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Tech Marketing Blog

B2B Marketing Through a Crisis

How B2B CMOs are Marketing Through a Crisis

March 31, 2020

It’s that time of the decade where every marketer worries about two things: firstly, the precious marketing budget and secondly, what to do next. It’s also the time when you wish you’d have listened to your marketing lecturer when she suggested that you prepare an emergency draw plan for crisis mode. Although let’s be honest, nothing could have prepared any of us for marketing during COVID-19.

So now we’re a couple of weeks in, here’s a collection of what’s going on in the B2B tech industry (as of  the end of March 2020) and what solid B2B marketers can and should be doing.

Data provided is extracted from a survey conducted among 100 B2B marketers by Yotam Gutman of Cybersecurity Marketing Pros and from a webinar held with leading B2B marketers: Amit Lavi, Co-founder of Marketing Envy, Oren Ezra, Head of Enterprise Marketing at Monday.com and Itai Galmor, VP Marketing & Sales at BrandShield. 

Impact on B2B marketing team activities so far

How B2B marketing teams been dealing with the situation 

As you can see, just about 80% of B2B marketers claim that  they kept on working just the same but from their homes. Roughly 8% have down-sized or shut down altogether.


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Impact on field marketing

Over 35% of marketers have diverted their budgets from field marketing up to, and including, Q3 of 2020; 32% have cancelled events altogether in 2020.

And of course, the next question relates to whether there are plans to shift the budget from field marketing to other areas. And that's an overwhelming yes, with just over 80% of respondents shifting budgets. Webinars and content creation are grabbing budgets, followed closely by Google and LinkedIn (more on that later).

 

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So what can B2B marketers do to make some lemonade right now?

The saying that we work in a time of uncertainty has never been more true. If up until now we were able to make annual marketing plans and budgets broken down into a month or a quarter in advance, now we’re lucky to plan a couple of days ahead. This means we all need to react as fast as possible to each and every opportunity.

For the team management and planning platform, Monday.com COVID-19 and a working from home workforce is quite an opportunity to leverage a mammoth shift in the market, and they pounced!  

 “Within a week of the outbursts hitting big time in China, we had a cross company task force with executives from each department in the company, as well as team members with a daily meeting every morning, come up with a plan and start executing. And with all the powers across all channels, really turning upside down our positioning, our messaging, even the product to take advantage of the situation.” - Oren Ezra, Head of Enterprise Marketing, Monday.com

 

Good with B2B marketing: Messaging, product marketing & content   

As with every other sensitive topic of the day, and using it in marketing, the trick with messaging is about navigating between being too opportunistic versus ignoring COVID-19.

“There is only one message. Do not ignore COVID-19 in your messaging or your product offering.” - Billy Cina, Co-founder of Marketing Envy

At the time of running this survey, only 64% of marketers were already running or planning to run  a Corona related campaign, but it’s not too late.  

 

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To take Monday.com as an example again, they did a good job. Rather than talk about themselves, they immediately launched a free tier in the worst hit countries without any advertising. This meant providing their software for free in Italy, China, South Korea and other countries. They donated their software for use to NGOs, non-profit organizations that are fighting Corona. They also made  monetary donations to hard-hit organizations. Stage two was to create excellent content. 

They launched a mini-site around remote work and working from home. And their entire content marketing shifted to producing high-quality content on this mini-site which generates around 30,000 to 40,000 visits a week; not bad given it didn’t exist two weeks ago. They provide a daily beat of at least two articles that talk about the situation, what it means to businesses, how businesses should function in remote work, working from home, templates for use by others, etc. 

“It’s called real time marketing. I've never heard someone say, ‘Oh, you pushed your message in a way that made me not want to buy even though I really needed your product.’ B2B Marketers who are afraid to use Corona, or to use working from home or any other term that's relevant right now, are just going to lose out and that's a biggie.” - Amit Lavi, Co-founder, Marketing Envy

 

In short, the balance is to do good first and then add the right messaging and useful content a little later on.

Cybersecurity companies, BrainShield and SentinelOne also decided to gain a first movers advantage through their messaging and product marketing. A couple of weeks ago they contacted all of their customers and offered unlimited use free of charge (as many as they want), and access to their products for free until the end of the crisis (or 60-days) to enable them to continue remote working, securely. 

As for new campaigns, “we found the verticals that are there and are listening. Not every industry has been impacted the same way and some will need your solution,” commented Itai Galmor, VP  Marketing & Sales at BrandShield. 

Galmor continues, “Campaigns were launched within a few days, new segmentation was pulled out from the attic together with different products offering that fit the new situation. We are not afraid to talk about COVID-19. You need to stand out. You need to be relevant and customize your messaging to stand a chance.”

Good with B2B Marketing: Awareness & creativity

We all know the drill and we have our toolkits. If physical event marketing is off the table, then that’s just one less channel to worry about. But for the protocol, successful B2B marketers can and should divert efforts to webinars, videos, podcasts, lots and lots of content

 

Social media is making a comeback; after years of being ‘old news’ for marketers and some declining channels, all social media channels are bouncing back in popularity. Everyone is home and thirsty for news and entertainment, so they turn to social media. This means that all employees who have free time in your company should be on the channels. From the CEO talking about the industry and vision on LinkedIn, to the CTO answering technical questions and commenting on Reddit. Quora is also a minefield for your prospects looking for answers; get in there and answer them.

