Covid19 marketing where next?

Chart showing downward trend after COVID19 outbreak

After COVID19 marketing may look different. Since the Pandemic began, my inbox has been full of webinar invites and notices about virtual events that are replacing the real-life ones.  Without doubt, the pandemic has changed marketing. I sense that some of this change is here to stay.

B2B Marketing wrote a useful post about the future of trade shows, making the points that some groups of people will be unable or unwilling to travel for a while. They suggest that future events may need virtual and physical elements.

Meanwhile we are becoming experts on Zoom, joining events without wasting time travelling. With yoga classes and musical performances also taking place this way, I can see there is potential to use this medium much more creatively.

Positive and negative change

With digital communications replacing business travel, distance doesn’t matter any more. If your business tended to be local or regional because of the practicality of travelling, it may be able to reach further now. For example, a sales manager in the South of England can talk to accounts in the North more easily with online tools, and save many litres of fuel.

However telesales, the mainstay of leads generation for many IT businesses, will struggle when many are working from home. It will become harder to reach people who are mostly out of the office using a mobile phone.

Content marketing is exploding

Content marketing was already the biggest trend in marketing. However as more people do it, it’s becoming more competitive. This means success will depend on keeping up with search engine optimisation and choosing appealing topics.

As an independent PR and writer, I sometimes take a cynical or critical view of the rest of the marketing industry. I actually don’t agree that content marketing should work to rigid content plans. The COVID19 outbreak has shown how fast everything can change, and how a pre-set content plan can rapidly become irrelevant and even wrong.  I think a content strategy is better. Certain topics are included in a plan, but the calendar should be left open to address the most topical question for each day or week.

How to prepare for recovery?

It would be helpful to know what the recovery will look like and when each business sector will be able to function normally again. In the absence of that information, it may be better to prepare for more than one scenario, and allow for a certain amount of social distancing to remain in the medium term.

Without trade shows and conferences, other forms of leads generation will be needed. This means that the budgets – whatever will be available – will go somewhere else.

People will continue to work and read online, so digital marketing is likely to appear even more attractive post pandemic.

On the PR and advertising side, publishers are trying hard to keep going as before – so these routes to market should not change much and will hopefully emerge as valuable channels to market, particularly where there is a leads generation mechanism along with branding.

Launching in lockdown?

Whether you launch or not will depend on what you sell. If your customers are firefighting or furloughed, this may not be the time for a launch. Budgets are constrained where incomes have dried up. Some companies are investing, for example where they need to adjust to remote working and equip their teams to do this properly for the long term. But the challenge is that no one can plan very far forward.

Business has been different during lockdown. The pandemic period has seen people and communities coming together in mutual support and we have noticed examples of great generosity as businesses help others through the darkest period. Companies that have been able to do this will emerge with new respect on the other side.

For many the difficult locked-down period has been mostly a time to time to keep in touch with customers and build relationships, and complete some housekeeping tasks ready for the recovery. It’s a great time to update  websites.

Covid19 marketing – enterprise in adversity

It is good to see a business finding opportunity amid disaster. Chris Brazil at Ideal Exhibitions has done just that. Congratulations to Chris for seeing the opportunity. After stories of people’s washing appearing in the background of Zoom calls, his branded backdrops will ensure our domestic environment never distracts in a conference call again!

Anna Wood

Feel free to get in touch to talk about content marketing, blogging or PR:  info@technologypr.co.uk 

Links:

Branded backdrops

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6648238681058619393/

The future of face-to-face events

https://www.b2bmarketing.net/en-gb/resources/blog/show-must-go-or-must-it-what-b2b-marketing-leaders-think-about-future-face-face

PR and Digital Marketing

PR and digital marketing work well together. I call myself a PR consultant working with technology businesses. However the work overlaps with Digital Marketing.

You will probably know that PR stands for Public Relations. That name is quite strange. In the field where I work, most companies who care about PR simply see it as part of their marketing communications.

PR and some history

The old school Public Relations profession was born after the Second World War when people from the Diplomatic Corps and Secret Services went back to Civvie Street and offered their skills to business.  Employers found their skills useful for wining and dining clients, public speaking and meeting and greeting VIPs.

Today most people think of PR in connection with a company’s reputation, and especially in connection with positive stories in the media. Media used to mean newspapers, magazines and  broadcast channels – today it includes online and social media as well. There are business and technical media for every market sector and niche you can think of, especially when you include the growing numbers of bloggers.

PR and Digital Marketing

We have reached a point where online media matter more than print media.  Readers are more aware of the environment and don’t want to throw paper away after a short life. It is often easier to read news online, and companies are thinking digitally for much of their marketing – their chief aim is to be visible online and rank high in search engines, and online articles play an important role here.

The relationship between PR and Digital Marketing is interesting. There was a period a few years ago when Digital Marketing seemed to sideline PR, because it promised quick measurable results which many business people found attractive. It also offered channels that are free of charge – the only cost is the resources used to create content and promote it.

