Since the start of 2020, countless businesses have been affected by the domino-like cancellations of marketing conferences and events across the globe. Creative Week 2020, SXSW, Facebook F8, and Adobe Summit were just some of the large annual events that were cancelled early in the pandemic.

As cancellations mount, marketing and sales teams who rely on events for lead generation and booking meetings find themselves in a difficult position.

Financial research group TS Lombard has also predicted that Covid-19 could grag the global economy into a major recession. This looked even likelier as of Monday 9th March 2020, when Wall Street plunged 7% amid fears of global recession triggered by the coronavirus. The price of crude oil also fell 30%, hitting oil giants hard.

With such uncertainty, one thing is clear. New, creative solutions must be actioned by marketing and sales teams to keep their businesses out of the red. We’ve put together a list of smart marketing tactics to help marketers everywhere weather the crisis and explore new avenues in their strategy.

Marketing Tactic 1: Focus on your online touchpoints

Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and many other companies have already encouraged homeworking to prevent further spread of coronavirus. While this negatively impacts events and in-person meetings, it means more people will be reachable through digital channels than ever.

Samantha Barnes, Associate Director of Data Analytics at Bounteous, predicts that “the short-term impact of coronavirus will probably result in a downturn for many industries. However, we will see a spike in audience reach with the frequency of online touchpoints. Measurement strategies and goals [are being] adjusted for uncertain times. It is a chance to build long-term relationships for the next upswing.”

With more people reachable online, marketing should focus on content marketing, social media, and webinars. Meanwhile, sales can increase their social selling efforts.

Marketing Tactic 2: Create digital experiences

We all know the value of experience in marketing. There’s no reason why good experiences only have to exist offline. As digital marketing increases in popularity, this is an opportunity to experiment with new technologies and tactics to create immersive experiences as a replacement for in-person interactions.

Tom O’Regan, the CEO of Madison Logic, agrees: “Industry conferences are either the number one or number two expense line within marketing budgets for enterprise companies. These events are relied upon to generate net new accounts. Furthermore, in this environment of product commoditization, events retain and grow existing accounts. The alignment of sales and marketing teams and their success in executing virtual events and digital engagement will be the difference-maker in maintaining growth rates within their organizations.”

The worst thing a business can do right now is to leave the hole left behind by events empty. Whether it’s video, VR/AR technology, or some other way of creating a digital experience, marketing and sales must not become complacent.

Marketing Tactic 3: Put ROI first

It is likely that nice-to-have marketing activities will be forgotten. The importance of tying marketing to the bottom line should drive strategies moving forward.

This will involve taking a good, long look at your data to discover which of your tactics are delivering meaningful results that drive business growth. If campaigns are not driving growth, they might need to be cut.

Tony Rindsberg, Head of Marketing at Thankful, says: “If the current trend continues, I would have to seriously consider shutting down some campaigns.”

Natalie Barreda, Senior Manager of Paid Search at T-Mobile, drives this home. “In terms of long-term impact, we’re already starting to see how this is affecting the economy from a stock market perspective. If this continues, it’s going to trickle down to employees. It will impact how people purchase and engage with brands. Marketers will need to have very honest conversations about the likelihood of hitting goals and the value of their investments. It might be a time to dial things back and do some spring cleaning.”

Marketing Tactic 4: Be prepared to do more in-house

During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, most marketing departments had their budgets slashed by around 30% to cut costs. As a result, reduced marketing budgets means many agencies performed the same work for a fraction of the cost. However, this never recovered and the effective 30% discount became the new procurement benchmark.

Darren Woolley, Founder and Global Chief Executive of TrinityP3 made a prediction of similar in the wake of Covid-19. “As the financial impact of this pandemic unfolds, marketers will see their marketing budgets cut. Last time their agencies were happy to make up the shortfall. They believed it was short term and that business would go back to normal after the recovery. But can and will the agencies do this again?”

The reality is that an impending recession will likely constrict marketing budgets and make agency costs increasingly impossible to meet.

Marketing teams may need to do more in-house work to make up for the loss in agency involvement. Ensuring your team has the right resources, tools, and skills to do this should be a priority.

Marketing Tactic 5: Close the sales and marketing gap

In these difficult times, there will be no space for the marketing and sales divide. These two functions will have to work closely together to make up for lost revenue.

Both sides will need creative, digital solutions in order to target a panicked, risk-averse, largely digital audience.

However, the reward for businesses who get this right could be great.

As O’Regan says, “Organizations can take advantage of this new environment. They have the potential to excel even more with the right strategy focused on the accounts that matter most.”

With less time taken up by events, this could be a good opportunity to work on highly targeted account-based marketing. Working together would, as a result, ensure the most valuable prospects get the full attention of both teams.

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