Welcome to the age of the pivot.
Michelin-star restaurants are becoming takeout counters. Craft brewers are making hand sanitizer.
Suddenly, the ability to make major business decisions quickly is determining who will survive.
The Coronavirus has upended entire industries, and B2B marketing and sales teams are feeling the pressure. In the first few weeks of the crisis, we've seen ad budgets slashed, campaigns canceled, and lead sources dry up.
But we've also seen some teams pivot to new digital solutions which could save their skins — or even help them turn this into a business opportunity.
Here are the three biggest challenges facing marketing and sales teams right now, and the cleverest solutions we've seen so far:
Challenge #1: Trade show and conference cancellations
For many of our clients, trade shows and conferences are the #1 lead source. For some, they're the only lead source.
With all big gatherings cancelled for the foreseeable future, marketing and sales teams are finding themselves wondering what to do next.
Your leads are still out there — you just need new channels to reach them. If you're lucky, the cancellation of upcoming shows means a few extra dollars in your budget.
Here are a few digital-first strategies for replacing at least some of that trade show lead funnel:
- Leverage your existing contacts to drive new leads by launching an incentivized referral program.
- Use account-based marketing (ABM) to target the leads on your wish list.
- Talk to other businesses in your space about co-marketing. (Chances are they're having the same problems you are.)
One of our clients, faced with an abundance of free time for their sales staff, decided that now is a great time to focus on messaging alignment. They're also tapping into their sales teams' valuable knowledge to help create playbooks, battlecards, and other sales enablement content.
Of course, many companies aren't so lucky. They're not just having trouble reaching their audiences; they're not sure their audiences will still be there when this is over.
Challenge #2: Vanishing markets
Even if you're not an airline, hotel, or restaurant, there's a good chance at least some of your target market has been severely impacted by Covid-19.
When your buyers are busy laying off employees, shuttering stores, and bracing for the sustained impact, it's obviously a tough time to be selling. For marketing and sales teams that are used to closely monitoring KPIs like conversions and total revenue, these are terrifying times.
The actions you might normally take to boost sales (like upping ad spend and discounting) are not going to work right now. So consider some alternatives:
- Invest in retaining and growing the lifetime value of your existing customers through a focused customer success campaign.
- Use this time to audit your existing content, campaigns, and promotions and optimize or turn off anything that hasn't been working.
- Think about repositioning your products or services. Can you be a disaster response company?
One Salted Stone client who creates software systems for a heavily affected industry has found success with a shift in messaging. Where implementation used to be a major pain point for their buyers, they can now pitch that "There's never been a better time to upgrade your infrastructure, so you can come back stronger when this is over."
Challenge #3: Remote work hurdles
At Salted Stone, we're very fortunate. With employees in four countries, our internal processes are already almost entirely cloud-based, and the transition to work-from-home has been (at least from an operational standpoint) relatively seamless.
Many marketing and sales teams have not been so fortunate. Without face-to-face communication, problems like half-baked CRM adoption, knowledge silos, and broken workflows are coming back to bite them.
You might not be in a position to be making any structural changes right now, and that's okay.
But even if that's the case, you can use this opportunity to assess your options and create a plan for implementing centralized solutions, so that the next crisis doesn't catch you like this one has.
Here are some solutions to explore:
- If your team is reluctant to use your CRM to store information about deal activity, it might be because you're using the wrong CRM, or it wasn't set up correctly. Any good CRM onboarding includes user training and adoption support.
- Most businesses have valuable assets hiding on personal drives. Set up an internal document management system for your content and other assets.
- Modern marketing software can connect everything from chatbot responses to phone calls to emails into seamless workflows. Can yours?
Overcoming analysis paralysis
In these strange times, the worst thing you can do as a business is nothing.
But uncertainty can have a paralyzing effect, and many marketing and sales teams will find themselves arguing about the best next step, rather than acting quickly and decisively.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, we've seen businesses bring more creativity and innovation than anyone could have expected. Sometimes, all it takes is the right framework to give you traction so you can start moving forward.