What marketing should I be doing during Coronavirus? – Jon Aspinox Writes

What marketing should I be doing during Coronavirus?

I know, I know, it’s another bloody Coronavirus article. Sorry. But I do think it’s an important discussion to have. As B2B marketers, we are often taught to capitalise on live events – it adds immediacy to the brand, it helps you reach more prospects, it makes you look like your company is an active participant in the world.

But the thing we’re also taught, through various articles on the web and anecdotal experience told around the proverbial marketing campfire late at night, is that getting it wrong is a disaster for you and for your brand. Examples such as The Gap‘s reaction to Hurricane Sandy a few years ago, and others, remind us that newsjacking can reduce your brand to a laughing stock if done wrong.

So what to do? Obviously it would be weird to do absolutely nothing right now. But it’s also plain that marketing as usual just isn’t going to deliver results. In this article I want to share my thoughts on which marketing tactics are likely to deliver value for now – and which ones aren’t.

Remember: uncertainty = indecision

At this point in time, nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Organisations are furloughing staff, hedging their bets and riding out the storm as best they can. That means that it’s highly unlikely that any decisions are going to be made on new investments right now. So, simply put, investing marketing budget and resource in trying to move decision-makers down the funnel is likely to yield little in the way of results.

Let’s look in more detail at different marketing tactics:

1: Demand Generation

Although people aren’t really buying much right now, they may well still be doing research. While they’re sat at home, getting through what work they can, it’s likely that they’ll also be thinking about life after the pandemic and what they’ll do to make up for lost time as quickly as possible.

So, content that drives demand for your products – including testimonials, exploratory ebooks, and research-led pieces – could all have an impact. Just remember that the people who do engage aren’t likely to have any budget right now, so don’t push for a call or a meeting at the end of every piece.

2: Lead Generation

Given that organisations are mainly holding tight at the moment, lead generation is very unlikely to make a difference right now, unless your product is really, REALLY something that your prospects need to invest in right now. It’s not impossible; some organisations are flourishing at the moment (supermarkets, for example) and will need to invest in systems and support as they grow.

One acid test I like to use to work out if your product is really relevant right now: explain to a colleague why oganisations that are faced with no income, uncertain futures, and even the possibility of their business collapsing, should buy your product or service. If you find you’re waving your hands about as you explain it, chances are you’re fudging it.

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If you REALLY feel confident that you can generate leads right now, then go for it.

3: Lead Nurture

I would argue this is where many B2B organisations will get the most bang for their buck. At its heart, nurture is all about keeping people engaged with your brand – and often the best way to do that is to build a community where people can exchange ideas, thoughts, tips and so forth – all facilitated you. With all of us working in isolation, coping with doubts and fears for the future, communities are what get us through.

I would advocate that every organisation looks to strengthen its communities, both of leads and of existing customers. Provide spaces for people to connect with each other and share their experiences; be that a LinkedIn group or a custom-built portal. Lead discussions – about anything, from things relevant to your brand to tips on making the perfect cup of tea at home, or coping with working on a tiny laptop screen all day. The power of that community to engage prospects (who will likely turn into leads as business picks up again) is immense.

4: Sales Collateral

If your organisation primarily sells through hard-copy brochures, then I can imagine lockdown is a very tricky time for you. As we’ve discussed, lead generation might not be the highest priority right now – but if you aren’t able to have sales conversations or provide people with sales collateral online, you won’t be able to take advantage of any opportunities that do come up.

If you haven’t got anything better, then a PDF of your brochure on the website will have to do for now, at the very least. But if you can, I would explore more interactive methods of delivering content online: platforms such as Turtl or Brojure.

5: Customer Advocacy

If communications with existing customers have ended with the email about “unprecedented times” and what you’re doing to survive Coronavirus, you’ve missed a trick. We’ve already mentioned strengthening your customer community during these difficult times – and creating a forum where existing customers can be advocates of your products in full view of prospects. You could also consider webinars and other interactive methods of connecting with customers, and making them feel a part of your community.

Another thing to consider is case studies. How hard do you normally find it to get case studies? If you’re like most, bloody hard is the answer. The reasons why would make a blog post in themselves, but one key reason is people not having enough time to give your case study a second thought. That might have changed, now that everyone is sat at home and not necessarily able to work at full capacity.

Now might be a golden opportunity to go after all those client case studies you wanted, but never quite managed to get over the line. You could even look to use video conferencing and screen capture software to get a video case study. It might take some creative editing to make it visually engaging, but it can definitely be done.

6: Brand Marketing

Brand marketing is a tricky one. On the one hand, it’s up there with demand generation and nurture as an activity that can drive results during this period. But it’s also very easy to get wrong. Given the very real and devastating impacts Coronavirus is having on businesses and people all over the world, a trite brand post on social media can do more harm than good.

I would argue that one of the strongest ways to build your brand in the current crisis is to rely on user generated content. Employees at Workfront, for example, are all sharing their home working setups, using the hasthag #workboldly, which ties into their wider marketing efforts. It feels genuine because it hasn’t come from the company – but it absolutely influences how the audience feels about Workfront.

If your organisation is doing something on a larger scale to support employees or the wider effort to contain the pandemic, then absolutely you should talk about that. Just remember to keep it humble.

7: Digital Marketing

Given that face-to-face interactions are out of the question right now, it could be an ideal time to invest a bit more heavily in digital (advice I have shamelessly nicked from Jstreet Creative). I’m talking about PPC, paid social, Google Ads – as Jamie says, take advantage of people being on their computers and phones more than they might have been at other times.

Just remember the previous advice about whether people are likely to be buying your services right now, or just researching them for later. You may need to craft you CTAs or your ad copy to avoid giving the impression that you’re trying to get people to buy, instead offering them educational content that helps them discover the solutions to their challenges on their own.

Anything I’ve missed?

That’s all I can think of at the moment – but I’d love to know what you think. Message me on LinkedIn, leave a Tweet – I’d love to hear from you!

And of course, if you are in need of freelance capacity right now, have a browse of my portfolio or get in touch – I’d love to chat.

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