Marketing during COVID-19, like everything else during these strange times, is not going to be easy. However, as Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
It is never a bad time for good PR. However, in light of the daunting challenges currently facing all humanity, should your B2B public relations, marketing and sales strategies pause, pivot or proceed as usual?
First, all company communications have to take into account that people are suffering physically, emotionally and economically. So, emails that just a few months ago may have been designed to “sell baby, sell” have hopefully already been altered. They need to convey a more helpful, supporting and selfless tone. If not, it is never too late.
However, there will be a point when this pandemic, which will leave an indelible mark on all of us, begins to fade and we must begin to think about the aftermath. While there is no crystal ball to tell us when that day will come, it is important to begin looking at what those next steps will entail.
Addressing sales during COVID-19
From a sales perspective, the questions include: when is it okay to resume those cold calls and emails again? Is it okay to follow up with prospects in the pipeline?
One thing to remember is that we are all in this together. No one is immune from the effects of this pandemic, but some industries are obviously being hit harder than others. So, one key is to address the issues we are all facing head-on. Let your prospects know that you understand that this is a very difficult and stressful time for everyone, but don’t be afraid to inquire about how this is affecting them and their business.
Be empathetic to the current state of affairs and don’t be afraid to confront the elephant in the room; that no one really knows when it will be the appropriate time to return to business as usual.
Finally, it is going to be important for your message to be one of helping, not pushing a product or service to secure a sale. You want them to know that when the time is right, you are here for them.
The need for leads
Traditionally, sales people would be setting in-person meetings, attending trade shows and calling prospects on the phone. However, just about every sales person is now grounded and trade shows have either gone virtual (I can’t see this working), been canceled or rescheduled. Phone calls may seem more viable, but with many people working from home, it may make reaching your prospects a lot more difficult.
That’s where advertising and PR can be a huge help with marketing during COVID-19. Even before this pandemic, one the most ideal places for B2B operations to do that is in trade publications. A report from MediaGrowth Research indicated that more than 92% of engineers were reading industry publications. With fewer distractions, those numbers very well may have increased, as decision makers try to stay abreast of how their industry is handling things.
“We are 100% maintaining our production schedule dates,” says one of the publishers & editors of Process Heating and Process Cooling magazines.
In fact, to meet the anticipated demands of those working remotely, they will actually be ramping up their digital offerings.
Herb Woerpel, editor in chief of Engineered Systems, says they too are publishing on schedule, and that, as one may expect, they will be looking to focus some of their content on the crisis at hand.
“When a pandemic comes along that shifts the entire earth’s axis, we tend to do whatever we can to include some form of coverage,” says Woerpel.
Pitching relevant stories
However, each of the editors we spoke with made it clear that any pandemic related news must include an angle that impacted their audience and their industry.
“I’m looking for news and features on efforts to design, develop, and produce products and equipment – face shields, masks, ventilators – that meet the needs of medical personnel and emergency first responders,” says Mark Shortt, editorial director of Design-2-Part Magazine.
While editors look to include COVID-19 related content in upcoming issues, they also plan to maintain their responsibility to relay the news that is critical to their readers.
“We’re currently trying to incorporate as much news about COVID-19 as possible as we’re going through this crisis,” explains Shortt. “At the same time, we’re still following our editorial calendar and are open to receiving stories and pitches on topics other than COVID-19.”
It is clear that the Coronavirus is reshaping the ways we live and do business, therefore it is critical that we all adapt to thrive during these trying times.
According to IEEE GlobalSpec, more than 60% of marketing leaders are looking to postpone, cut or outright cancel their upcoming marketing spends. However, the research shows cutting marketing in the face of an economic downturn is a huge mistake. This actually makes it an ideal time to outpace competitors and reach prospects through trade publications – either through advertising or by generating feature articles.