Dealing with COVID-19 has made it a tough year for so many small businesses. There’s a lot of talk every day about how the coronavirus has impacted (and financially devastated in some cases) small retailers and restaurant owners.
We don’t hear as much about how the global pandemic has impacted B2B companies. How have they fared so far in 2020 and what lies ahead for them? Alex Rynne, Senior Content Marketing Manager for LinkedIn, offers some great suggestions and ideas about how B2B companies can survive the current crisis.
In her blog, she starts by suggesting we change what the acronym SMART (as in SMART goals) means. Instead of making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, she posts changing “relevant” to “revisable” but “just for 2020” because “what if revising goals is the only way to keep our objectives relevant and attainable?”
Rynne has a point—a good one. Instead of bemoaning missing our goals, why not reset them? The new goal, she says, is to “ramp up for a big finish to a consequential year.” That, of course, will require a new attitude for some—one of positivity and hopefulness.
Before you start, Rynne says you should examine what you’ve learned so far in this tumultuous year.
Not surprisingly, she says, we’ve learned that positivity counts. By that she means “thinking about what’s possible rather than dwelling on what’s not.”
For B2B companies, she points out content is in demand. But it should be helpful, not opportunistic, she warns, adding, “The demand for helpful, difference-making content is higher than ever.”
And she notes, if you can afford it, advertising in a down market tends to get results, since so many other businesses cut their marketing budgets to save money. If your voice is one of a few in a vacuum, your message stands out.
The good news is, these days you can take advantage of affordable marketing options—it’s no longer necessary to spend a fortune to get your message out. The key is to focus on digital marketing channels, particularly on the web and on your social media platforms.
“Organic [marketing methods]”, Rynne says, “will always be there for you. Regardless of budget, all marketers are empowered to build online communities that feel welcoming, and present opportunities for connection and inspiration.”
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What to do now
While things have definitely changed—maybe not as much as you’d think—Rynne cites research that “shows no reduction in advertising’s ability to connect with people, though … ads with certain characteristics connect better during an economic downturn.”
So she advises, instead of throwing out your playbook, just modify and adjust it “based on what’s in demand, [your] team’s strengths, and available resources.”
If you were planning to hold an event, for example, taking it online, Rynne says, “can be more successful.” Holding events online, instead of in-person, can also save you a lot of money. And since attendees will not have to travel and pay for lodging and meals, they’ll be saving too, which may draw a larger audience.
And yes, we are all well aware that things are still so uncertain, so up in the air, that it is hard to know or even predict what to expect for the rest of the year.
But Rynne says LinkedIn is already seeing more companies “returning to their regularly scheduled activities.” She thinks the marketing spend will start to return to normal “because advertising during a recession correlates strongly with market share growth, and partly because advertisers’ audiences are generally getting back into the swing of things.” She cites data from the Great Recession of 2008 that showed businesses that increased their media spend during that downturn had a 4.5 times the annual market share growth.
Rynne says customer stories and third-party validation will become even more important now, since credibility will be a bigger factor for businesses when deciding what vendors and partners to work with. The key is finding vendors with “demonstrated real-world success.”
Businesses will need content that “helps them accomplish their changing objectives, content that’s acutely focused on customer needs,” Rynne says.
According to research from Forrester, content that is both credible and empathetic is more engaging and is exactly what customers are looking for today. And don’t forget content today comes in a variety of formats, so be sure to explore them all.
What lies ahead
The coronavirus situation is still so fluid it’s not possible to know how 2020 will finish up. But Rynne says “B2B marketers should prepare for the path forward by adopting a pragmatic approach to monitoring and meeting customers’ changing needs.”
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