Aggressive new product developments and marketing campaigns planned for Q2 have gone up in coronavirus smoke, while business priorities have shifted and some B2B organizations might be running on reduced hours or staff numbers.
Often it is the difficult and brave decisions which come with the biggest reward—which means that external communication is a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis.
Off-grid means out of mind
The length of typical B2B buying cycles is a lot longer than three months. We’re often talking six or seven figure software and hardware investment at an enterprise scale which could take over a year to finalize. While almost certainly there will be a drop in B2B sales during the next quarter, there could be an opportunity to keep a percentage of these and to capture new prospects who haven’t started their buying journey yet.
The current market climate means businesses across a multitude of industries are having to scale like never before. That could mean scaling down if you’re in the transport sector, but scaling up if you’re in the health care sector.
If you’re off the marketing and PR radar during this period, how will these potential customers find you when business settles back down to normal? You don’t have to continue at your normal marketing rate, but keeping a skeleton presence will be essential to getting out ahead of the competition when the market recovers.
Pick your most valuable content
Now is the time to consult your asset library to organize your content creation priorities. Do you have content on file around topics such as remote working, supply chain or digitizing operations? With a little bit of reworking, this could go a long way in the current climate.
On the flip side, you might identify some gaps. For example, you might serve one particular market segment which is booming in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. These are the prospects who will be highly receptive to your message. If you don’t have content to serve that market, then it’s time to get drafting.
Stretching the brand goes a long way
We’ve already seen several high-profile examples of ‘brand stretch’ hitting the media from the multimillion consortium of global companies including Formula 1 and aerospace companies, to floor vacuum specialist Dyson pivoting to produce ventilators. But we also see much smaller companies ready to come up to the plate. In the U.K. Verdant Spirits, based in Dundee’s west end, hopes to produce 400 liters of the sanitizer gel. One 3D printing specialist in Peterborough has fast tracked 3D printed valves for respirators.
These are great timely examples and case studies, which should be shared via owned and earned media channels.
You should also look at whether you can provide solutions to some of the key pain points being experienced by your customers right now. Do you have AI solutions to help learn from the fluctuating demand for consumer products? Can you offer remote access to your solutions to support the growing number of workers required to operate from home? It’s not just in health care where opportunities lie.
The media doesn’t sleep – so why should you?
Our experience has been that journalists have very quickly made the jump to working remotely, shifting their editorial schedules slightly to allow for COVID-19 content.
Many were already operating remotely and now, more than ever, they will look for easily accessible sources of contributed content. They’ve lost the opportunity to attend industry events and conduct face-to-face interviews and any company battening down the hatches has stopped contributing news and copy.
Leads go cold, feature opportunities tail off and requests for comment will dry up. A business previously seen as a “go-to” source for insights, case studies and industry comments might fade.
Journalists live and die by their contacts, so if you make sure content is timely and relevant for their publication and audience, now is the time you’ll be of incredible value to them.
Keep up appearances
Agencies and clients alike are in this together. At IBA we have designed a ‘skeleton service’ to help B2B organizations maintain momentum with coverage and positive brand messaging, when faced with resource and time constraints.
This service allows us to deploy the full weight of our resources to ensure clients are not left without an external presence. Together, we’ve helped maintain a continuous presence on social media, assisted with digital alternatives to cancelled or postponed events and ensured media engagement and coverage does not falter.
Now is the time for B2B business to seize the initiative at a difficult time. Taking confident and sensible strides forward in a time of stagnation will establish them as an industry frontrunner—exactly the type of brand perception which sets them apart for customers and potential prospects.
Jamie Knightley is head of client services for IBA International.