There’s a reason that LinkedIn traffic is skyrocketing. People are on LinkedIn all day. Organic traffic is improving; CTRs are increasing. Companies that are not active right now are digging themselves a deeper ditch to get out of.  

Do yourself and readers a favor and ungate at least some of your content. Awareness and getting eyeballs on your content is far more important than seeking an email and phone number from a lead who is unlikely to want to speak to you or buy your product right now. If your content is good, you will be remembered for the post COVID-19 days.

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Be fun and creative with your content. Again, your target audience is looking for entertainment now more than ever. What better way to do that than by offering family entertainment? Win:win. Two really good examples of that are:

Orca Security, one of their sales guys, @Eric Gold, created an explainer video with his young son, explaining what his company does. He’s even wearing an Orca suit for the occasion.

Balbix created a cybersecurity activity book for kids. It includes puzzles, coloring pictures and cybersecurity best practices. These are really well done and did not break the budget.

 

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Eric Gold of Orca Security and Son, Daniel

 

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Balbix Cybersecurity Activity Book

Good with Online B2B Marketing Campaigns

Successfully catching on to a rising trend is a marketer’s dream. They are difficult to predict, but when they do… BINGO!

Monday.com successfully latched on to the Zoom wave. Everybody's using Zoom, everybody's searching for Zoom. They did their SEO and PPC homework and discovered that there were (an astounding) 1+ million Zoom searches on Google per week. So latching onto Zoom and creating Zoom integration messaging boosted their campaigns by 3,000 leads per day. 

But it didn’t stop with the advertising, the whole user journey was turned upside down. From the AdWord to the landing page to the home page to additional landing pages within the website; all this needed to be redone within a week. Additional channels were added later. 

A YouTube campaign around remote work and working from home was live four days after the outbreak hit Israel. To date, there have been around 4 million views of the ad on YouTube. To call this a success would be an understatement.

How did these guys pull it off in four days? They took an existing video that focused on managing work in silos and changed the audio. So the silos are people working from home rather than silos in an organization. A bit of a creativity and a bit of agility to move really, really quickly.

Online advertising prices are not going down, on the contrary. Google, LinkedIn and Facebook are increasingly relevant platforms to reach your target audience. Do your campaign homework well and get those ads running.  

 

B2B Marketing Budget Cuts

So it appears that for most B2B marketers there are no budget cuts, or are a modest 10 -20% right now but yes, marketers are obviously sweating at the thought.

 

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There is definitely a divergence of funds, and even more of a push on PR and online activities. If you’ve done your marketing well, you’ve got an excellent message, solving a very real problem for your target audience, gaining good PR should be relatively easy. People want to hear you. BrandShield for example, are reaching radio and TV, channels they only dreamed of just a month ago. This is a marketer’s opportunity. 

 

What’s next for B2B Marketers

For all the optimism marketers share, it is safe to assume that this is not just another hiccup and that if we ride it out, everything will go back to normal. There will be a fundamental shift in the way we and our target audience do just about everything. 

Remote working: In the blink of an eye, a digital transformation that should've taken enterprises   years and decades, has evolved within days. Going forward, people are going to work remotely far more than ever. Companies that are preparing now for this with their messaging, product offering and Go To Market plans, are going to continue to reap the rewards going forward. 

Digital revolution: The transformation that was supposed to happen in four or five years time is happening right now. Grandparents ordering groceries online, cash use in the UK has already decreased by 50%. People have gone back to being on the desktop far more, impacting the ‘mobile first’ mantra that marketers already adapted to. It will also continue to impact advertising prices, with more people online. 

Industries and target audiences: Just about every company should be checking and rechecking their target audience. eCommerce, online financial services and payments, gaming, gambling, apps, remote online education courses, delivery and logistics. These will continue to be hot verticals for B2B marketers to focus their attention on. 

Agility and speed: COVID-19 is a monstrous reminder that marketers need to be agile and need to move really quick. The companies that do so and gain first mover advantage will gain the visibility and credit from customers, analysts and investors. 

We all remember the stories from WW2 about factories that manufactured pots and pans during war and started to produce tanks and mortar shells. The same is happening today with the likes of Dyson and General Motors manufacturing respiration and ventilation machines. Now this may not apply to many of us as we do not have the ability to produce a different product, but we can see which features of our product may apply now more than ever to a specific segment. 

 

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Plan for the day after COVID-19. At some point, this period will be over and as the dust settles and marketers get into their groove of working from home, they should also start planning for the day after release from isolation. This is the perfect time for marketers to go back to basics and check out their marketing fundamentals: work on your marketing automation, clear out irrelevant contacts, review scoring and workflows; review SEO performance; fix up your website; refresh old content; review your Go To market -- will it still be relevant? Do everything you can to hit the ground running the day after. Can you create an offering that will ease the pain of going back to work? It won’t be an easy transition back.

B2B marketers can and will get through this and we hope this blog provided relevant tips for how to go about doing this.

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About the Author

Billy Cina

Billy Cina is the CEO of Marketing Envy, a B2B tech and startup marketing agency based in Tel-Aviv. Career and portfolio companies include Canonical/Ubuntu, Cloudyn, Aqua Security, CyberInt, Magic Software, PlainID, Cato Networks, Vulcan Cyber, DealHub and many more.

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