The Marketing Strategist:

Rethinking Marketing as the Pandemic Unfolds

March 31, 2020

  • Featured Article, Marketing Strategy & Operations

What do we do now?

Here at ITSMA, we’re privileged to work with marketing leaders from many of the world’s top B2B technology, telecom, and professional services firms, and it’s both heartbreaking and inspiring to talk with our colleagues about the work they’re doing to address the accelerating crisis.

Our member companies are leading the way helping their customers stress test their business and technology strategies, strengthen digital infrastructures to enable remote working and customer engagement, maintain supply chains, monitor the health and well-being of their employees, and adjust on the fly to business as unusual.

On the marketing side, we’re supporting these rapid business adjustments as best and fast as we can, even as we scramble to cancel long-planned industry and customer events, rethink messaging, protect and reassure our own teams, check in with customers and partners, and support our local communities in any way we can.

But we’re also beginning to ponder some of the medium- and longer-term implications of the crisis, and what larger changes we might need to make beyond our immediate rebalancing.

To help support the rethinking, ITSMA is pivoting our own research and event agenda for the coming months, based on conversations with members and advisors about what can be most helpful for our B2B marketing community. Looking ahead, we’ll be focusing especially on three main themes:

  • Leading Marketing to the Next Normal
  • Engaging Executives Amid Radical Uncertainty
  • Rethinking ABM to Reinforce Key Relationships
     

Leading Marketing to the Next Normal: Building on our annual Marketing Transformation research, we’re launching an ongoing conversation among B2B marketing leaders about the priorities, challenges, and opportunities amid the global health crisis, reshaped working environments, and the acceleration of all things digital.

How do we ensure that our brand and messaging set the right tone and consistency? What data, analytics, and insight matter most to manage marketing, and how can we stay on top of the fast-changing landscape to inform leadership on what to expect? What changes do we need to consider for our teams and skills sets? How can we best prepare for the next phases of adjustment and when the next normal begins?

Along with a shorter, virtual discussion with speakers from of our planned (now canceled) annual Marketing Leadership Forum on May 19-20, we’ll kick off a new set of leadership discussions with ITSMA members and others to pull together current thinking, examples, and lessons learned as we all work through the crisis.
 

Engaging Executives Amid Radical Uncertainty: Executive engagement was already a core topic for 2020, but it takes on even more importance now as marketers need to stay close to fast-shifting priorities among their senior-level buyers and decision makers while also rethinking strategies and programs that typically rely heavily on face-to-face connection.

Which executives, audiences, and roles are most important to engage right now? How are the executives we care about changing their own preferences for solution provider content and connection? What types of digital programs should we add, change, or cut? How can we best reinforce the stakeholder relationships that matter most? What plans and contingency plans should we make for restarting face-to-face activities?

A revised version of ITSMA’s annual How Executives Engage study (moved up to this Spring) will explore how customers want to engage during this period, and we’ll share stories from leading marketers on how they are approaching engagement in new and innovative ways.
 

Rethinking ABM to Reinforce Key Relationships: A perennial priority for ITSMA, Account-Based Marketing is now perhaps the most effective way that marketing and sales can collaborate to reinforce relationships with their most important accounts, innovate new solutions, and orchestrate engagement with buyers on the issues they care about most. But ABM, like other parts of marketing, has to rethink and adjust, especially as marketing budgets come under increasing scrutiny. Optimizing ABM for the year ahead requires a more substantial review of the best path forward versus a few tactical changes here and there.

How should we adjust our overall ABM strategy and approach? What types of data do we need now to refine our approach? What do we need to do now to ensure alignment with sales? How should we rethink the accounts in our program, the ABM team and their roles, campaigns and tactics, and technology and tools supporting ABM? Do we need to rebalance our relative emphases on new and existing customers? How should we measure success during this period and beyond?

Building on ITSMA’s new ABM Adoption Model and Assessment and our annual ABM benchmarking study with the ABMLA, we’ll dig deep into the immediate changes that ABM leaders are making and considering, and the new initiatives required to boost performance in the months and years ahead.

For all three of these initiatives, we’ll bring together ITSMA’s long-established blend of targeted research with buyers, current trend analysis, practical case study examples, and community peer sharing with B2B marketing’s best and brightest.

Today, it’s hard to have any certainty about how the current crisis will continue to unfold, when the “next normal” might begin to take shape, and what that new environment might look like. But we can be clear about some critical questions that marketers need to address as they begin to look past the horizon. And, with your support and collaboration, we’re confident that we can help find some of the answers to ease the transition.
 

What do you think? Please weigh in with suggestions, let us know how we can help, and stay tuned for more.

 

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