The Marketing PodCAST

B2B marketing - making plans when the future is unknown

June 17, 2020 The Marketing Pod Episode 1
The Marketing PodCAST
B2B marketing - making plans when the future is unknown
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The Marketing PodCAST
B2B marketing - making plans when the future is unknown
Jun 17, 2020 Episode 1
The Marketing Pod

The coronavirus pandemic has had a deep impact on the professional lives of B2B marketers (and inevitably their personal lives too).

In this episode, The Marketing Pod’s co-founders share their experiences and thoughts on what marketing teams can be doing to keep communication flowing with audiences and each other. Their tips will help B2B marketers prepare and plan for the future, even while uncertainty remains.

Jodie and Jen take a look at which opportunities are missing right now and discuss how marketing professionals can pivot activity to stretch their budgets and seek out value in new places, using digital marketing as a core focus.


Show Notes Transcript

The coronavirus pandemic has had a deep impact on the professional lives of B2B marketers (and inevitably their personal lives too).

In this episode, The Marketing Pod’s co-founders share their experiences and thoughts on what marketing teams can be doing to keep communication flowing with audiences and each other. Their tips will help B2B marketers prepare and plan for the future, even while uncertainty remains.

Jodie and Jen take a look at which opportunities are missing right now and discuss how marketing professionals can pivot activity to stretch their budgets and seek out value in new places, using digital marketing as a core focus.


Emma:
Hello listeners, and welcome to our first ever Marketing Pod podcast. ‘B2B Marketing - making plans when the future is unknown’.

My name is Emma, I’m a content writer here at Pod and with me today, I have our lovely leaders Jodie and Jen. 

Jodie and Jen founded the Pod back in 2013, and we’re all very glad that they did. We’ve grown so much in the past few years and, like any growing business, we’ve faced some challenges along the way - but I think that you’ll both agree with me when I say that nothing could really have prepared us for this year and all that has happened so far.

And that’s what we’re really here to talk about. How the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the professional lives of B2B marketers (and inevitably their personal lives too) - your own experiences as marketing leaders, Jodie and Jen - and what you believe marketing teams can or should be doing during this unusual time, to keep on communicating with their audiences -  and also to plan and prepare for the future.

And so, Jodie on that note perhaps we could start by talking about what, in your opinion, B2B marketers will have found most difficult about this whole experience - from a business perspective.

Jodie:
Well - there’s a lot I could say here - but I think one of the main things has been the lack of opportunity for prospecting: for reaching out to new potential customers. Acquisition has become much more difficult, for obvious reasons. So for B2B marketers, growth - if it can be found - needs to be found through existing clients: by building on already established relationships. 

It’s taken quite a shift in perspective for some businesses, I think. But those who have been able to pivot, and refocus their efforts, will have seen some tangible reward.

We’ve seen some of this ourselves. Because we have been growing - and our team has grown - we’ve been planning some exciting targeted campaigns and live events. It’s all had to go on hold. Just until 2021, not forever, but it’s had to pause - and we’ve had to refocus.

Jen:
That’s it, absolutely. Our target segments have changed, and we’ve seen that for our clients too. We’ve been helping them find different ways to grow. It’s not about changing everything forever, just about refocusing efforts right now.

And I think that’s also connected to one of the other big challenges, which is that the landscape is continually changing. From day to day and week to week. We’ve all had to adjust, and there is a need to take the temperature of audiences almost on a daily basis. 

Which makes it really difficult to plan. Planning is so important to B2B marketers - and those plans still have to exist (every action is part of a bigger strategy), but they have to be agile. We’ve been saying, ‘plan the month ahead -but be prepared to adjust’. Stay connected, stay in touch with the market, and be flexible.

Emma:
And that need to stay connected is shaping everything, isn’t it. Not just from the perspective of markets and audiences - but also when we’re thinking about our clients and our teams. Which brings me onto my next question, which is:

How would you say that lockdown has affected the way that marketing teams are working? We seem to be doing okay, but why do you think that is? And have you got any tips for other marketers on how to keep collaboration and creativity going with everyone at a distance from each other?

