5-Step B2B Marketing Plan for Covid-19

Olin Hyde
April 8, 2020

Five new realities redefine marketing starting now:

  1. The most obvious first:  Events disappear in 2020 and then return slowly; forcing marketers to find new ways to generate leads. We are seeing a mass movement away from events towards content marketing as businesses scramble to fill pipelines. If you don’t have a way to replace event marketing… immediately skip to the next section and do a virtual event or webinar now. Need an audience?  Pay for registrations.
  2. Budgets will shrink dramatically as we enter a deep recession with unemployment soaring to levels not seen in our lifetimes.  The dramatic decrease in consumer spending will have an impact on business-to-business spending. We have no idea how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last or how deep it will impact the global economy. What we do know:  It takes a lot longer to climb out of a recession than it does to fall into one. So be prepared for a long haul back to growth.
  3. Traditional data sources are now worthless because it is impossible for traditional data vendors to monitor and report on rapidly changing firmographics such as headcount, revenues, and technology stacks (along with just about everything else). It takes a lot longer to collect information on a company from the outside than it does for management to cut costs on the inside. Expect to see a lot of canceled contracts for SaaS subscriptions (think: force majeure). DiscoverOrg, D&B, and the rest of the data market just became almost useless to marketers.
    “Expect to see a lot of canceled contracts for SaaS subscriptions”

    You must start collecting data from every campaign you run. Use this data to refine every subsequent campaign. If you use agencies to manage your campaigns, they must be included in the data collection, analytics, and continuous improvement process to increase campaign effectiveness. Gone are the days of “fire and forget.”

  4. New ways to engage online will rapidly evolve as cookies disappear, data privacy gets stricter, and people get used to WFH. Google Chrome will follow Apple Safari by banning third-party browser cookies by 2022. This will eliminate display intent data outside of what Apple and Google are willing to sell. At the same time, privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CASL require companies to get explicit permission from people before gathering data on them. The combined effect of requiring opt-in while banning cookies makes personalization much more difficult.
  5. Marketing careers will now be built upon unit economics. Metrics will drive every decision. This requires attribution at every step of the funnel. Gone are the days when a marketer was valued because of experience, creative insights, or things that don’t get measured with either $ or %. Marketing suffers the fate of being dependent on sales teams to close deals and operational teams to keep customers happy. Marketers must bring in the right customers (think ideal customers) to drive conversions of leads into closed-won sales and with customers that continue to buy more (retained revenue). Measuring marketing as an independent function is at best a leading indicator of value… but more often becomes just a vanity metric to justify spending (bad idea during Covid). A bad measure is cost-per-click (CPC) because clicks are not revenue. Lots of people can click and never become customers.The gold standard measure for marketing is the ratio of CLV:CAC (customer lifetime value to customer acquisition cost). There is no standard way to measure CLV or CAC from the Marketing Accountability Standards Board. But every CFO will have a “good enough” way to measure both numbers. At LeadCrunch, we measure CLV as the sum of expected gross margin for the lifetime of customer and CAC as the sum of all sales and marketing costs associated with capturing that customer.  A ratio of greater than 3 is good for most businesses with gross margins above 60%. LeadCrunch raised our Series A financing on a CLV:CAC of 5.1. Another good benchmark is the measure of marketing efficiency. This is marketing’s contribution to gross margin growth. This is calculated by measuring how much gross margins grew between two periods of time (e.g., growth from Q1 to Q2) divided by how much marketing spent prior to the change (e.g., during Q1). You pick the period (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, etc.) based on the total customer acquisition time (e.g., the time between lead identification to closed-won) plus time for revenue recognition. For our business, this is a 6-month cycle so we measure on a rolling 6-month basis. Marketers need to use 10x thinking about this. At LeadCrunch, we shoot for at least $10 increase in gross margin for every $1 spent on marketing. Every business is different, the standards you use to evaluate your marketing effectiveness need to fit your specific business model. Here’s the marketing efficiency equation we use at LeadCrunch:
    Marketers must look at these measures from the perspective of the CEO and the boardroom. Marketers are given money to convert into high-quality revenue — not to spend on programs. So whatever program you are using, it must be measured against its impact on revenue knowing that revenue comes from the work of different departments working together for a common goal: delighting customers. Thus, good marketers take into consideration how they create value with other departments. Great marketers drive metrics that make shareholders happy.

What B2B Marketers Must do Now

Understand how Covid-19 impacts your customers.

