Driving Demand Digitally in Days of Social Distancing

How Your Organization Can Avoid the “Flattened Demand Curve”

Strange and challenging times indeed. If you’ve been pinching yourself to make sure you’re not in Matt Damon’s Contagion or in a real-life version of the popular board game Pandemic, you’re not alone. In what feels like a split second, the spread of the COVID-19 virus has halted the economy, thrown marketing plans out the window, put sales targets at risk, and forced organizations to find new ways drive demand with their buyers.

Faced with this new reality, many of us are seeking ways to make ends meet, trying to keep the business running, all while trying to ensure our loved ones are safe. Above all, we should be taking the necessary precautions to protect our family, friends, colleagues, and community by following appropriate WHO guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Okay, let’s just pause for a moment. We’ll get through this.

The reality is that B2B businesses aren’t closing up shop - you still have engagement, pipeline, and sales goals to hit despite the situation we’re in. Regardless of whether you’re in a marketing or sales role, there are a few key forces driving new market dynamics given the COVID-19 outbreak. Your success during this challenging time can be contingent upon:

  • Aligning sales & marketing – Forming an aligned go-to-market team
  • Accelerating path to market – Reprioritizing and empowering teams to make swift decisions
  • Shifting to digital strategies – Embracing digital transformation to help compensate for cancelled in-person events

We’ve identified four key impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic may have on go-to-market teams to help you identify new ways to help drive demand. If you’re facing supply chain issues, be sure to check out our special briefing on this subject and what you can do to help protect your business.

Impact #1

In-person sales meetings are no longer a viable option for the foreseeable future.

Key Success Factors:
  • Stay informed. Keep up-to-date with key news events and trigger events surrounding your key accounts. Tailor your value proposition within context of the current environment. Knowledge is power – it will make you stand out.
  • Build rapport. Use this as an opportunity to build a personal connection with your prospects – be genuine, empathetic, and a valuable resource. People buy from people they like.
  • Use social selling. Working remotely involves more breaks, both voluntary and involuntary. Social media will play a larger role as buyers spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn during more flexible working hours. Engage buyers where they are. Think digital!
  • Re-diagnose the problem. Revisit your needs discovery and don’t assume what your customers (prospects) needed in January is still what they need now. You need to hit reset and revisit your conversations to uncover the new world they are in.
New Dynamic

Selling has moved to virtual meetings, phone calls, direct mail, and email.

Impact #2

Large trade shows and conferences have been cancelled, cutting a major source of leads.

Key Success Factors:
  • Put it In Perspective. According to Spiceworks, 10% of paid media budgets are allocated to events. Let’s assume you spend £50,000 on an event sponsorship and typically get 100 warm leads. That’s £500 a lead. By shifting to webinars, you can lower your cost of lead acquisition with the ability to target accounts that match your Ideal Customer Profile (versus getting unqualified leads that swing by the booth for free giveaways). Let’s say you run 4 webinars in two months and get 100 registrations each. Assuming a 50% attendance rate you will get 200 total leads, of which 100 are probably warm. Your cost of lead acquisition has gone down significantly.
  • Book dates on your calendar, now. Events are great to get leads in a short burst of time (1-3 days). With today’s new dynamic, you must build in pipeline-generating webinars over a longer course of time. Book dates on your calendar immediately and start promoting them to secure a steady stream of warm leads through the remainder of the year. Even if webinar and meeting dates need to keep pushing out, you’re keeping a dialogue open with potential leads.
  • Use visual storytelling to stand out. Leveraging visual storytelling to get your point across, make an impact, and educate your audience is imperative. Draw inspiration from the Washington Post and Reuters about how visual storytelling helped educate their readers about COVID-19. What problems do you solve and how can you communicate that in a way beyond just text on PowerPoint?
New Dynamic

Digital customer engagement strategies are moving to webinars and social.

Figure 1: The power of visual storytelling

Impact #3

The traditional 9-5 office schedule is out the window. Organizations are being asked to work from home and avoid coming into the office.

Key Success Factors:
  • Be on-point, timely, & persistent. It takes an average of 8 touches to get a meeting according to RAIN Group. We expect this number to increase to at least 12 touches given shifting priorities for many organizations. As a seller, you’ll need to understand how your buyers are impacted, empathize with them, and advise on how you can help them pivot their go-to-market activities. You may have more luck engaging buyers much earlier or later in the day. Refer to Figure 2 to see the typical engagement rates we see across Facebook and email.
  • Arm Your Sales Development Reps. 88% of marketers agree a sales development representative (SDR) team is critical for ABM success. We anticipate this to play an even larger role, making it critical to consider tools like Outreach and SalesLoft to make SDR teams more effective and efficient in securing meetings.
  • Remix your marketing mix. As a marketer, out-of-home (OOH) ad spending and events may need to be reallocated to digital channels due to social distancing. Leveraging social ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, and connected TV advertising on streaming platforms like Hulu and Roku can help target your message to the right buyers.
  • Carefully analyze web visitors. As your customers work from home, they will be accessing web content through their Internet Service Provider (ISP) versus their corporate network. Reverse IP lookups may yield false positives – treat results with more caution and leverage solutions that can classify and screen out ISPs and provide cookie and API matching to help get to the true audience.
New Dynamic

Your buyers are working from home, potentially surrounded by even more distractions (kids, dogs, social media, squirrels). Your buyers may be starting their days earlier and extending their working hours to later in the day.

Figure 2: Be Persistent and Timely

Traditional work hours are out the window. This graphic is what Dun & Bradstreet sees for typical email open rates and Facebook engagements across a typical 9-5 day. Anticipate a shift to earlier hours and later hours given flexible work schedules.
Impact #4

Marketing and sales professionals are looking for new ways to drive demand. Among the most impacted are small businesses and service, manufacturing, travel, entertainment, and wholesale industries.

Key Success Factors:
  • Revise your search keywords. What are the new challenges that your customers face given the impact of COVID-19? How can you help them? With shifting market dynamics there’s no better time to revisit your search keywords and optimize spend and focus on the ones that are more relevant in today’s dynamic. Refer to the chart below for an example in the finance industry.
  • Leverage keywords to find in-market buyers. Whether you are in a marketing or sales role, you can use your search keywords to create highly personalized intent models that pinpoint in-market buyers. These intent models can help you target accounts that have an immediate need and are seeking solutions now.
New Dynamic

Your buyers are actively searching for new solutions to their problems on Google and other search engines. They need your help, now.

For example, let’s take the scenario where a regional bank is attempting to target small businesses for lending and banking products. Given new dynamics and how small businesses are struggling to make ends meet due to a lack of revenue and customers, the bank’s focus may shift accordingly:

Old keywords
New keywords
  • Small business banking
  • Treasury Management
  • Low interest commercial loans
  • Emergency line of credit
  • Quick cash for small businesses
  • Payment term flexibility

It’s worth reiterating that time is of the essence. It’s likely that your competitors and every other organization in your market is thinking about similar strategies to overcome the challenging situation we find ourselves in. The digitalization of former tasks is imperative, and if your organization hasn’t embraced digital transformation you risk being left behind. With energy, hustle, and a little bit of data-driven thinking, you can save your pipeline and sales figures for the year. Use the hashtag #UnFlattenDemand with your ideas and we look forward to continuing the discussion together on Twitter and LinkedIn.