Jen:
This is where we’re lucky, Our team is awesome! But yes, it was a bit a bit scary thinking about maintaining our culture and keeping the collaboration going. It’s such a part of how we work at Pod.

Jodie:
Yeah, there are some things we knew we wanted to do straight away. So as soon as everyone was working remotely, we put a daily 30 minute Google Hangout in the diary. That chance to see each other’s faces in the morning and quickly run through everything that’s in the planning board, has been invaluable. It’s also a chance for anyone to shout up if they’re swamped - and there’s been a real willingness from everyone to step in and offer help. A real empathy and team spirit. 

I will say this too: video calls used to be my nemesis. I always had to be well prepared - but these days, anything goes. I would say to any team not using them, give it a try! I think they’re brilliant for building relationships, especially while we’re all a bit more casual and in our own homes.

Jen:
And by making it a video call rather than just a conference call, you can also gauge more easily if anyone isn’t as engaged, if anyone is feeling low and might need propping up. Because there will be days during this time when each of us struggles. It’s certainly helped us monitor that - and hopefully help. Even if that’s just by putting in a personal call, or sending a nice WhatsApp message, or a silly gif. We all love silly gifs.

Emma:
We do!

Jodie:
We do! And end of month treats. Those help too. We’ve been sending pizza to the team to share with their kids. It’s been a hit.

Emma:
I can vouch for that… And what about client relationships. Has keeping in touch been more difficult?

Jodie:
Strangely, I think the opposite is true. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a universal experience, but our clients on the whole have been easier to reach and ready for a slightly increased level of contact. Maybe that’s because some of their other activities and meetings have been removed, or because there’s no longer the pressure of the commute. It might just be because they’re enjoying human contact! Time is still precious but there’s slightly more of it - and everyone’s at their desks, wherever that desk may be.

Jen:
Yeah, I agree. It’s also really nice to have that extra little insight into each other as humans, isn’t it. I work in my kitchen and my children are always nearby and many of our clients have their partners, children and pets close by too. There’s no longer such a separation between our work personas and our home personas. We’re all just people. And there’s much more of an acceptance that we’re all capable of still doing a brilliant job, even though we’re not in the office. 

It might change the way the business world works forever.

Emma:
Because business people are human too!

Jen:
Exactly! I think we can all foresee a world in which remote working, flexible working, different ways of doing things, become much more commonplace. The business world was perhaps a little fearful of it before, but the lockdown has changed that. Wanting a work/life balance is something more people will be brave enough to say, I think. But they’ll hopefully also be more appreciative of their teams and the ‘in-person’ contact they can have.

Emma:
I’m sure that will be the case. We’re all missing Pod HQ! But before we get all teary eyed, I’m going to pull our focus back to the here and now.  Obviously, we’re always thinking about what we can be doing from a distance to help clients reach their customers and plan for the future. Are there any activities that you have been recommending clients double-down on, or any that you’ve suggested they stop altogether for the time being?

Jen:
Well every client and circumstance is slightly different of course - and there will never be a one size fits all, but we do know that there are some things that are really working right now, and some things which aren’t having the usual impact. 

A lot of people are feeling frustrated because the plans they made in Q1 can’t be executed in Q2. But that doesn’t mean the strategy should be abandoned altogether, just that they need to adjust - some things can be done differently, others will have to wait until 2021. 

The budget for Q2 may have shrunk and it’s going to be vital to get maximum value for it - so it needs to be reallocated. 

The first thing to do before you put a new strategy together is check in with your audience. It’s likely that their priorities will have changed, so make sure you take a step back and assess whether your marketing messages still answer the right questions and address the right pain points. And if you’ve had to adapt your service offering or lead times, you also need to make sure that that’s reflected in your messaging. It seems like a small thing but it can make all of the difference - because customers need transparency now more than ever.

Jodie:
Yes, tell them the truth, in plain and simple terms. And a big part of connecting with audiences in a way that really resonates is also going to be about returning to the data. Go back to your metrics. Make sure they’re still telling you what you need to know. If they're not - adjust that first. And then stay close to the data. I think we’ve already said that things keep on shifting. Nothing is static - especially now - so your tried and tested campaigns might suddenly miss the spot, while channels that have never been that effective for you in the past might suddenly yield great results. It’s going to be crucial to make sure that you’re not wasting your budget by regularly reviewing the data you’re collecting and adapting your strategy and your spend accordingly.

