Adapt marketing strategy in a crisis

2020 was a year to remember. The global pandemic forced businesses to adapt their marketing strategy by shifting into agile mode and rethinking their operating models, service models and distribution models to stay afloat, stay lean and ensure a future for their shareholders.

The typical response has been to shift into ‘freeze’ mode with watchful waiting, or pivot to ‘flex’ mode where they fix or find new routes to market, revenue streams or areas of market share. Whatever the approach, marketing leaders will need to change their mindset with strategic discipline to transform the current crisis into opportunity.

With an unprecedented number of audiences staying longer within digital environments, now is the time to focus on digital advertising and engagement strategies that allow your business to carry out digital transformation and drive revenue today as well as into the future.

Where once B2B marketing teams focused on traditional events, the outlook for those models has gone out the window in favour of a digital approach from lead right through sale and beyond. We know because we’re supporting our clients with these major transitions – both as commercial models and with front-end digital activity. Put simply, more and more digital.

This requires leaders to refocus their digital outlook and seek to run an integrated digital marketing strategy grounded in end-to-end visibility of the digital buyer journey. The outcome of this should be to generate direct or indirect value with every resulting engagement. In practice, what might this look like?

Start with the digital customer journey from lead to sale – and work out how prospects and customers interact with you both now, and in the new normal. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on digital advertising, but in reality you’ve got to look deeper within marketing and across the whole organisation including sales delivery and distribution, and ask yourself are you fit for the fight in a digital world? (That’s another blog though).

Back to digital advertising… these are the techniques and tactics that you should consider as part of your pivot strategy.

Keep Top-of-the-Funnel awareness high

Reducing digital advertising budgets can be a knee-jerk reaction. It’s easy to switch off non-committed spend to reduce budget quickly. But, businesses within the B2B segment need revenue now more than ever and limiting advertising will potentially hurt revenues in the coming months. The lengthier B2B buyer journey makes it harder for a business to catch up when the market stabilises in the short-medium term.

There are many case studies which have shown businesses achieving higher market share due to an increase in marketing spend during crisis, some include:

Dry cereal: In the 1920s, Post was the leader in the cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut their advertising budget significantly, opening up an opportunity for rival Kellogg’s to grow its profit by 30% by doubling its advertising spend. Kellogg’s became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.

Fast food restaurants: In the 1990’s recession McDonald’s cut their marketing budget to streamline costs. This backfired and created opportunity for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell as their sales increased by 61% and 40%, whilst retrospectively McDonald’s sales dropped by 28%.

With digital advertising, it’s easier than ever to keep running low-cost brand ads. Display, programmatic, native and social advertising all have rich targeting options that enable ongoing front-of-mind awareness tactics that can keep budgets low. These ads also create the halo effect that brand sponsorship, print advertising and event attendance once did – but at a much lower cost – and it’s measurable and controllable.

Omni-channel integrated digital campaigns

At Modern, we take pride in leveraging breakthrough technologies to create new opportunities for our clients. Recently, we’ve started applying cross-platform integrated digital strategies to reach highly engaged audiences.

What do we mean by cross-platform integrated digital strategies?

Most of the time, we see B2B organisations run their digital demand centres in a siloed manner. Social advertising is split from search and display, and account-based advertising might be run by a different team.

The reality here is that we tend to think of the channels as separate entities. Data isn’t shared across platforms (easily). Instead we should switch that – design the advertising strategy around the customer and not the platform or channel. See the customer’s journey as one journey and think about how we can best engage that customer, without wasting advertising dollars.

To achieve this, you need to understand the customer journey and the optimal buying process across channels. The structure of the programmes across the channels needs to work holistically (no siloes here) in order to maximise performance and spend.

The key principles here are outlined below which would need applying to an omni-channel digital advertising strategy:

  • Define theoretical best, worst and moderate scenarios that could play out during the crisis from the perspective of lead generation from planned digital channels. This will help your programmes in identifying deviation in campaign performance from predicted performance and keep you on track to minimise spend.
  • Higher traffic does not always translate to a higher volume of quality leads. The quality of relevant traffic which is open for engagement is key. Data analysis of the highest performance of current assets like a guide, whitepaper, product demo can help in identifying the highest performing marketing assets for further optimisation. In essence, right asset at the right time in the customer’s journey.
  • Keep researching your target audience and track their changing behaviour across the online space. Plan to test your ad copy as well as various elements of your landing pages to improve conversion efficiency.
  • Prescriptive analytics can help in creating a model to have better insight into the range of influences that impact buyer journey. This is especially true during volatile times, so a dashboard or tracker is essential to show trends and predictive forecasts. This helps in evaluating the efficiency of your digital channels as well as insights for agile campaign optimisations to deliver strong measurable performance.

Think how much volatility there has been in the last few months. First covid-19, then US cities under curfew – so monitoring performance and understanding the tolerance thresholds across by campaign type and channel is critical to reduce stress levels.

The impact of this is a better experience with your brand which tunes to the prospect with the right message at the right time and measured by the appropriate metrics. Those interactions then make more sense when viewed in the CRM or prospect record as you begin to see a linear journey – and one that can be mapped with actual data at a later date. What’s more important is that waste from ad spend is minimised, meaning you get more bang for your buck.

What’s next?

If you’d like to rethink your B2B digital advertising activity and increase your performance with a team that really understands how to deliver leads, engagement and, ultimately, sales in B2B digital advertising, get in touch for a free 30-minute consult via Zoom.  

Alternatively, you can find more information, recommendations and reviews of optimisation techniques, management principles, advertising technologies in our guide:

Breaking boundaries in B2B digital advertising

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