By Fran Brosan, Founder and Chairman at Omobono
Another good session from the Business Marketing Club, their 7th webinar on B2B marketing in lockdown #B2Blockdown. We heard from Andrea Clatworthy Head of Account Based Marketing EMEIA at Fujitsu, Chris Wilson MD of creative agency Earnest, Lauren Heaton Head of Marketing at online learning provider Circus Street and Johan Haeger Head of Sales and Marketing at Cinode, the capabilities assessment consultancy.
Each of them shared their perspective of what was working and how they were negotiating the shifting sands of the ‘unprecedented’ times we find ourselves in (with a note from Andrea that if she hears that word one more time she’ll spit!). Despite the breadth of businesses being represented, there were some common themes that I felt could be rounded up as current best practice.
1. Don’t throw away sound marketing principles
The most central point – which Andrea kicked off the session with – was that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, marketing principles still apply. It’s about understanding what customers need, who is involved in the delivering that and sharing what you have in your kit bag which will help them tackle the challenge or problem successfully. If that means that you have to adapt what you have in your portfolio to help in this crisis, then so be it. The current environment is, undoubtedly, all about helping not selling. But whether you are marketing in a crisis or simply no longer in a growth market, marketing should be a value exchange, not about selling. You can still follow it through in order to get your name at the front of the pack, but it changes the sales narrative.
2. Communicate well (and often)
Another sound principle we’d do well not to lose sight of. All four speakers emphasised the need for good, consistent, valuable client communications, and recognised there had been a shift from lead gen activity to focusing on existing clients. At Fujitsu, Board level understanding of the value or Account Based Marketing was continuing, whilst Cinode’s webinars were increasing client engagement and led to further conversations, according to Johan Haeger.
We need better comms however, not just more comms. So situational sensitivity is important, as Lauren Heaton reminded us. As different countries are in different stages of lock down and economic measures, what suits one market may not be right for another, or indeed what’s relevant for working people might not be what’s right for their furloughed colleagues. What is consistent is that, in all markets, needs are changing extremely fast, so marketers need that continuous insight to help them continue to be relevant to customers.
Whilst digital is inevitably going to be the driving force for service delivery, the continued importance of building personal connections was mentioned by several of the speakers, whether this was taking time out to have a virtual coffee with clients or picking up the phone.
3. Think about your Covid-19 exit strategy
As Chris Wilson pointed out, we need to be clear on our exit strategy, so it’s important we don’t ally ourselves with Covid-19 so firmly we can’t move beyond it. We will transition from crisis to restart and recession in the blink of an eye. The pandemic has forced marketers to reconsider what is valuable and what isn’t, so the question is how we can maintain this.
4. Don’t be afraid to take a breath
Despite the pressure to respond, react, and lean in with Covid communications Lauren Heaton ended by encouraging us to pause and take a breath and think about what our audiences need. To really listen. Which, neatly, takes us back to our starting point – understanding what customers need is at the centre of enabling us, as B2B Marketers, to provide value to them.