” of B2B Marketing During COVID-19
For B2B companies, the pandemic is having a different impact on marketing decisions, largely driven by the shift in B2B buyer behaviors as many businesses have been forced to rethink their budgets and spending in light of the economy’s recessive activity.
Some companies, such as technology and software manufacturers or providers, are buying because of the boom in remote work and society’s sudden overwhelming reliance on digital communications. The pandemic has also bolstered business at healthcare and pharmaceutical companies as demands for these products and services has skyrocketed.
Other companies selling less essential products or services, however, are more focused on simply weathering the storm. COVID-19 has forced many B2B buyers to cut spending and trim budgets in deference to preventing layoffs and financial losses or simply avoiding having to shutter their business.
What B2B Marketers Can Do for Buyers During COVID-19
As B2B buyer behaviors shift during this time, B2B marketers must also make adjustments to remain valuable and understanding of customer needs.
Here are some tactics for B2B marketers during COVID-19:
- Audit your current marketing. Market research since the spread of COVID-19 began shows that many keyword searches in the B2B sector are down significantly as buyers shift their behavior. It may no longer make sense to spend on advertising – to ensure your marketing tactics are sympathetic to today’s environment, review your ads and content to promote value over sales.
- Produce educational content in deference to marketing products and services. If your buyers aren’t buying, they will likely still be researching solutions and taking advantage of industry resources to bolster business any way they can during the pandemic. By providing thought leadership content like webinars, eBooks, or whitepapers, you can provide educational value at a time when it’s needed most.
- Reevaluate email communications. Many B2B companies have regular, automated email communications that during COVID-19 will either get lost in someone’s inbox or viewed as inappropriate depending on the context. Now is a good time for B2B marketers to shift email communications to value-add material over products and services and leverage educational or community-focused content that will resonate better with buyers.
Strategic Marketing During COVID-19 Isn’t Just for COVID-19
The marketing strategies you enact during COVID-19 will set the tone for your company’s success in the long run. This isn’t just a temporary solution, but a chance to rethink your marketing strategy in a way that will benefit your business in the future when things have become more normalized.
Long-term thinking will not only prevent you from making bad marketing decisions during the pandemic but will help shape your marketing going forward.
And long-term thinking never harmed a business.
If you’d like help developing strategies for your B2B marketing during COVID-19 that will pay dividends into the future, contact us today.