Panic, Plan or Persevere: B2B Tech Marketing During the Coronavirus Crisis

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy motivational poster, we all know that during a crisis there are only two things you can control: your attitude and your actions. 

In our experience, we’ve seen B2B tech companies go down one of three paths when hard times hit. They either 1) immediately panic and cut budgets, 2) pause and step back to plan for better days, or 3) forge ahead with business as normal. 

How is your tech company reacting during this unprecedented pandemic and recession?

 

When your tech company is the "the panic-er"

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What the executive team thinks:

“Our top priority needs to be conserving funds. Marketing is ultimately a cost center, so we need to cut back as much as possible, as fast as possible. This includes cutting external spend and lowering the headcount within our internal department.”

How that affects the marketing department:

“The executive team has cut our budget and we need to make some hard choices. Not only do we have to lay off some of our fellow team members, who we all consider friends, we need to fire our marketing agency, too. My boss expects the remaining barebones staff to handle all of this extra work on top of their normal jobs, even though it’s outside of our areas of expertise. To make matters worse, we can only stick to ‘free’ tactics—our entire paid media budget has been axed.”

Long-term implications:

While budget cuts to marketing might seem necessary in the short-term, they often have unintended long-term consequences. When you reduce your marketing efforts to basically nothing, that means your pipeline dries up. Without new customers to replace normal churn, your business will decline. This leaves the door wide open for competitors who have continued to position themselves as a strong industry leader during the crisis.

Don’t believe us? Consider this advice from Henry Ford: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”

 

When your tech company is the "plan ahead-er"

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What the executive team thinks:

“The timing isn’t right to launch any big new initiatives, but we should use this slow time to plan for the future. That way, when the crisis does die down, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running right away .”

How that affects the marketing department:

“We might need to temporarily hit ‘pause’ on some of our upcoming campaigns, but this is a nice opportunity to step back and reassess our priorities for later in the year. We can do a comprehensive SEO audit, reexamine our buyer personas and other behind-the-scenes items that we’ve honestly been putting off for too long.”

Long-term implications:

Allowing employees the chance to use downtime time to prepare for when the crisis ends is commendable. When other tech companies are laying off staff, your team members will be dedicated and hard at work preparing for brighter days. 

But remember…planning for the future doesn’t mean you can ignore today. Be sure to keep up with your day-to-day marketing activities while simultaneously doing more strategic, long-term planning. 

After all, a study by American Business Press and Meldrum & Fewsmith showed that “sales and profits can be maintained and increased in recession years and in the years immediately following by those who are willing to maintain an aggressive marketing posture, while others adopt the philosophy of cutting back on promotional efforts when sales appear to be harder to get.” (Source: F&I.)

 

When your tech company is "the persevere-er"

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What the executive team thinks:

“We recognize that cutting back on marketing can have disastrous long-term ramifications, so we’re going to go against the grain and continue on as normal. We may have to adjust our messaging and tactics a bit to stay relevant, but pulling back is not an option. In fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to gain on our competitors who are being more conservative.”

How that affects the marketing department:

“Hallelujah…our leadership recognizes the importance of marketing! Yes, it sucks to have to tweak our content calendar and campaigns, but that just means we have the liberty to get creative. This is a great opportunity to try out more paid social, double down on webinars and experiment with other awesome digital techniques.”

Long-term implications:

Continuing to invest in marketing will ultimately give tech companies a competitive edge over competitors who are slow to react. By producing helpful content during a crisis, you’ll be seen as a thought leader by employees, customers and prospects alike, compared to other companies who will simply “go dark” during hard times. 

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So yes, while it seems counterintuitive to keep investing in marketing when your prospects are less likely to buy, it really is the best path for B2B tech companies. After all, a study by McGraw-Hill showed that "businesses that maintained or increased their ad spending during the recession averaged higher sales growth during the recession and in the following three years."  (Source: F&I.)

Moral of the story? Adopt a forward-looking attitude toward marketing vs. being blinded by the current crisis.

Ask us questions about tech marketing during the coronavirus crisis.