Real World Results of Demand Marketing Strategy Shifts During the COVID-19 Crisis

A few weeks ago, my colleague Scott Parent wrote about the immediate impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on marketing. It’s one of our highest performing blog posts, and for good reason – this is completely uncharted territory. In it, Scott offered four actionable ways to quickly and effectively shift your demand marketing plan to accommodate the changing business environment. But he didn’t just present these ideas in a blog post. He and another colleague, Lee Anne Wimberly, have been leading the effort to uncover the real world results of these recommended demand marketing strategy shifts during the COVID-19 crisis. 

It’s been two months since that original post was written so we thought we should check in to answer the question: How well did these recommendations actually perform? What best practices should demand marketers be following in this current environment?

Recommendation 1: Reallocate Engagement Channel Spend and Rebalance the Portfolio 

You can read the full recommendation here, but to summarize, Scott recommended reallocating budget away from live events and into some of the highest performing channels. Those channels typically include website, nurture programs, webinars, PPC, and content syndication. So how did that recommendation play out in the real world?

Real World Result: Webinars, Paid Search, and Blogs Are Great Investments Right Now

Webinars

As Scott noted in his original blog post, webinars are a critical part of a good demand marketing strategy if they are used correctly. A person interacting with a webinar is 7% more likely to become a Closed Won Opportunity and 11% more likely to become an Opportunity than a live event interaction. 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.

When conducting an analysis of our clients’ pipelines we found this recommendation to be true. Where you use webinars is the key to their success, especially now. There is a real risk of your audience experiencing “webinar fatigue” right now, so if you’re going to host one, make it valuable and make it targeted.

We also found that certain personas and industries are more likely to respond to webinars than others. For example, an Analyst from the Healthcare industry is more likely to attend a webinar than an Analyst in Banking and Financial Services. That means that you need to be ultra-targeted in your webinar planning. Don’t try and host a broad-reach, general webinar. Your content, outreach, and format should provide the most value for the audience most likely to attend. You can see the full table below.

results of marketing shifts COVID-19

Paid Search

One of those most interesting finds we uncovered during this research period was that companies are underutilizing paid search right now.

Nearly a quarter of companies surveyed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau paused all advertising spending through the second quarter and another 45% are reducing budgets. For the March-June period, digital ad spending is down 33% compared with original plans.

This is a big blow to the digital advertising industry but an even bigger opportunity for marketing teams to lay claim to new territory. Now is the time to bid on keywords that other organizations (with larger ad budgets) have been protecting. As long as the channel has a proven track record in your organization, use it to fill top-of-funnel and establish a bigger voice in the market.

Blogs

Now is also an amazing time to capture the voice of your company’s top thought leaders. Previously these subject matter experts were probably lined up to speak at and attend events, but reallocating those resources to create blog content is a great way to keep these experts engaged and can help fill the top-of-funnel gap left by event cancellations.

According to our research, when users navigate to the blog, they tend to seek out multiple types of content including video, product pages, gated content, and additional blogs. That’s a lot of opportunity for a reader to engage on your site!

Among our clients, there’s proven behavior of users arriving to the blog, reading a post, going back to the main blog page, and reading another post. That means that once they’re on your blog, a user is likely to interact with additional content. As long as you do a good job of cross-promoting gated content within blogs, this can be a great channel for generating top-of-funnel leads.

If your blog needs some love, or if it isn’t performing like you want it to, read this piece to learn four steps you should take before launching new content.

Recommendation 2: Focus on Insight

You can read the full recommendation here, but in summary, Scott’s recommendation was to use insights to drive more ROI from your funnel. His prediction was that most readers had mid-funnel leads sitting untouched, and that now is a good time to re-engage mid-funnel leads to drive revenue growth.

Real World Result: Now Is the Time to Re-Engage

Our data science team did heavy research into the likelihood of a Qualified Lead sitting untouched in a funnel and found that, for at least one client:

  • 24% of open Qualified Leads had been sitting at the “Open” stage for 112 days
  • 20% had been sitting at the “Open” stage for 207 days
  • 18% of Qualified Leads had been sitting at the “Open” stage for 298 days. 

That’s 62% of Qualified Leads stuck in the funnel for up to almost 10 months!

For ANNUITAS, “Open” status occurs once a prospect has become a Qualified Lead. This means that he or she has met enough criteria to be passed from marketing to a BDR. After reaching “Open” status, a BDR should then follow up and either move a lead to “Working” stage (to illustrate that the BDR has reached out) or “Turnback” stage (to illustrate that the BDR either wasn’t able to establish contact or the opportunity doesn’t exist at the moment).

For this company, 62% of Qualified Leads and then sat in the funnel with no follow-up activity for anywhere from 112-298 days.  

No Qualified Lead should go untouched right now. Each Qualified Lead is representative of a significant investment of time and money by the demand marketing team, and as budgets shrink, companies literally can’t afford to let them sit still. Now is the time to re-engage “stuck” recent, high value Qualified Leads in an attempt to re-capture them at the right time and in the right place.

For the company mentioned above 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).

Recommendation 3: Re-Examine Email Deliverability 

You can read Scott’s full recommendation here, but in summary, email deliverability is more important than ever right now.

Real World Result: Email Deliverability Really Is Crucial

In the past two months, almost every demand marketing team has re-focused its efforts to place more emphasis on email (as I’m sure your inbox can attest). But as marketing departments reallocated time and energy to email, our team was more concerned about the ROI of that effort. Specifically…were these emails even making it into inboxes?

According to a report by Validity, Globally, the average inbox placement rate was 83 percent in 2019—meaning one out of every six messages failed to reach the inbox. In addition, more than half of the messages that don’t reach the inbox are not even landing in the spam folder — and are missing from subscribers’ email accounts, never to be seen or interacted with.

email deliverability

The past two months has proven that email deliverability is key. You must be able to connect with your buyers and customers in the inbox. 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. List hygiene, good email practices and domain protection are key to improving and maintaining high deliverability.

But getting to the inbox is only half the battle. Once you’re there, you have to stay relevant.

During the influx of emails that have hit inboxes in the past two months, I’ve seen some great emails come through, but I’ve seen even more bad emails. I’ve hit “unsubscribe” more times than I ever have right now because I’m receiving mass-blast emails from companies that I haven’t interacted with in years. They’re interrupting my daily routine with random acts of marketing, and unfortunately for them, their marketing teams pay the price with high unsubscribe rates. 

As email continues to be the main point of contact, steer clear of the spam filter and unsubscribes by sending content that’s relevant and valuable to the intended target list. 

Recommendation 4: Invest in Strategic Demand Marketing for the Future

You can read Scott’s full recommendation here, but in summary, companies need to focus on the future now more than ever. While it’s tempting to fall back into old habits of running more and more tactical campaigns, that will only hurt you in the long run.

Real World Result: Invest More

Two months ago we recognized that making the shift from tactical marketing to strategic demand marketing would be important, but now we know that it’s more critical than ever before. Measuring and understanding the real world results of your demand marketing strategy shifts during the COVID-19 crisis must become part of your every day life.

Marketing strategies will continue to shift this year as we navigate uncharted territory. But now, more than ever, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure your marketing strategy really is strategic. Continue to use a data-driven approach to inform all of your programs and make sure that you’re not stuck in a cycle of random acts of marketing.

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. 

The insights shared in this blog come from our own data science and strategy teams. They were compiled for our clients, but we’ve decided to open them up to anyone interested in learning more. You can download the complete insights presentation by filling out the form below.

 

 

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