Emma:
Right, so you’ve reassessed your data and adapted your strategy. Now to execute it. What tactics are working really well at the moment?

Jen:
Well, digital advertising is obviously a big one. Do the leg-work, analyse the data, find your online audience, and then go for it. It can be tempting to reduce spend at the moment, even on digital - but the brands that stay vocal are likely to be the ones that stay strong. And if your competitors go quiet, even better - you’ll secure a greater share of voice with a lower chunk of budget. 

Just be sure to adapt your tone of voice. You shouldn’t feel the need to explicitly mention Covid-19 in everything you do, but craft all ad content through a Covid-lens, People’s sensibilities have changed and keep on changing. And avoid anything too cliched like ‘we’re here for you’. Stay focused on your brand purpose, product benefits, and what you’re really doing for your customers.

Jodie:
Yes, I absolutely agreed. I think brand purpose and brand equity are the biggies right now. For the first: people want to know what you stand for. What your values are. It’s going to matter more from now on. And for the second, building brand equity now will give you resilience in the recession we’re all expecting to come next. The brands most likely to come out of this best will be those that are remembered - and remembered for all the right reasons.

So - keep up the digital advertising - and also experiment with other digital formats like podcasts and webinars. If you’ve never plucked up the courage to do one before, now is the time! It’s really not that complicated.

Emma:
We can help!

Jodie:
And you can build up a brilliant library of content. Be sure to create some evergreen content as well as well as the topical stuff and you’ll be setting yourself up for the future too.

Jen:
I agree. Great content is the foundation of any great campaign. And if you’re doing digital now but your heart really belongs to the kind of stuff you can’t do now - like direct mail or events, remember that the elements of strong content  - whether that’s brilliant copy or really impactful design - can often be adapted to suit a range of different formats and purposes. It’s worth investing in.

Jodie:
Yes, because you don’t have to throw away those non-digital elements of your strategy - just delay them. No one really knows what ‘normal’ will look like over the coming weeks and months, but ‘normal’ service will resume - and the inventive, exciting strategies you’d created for this year can hopefully be repurposed to give you a head start for 2021. So many of our clients were already focused on sustainability and green action for example. That’s going to be even more important now. It’s going to be about re-moulding rather than starting from scratch.

Emma:
Brilliant. Okay - so, now thinking about ‘normal service resuming’ as you say, is there anything you’ve already started planning for when we do return to the office - any tips you’d give to other marketing teams or businesses - for us to wrap up with.

Jen:
I guess, the first thing I’d say is ‘don’t rush’. The B2B marketing world has proven that it can do this. Remote working is working well. I know that for some business teams, remote working is likely to remain their way of operating.  As natural communicators, most marketers are probably craving some time away from the kitchen table and back among our colleagues - but staying safe and well should always be the first priority.

Jodie:
On a practical level, we’re thinking about hygiene equipment, installing hand sanitisers, staggering work hours  - that kind of thing. Having a clear plan for any action you decide to take and being able to offer teams guidance and ongoing reassurance is critical. Marketing teams should definitely have internal comms as a primary focus while things keep changing.

But I think it’s also really important to recognise how well we’ve all done during this time and to acknowledge the quality of work that’s possible - even under such difficult circumstances. 

What we’ve seen from our clients and from the marketers in our circles is that people are doing amazing things: innovating and experimenting, seizing every opportunity. Yes, leaders should be planning the logistics of a return to the office - or in some cases, better practices for working from home, but for now maybe we all need to just take a breath and acknowledge that B2B marketers rock!

Emma:
Thanks Jodie, and thanks, Jen - I think we’ll end on that. You heard it here first - B2B marketers rock. 

Thank you, everyone for joining us today and be sure to look out for our next Pod PodCast, in which we will be joined by a Marketing Pod client - discussing their own experience of going digital during lockdown - and the results they’ve had so far.