The Coronavirus is a global pandemic, causing instability in all industries and markets in just a short period of time. In the worst case scenario, it could cost the global economy $2.7 Trillion.

As marketers, we’re already feeling the impact, with most events being cancelled, budgets being cut and customers holding off on signing deals.

So when our existing marketing strategies are thrown into turmoil, what do we do? Stick with them and ride it out? Or do something different entirely?

While we’ve been re-evaluating our own strategy at Albacross, we’ve also been talking to our customers to see how they plan to navigate the next few months. Our lead generation solution is specifically designed to help marketers so we’ve been lucky enough to be able to speak to many people in this space.

Here are some common trends we’ve identified through our conversations that can also help you adapt in this time of uncertainty.

Impact on Growth in B2B Sector

While the most dramatic changes have swept the B2C sector, with retail, travel and entertainment taking the biggest hit, the full impact for B2B is not yet known.

In a recent webinar, Profitwell’s CEO Patrick Campbell explains that there’s fear of a cascading effect. B2C is hurting and it’s unclear if B2B will go in the same direction. Nevertheless, Profitwell’s data models, comprising over 15,000 SaaS companies, many of which are B2B, indicate a flattening growth curve.

What Can Marketing Teams Learn from 08-09?

Although we can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, we can look back at the 08-09 recession for learnings.

Take SaaStr, the largest global B2B SaaS training and events company.

Despite the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted to a third of what it is today, SaaStr reported:

  • Every one of their enterprise customers renewed
  • SMBs went under— churn doubled—but not for larger customers
  • Sales cycles slowed, but they still closed deals
  • Account growth slowed, but it still happened
  • Annual renewals buffered the impact

Their experiences from 08-09 provide some pretty clear findings:

  • Renewal rates massively contributed to their growth during this time, suggesting retention needs to be a key focus for marketers
  • Larger companies didn’t go under and that an account-based approach is optimal for marketing to these companies

Given this, how should we adjust our marketing strategies?

1. Consider If Your Ideal Customer Profile Has Changed

When the threat of a recession emerges, our natural response is to cut costs. However, while many of us have been scrambling to cut back on budgets, the most proactive businesses have been re-valuating their ideal customer profiles before executing a new financial plan.

Marketers, ask yourself— is your ideal customer this month the same as last month?

Perhaps it’s the same profile but you need to re-evaluate which industries or companies you should target?

Let’s put this into perspective. Say a company targets airlines. Airlines have essentially come to a complete standstill in the last couple of weeks. In fact, Virgin Atlantic just asked their staff to take 8 weeks unpaid leave. So, it’s probably fair to assume that in this situation a marketing email or call from a sales rep won’t make a lasting impression. In fact, it’s likely to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Other examples might not be so noticeable. Let’s imagine that you sell invoicing software to CFOs. CFOs are pretty damn busy right now. Are they really going to be interested in buying new software from your company? Probably not. In fact, they’re probably thinking about how they are going to cut two thirds of their resources.

It’s time to re-evaluate your assumptions about your customers. Work hand in hand with sales to understand:

  • What are your prospects trying to achieve at this moment in time? Has their focus pivoted from growth to efficiency? Have their KPIs changed?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • Has the decision making group changed?

The purpose of doing this is so you can adapt your strategy to the change that’s occurring in your markets. This change will of course vary. Some marketers we’ve spoken to have said their customer has changed completely, others have reported it’s the same profile but they’ve had to refocus which industries or companies they target.

When you think about ‘change’ you should also give this change a timeframe and consider whether your new buyers (if your ICP has changed) will use your product or service for a short period of time or indefinitely.

Take video conferencing platform Zoom which have seen a momentous spike in revenue as more people work from home. But will it provide recurring revenue?

new icp

In short, assessing your ideal customer profile and the industries who are likely to benefit from your products and services the most, both in the short and long term will help you predict your potential for growth during this unstable period.

2. Reassess Your Value Proposition and Messaging

Once you’ve assessed your ideal customer profile, you may need to tweak your value propositions and messaging for each buyer.

Customers are shifting focus from profit to efficiency - does your value proposition align with their new motive?

Ultimately, the way we attract customers hasn’t changed, we still need to fulfil a need, but if the need changes, your value proposition needs to reflect that.

Tip: You can use this value proposition design model to identify your new propositions.

Marketing Messages

Next up is to carry out an audit of your marketing messages on your channels— do they align with your new value prop and do they have tact?

Consider this — people are working from home, they’re homeschooling their kids, they’re unable to visit family members. Combine that with the worry that they may lose their jobs or have to make people on their team redundant, ultimately it’s a stressful time.

Are your messages sympathetic to what your prospects and customers are going through right now?

We’ve seen brands go both ways.

From highly relevant examples such as Slack, who is capitalizing on the remote work explosion by adding an extra CTA in a banner:

To Zoom, who is focusing on how their product keeps individuals connected when they’re not together:

We’ve also adapted our messaging on our own website. Our product tracks anonymous website visitors, helping you to convert them into qualified opportunities. Unlike our competitors who use static IP to company mapping, we use a dynamic approach which means we can track companies wherever they are working from. We’ve made this more prominent on our homepage as we know this is important for customers right now.

