During an economic downturn, it’s traditionally the marketing budget that’s first on the chopping block. Some B2B tech companies think that in such a crisis situation, no one will be buying their solutions – this is how they end up jeopardizing their long-term market share. However, the companies that put customer needs under the microscope and nimbly adjust strategies and tactics accordingly are more likely to flourish both during and after a market downturn.
In fact, results of the Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies database reveal that organizations that up their marketing budget during recessions achieve greater returns and earn larger percentages of market share when the economy rebounds.
Keeping the Marketing Lights On
Every crisis brings opportunities. Companies can choose to pull back their communications efforts and wait out the storm. Or they can help their customers solve the problems that the current crisis has introduced. After all, companies exist to solve customer problems. The bigger the problem – and the more reassuring and authentic your communication with customers – the more likely you are to create or strengthen loyal relationship bonds.
Shifting Customer Journeys
The customer journey has changed over the past few years, but even more dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis began. Companies are experiencing longer sales cycles and an increased reliance on digital channels. As McKinsey & Company noted recently, customers have significantly increased their preference for digitally-enabled sales interactions when finding products. Suppliers’ mobile apps and online or social media communities are showing their sharpest increase since 2019. These changes mark a fundamental shift that puts empathy and personalization at the forefront of the new customer experience.
Building Brand Reputation in the Covid-19 Business Landscape
In light of all these recent shifts, organizations that want to prosper now and into the future can employ these three strategies:
- Focus on what’s important to the customer. To deliver outstanding digital experiences and encourage loyalty, B2B companies need to address customers’ most pressing pain points and frustrations. Customers are craving peer-based sharing and genuine dialogue. Find ways to build an emotional connection with your prospective buyers through storytelling.
- Re-assess customer journeys. You can do this by asking three central questions: First, what is their persona? Second, what’s their current journey, and how is it different than before? And third, what’s the most cost-effective way to interact with them along the way?
When you stop to consider what your customers truly need, you can comprehend the pain points they are trying to overcome along their customer journey and through to the final purchase. Use your data to analyze where they looked to address those pain points. With this information in hand, you can feel confident about creating a marketing plan that’s attuned to customer needs.
- Measurable relationship-building. The global pandemic has radically transformed the face of the B2B marketing landscape. Traditional marketing investment focused on tradeshows, events and in person meetings has been completely upended. With the now-elongated sales cycles, a shift to measurable relationship building strategies is essential.
Instead of communications that focus solely on products, sales and promotions, share helpful information through newsletters, articles and other content that include softer-sell messaging, using more subtle and friendly language. Building a two-way communication channel will demonstrate that you understand where your customers and prospects are coming from. This will help build a sense of kinship with your company.
Use every tool and opportunity to create interaction, including asking for feedback through your website and e-newsletters, sending customer surveys (online or offline) and providing online message boards or blogs. While face-to-face time is off the table currently, one-on-one discussions over video or phone with customers and prospects can help to powerfully personalize your relationship-building plan, in which the customer feels uniquely valued. Along the way, use your CRM tools to track and analyze efforts.
During downturns, marketers must balance efforts to pare costs and shore up short-term sales against investments in long-term brand health. Brand-building is an activity that, like time and tide, waits for no one. Marketers have to stay proactive and flexible, adjusting their strategies and tactics on the assumption of a long, difficult slump and yet be able to respond quickly to the upturn when it comes. Companies that make it through this recession by focusing their attention on customer needs will be strongly positioned for better days ahead.
Commentary by Cara Sloman. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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