The ongoing global crises – pandemic, economic uncertainty, political tension and more – have presented unique challenges for companies and marketers around the world. As marketing directors, we must carefully weigh the strategic and tactical lessons learned so far so that we can thrive and ensure that our companies’ brands are properly displayed across channels.
Given the evolving environment and potential new challenges, how can we ensure that we adapt to the moment and communicate in the best possible way?
1. Demonstrate agility and flexibility
Anything can happen, as the past year has shown us. The marketing landscape can be completely messed up in a matter of days – even hours. We have to be ready to decide quickly how we want to move our campaigns forward: whether we want to pan our strategy, delay a product or service launch, or abandon plans entirely.
Likewise, companies must have agile marketing processes in place so that they can react quickly to market conditions and revise marketing campaigns and messaging overnight as required. You should be able to respond to a new strategy within 24 to 48 hours.
Listen to your customers when you rethink or reinvent your processes. It is important that you have tools that you can use to monitor your customers’ conversations so you know what they are thinking.
You can also reach out to them specifically based on the problems the market is facing. Regularly monitor general industry trends by catching up on news and current events, and try to anticipate the best message you can get your customer to know right now. It may feel like trying to predict the future, but that’s exactly what marketing is fun!
And record how your customers react to your tactics. Take their reactions into account for any future marketing activations.
For example, at Acoustic, at the start of the pandemic, we noticed that email recipients were starting to open and read their emails at higher rates. In order to better understand this behavior and to help our customers to react accordingly, we examined the email habits of the recipients based on campaigns that our customers carried out on our platform from January to June 2020.
In our COVID-19 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we found that email open rates were up 4.7% from February to April and that the industries hardest hit by COVID-19 like transportation companies saw the largest increase in open rates. Customers were hungry for content that detailed the changes in these companies and the potential impact of those changes.
We continue to monitor widespread email consumption data across all industries at a macro level to help our customers change their email marketing strategies.
Another example: The collaboration platform Slack also conducted a survey to provide their customers with important insights. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Slack decided to help its business customers navigate the new work-from-home world. So Slack conducted a nationwide survey on remote work and released a report based on the survey data.
The takeaways provided information and best practices for other companies, as well as providing insight into collaboration tools. By providing helpful resources to customers, Slack has established itself as a trusted partner and demonstrated its customer focus at a time when its B2B customers needed it most.
2. Lead with intent and communicate with empathy
The importance of digital channels to businesses has grown steadily over the past few years, but the pandemic has really put the digital in the spotlight. According to McKinsey, sales managers rate digital channels twice as important today as before.
The challenge with digitally enabled interactions is that they often take place in real time across multiple platforms, including social channels, mobile apps, and online communities. When communicating through digital channels in times of crisis, you must always be aware of the tone and reactions used, as this can have a huge impact on how customers react to your company’s offers.
Be careful with the content of all of your marketing messages and make sure you understand the circumstances that society and your customers are facing. Then, adapt to the change in customer behavior to meet them where they are, and empathize with realizing the difficulties they may be facing.
Customers are also demanding more responsibility from brands on social issues. Even before the pandemic, 74% of B2B companies viewed the purpose as relevant to business growth. In 2021 it will be even more important to lead in a targeted manner.
What does this mean for B2B marketers? In order to increase the trust of your customers, you have to show the customers what the values of your brand are and how your company lives up to these values through its actions, be it through the implementation of institutional changes in the company, through the support of a social cause or through proof of ecological commitment.
In a recent blog post, I recommended a few questions we marketers should ask ourselves every day:
- What does my brand stand for?
- What are the pros and cons of joining boycotts and movements as you progress?
- Do I have an accurate list of the sites that are showing ads natively?
As you ask these questions, make sure you are keeping an eye on societal issues and the way your company is responding and communicating on these issues.
3. Use personalization and segmentation
Of course, we should tailor news to the needs of our B2B customers and the overall market environment, but it’s also important to ensure that our communications are tailored to the psychographics and location of the customers.
Highly personalized messaging will go from being a nice one to a must have in the years to come – maybe even the months to come –
We have long since passed the point where consumers expect every email to be personalized with their name in the greeting. Customers now expect the email sender to take their behavior into account and use it as the basis for a personalized message.
We all know the “You downloaded a white paper from our website” and the “I wanted to follow up after the webinar” emails that B2B marketers use to generate leads. What’s next? Perhaps an email “We thought you might be interested in a preview of our new report,” which picks up customer patterns of interest and highlights useful information before they even visit the site.
To achieve this advanced, predictive version of personalization, use AI technology to assess customer behavior in real time and in the past so you can deliver tailored B2B content as well as relevant products and visitors to websites, landing pages and mobile sites Can offer services.
Additionally, you should analyze the results of the marketing segmentation to assess success and make better decisions about where to invest future funds. Go beyond the fundamentals of which the segment performs best and think about multidimensional cohorts.
For example, if a segment is more responsive at a certain time of the day, how can you re-analyze the data to see what new cohorts can be created for those behaviors? Do you view open and click rates as independent variables across segments, or can you instead examine how openings, click rates and conversions are related as elements of multidimensional analysis across different cohorts?
There is so much data out there and you need to analyze it quickly and intelligently to improve your B2B marketing communication strategies. You can do this by rethinking your approach to data analysis and providing automation solutions that enable a personalized customer experience.
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2020 was a challenging year, but it provided B2B companies with an opportunity to learn important lessons – like defining our brand values and developing agile personalized marketing campaigns – and implementing new marketing communication strategies that we can apply in 2021 and beyond.
More resources on marketing communication strategies
How to speak effectively to your customers during a crisis
Problems with digital communication? Here are five ways to nail it
Five components of effective sales and marketing communication