However Digital Marketing changes all the time and it is becoming more sophisticated. Now people want high quality well-written content delivered  to an editorial plan just like in the world of PR and publishing.  People want articles and blog posts that are of publishable standard and “a good read”.  In the context of online media, PR skills have become highly relevant again.

It has become important to have someone on your team who can write, and write fast in a readable way. They need to be able to write for humans and for search engines, so they need to have a good understanding of the digital environment.  Ideally they will be able to write a piece which works well to promote your company, and helps to bring organic traffic to your website from the Internet.

This form of PR helps companies to become visible in their market AND contributes to search engine ranking. It can explain  complex marketing messages.  It can reach out beyond a company’s own customer list and database and touch new contacts. Today there are many marketing and digital channels to consider. PR has moved on a long way from wining and dining clients.

B2B Marketing Post GDPR

With the GDPR research and compliance just about complete for my own business, I have been thinking how B2B marketing will progress in the post GDPR world. GDPR forces us to think more like sales people, who focus closely on the best opportunities, and less like the now old-style digital marketer who worked extensively with large databases, click rates and “opens”. People liked the predictability of working that way – knowing that if you email 10,000 contacts, 1% would respond gave a neat way to justify the cost of a campaign. The trouble with those campaigns was that the other 9,900 people receiving your email message may have viewed it as rubbish, or mildly annoying at best. From next week we should see fewer unwanted messages in our inboxes.

GDPR – people choose what they receive

But it poses a question for B2B marketers. Until the 25th of May, email marketing was the number one tool in the digital marketing toolbox for customer acquisition, however from next week an email shot to cold list or a third party database won’t be legal unless the contacts have “opted in” to receive communications – and going forwards the marketing lists available are likely to be quite a lot smaller but not proportionately cheaper.

The remaining digital options for customer acquisition are: pay per click advertising, blogging and online PR / advertising, the social networks, and organic search – where most businesses would need to invest in SEO and a tool to watch who visits your website. Each of these options needs a bit of investment. It will still be possible to offer webinars and white papers, but when the GDPR rules come into force website visitors will be able to be more selective about the messages they agree to receive, so the new contacts or “leads” coming from these methods are likely to be fewer.

The social networks can be effective for business development, and will present a good opportunity for some businesses – in particular, I know people who have used the paid promotional options on Linkedin with good results. However the social networks can only work IF the individuals you want to do business with are active users there, so they don’t work for everyone – and as their algorithms are continually changing, it would be a sensible to keep this kind of activity under constant review.

It seems that the era of the cheap digital marketing is now behind us, and marketing budgets may need to be re-focused.

The traditional ways of finding new customers – trade shows, events, telesales and even direct mail – will continue largely unchanged and may even see a little revival.

How to move forwards?  We should watch what is happening with trade media. They provide good channels for B2B promotions but have suffered in the last few years from the shift away from print and loss of advertising revenue.  Now they could see an increase in interest – probably mostly in the digital area. In particular, I believe this will be the case where the publishers with greater foresight have already established useful publications for lots of specialist market sectors. There has been a gentle movement in this direction for some time. The same goes for exhibitions and conferences where there’s a clear trend towards smaller, more focused events.

Content marketing for leads

Content marketing is high priority for technology businesses. This means that the resources and budget that are allocated to content marketing are growing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing where you aim to meet prospective customers by posting the content they are looking for on your website. It is a key part of digital marketing for many businesses as it brings new contacts by organic search. That is to say it brings new contacts from people searching on the internet. This means that the “content” you publish should answer the questions your prospective customers are currently asking.   The content can be text, images, info-graphics, video or podcasts, However most of content is simply text. This is probably because it is the easiest and least expensive to create. Video comes second because people seem to love viewing video.

Case studies are very popular for content marketing, especially for technology companies. They are useful for marketing any high value product or service as a success story should encourage more buyers to go ahead and purchase the same solution.

A story or article for content marketing should be unique, i.e. it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet. This is another reason for choosing customer case studies, they belong to your company, and are ideal material to use.

However, companies use other forms of written content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. News items and comments on industry news are also good. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work well, because it contains information that is genuinely valuable to the reader.

Whatever the content, it needs to work effectively for search engines as well as human readers. This means that the writer should write with an awareness of the SEO goals, or the text may be edited later to be more suitable for search engines.

While this sounds easy, businesses often find it hard to create enough content that is good enough to use.  It should contain something that people really want to read if it is to work well.

One way to achieve this is to take an editorial approach as editors are used to writing for their readers and understand what makes a good read.

Working to a content plan or content strategy will help.  A content plan will ensure that the writing keeps to the right topics, and that it covers the areas people are interested in. The best content can be often case studies, as mentioned before, or it can be an article based on new research or an interview with a subject expert.

Finally it should be written to a high standard which reflects your company’s brand and values.

Content marketing takes more effort than people realise, but when it is done well, it becomes a very useful source of new contacts. However, when you compare content marketing with other ways of gaining new contacts, such as attending a trade show or staging a marketing campaign, these also come with significant costs. It is not surprising then that if content marketing is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.