(Re)Focusing Your Demand Marketing Plan Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

We all share concern over the health and safety of our loved ones during this humanitarian and health crisis – it’s truly something like we’ve never seen before. But many of us also share concern over a different crisis: the state of our businesses at this time. Business leaders and marketing and sales teams are struggling now, more than ever, to not only drive new demand, but to replace the loss of existing demand in the marketplace. And for many B2B companies, they are struggling to do so without live interactions, especially events.

Meeting targets for Qualified Leads, Opportunities and Revenue for the quarter and the year without the use of events, a key Engagement Channel for demand, will prove challenging. Especially for ‘high-context’ industries, such as healthcare and financial services, where peer-to-peer interactions and references are key parts of the buying process. Whether it’s trade shows, local events or more intimate sales dinners, in-person interactions are a much relied-upon component of every company’s demand marketing mix. Replacing this Engagement Channel will be tricky, but ANNUITAS has several recommendations based on our demand marketing experience – and a review of our aggregated client data across multiple programs – that can help fill the gap.

Here are our top four recommendations to (re)focus demand marketing through this current crisis and beyond:

1. Reallocate Engagement Channel Spend and Rebalance the Portfolio

This solution is likely the most obvious, but it’s also nuanced. Demand leaders likely have a large sum of previously-earmarked-for-events budgets that are now going unspent. Where should these teams reallocate spend to drive the same or similar impact? At ANNUITAS, we measure the impact of an Engagement Channel by analyzing its elasticity. Engagement Channel Elasticity is the percentage likelihood that a Person has touched a channel and has become a Closed Won piece of business.

Across all of our B2B clients, events do in fact have the highest average Engagement Channel Elasticity at 5.09% (meaning roughly 1 in 20 Persons that have a significant interaction with marketing or sales teams at an event will become a Closed Won piece of business). 

Below is a list of Closed Won Elasticity averages across our diverse range of B2B clients (spanning healthcare, financial services, media and information, life sciences, and high growth tech companies) ordered from most effective to least effective:

Average Engagement Channel Closed Won Elasticity — B2B Demand
  •   Website [4.03%]
  •   Nurture [2.65%]
  •   Webinars [2.56%]
  •   PPC [1.82%]
  •   Content Syndication [0%]

Among these, we typically find Webinars to be highly effective, relatively quick to deploy, and heavily underutilized in the industry. This Engagement Channel presents a significant opportunity in the current environment.  Yet – and here’s the nuance – Webinars perform best mid-funnel and are typically not great at top-of-funnel acquisition. So ‘where’ you use Webinars is key.

So is ‘how’ you use Webinars. Finding a way to do things you would have previously done digitally is certainly critical in this moment, but at the same time, we need to be careful about how we engage digitally. Think With Google reiterates this point:

Just because you can do digital events doesn’t always mean you should. It all comes back to the original goals of the event, and writing a new brief will recenter your team on the core objective. If the goal of the event was to deliver new content or make announcements, a live stream or video on demand may make sense. However, consider how that content is now being consumed, and be sure the length and format of the content feels right for your audience. If the goal of the event was more for relationship-building, a one-way virtual event may not serve those purposes as well.”

That’s where other digital channels are critical. Obviously, Website and Nurture are the two highest performing Engagement Channels above, but as with events, there is nuance to consider. Website and Nurture are high performers ‘when’ they are working together. When buyers who engage inbound on the Website are brought into a Conversation Track, Progressively Profiled, Nurtured inbound and then outbound Nurture follows up fully in sync, then Website and Nurture perform well.

Amid the current environment, the two things we highly recommend to our clients are: 

  1. Ensure that you have the ability to drive a tailored, personalized, buyer journey conversation with a specific buyer or customer across both your Website and Nurture channels. 
  2. Make sure that Websites are more engaging, frictionless, and substantive than ever. That means avoiding the urge to ‘promote’ and instead really focusing on educating buyers, building a relationship, and ensuring there is a clear value proposition that aligns to the buyers’ needs on the site. Let buyers tell ‘you’ when they are ready to buy. That’s what it means to be in the right place, at the right time, and that’s how digital can build trust and replace face-to-face without losing credibility.  

