What is the best B2B marketing strategy in times of uncertainty?
Uncertain times call for a strong marketing strategy. Discover our expert tips and insights to help you navigate uncertain waters & drive business success.
Published: 12 Dec 2016
5 minutes read
We live in unpredictable times. From the UK referendum in 2016 to the coronavirus pandemic that is currently gripping the world, economic uncertainty means that businesses are in jeopardy, consumers are less likely to buy, and business leaders are unsure about their financial future. However, these situations nearly always highlight the importance of a secure, futureproof marketing strategy. If your leads are drying up during this time, it’s not the right moment to cut your marketing budget. Eventually, things will return to normal, and once they do, you don’t want to be the business that gave up on attracting prospects.
Coronavirus has created a brand new issue - one that many businesses did not anticipate. In terms of political climates, we are hard-wired to expect huge changes, massive upheavals, and an impact on the economy, but many are finding that in the face of a pandemic, all bets are off. Workers have been urged to stay at home if possible, and entire countries are being locked down. With extensive travel restrictions, it means that all large-scale business events have been called off, and many who were planning to attend trade shows, networking events or business seminars are effectively grounded.
During such times of uncertainty, your B2B marketing strategy needs to stand firm, as it’s one of the most important factors that can help organisations not only push through difficult periods, but also lead them out of the darkness better and stronger. Strategy needs to be smart, agile, and most importantly, cost-effective and market oriented.
How do uncertain times affect buyer behaviour?
During times of turmoil, demand tends to decrease. Unless you sell toilet roll or hand sanitiser, you’ve likely already seen the impact of the recent coronavirus pandemic on your bottom line, and this is something that is tipped to continue. Profit margins will be squeezed, companies are already more cautious about making large, long-term investments, and purchasing decisions will ultimately come down to one thing - price. This buyer behaviour nearly always hits B2B companies the worst, as they tend to work with fewer customers, and involve much higher value purchases.
This is the moment where you might find that traditional ways of marketing are letting you down. People in the midst of a crisis have no time for sales calls, no money to spare on print media, and someone at their door is far from welcome when we’re all trying to adhere to a country-wide social distancing scheme. It’s here that you need to completely rethink your marketing efforts, and potentially look at other avenues of attracting leads, even when the market is in turmoil.
This is where inbound marketing comes in. Without the security of a solid financial future, more and more B2B buyers are turning to the internet to find viable solutions to their problems. It isn’t just about looking for products - in fact, quite the opposite. With a dwindling budget and a fear of the unknown, buyers are much more likely to turn to the internet for help, support, and valuable advice for the time being. An inbound marketing strategy works on providing that value, and ultimately building trust in your business. If you can nurture these potential customers now, when they need it the most, then they’re likely to turn to you once everything is back on track.
So, how do you get started?
Before you even get started with a new inbound way of marketing, you need to understand what you are trying to achieve, and realise the time and resources that it will take to carry out an effective strategy. Inbound isn’t about throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks - it’s a considered, measured approach that requires a lot of thought and planning.
Step 1: Understand your customers
Before you even begin to plan out an inbound marketing campaign, you need to understand who your customers are, and what their specific pains are. In times of great uncertainty, it is worth checking what major businesses are blogging about, what is being asked on social media or online forums, and even conducting interviews with current customers to address what their specific challenges are. Once you have an understanding of who your customers are, and the type of prospects that you want to attract, you then have an understanding of your buyer persona, which is a vital part of any planning that you do. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, and you should tailor your content to them.
Step 2: Consistency & credibility
When the whole world is upside down, one thing that consumers really value is consistency. Customers and prospects alike want to be reassured, and the only way to do this is to remain consistent in what you have to offer them, building credibility. In difficult times, clients want to know that your company will be there for them, and this in turn strengthens your company’s credibility. Happy customers means that they turn into advocates of your business, leading to more customers in the future.
You can remain consistent by publishing content about your product or service, and working to answer the common questions that your prospects are asking. If you are consistently engaging with the community and providing helpful, valuable advice via the content that you write, then you are proving that you are a source of strength in times of uncertainty, and that you are managing to keep up with your clients, despite whatever is going on in the world.
Step 3: Evaluate regularly
It’s tempting, with any marketing strategy, to just set it live and wait for the results to come in. However, this isn’t the case with inbound marketing. You need to be regularly checking in on your data, and adjusting as you go. You might set up landing pages and incredible content, but if you’re getting a lot of views and no actual conversions, then the content isn’t good enough. In this instance, you need to reevaluate the page itself, and test different content, different images, and even different types of form to see what works. Inbound isn’t a one-time thing, it’s an ever-evolving process that needs to be closely monitored.
Step 4: Agility
Circumstances can change at the drop of a hat - something that has become clear already this year. You need to be able to change your marketing angle in response to this. If you don’t have the agility that is needed in this day and age to stay afloat, then you can rapidly start facing issues within your business, whereas the ability to grow and adjust to new circumstances leaves you better equipped for the future.
Make sure that you have a strategy in place for when things go wrong. Your marketing isn’t always going to go smoothly, and you need to be prepared for sudden changes in the way you market your product or services.
Step 5: Don’t get complacent
Even when the bad times are over and your business is back on the straight and narrow, your inbound marketing journey isn’t over. If you want to consistently bring in leads, grow your business and plan for the future, then you need to stay on top of your marketing efforts, even when things are back to normal. Keep testing, keep creating content, and keep working to supply value to your prospects in order to get the best results from your marketing strategy. The best way to stay up to date is to plan out your marketing efforts by the month, the quarter or even the year to set solid deadlines to adhere to and understand what your goals are.
Stuck on how to do this? We’ve put together an inbound marketing bundle to get you started. It includes an introduction to inbound marketing, covering what avenues you need to be considering and how to get started, as well as an in-depth planner to get your marketing activities on track. Download it for free below!