Tom O’Regan is CEO of Madison Logic, and Izzie Rivers is Chief Strategy Officer of Merkle | DWA. The companies have a strong partnership and share a roster of enterprise clients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended every aspect of our business and personal lives in a record period, forcing organizations to entirely rethink their business strategies. Short-term cost measures like hiring freezes, travel bans, and furloughs are in place, with companies now looking at long-term initiatives to transform their businesses into digital-first operations.
But with face-to-face events of all sizes evaporating overnight, the marketing teams of many enterprise organizations are now hustling to replace the crucial events business with something that can deliver pipeline fulfillment and provide a proxy for sales networking with customers and prospects.
It defines a core integrated challenge: where should marketers focus digital investment for the most impact, and how is that built to be agile for long-term pipeline gain?
Digital investment must be data-driven, and holistically considered
It’s no surprise that organizations are leaning into digital, doubling down on best-performing tactics and shifting offline strategies online. What is more important is how companies are driving success through information and personalization.
We know that the modern world has seen disruption in the B2B buying market at an unprecedented level, that the reverberation through the SMB sector will be felt for many years to come, and all verticals have been affected differently by this global pandemic. Businesses must be sensitive to the needs of their individual customers and leverage digital as a growth lever that supports their prospects as they navigate their own change.
ABM delivers personalization at scale
A digital strategy should always be considered holistically; however, it’s safe to say that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a crucial part of our client’s success.
Timely audience intelligence is vital and must be strategically managed for the best return at scale. ABM can provide the laser focus that is necessary for organizations to identify and prioritize the right target accounts using a combination of first – and third-party data, as well as intent data, from multiple sources. That means digitally connecting with the best clients and prospects and identifying where an account is in the sales journey.
Strategic ABM activation can also help teams pivot. For example, the decision-makers are changing rapidly in this environment from middle management to C-Suite. It’s important to know your audience and what they care about most. Intent data can help guide communications from the C-Suite down to End Users and Directors.
Agile activation can identify new opportunities
The current economic environment is driving business confusion, which makes it difficult to predict which companies are in-market to purchase certain products and services. Incorporating personalization into a marketing strategy is therefore essential and best utilized when it is dynamic, leveraging intent information to double down on logos surging on relevant topics, and efficiently moving dollars away from companies who have over-extended their buying cycle.
From a net new customer perspective, marketers are benefitting from a more agile approach to business – identifying the whitespace and leveraging those previously untapped markets to identify new prospects and widen the sales net.
For brands that offer diverse services, real opportunities also exist with upselling and cross-selling to existing customers. Marketing to companies who already know and trust a brand increases sales velocity and has the added benefit of future-proofing customer relationships by supporting their business transformation during tough times.
Connected experiences deepen engagement for the long term
Companies are avoiding non-essential purchases during this time of uncertainty. That has dramatically affected campaign KPI delivery, with conversions dropping and traditional cost-per-lead (CPL) programs becoming more costly. What companies are doing, however, is investigating which purchases are a priority for the end of this year (and likely the beginning of next), as we move into our new normal. This has put new products and services firmly back on the consideration roadmap and extended the research stage of the buyer journey.
Therefore, the current environment is a crucial time to nurture this interest, in order to best support sales with long-term pipeline fulfillment. Marketers are doing this by turning their attention to customer experience and engagement activities, as well as rethinking how success is measured.
Digital display and long-form content still resonate with targeted buying groups, social and video engagements are increasing dramatically, and working from home is driving B2B audiences to TV and podcasts in unprecedented numbers. Virtual events and webinars also offer the ability to interact online with personalized audiences to drive interest at an account level, and that’s the first, important step.
Connected experiences then become fundamental to converting the interest generated into long term consideration. Biddable media can be leveraged to amplify this awareness and engagement at scale, providing remarketing opportunities across relevant audiences. Surging interest should be measured and activated against; for example, zeroing in on companies who display more interest than others and applying that intelligence back to the overall activity.
This multichannel approach allows businesses to not only surround the strategic future accounts as they assess their needs, but also to play the long game for business growth.
There is no clear end in sight to these times because there won’t necessarily be an end. Businesses across verticals need to best prepare themselves now to excel in a post-pandemic era. A smart strategy and agile team will be key to outpacing the competition as we advance into the future of work.