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Redefining your B2B marketing priorities during a crisis

The 24-hour news cycle has become exhausting. From the pandemic itself to its socio-economic and political ripple effects, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. According to top business analysts, this may be the most important economic shockwave of our lifetime. And that means our businesses and day-to-day job functions are equally disrupted.

So it goes without saying that the linear marketing plan that you’d developed for the next 6-12 months is now practically obsolete. This calls for a series of significant pivots. 

1. Abandon “business as usual” thinking immediately.

Adaptability is the key to survival. Here are a few things you need to start focusing on ASAP:

  • Big ideas for helping: The notion that “brands are defined by their behaviors, not their messages” (Friction, 2019) is especially true during an economic crisis. Lead with compassion. Double down on your core values and ask how your brand can help improve (not benefit from) a bad situation. For instance, Comcast committed to keeping low-income families connected during the COVID-19 crisis by preserving phone-and-internet service for those unable to pay their bills.
  • Short-term planning: Given all the uncertainty we’re facing, there’s no point trying to revise your annual marketing plan or growth targets right away. Instead, establish priorities to stabilize the near term. Work with team leaders to develop 30-, 60- and 90-day plans with clear ownership and staffing plans. And put processes and systems in place that will allow you to quickly spot trends and adjust course
  • Constant communication: People don’t trust what they don’t understand — and right now, you need your leadership team to trust your plans. Institute a more frequent cadence for internal communications and reporting. Highlight the constant, iterative progress you’re making across every initiative. You need to arm senior executives with the information they need to communicate with the board and other stakeholders.

2. Establish your focus areas.

Difficult times require leaders to get outside of their silos and comfort zones, expand their roles and find new ways to serve customers. For marketers, this means taking your existing relationships with Sales and Customer Success to the next level.

  • Reach out to Client Success: Customer Success teams will need to deliver the highest possible levels of service right now. That means producing higher-quality communications, more frequently, at a larger scale. Marketing is uniquely equipped to lead or support these initiatives — and to bring fresh ideas to the table. Read Keep Your Customers Close with ABM to get inspired.
  • Work with Sales: When rapid shifts in the market reduce B2B demand, Sales is arguably the most affected. They’ll likely face reductions, and low performers who work on commission will find other work. High performers will be asked to do even more — and they’ll want to partner with Marketing to meet their goals. Together, you can develop modern, creative ABM initiatives to build relationships within a list of named target accounts. We’ve outlined the basics of this approach here.

3. Be innovative with your time.

You may need to hit pause on active campaigns and advertising efforts. Embrace that time. Use it to develop concepts for innovative pilots, test-and-learn programs or other ways to quickly respond to the uncertainty in the market, such as:

  • Connecting your customers to each other: Launch a community to support your customers and the specific challenges they’re facing.
  • Getting reviews and referrals: While you’re going the extra mile to help customers, use the opportunity to drum up reviews or referrals. They may appreciate you more than ever.
  • Creating content (not just written): Start producing low fidelity, quick-turn, high-value videos, and podcasts. After all, we’re getting more comfortable on camera thanks to videoconferences.
  • Tapping into your back-burner projects: Go big on the social channel you’ve been meaning to develop. Pull out some big ideas that are relevant now. If it’s already on your list, you’ve got a head start.

Marketing: The unifier.

B2B Marketers must reinvent their roles in order to help their organizations succeed in times of crisis. A sudden economic downturn creates an equally sudden need for Customer Success, Operations and Sales teams to unite around a common plan. And Marketing is best positioned to connect these groups — to deliver the experience customers need most right now.

This requires a bold departure from traditional departmental silos. A departure that Marketing could have — and probably should have — been working toward all along. While the headwind you’re facing isn’t going to last forever, emergencies have a way of clarifying our priorities, both personal and professional. In that respect, these guidelines may well put you in a better position regardless of the economy.