While much media focus has been on the devastating impact on the travel, hospitality, and restaurant industries, the pandemic has left a deep mark on many B2B organizations as well. Marketers that weren’t thinking digital-first before had to quickly shift their strategies. If you’ve yet to make the leap, this article makes the case for jumping in now—before it’s too late.
If you’re like most small-to-mid-sized B2B organizations, you’ve felt the rapture of COVID-19 in more ways than one. For some marketers, the effects have been detrimental, including team layoffs and spending freezes or massive budget cuts. And while the goals of the organization have likely shifted to accommodate the current state of business, at some point, your leadership team is going to want those goals met, at least in some capacity. Now with your 2020 marketing strategy and budget totally shot, you may think delivering on any goals, whether they’re short- or long-term is impossible, but it’s not. Yes, a shift will be required, not only in the company’s expectations, but also in the ways in which you go about meeting them. Insert digital marketing.
You probably had a layer of digital initiatives in your marketing plan pre-COVID, but the urgency of those plans need to be heightened. On top of that, the digital landscape in a COVID-altered business environment is different, and something you may not feel ready for. Unfortunately, even if you’re not ready or are hesitant to embrace it, there’s no room to say no or post-recovery, you may be even worse off than before.
To keep this from happening, here are 5 reasons your marketing strategy must get wildly more digital right now:
- There’s Increased Opportunity to Reach Qualified Top of the Funnel Leads
- Remaining Relevant and Visible Now Can Mean Greater Gains in the Upturn
- Digital Media Consumption is Up, Ad Buy Prices Are Down, and Competition is Low
- Traditional Means of Lead Generation is No Longer an Option
- The Right Social Media Strategy Can Ensure Customer Needs Are Met
#1 – THERE’S INCREASED OPPORTUNITY TO REACH QUALIFIED TOP OF THE FUNNEL LEADS
Okay, so revenue forecasts are off and you’re getting pressure to attract sales ready leads, now. Your situation isn’t atypical. The bad news is finding ready to buy customers is going to be a challenge and may be for quite some time. However, the good news is there’s now more opportunity than ever to fill the top of your funnel with quality leads. It may not be what you WANT, but trust me, once the shock of the pandemic starts to fade, you’re going to NEED the pipeline to be nice and full.
So, how do you do it? Well, chances are you’ve already got a library of content ready to be used but the issue many organizations are facing is the content is too product focused and pushes a hard sell. And with the current state of business, that’s not the way to connect with prospects. You need to deliver them digital-friendly content that addresses their most pressing pain points in a way that shows you understand what they’re going through. For example, you could consider using LinkedIn lead gen forms, a paid social channel, to introduce yourself to new, interested audiences. But instead of using a CTA that asks them to reach out for a product demo, you should prompt them to start a conversation or sign-up for your monthly newsletter. Choose something that makes sense for your business and positions you to have healthy, promising conversations with potential clients post-pandemic.
To develop this content, start by doing a trend search and building your non-branded SEO strategy, something we talk more about a little further down this article. When it comes to reaching them, consider the following digital strategies, as laid out in more detail later in the post:
- Put more muscle behind building a non-branded keyword strategy
- Use paid media to get in front the audience you want now, and in the future
- Host virtual events to generate new relationships
- Leverage social media to reach and engage existing and prospective clients in a personal way
#2 – REMAINING RELEVANT AND VISIBLE NOW CAN MEAN GREATER GAINS IN THE UPTURN
Even though many shelter-in-place restrictions have already been lifted, many people are continuing to work from home on a full-time basis, or at the very least, are home for longer periods of time than before onset of the pandemic. What this means is they’re online and searching more than ever before but what they’re searching and how they’re searching for it, has shifted.
Prior to the coronavirus, you may have noticed your search traffic was consistent with previous data or even on the rise, but after the outbreak, these numbers have gone down and you’re not sure why. One reason this is happening may be due to the decrease in branded searches for “non-essential” businesses or products. Before the virus, whether considered “essential” or “non-essential”, people may have sought you out by name, having known you to deliver on products or services of interest to their organization. But in the wake of the pandemic, people are searching for more “essential” products and services by name. And not just ones essential to their physical health but their overall well-being. Because of this, you need to develop content relevant to what people are searching for with regard to your industry and optimize it accordingly – you have to ramp up your thought leadership program. To effectively do this, use tools such as Google Trends to see, in general, what people are searching for, and Google Search Console to understand how you’re being found and then focus on strengthening your non-branded keyword strategy.