You must find new opportunities as many of your best customers disappear.

We recommend segmenting your customers using several dimensions (or ways to look at them). At a minimum, your segmentation for the rest of 2020 must include dimensions that evaluate:

      • The risk Covid-19 poses to your customers’ customers. 
      • Customer buying cycle time. You need to separate the fast from the slow to develop accurate pipeline projections. 
      • Demand drivers. These are the factors that create demand for your product. For example, if you are a unified telecommunications company (such as 8×8, Five9, Nextiva, etc.) then you must know the density of communication needs for any given company. Headcount matters far less than knowing how much each employee needs to communicate. 
      • Engagement drivers. These are the subjects that your prospects want to read about. This is where you use lookalikes to target prospects that are just like the ones you just engaged. In other words, repeat what just worked. 
      • Ideal customer profiles. These are the titles and personas that buy from you. For example, your best customers might be early-adopters who are responsible for the manufacturing function of a company. Do not fall victim to thinking you can guess titles then look up ICPs from a database. LeadCrunch has identified more than 10 million unique titles on LinkedIn. All of these can be classified into about 300 distinct functions — but only if you read the job descriptions. This is where you need to use an artificial intelligence tool to do this at scale.

Go virtual.

Do a virtual event. Now. These should be short, timely, and easy to produce. They are totally unlike conferences in real life. Many of our largest and most well-known customers are engaging LeadCrunch to do cost-per-registration events. Millions of work-from-home (WFH) professionals are hungry for a break to engage with new ideas and people. No doubt, this is a short window of opportunity. So move fast while it lasts.

Move fast. Cut deep.

The market is changing faster than at any time in history. Delays cost money and careers. Focus on what works. Ditch everything else. Bonus points go to marketers that are first to fire an underperforming vendor or cancel a SaaS subscription that no one uses.

Segment, segment, segment.

Yes, you have already done this. Unfortunately, none of your segments are valid in the post-Covid world because of all the reasons listed above. The data you used to segment is now wrong. Your engagement methods must evolve. And you don’t want to bet your career on the old way of measuring results that don’t drive revenue (such as CTRs). You need new segments and a plan to capture each one.

Command and control.

Run campaigns where you control outcomes and measure results. You must have a dashboard. If you don’t have one, require your vendors to provide analytics to you as part of everything they do. Your job depends on making marketing accountable and transparent. Here’s a link to a simple dashboard you can use for free.

Before and After Covid:  Why B2B marketing will change

Post-Covid Reality What Dies Why
Data-driven decisions for all marketing. You will have a customer data platform (CDPs), data quality assurance systems, and an analytics platform with a dashboard.  Most 3rd-party data services get replaced with data that you collect from campaigns and your internal marketing systems.  1st party data collected from campaigns will be more reliable and cleaner than traditional 3rd party sources. Once you clean this data, you must clean, organize, and understand it. Use CDPs or your demand gen partners can do this for you. 
A.I.-driven “smart targeting” enables you to target very small segments of the market with highly relevant content. Account-based Marketing (ABM) becomes a starting point for A.I. Once the A.I. runs a few campaigns, it creates precise lists and actionable intelligence with self-learning feedback loops.   ABM is too static and relies upon opinion. It fails to tell you what you are missing in the market while it assumes you know what to target.

A.I. finds patterns in ways that humans cannot. It  segments markets into lookalikes so that marketing programs can rapidly scale outreach with highly relevant content. 
Unit economics drive marketing decisions Guesswork Budgets get much smaller as CMO’s are held accountable for ROI. It’s difficult to attribute revenue to specific accounts for subscriptions.
Lookalike marketing becomes the de facto standard for all outbound campaigns, including social, content, webinars, and display. Everything you did before 2019, including:

  • Events in real life
  • Weak signal marketing (such as single signal intent) 
  • Anything dependent on 3rd party cookies (think programmatic display ads).
  • Branding without measurable ROI
Artificial intelligence now gives us tools that know which “…half of advertising is wasted.”

Targeting is the hardest part of marketing. It informs every decision from how to segment to how to engage. Targeting defines the efficiency of conversion from the top to the bottom marketing and sales funnels. Google, Facebook, and Amazon captured 68% of all digital advertising using lookalike ads because they work better. If you are not using lookalikes, you are betting on history beating the future.   



Further Reading

Lainey Mebust
June 15, 2020
Lainey Mebust
May 29, 2020
Lainey Mebust
April 8, 2020