Understanding customer needs during the coronavirus crisis

‘Strange’ and ‘unprecedented’ are words we hear a lot these days. Yet there is no other way to describe such a time of risk, tragedy and uncertainty.

In our last article, we explored the ways that social distancing has changed two key forms of sales conversions: in-person meetings and large trade shows and conferences.

But it is not just networking that is being impacted by COVID-19. Humans are creatures of habit, but many of the work patterns that have been commonplace for so long have all changed in a heartbeat. Likewise, businesses are starting to reprioritise their needs in the face of a global recession.

Therefore, new ways of interacting with prospects is not the only change that marketers will face. In fact, they also need to adapt practices to new working patterns and new industry demands.

Knowing when is best

Social distancing has resulted in an array of new home workers. Organisations are being asked by their governments to avoid coming into the office to help reduce the spread of the virus.

This of course means the dynamic has completely changed for buyers. They are now surrounded by distractions from the home, be that kids, pets or social media. They may also be extending hours to fit with their new home working schedule, be that earlier or later.

This means that sales and marketing professionals need to be on-point, timely and persistent. According to the RAIN Group, it takes eight touches to get a meeting booked in – a figure we expect to increase to 12 given the shifting focus of many organisations.

As a seller, you’ll have to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on buyers, empathise with them and provide advice on how to help them with go-to-market activities. Marketers may have more luck engaging with buyers much earlier or later in the day; for example, Figure 1 shows the typical engagement rates we see across Facebook and email throughout the day.

Figure 1: Be persistent and timely

blog_image

Traditional work hours are out the window. This graphic is what Dun & Bradstreet sees for typical email open rates and Facebook engagements across a typical 9-5 day. Anticipate a shift to earlier hours and later hours given flexible work schedules.

With 88% of marketers agreeing that a Sales Development Representative (SDR) is critical for ABM success, they need to be well-armed to deal with the new ways of working. We anticipate the SDR to play an even greater role, making tools like Outreach and SalesLoft important to make the teams more effective and efficient in securing meetings.

Alongside new working patterns, people will scarcely be leaving their homes, which will become their new social hub. Therefore, marketers should consider moving OOH ad spend and events to digital channels. Through adverts on social media platforms and connected TV advertising on streaming platforms, you can target buyers on the channels that are most likely to influence them.

Lastly, as customers work from home, they will be accessing web content through their Internet Service Provider (ISP) as opposed to the network used by their business. Therefore, reverse IP lookups may show false positives. Results should be treated with more caution and solutions that can classify and screen out ISP and provide cookie and API matching can help a business target the true audience.

Think of creative ways to drive demand in struggling industries

The bread and butter of the marketing and sales professions is to look for new ways to drive demand from customers.

It is uncanny that many industries are suffering from the impact of COVID-19, including small businesses and services, manufacturing, travel, entertainment, and wholesale industries.

With these new challenges, buyers are actively searching for new solutions to their problems on Google and other search engines.

To reach these customers, you need to revise your search keywords. Understanding what challenges your customers are facing will be key; only then will you know what they are searching for. And with today’s shifting market dynamics, there’s no better time to revise your approach.

It’s important to make sure you’re using those keywords to find the important in-market buyers. Whether it is within a marketing or sales role, search keywords can be used to create personalised models that provide a good snapshot of in-market buyers. This will help when targeting those who need an immediate solution to their problems.

For example, let’s take the scenario where a regional bank is targeting small businesses for lending and banking products. Given how small businesses are struggling with the new dynamics, due to a lack of revenue and customers, the bank’s focus may shift to recognise the new priorities:

Old keywords

  • Small business banking
  • Treasury Management
  • Low interest commercial loans

New keywords

  • Emergency line of credit
  • Quick cash for small businesses
  • Payment term flexibility

It’s worth reiterating the importance of time. Competitors in the market are likely to be thinking about similar strategies to overcome the challenging situation we find ourselves in. The digitalisation of former tasks is crucial. Put simply: if your organisation hasn’t embraced digital transformation you risk being left behind.

With energy, hustle, and a little bit of thinking with your data hat on, you can save your pipeline and sales figures for the year ahead.

The B2B Marketing US Agencies Benchmarking Report 2020

Who are the US's top B2B marketing agencies? Download this free 76-page guide to find out.

Download now!

USABMR