Brand new B2B strategies for a brand new world

31st July 2020

Clients operating in many different sectors have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak very differently, from hospitality businesses more or less shutting down to financial services organisations and utilities pivoting products to technology businesses that can’t keep up with demand. Much has been written about the short, sharp shock of lockdown being a different sort of recession, stifling demand but also dramatically affecting supply. And in that context, it was clear that the proven strategy of advertising through a recession to maintain or grow share wouldn’t apply to every business.

But we’re now coming out of the short, sharp shock. Some sectors are still hurting – travel and tourism don’t look like they will get back to normal for some time, and for these clients, we will continue to support however we can. But other sectors will be quicker to re-emerge. And aside from helping clients re-open offices and businesses in a safe and sustainable way (we’re now expert in signage announcing how many people can safely use an office kitchen), we’re talking to them about how their marketing may change in the coming months.

We have a new client Coreix, an enterprise ISP that has historically made money selling hosting and colocation to businesses. To grow the business, Coreix is increasingly partnering with their customers to provide broader IT consultancy and implementation services. So far so normal. But the interesting thing is their audience. In the past, they have marketed products and services to IT decision-makers. Now though, and especially post-COVID, they also need to work with non-technical CEOs and CFOs who have suddenly seen the need for accelerated digital transformation. And this means a brand new approach to their marketing: brand-led, not product-led. Business benefits, not technology features. An evolved tone and a personality that appeals to the C-Suite as well as the IT guy.

We’re seeing the same shift elsewhere. A prospect, a research consultancy operating in a niche area of global regulation, is seeing their pre-COVID audience of regulators and specialist civil servants broadening to include Silicon Valley senior management because previously arcane regulatory knowledge is becoming rapidly business-critical. And this means that brand will play a much bigger role in communications as use cases, audience need states and content requirements proliferate.

Finally, a consultancy that has historically built relationships in banking through referral has grown a significantly larger audience in social channels through a regular lockdown publishing strategy. Post-COVID, this audience will need to be developed through a very different approach to brand-building.

New audiences with less subject-matter expertise inevitably means more emphasis on brand in communications. This is no bad thing: the LinkedIn B2B Marketing Institute, drawing on Binet & Field’s long term study of IPA Effectiveness data in B2B argues, for example, that brand-building comms are optimally balanced with shorter-term activation (lead generation) comms at roughly a 50:50 split, and that from a creative point of view (and contrary to popular belief) emotion plays as big if not a bigger part in successful B2B advertising.