Marketing in a COVID-19 World

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Justin Lugbill March 20, 2020

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on peoples’ lives since gaining the spotlight in early 2020.  Beyond implementing work-from-wherever policies almost overnight, companies are scrambling to determine the best ways to protect themselves during this period of unprecedented uncertainty and economic decline.

At Closed Loop, our Slack channels and team meetings are bursting at the seams with discussions of virus-related trends and how to best support our clients in the midst of the chaos.  One topic of conversation amongst our B2B accounts is how (and why) to go beyond demand gen, and serve ads to your existing customers.  

Why Engage Existing Customers with Paid Media?

Businesses are hurting.  The cash crunch we’re experiencing now is unparalleled.  Companies are pulling out every tool in their arsenal to determine the best way to conserve the needed capital to ride out this storm.  As a result, most companies are actively scrutinizing/evaluating their vendors.  If there was ever a time to prove your worth to your clients/customers, it is now.  

How?

Companies should consider incorporating ABM, retargeting and social follower campaigns to help stave off churn by communicating the value brought to the table. In the midst of the storm, why should a customer continue to pay for your product/service?  What immediate value does it provide?  

In addition to communicating value, this is an unprecedented opportunity to cultivate a more intimate relationship with customers (eg. with a “we’re in this together” message).  People need assurance that vendors have well-thought-out business continuity plans in place. Video is a great medium to assist with this.

Something as simple as an executive speaking directly into the camera and addressing concerns and courses of action would make for powerful, authentic, relevant content. Now, more than ever, people are craving an end to ambiguity.  Marketers can help companies get eyes on content that speaks to that.

Pro tip 1:  Customer lists are great, but match rates are terrible.  The simple, elegant solution to this is to find a way to get an event or cookie to fire only for customers.  If you have a portal for customers, or a dedicated app is used, add a trigger here. This is much preferred to an uploaded customer list.  

Pro tip 2:  Tier your customers based on estimated LTV, as well as time-to-renewal.  This allows you to personalize your message as well as ensure limited funds are allocated toward the most valuable (and churn-prone) customers.

Lead Gen Considerations

Across our clients, we’re seeing an increase in leads, but a decrease in down-funnel activity.  Intuitively, this makes sense. People have more time on their hands to evaluate options but are hesitant to pull the trigger during this time of uncertainty.  As marketers, this throws a wrench in things. How should marketers react to this new, temporary reality?  

Our approach has been to analyze what the new CPL target should be, as well as evaluate nurture opportunities.  On the nurture front, the longer lead-to-close times makes the case for lead nurturing more tangible. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in some form of nurturing even when the world isn’t on fire.  This environment though exacerbates the need.

One common objection I often hear is “We’re already nurturing through drip e-mails. Why should I spend marketing dollars here?”  My response generally goes something like this:

Warm leads are incredibly valuable.  Stopping your investment after you get the lead is generally counterproductive. Marketing is about winning business by staying top of mind and establishing/maintaining thought leadership throughout the entire buyer journey – not just pre-lead. Given that e-mail open rates are between 15%-20% and E-mail CTR is around 2-3%, by relying solely on e-mail, you’re not engaging an overwhelming majority of your audience.  You can fix that by incorporating paid media. In addition, e-mail is a silo. Digital advertising allows companies to digitally surround prospects and customers with a variety of creative – search (text), display, social, video, native, and so on.

Pro tip: B2B buying decisions are made by 7+ individuals on average.  By incorporating ABM tactics at this stage, you can maximize your chances of brand recognition and consideration across decision-makers.

In conclusion, we’re living through a time of unprecedented ambiguity and change.  It is scary. However, all is not lost. By thinking critically about your marketing efforts, and adapting in turn, the costs of COVID-19 can be mitigated.