Whilst we’ve seen good examples of marketing messages, we’ve also seen some bad ones — brands that ignore the situation completely or worse try to exploit the situation. We’ve also seen brands put a stop to marketing and sales altogether because they don’t want to be seen as opportunistic.

The idea is not to stop marketing or selling— that will only add fire to the economic crisis.

It’s about selling responsibly. Don’t risk putting your brand reputation in jeopardy by being tone-deaf to the internal and external contributing factors. Equally, don’t pause on your activities at the risk of going under.

Marketing Mix

Now is also a good time to consider whether you should change aspects of your marketing mix. We’re already seeing many businesses adapt their pricing and promotion strategies as a way to remain competitive and alleviate the situation.

Consider ServiceNow - the software platform for IT Service Management, which is offering their suite of emergency response management apps free of charge.

There’s also Loom, a video recording and screen capture platform who have cut prices, removed limits and provided free education.

While you should only consider what’s feasible for your business, changes you could potentially make are:

  • Can you make a free version of your product?
  • Can you provide a discount?
  • Are there any add ons to your product or service that you could potentially give away for free?
  • Can you offer a discount on an annual contract?
  • Can you bundle products or services together?

3. Acquisition vs Retention

Businesses will be cutting back on spend, which in turn will lead to higher churn for B2B.

So when your customers are evaluating which suppliers to keep and which to ditch, how do you ensure your product or service isn’t on the ‘out’ list?

Retention Strategy

Brian Balfour at Reforge in a recent webinar explains why customers stick with a brand:

  1. You have a great product or service that people can’t live without— it’s a true, must have, not a nice to have
  2. Your product is good but replicable. However, it’s the relationship with the brand and its people that makes customers stick around.

If you’re in the first bucket, you can feel confident that your product is going to get you through. If you’re in the latter bucket, you need to do everything in your power to give your customers a good experience and keep those lines of communication open. This will be key to retaining them and will increase the chance of renewal.

That being said, an increase in churn may still occur. But don’t wait to act until you see churn happening in your monthly recurring revenue figures. Act quickly and do what you can to fuel retention, even if that means moving people from acquisition to retention teams.

Focus on marketing to those that have a high net promoter score (NPS) to increase advocacy and loyalty to your brand.

Figure out a way to delight your customers now and do it in a better way than your competitors.

Pro tip: Get into the weeds of your product usage and really understand how customers are using your products and services. It will make delighting your customers that much easier.

For those customers that do churn, recognise that it might not be forever. Once things get back to normal (and they will!) many customers will be ready to come back. Focus your efforts on re-engagement campaigns.

You can also plan to promote content during this time period, not just to churned customers but to prospects and customers too.

Content is a marketing asset that stands out in a struggling economy because it doesn’t require much investment upfront and grows organically over time. It’s also a great way to build trust with prospects and customers, even if they’re not ready to buy right now or have recently churned.

This tactic is working for us right now, particularly as we had planned to attend and deliver content at a number of events which have now been cancelled. We’ve repurposed that information and will be delivering it online over the coming weeks instead— just like this webinar on combining personalization and automation!

Acquisition Strategy

Although retention will be key during this time, that’s not to say you should disregard acquisition completely.

But your approach to acquisition should be adapted to the current situation. Ultimately, it goes back to the first section where we talked about re-evaluating your ideal customer profile and the industries that will get the most out of your products and services.

At Albacross, we’ve been targeting larger companies who generally will fare better in times like these than SMBs. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been working with sales to understand the business implications for our targeted companies. We’ve asked questions and actively listened to the responses to see how that impacts our strategy. We’ve found that we’re still booking demos and free trials, however we have seen a small number of rescheduled meetings, suggesting that we can expect our sales cycle to get longer. Like many other businesses, we’re keeping a close eye on our sign up rates as it’s difficult to predict what will happen next.

Our findings conclude that B2B buyers are still active, albeit at a slower pace. As a result, we’re predicting that lead nurturing will be critical in keeping prospects and customers engaged throughout the buying cycle.

Key Takeaways

Let’s summarize:

  1. Re-evaluate your ideal customer profile - are your ideal customers you had last month, your ideal customers today?
  2. Re-assess your value propositions and messaging - how will you fulfil your changing customer needs? Do your marketing messages have tact?
  3. Find the right balance between acquisition and retention - what will you do to ensure your renewal rates don’t falter?

There is no doubt that the virus has and will continue to impact individuals and businesses. But we will get through this!

Knowledge will be key to making informed business decisions. Stay abreast of industry trends and news and be adaptable.

Above all, focus on yourself, your family and your community in these challenging times.

Try Albacross

Freddie Campbell

Freddie Campbell

Content Strategist

Freddie Campbell is a Content Strategist at Albacross and has a background in Brand and Communications.