Right now, I should be in Florence on my first real vacation in 12 years. When we canceled our travel plans not even two weeks ago, we had no idea how extensive this crisis would become. And no one can say how bad it is going to become before it will get better.
Being a marketer in an existential and economic crisis is hard. For many B2B technology companies marketing to large global enterprises, this means a slowdown, if not a stop, on all non-essential projects as clients scramble to get all of their employees set up to work from home. Some companies are already considering cutbacks as they are dependent on China's exporting capacities.
Below, we want to share some tips that hopefully will make the next few weeks or months easier for you (at least from a work perspective).
#1: Be Prepared & Communicate With Your Employees
Gartner analyst Jim Melone estimates that in a global pandemic (not specific to this Coronavirus situation, but he did mention it as part of their COVID-19 business preparation webinar) about 40% of the workforce will be too sick or physically unable to work due to power outages, internet failures, or other technical difficulties.
(Image Credit: Gartner, 2020)
Of course, one of the first things management needs to do is to create a Pandemic Preparedness Framework that allows you to identify and prioritize all necessary steps.
Once established, break down how marketing can help your organization get through this difficult time in the best way possible. Consider your Flywheel and identify potential forces (e.g., the dedicated Airbnb customer service rep that helped us to cancel reservations — thank you, Karla!!) and friction points (e.g., ask me about my frustrations about getting our flights refunded).
#2: Communicate Your Business Continuity Plan To Your Prospects & Customers
Today, I got an email from Monday.com that linked to a website page dedicated to their business continuity plan. I thought it was very thoughtful and reassuring.
It communicates clearly that the team at Monday has not only thought about how their business might be impacted, but also about how to mitigate any interruptions for their customers. This is especially important in the B2B Technology space because so many people depend on your products to keep their businesses running and growing.
The important thing to remember is to state the facts in a concise manner. Explain what measures you have put in place and what customers can expect. Keep it simple and update it when needed.
#3: Don't Ambulance Chase Or Panic Monger
You have probably heard the quote from Chicago's former mayor, Rahm Emanuel: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste." In my opinion, a serious crisis is a time to show kindness and compassion — and never a time to profit on other's hardships.
This goes without saying, but given the increasing feeling of panic around the globe right now, I want to make sure I mention it: DO NOT panic monger or ambulance chase. Trying to make a quick buck or taking advantage of this situation will be considered tasteless and will turn people away.
If your company can help, by all means, be sure to tell people about it, just like how Google and Zoom are offering educational institutions easier and free access to their online conferencing products.
#4: Communicate Early & Often
In highly uncertain times, communication is essential. Whether you are informing your prospects and customer base of an event cancellation or you're communicating with your employees about your remote work policies, do so often and early.
But keep in mind that re-sharing the same information that everyone has seen a thousand times isn't helpful at this point. If someone still doesn't know how to wash their hands properly, another email probably won't change that. Be precise, and keep it short and sweet.
#5: Be Sensitive In Your Advertising
This is a time when you will want to think twice about using potentially loaded humor or politically charged topics in your advertisements. Unfortunately, we don't know what the world will look like next month, so be sensitive in how you use advertising and what you say.
#6: Evaluate Your Editorial Calendar & Adjust Where Needed
As a B2B Tech growth agency, we often have our clients' editorial calendars planned out 6-12 months in advance. If you are facing much push back or you see your clients struggling, consider adjusting your editorial calendar accordingly. And as you do, remember to always strive to be the most helpful resource out there.
#7: Empower Your Customer Support Team
You might already see a cut back in marketing needs as campaigns are being canceled, pushed back, or slowed down. Instead of focusing on the negative impact, see where you can be helpful.
For example, rather than writing blog posts that no one is going to read, offer to write snippets of content to make your customer service team more effective. Snippets are little pieces of reusable content that are centrally stored and accessible to all relevant team members. The wonderful thing is that they standardize your team's responses and save tons of time as customer service reps don't have to type out the same content over and over.
#8: Review Your Crisis Communication Plan
According to her, the risk for B2B Technology companies is relatively low as most of their workforce is already full- or at least part-time working remotely. Her recommendation is to review your crisis communication plan if you have one and jump into action now to execute it. And don't forget to do a "post mortem" to adjust your current plan with all you learned and add new documents and procedures you had to newly create.
Those without a crisis communication plan in place already should focus their efforts now on defining their emergency response protocols specifically for this issue, e.g., what’s the worst that can happen and what will we do to address it? Once you know operationally what your plan is, you can think about internal and external messaging to communicate appropriately about it.
Then, when the issue has passed, we strongly recommend developing a full crisis communication plan (how you will communicate about what you’re doing in crisis) that is in-line with your organization’s emergency response plan (how you will do the right thing operationally in crisis). These plans should be detailed and actionable.
In summary, the most important thing to remember (other than washing your hands of course) is not to panic. Be prepared, not scared! We will probably see an economic downturn, which means marketing cuts, but that doesn't need to translate into layoffs. Get ready to help out wherever you can to minimize the impact this pandemic has on your business and on your customers.