How are markets – and Marketers – having to adapt in light of Covid-19?
A recent survey by b2bmarketing.net asked Marketers from across industry how their campaigns have been affected, and what they think marketing strategies should look like as we emerge into the over-used ‘new normal’.
As B2B Marketing editor-in-chief and co-founder Joel Harrison says in the report’s introduction, ‘Covid-19 has rewritten the book on disruption’ and as a result, Marketing teams are ‘needing to rewrite the book on agility’.
Their survey asked B2B Marketing professionals across geographies and sectors about their response to the current crisis and the ways activity and plans have changed – and are expected to change – in response to the new landscape we find ourselves in. Here we explore their responses, and dig into what they mean.
A reduction in revenues and budgets
The bad news is that 46% of those questioned had seen, or expected to experience, a rapid downturn in revenues. For 37%, it was too early to tell; only 18% had seen or anticipated little impact.
As might be expected, this has quickly translated into a reduction in marketing spend; 40% had seen their marketing budgets reduced, with a further 18% having had spend frozen. For 15%, the impact on budget is as yet unknown.
Just 3% have seen budgets increase, something the report hopes represents a ‘forward-thinking vanguard’ who plan to find ‘completely fresh ways of engaging in a disrupted landscape’.
Delivering activity that’s in-tune with customers
One thing became clear as the pandemic unfolded worldwide; tone-deaf approaches were out of favour. Consumers and clients voted with their feet when some businesses appeared to profiteer from the crisis or fail to acknowledge it. Agility was as vital as empathy when it came to Marketers’ ability to change course rapidly.
Business-as-usual messages were no longer cutting it, and many firms demonstrated that they could be nimble in response. 65% of those surveyed by B2B Marketing had changed their messaging, taking a proactive approach to stay in line with the zeitgeist.
Similarly, 51% had changed their marketing channels, presumably to mirror changing behaviours from their target audiences (and a lack of traditional opportunities – in-person events, for instance, being cancelled and replaced with digital alternatives). 39% launched new product or service offerings in response to evolving demands.
We’ve identified the importance of this responsiveness previously, in our blog examining what marketing should look like during a crisis, which noted how crucial it is to get your messaging right when your audience’s focus has shifted to crisis response.
Marketing teams central to businesses’ adaptability
Amidst a lot of doom and gloom, it’s heartening to see that 48% of Marketers surveyed felt that Covid-19 would bring opportunities for innovation, either in terms of products/services or delivery methods.
Also encouragingly, the Marketing team is central to businesses’ ability to make the most of these opportunities. 73% of respondents felt that Marketing was extremely or very important in protecting business relationships and revenues – pivoting their approach away from new customer acquisition towards retention of valued existing clients.
Similarly, 55% of those surveyed felt that Marketing had been 100% involved from day one in their organisation’s strategic response to the crisis.
This is reflected in a confidence in the Marketing team’s understanding of customers’ challenges and pain points; only 8% of those surveyed felt that their team had no knowledge of these. In the B2B world, where Marketers are often at a remove from direct client interaction, this encouragingly places Marketers in the midst of the corporate response. 39% of firms questioned have a programme in place to gather insights into customers’ challenges, with a further 40% working on one.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, interactions with clients are suffering as a result of the pandemic. 29% claimed that it’s currently challenging to engage or have a dialogue with customers, with another 12% saying that it’s very challenging on all their accounts.
Managing the Marketing team’s processes in challenging times
The respondents were asked specifically about the challenges of working remotely, and whether this had highlighted any inadequacies in communication or management processes.
Prior to Covid-19, only 24% of Marketers had teams which operated 3+ days a week from home. The new way of working has tested the foundations of team management for some, with 14% claiming that the Marketing team communication and management processes need ‘lots more work’. (If this sounds familiar, our blog on How Marketers can collaborate effectively when working remotely might be a useful read.)
‘Effective collaboration and alignment with objectives’ was cited as one of the biggest concerns around remote working; here, businesses that were already taking a digitally-proactive approach have had an advantage. Collaborative and automated marketing workflow tools have given some firms a head start, making project management more efficient and marketing compliance processes more robust, even while remote working is the norm.
What should Marketers take away from the survey findings?
- Although most companies are expecting a downturn in sales, and marketing budgets are being trimmed in tandem, Marketers are responding proactively, finding new channels and adapting messaging to create agile and empathetic campaigns.
- Marketers feel they have a clear role to play in maintaining existing relationships as well as helping to acquire new clients.
- They feel trusted, included and valued as their businesses have formulated their responses to Covid-19.
Stay on the front foot in an ever-changing landscape
Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic is an extreme example of the changing challenges Marketing teams – and their businesses – face. But the lessons learned stand firms in good stead for any future situations they face.
The ability to pivot and respond to changing circumstances…the advantages shared by firms that have embraced digital transformation and automated workflow tools to maintain efficiency and robust processes when working remotely…the need to put Marketers front and centre when setting strategy in uncertain times.
If you want to read more about the ever-evolving challenges facing Marketing teams, you can download a copy of our whitepaper, The changing role of the Marketing Manager. You can get a free copy from our resource library.
Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.