I’d also note that chat and chatbots can be part of this mix, but shouldn’t be ‘in-your-face’. Show respect and ‘help’ buyers find what they are looking for.

2. Focus on Insight

Without events, there is a definitive ceiling to the amount of quality Persons to add to the top of the funnel. At this point, it may make sense to turn inward and see how much more “juice” you can squeeze from the lemon. There is immense value in using your business analysts to go beyond merely reporting on results and ask them to use their domain experience with the company’s data to put together insights on how marketing interacts with customers to drive ROI – and where you can pivot to drive ‘more’ ROI.

For example, a client I was recently working with is in precisely the same situation as many of the readers of this post. Our data science team keyed into the fact that there were many Qualified Leads that needed to be followed-up with again and helped develop a priority ranking based on qualities of each of these Qualified Leads. We are currently deploying a massive calling campaign to try and accelerate existing mid-funnel Persons into Pipeline. But these are targeted outreaches to contacts we know are qualified and primed to an appropriate level (i.e., this is not cold calling). 

Insights can help you better leverage the investments you’ve already made in your demand marketing. 

3. Re-Examine Email Deliverability

When digital interactions are now the most important element of the marketing mix, email deliverability is key. You have to be able to connect with your buyers and customers. If the current contact database contains numerous email spamtraps or misspelled email addresses, it’s quite possible that marketing emails are not hitting their intended targets and are instead being whisked away by a blacklist or a spam filter. Extra attention should be paid to what emails are being sent and to whom. This ensures that Nurture emails are seen as legitimate, commercial messaging and not as spam, phishing, or any of the other sordid possibilities that a sketchy-looking email brings to mind.

Return Path claims, “[J]ust 79% of commercial emails land in the inbox.” The rest are “either sent to a spam folder or go missing—most likely blocked by the mailbox provider.” 

Make sure you have a plan to ensure 100% of messages are delivered. That could be the difference between landing (or not) that extra deal to get your sales back on track.

4. Invest in Strategic Demand for the Future

Don’t simply engage in tactics as you re-focus your demand marketing. Avoid slipping into a pattern where you’re just executing random acts of marketing. Instead, view this as a moment in time as a chance to pivot to a more Strategic Demand state.

Take the time to really reassess and get to know your customer. Put his or her journey at the center of your go-to-market plans. Then, make sure that every element of your demand marketing and sales process (including people, process, content, technology and data) is built and executed around that customer journey. Once you can orchestrate the effort to engage customers in their journeys, you’ll start driving demand from the outside-in and connecting in the right place, at the right time, every time.

Putting your customer at the center of your marketing and sales motion is the key.

Key elements to consider as you build out your Strategic Demand approach:

  • Operationalize go-to-market around the customer journey
  • Enable multi-channel orchestration of interactions and dialogue
    • Personalized to the stakeholder
    • Inbound and outbound integration
    • Digital and live integration
  • Engage in an always on, sustainable, perpetual fashion
  • Think about both pre-sale and post-sale; i.e., the entire customer lifecycle
  • Continuously optimize against outcomes; i.e., make demand more predictable

The current state of affairs is not permanent. Investing in a foundation for sustainable, next generation growth is good for the short term as well as wildly beneficial for the long term.  

Growth is On the Horizon, So Be Positioned to Capture Increasing Demand as It Returns

Economics tells us that growth cycles are not infinite. We’ve been very fortunate to witness the longest growth cycle in history, and in the year ahead there will once again be a greenfield for growth.

If today’s demand leaders focus on reallocating budget to roll with the punches, find insights to accelerate pipeline, keep email deliverability pristine and plant seeds for the future, then they are best positioned to weather the storm and grow their businesses through this crisis. And then they will be well positioned to capture increasing demand as it returns.

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