How to recession-proof your B2B digital marketing

Should I just stop all my marketing activities?

The whole world is affected by COVID-19. Many businesses are impacted. Most people are saying a recession is coming. In my opinion, the recession is happening now. The real question is not how we prepare for the recession but how we survive or even grow our business during these uncertain times. I have been paying close attention to COVID-19 since it started in China in January. I talked with several marketing leaders in different B2B companies in China and the US. Every marketing leader is thinking about the same question: should I just stop all my marketing activities during these uncertain times? My answer would be you should not stop marketing activities. Here are my thoughts:

People are panicking but it won’t be long.  

Like most people, I panicked in the first two weeks. Even if I think I am mentally prepared (I know it is coming), I still panicked. It took me two weeks to adjust. I also realize panic won’t help me and my business in the long run. It is time to accept reality. Focus on something I can control. Yes, I mean how I react to this pandemic and how I run my business. 

You still need to do marketing for the future, especially digital marketing  

Yes, business activities are quiet and slow. But they won’t be for long. Most businesses still need to survive in the market. It is time to review your marketing plan and budget. And, most important of all, you still need to keep your marketing activities going, especially digital marketing in the short term. Here is why:  

  1. Don’t wait until everything is quiet. You might think, during this time, you should stop marketing activities until things calm down. The truth is it will be too late when things calm down. In B2B marketing, it takes a certain time to build up trust and close sales deals. You need to fill up your sales pipeline in advance before you can generate sales revenue.
  2. Your sales team relies on the marketing team more than ever. Your sales team can not go to any offline events or visit anyone to generate any sales leads right now. They need to rely on the marketing team to generate sales leads.
  3. It takes longer to nurture leads during this time. It goes without saying that it will take much longer time to nurture leads during this time. That is one of the reasons why you still need to have your marketing campaign going.
  4. Everyone spends more time on the Internet more than ever. Most people stay home now. The Internet will be their main channel to communicate with other people, get new information, and entertain. That means they will spend more time on the Internet. That is why digital marketing is the right channel to promote your business. People now are all hanging out on the Internet. 
  5. Offline events are all canceled or postponed. All the events, i.e. conference or trade show, are either canceled or postponed. The only channel to market your business is the digital marketing channel. 

The real question is how to market effectively 

If you want your business to survive, you need to fill your sales pipeline sooner than later. Stopping marketing is not a good option. The real question is not “Should I stop marketing?” It should be “How I market effectively during these uncertain times?” Below are two actions you can take.

  1. Review your marketing budget. You might need to review your marketing budget again. Try to allocate your marketing budget, according to your sales prediction. You may need to predict the recession will last 6-12 months.  
  2. 80/20 rule. As soon as you have your marketing budget in mind, you can use the 80/20 rule to decide which marketing activities you want to have. If you have the track record, try to put your 80% of your marketing budget on the marketing activities which can bring results in the short term (1-3 months). Allocate 20% of your marketing budget on the marketing activities which can bring results in the long run (3-6 months). The principle is you want to have sales in the short term to help your company.   

The goal is to nurture leads and follow up during this time  

It takes time to close the B2B deal. Most likely, you won’t close the deal within 1 month. During these uncertain times, it might take even longer to close the deal. The goal of your marketing right now is to find potential leads, nurture the potential leads, and follow up. Most likely, you won’t find the prospects who will pay for your service or products immediately. But if you start to nurture your leads right now, they might come to you later, especially when things calm down.   

Focus more on outbound digital marketing in the short term  

Outbound digital marketing brings the results sooner, but it is not as sustainable as inbound marketing. On the other hand, inbound marketing takes time to see results, but it is more sustainable. During this uncertain time, you might need to put more budget on outbound digital marketing in the short-term. Below are some outbound digital marketing channels you may consider: 

  1. Online ads. Online ads are a very direct channel. You will reach your target audience directly. Most likely, people will see it. Also, during uncertain times, a lot of businesses might pull out their online ads. It means you might be able to get a cheaper price.  
  2. Email outreach. Email is never dead. Most b2b businesses still rely on email to communicate every day. People still read emails every day. During these uncertain times, people will even spend more time on emails to communicate. Email outreach will be an effective outbound digital marketing channel to market your business.  
  3. LinkedIn outreach. LinkedIn is a good platform to market your business. The biggest advantage of LinkedIn is you can find the exact target audience through their LinkedIn profiles. It makes your marketing outreach very precise. Also, as soon as you are connected with your target audience, it is easier for you to nurture them and build a relationship to be your potential client in the future. Compared to the other two channels above, LinkedIn outreach has more long-term values.  

Still keep inbound marketing  

Although outbound digital marketing should be your first priority during this time, you should still keep your inbound digital marketing going. Below are some inbound digital marketing channels you should consider:

  1. Social media marketing. During this uncertain time, people will spend more time on the internet. Social media will be one of the Internet channels where people stay most. You should try to reach your target audience with valuable content and have interaction with them. It is also the way to build your relationship and authority.
  2. Content marketing. When it comes to inbound digital marketing, content marketing should be in your marketing plan. You should have a clear strategy for your online content. Think about what topics your target audience might be interested in. More importantly, your content should help your target audience solve their problems.  
  3. Email marketing. Most B2B prospects still reply on emails to communicate every day. Email marketing, e.g email newsletter, would be a great way to nurture your potential clients. Unlike email outreach, email newsletter is the better channel to communicate with your current clients or prospects. The newsletter doesn’t have to be all about your business. You can also put other people’s articles, interesting things you found, or even personal updates. You will be surprised how people like to read other topics which are not related to your business in your newsletter. It doesn’t matter what topics you write on your newsletter as long as you can provide value to your readers.   
  4. SEO. SEO is also a good way to market your business, in terms of inbound digital marketing activities. It takes time to see the results, but the results last longer than most other digital marketing activities. There are different ways to do SEO. The easiest way to do SEO is to keep putting good content on your website and promote your articles through other different channels, e.g. email and social media.  
  5. SEM. Among digital marketing approaches, while SEM, e.g. PPC, is the fastest way to see the results, it could be the most expensive. However, during uncertain times, the price for PPC might be cheaper than usual. It could be a good channel to start.

Focus on the things you can control

During this time, you might find your life has lots of uncertainties. The media is all about bad news. The truth is there are a lot of things you cannot control.

During uncertain times, you should focus on the things you control, for example

  • How you run your business
  • How to take care of yourself mentally and physically 
  • How you spend your time every day
  • How you react to the current situation  
  • How you live your life  

On the other hand, don’t overreact to the things you cannot control:

  • News  
  • Virus
  • Other people’s reactions  

Things will calm down, just a matter of time. We should prepare now.

If we look at history, all the pandemic issues were solved in the end. It is just a matter of time. In addition to getting through this difficult time, you should spend time on preparing the time when things calm down. Don’t wait until things calm down. It will be too late. 

You don’t need to stop your marketing activities. Instead, you should adjust your marketing activities to fit the current situation and promote your business effectively. 

More importantly, remember to focus on the things you can control. Don’t focus on the things you cannot control. Your mindset will impact everything you do.