Keep in mind that the key to success here is timeliness because what people are searching and the rate in which they’re doing it has exploded. However, if you can do this well, you should see positive results, such as higher conversion rates, and in the future, be able to capitalize on these wins.
#3 – DIGITAL MEDIA CONSUMPTION IS UP, AD BUY PRICES ARE DOWN, AND COMPETITION IS LOW
With budgets getting tighter by the day, the need to pause your paid media campaigns is understandable. However, it’s important to note that paid media may be one of the best and cheapest ways to get in front of your target audience during this time. In fact, on the whole digital advertising spend has fallen 33%. Simultaneously, people are spending more time online, and for some industries, the cost to reach them has dropped, which means there’s greater opportunity to get in front of your competition, and at a lower cost. The caveat here is clicks and conversions may go down as well, but with fewer advertisers in the mix, the opportunity for you to standout is greater.
The short story here is, if you’ve never made investments in paid media before, now may be the best time you’ve ever had to do it. If you have a program in place, and can swing it, keep your paid media campaigns running, at least in some capacity, as this is another avenue for you to generate more top of the funnel leads. And, consider diversifying your ad mix. For example, if you’re solely using a search strategy, add in a few well-targeted display ads. Remember, the goal is to drive awareness with more brand-related content so that post-pandemic, the opportunity to have a sales conversation is there.
#4 – TRADITIONAL MEANS OF LEAD GENERATION IS NO LONGER AN OPTION
The results of a 2018 study found that 68% of B2B marketers use events to generate qualified, top of the funnel leads. Another 2018 study, conducted by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, discovered that B2B marketers who participate in industry events allocated almost 40% of their marketing budgets to tradeshows, while only spending 8% of their budget on online marketing. Can you see the problem? With the coronavirus causing most 2020 events to have been cancelled or delayed, marketers now have to re-think how to reach and convert leads. Luckily for most, the funds reserved for in-person tradeshows or conferences haven’t disappeared — instead, the choice has become what to do with them. Based on a poll distributed by IEE GlobalSpec in March, 28% of marketers are reinvesting those funds into digital advertising.
While many marketers have embraced the use of online events such as webinars as a way to generate new leads, there’s now added pressure to ensure the right people are in attendance, in hopes of moving them through the marketing funnel more quickly. So how do you make this happen? A strong inbound digital channel that includes a mix of both paid and organic efforts that drills down onto topics your target audience wants more information on.
#5 – THE RIGHT SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY CAN ENSURE CUSTOMER NEEDS ARE MET
Knowing what your customers want and need during these trying times may not be as difficult as you think. Though they might not come right out and say what those wants and needs are, there are ways of finding out. One of which is leveraging the power of social media.
Prior to COVID, maybe you didn’t put a lot of time and attention into your social strategy or presence because at the time, it wasn’t a high-priority, lead generating channel for you. But with traffic to social channels climbing over the past few months and the buying cycle longer than before, it has to become an area of focus. But to focus on it doesn’t just mean posting every time a new piece of thought leadership is created, you also have to:
- Actively engage in conversations to better understand what information your audience is seeking—One way to do this is to utilize polling features within platforms such as Twitter to ask about the issues and pain points they’re experiencing.
- Develop assets with refined messaging that speaks to your audience—Because digital consumption is shifting, you have to meet your audience where they are. Try using video as a means to engage with them. This also allows you to personalize the message and add a human element to your POV.
- Stay connected and check in often—In order to find success, you have to make this channel a priority and engage with it, including your audience, on a regular basis.
Pre-COVID, digital marketing as a whole and marketer’s confidence in it was already on the rise. As unfortunate as the circumstances are, the proof needed for disbelievers to hop on the bandwagon is now here and in full force. Yes, digital marketing trends, just like any trend, will have ebbs and flows, but investing in smart digital strategies now can ensure your business is well positioned and will remain more resilient during the recovery and beyond.