Two Shifts in B2B Digital Marketing to Lead Through the Turns

Here in the United Kingdom, we’re now more than a month into the world-changing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In certain places, a new normal has emerged that’s driving profound changes in business and consumer buying habits. It’s time now to stop the “when everything returns to how it used to be” mindset and start shifting into our new normal.

And, as marketers, we know how to do this. Whether it was the economic downturn of 2008, the arrival of big data and its impact in digital marketing, or the emergence of consumer data legislation like GDPR, most of us have had experience adapting to a forced change.

The situation now is recognizably difficult and unprecedented, but once again marketers are called to rise to the challenge. This is a call to fellow marketers to recognize the reality of where we are and to lead through the uncertainty, to lead through the turn. Not to ask if something you’ve done is enough but to be confident in knowing you’ve done all that you could do for your business.

Marketing departments are vast, with a plethora of different functions and responsibilities, but I’ll focus first on digital marketing, because that’s really all most of us have the capacity to start shifting right now.

So how does digital marketing need to shift? In two ways.

First Shift: Strategy – An Agile Digital Marketing Strategy

Strategy is about getting from here to there. But right now you’re at a new starting point, which means you need to forge a new path to hit your goals. And don’t forget the old adage: what got you here won’t get you there.

Here are the steps you need to take to adapt your digital marketing strategy today.

Reprioritize and replan – Gartner recommends marketing leaders create a best- and worst-scenario plan that reflect the specific metrics marketing is being counted on to drive the business forward. Remember that your colleagues value practicality and that you’re already fighting against a stigma that marketing is always overoptimistic. This applies to digital marketing whether you’re focusing on spend, channels, systems—having a reprioritized plan ready to go will allow you to make changes and optimize quickly as the future unfolds.

Focus investments on effective channels – Evaluate channels that are performing for growth. With budgets on hold, reduced or reinvested, focusing on what works to grow your brand will pay dividends. It is time to dig deeper, ask the tough questions, and really pay attention to what’s  working to drive your business forward. Ensure your team knows that there no programs are off-limits. It might even be good to set the example for your team and put one of your own favourite projects on hold.

Get closer to your customers – Customers’ needs have pivoted, so you need to pivot with them. From my interactions with customers at Aprimo, it’s been inspiring to see how they’ve pivoted their communications and managed their distributed teams by fully utilizing the solutions we offer. Set up and make full use of customer listening. Humanize and add weight to your communications by bringing your executives into them—it’s important for your company and your existing customers to see clear communication from the top. At times such as these, you can deepen your connections to customers and strengthen your ability to offer value and build long-term trust.

Second Shift: Story – Clarifying Your Message So Customers Engage

It’s noisy out there. With everyone shifting to digital, getting your message out to potential customers has become even more challenging. And it’s very important that your content strategy considers the current situation and cuts through noise.

Here are four key areas to consider when developing your digital content.

  1. Tone – Marketers must strike a balance in how they’re communicating. Tone deafness is unacceptable. It’s important to be empathetic with your customers. Your brand’s relevance will be measured by how helpful you are in guiding your customers through their personal period of disruption, however long that period may be.
  2. Personalization – This is a concept not new to digital marketing, but it needs to be revisited and delivered with a fresh approach. Getting really relevant in your communications in times of noise is even more important for conversions because being relevant demonstrates that you actually get your customers. Dive into the data to truly understand your customer demographics and put those findings to work delivering relevant guidance and resources that will improve your customers’ lives and their business success.
  3. Value-add – Two things: Thought leadership is now more important than ever; and your customers are your best marketers. Get real about your content and ask how it’s adding value to your customers. Is the content current? Is it educational? Are you working with customers so they share their stories and thought leadership? Remember that while a customer sharing their story about your brand is good for you, it also has a tremendous value in raising an individual’s profile at their company while simultaneously giving that brand positive press. Evaluating and serving up digital content that adds value will also drive higher engagement.
  4. Humanizing – Since every element is going digital, humanizing your communications via creative delivery—whether through video or online events—sets your brand apart in a noisy and often faceless digital world by demonstrating that people, real people, are creating your communications and real people are receiving it.

Limitations Lead to Innovations

 Times are uncertain—it’s true. But it’s often in times of uncertainty and severe limitations that brilliance and innovation emerge. Now is the time for your marketing team to take the lead and create innovative, relevant experiences that ultimately see a big return on investment.

As I interact with our customers—global, well-respected enterprises—I’m truly inspired by marketing leaders who have quickly adjusted their plans. They’ve shifted to digital marketing communications to align with the current situation, have made the most of remote work, have ensured that they’re compliant even in the midst of quick turnarounds, and have even pivoted their products and offerings, all at amazing speeds.

Is your companying leading through the turns? Let us know on social media.

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