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Marketing During the Pandemic: Insights from the CMA B2B Council

B2B Council Apr 23 2020 2:34 PM


While Covid-19 is having an impact on everyone, new global research [1] on how the pandemic is affecting marketing indicates that, compared to B2C marketers, their B2B counterparts: 


  • Are experiencing less job redundancy 

  • Appear to be more efficient and effective working remotely 

  • Are less likely to delay or cancel marketing spending 

We asked the CMA B2B Council for their perspectives on the impact of COVID-19, and while there is no single answer for every situation, many of the insights below are applicable across a multitude of organizations and industries.

As most interactions shift online to video and audio chats, clients and customers are online now more than ever before. Many companies will shift to digital marketing strategies and use channels like Tiktok, WhatsApp or Snapchat, which may not have been part of their marketing mix earlier.

Customers are shifting their mindsets to buying local and helping small and medium businesses. This is likely to increase e-commerce demand for those companies, so now is the time to go online/digital if you are not in the game already.  

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a global issue, and physical distancing is keeping us separate, now, more than ever, it’s important to find a way to make personal connections through your brand.  

Listen with empathy to your customers and acknowledge and respond appropriately, while keeping in line with your core values.  

Conquest sales messaging is just wrong right now. If that is your current objective and plan, change your message to a brand-building one. Or change your product focus and/or pricing to actually help your customers survive the pandemic. Microsoft Canada has done this by educating B2B customers on using desktop collaboration tools to coordinate their Covid-19 responses. Microsoft also created a free crisis communications app for the healthcare segment, which includes temporary access to premium product features. 

Be authentic. If you don’t regularly connect with a group of consumers or customers, don’t do it now. Don’t say, ‘We’ve got your back’ if you haven’t said it before. Above all, be more human in your marketing, in whatever form that takes.

Everyone knows to shift messaging but to what? One of reassurance? Of keeping promises? Of innovation? Marketers in these wildly changing times can do a lot to help analyze, re-prioritize and do something unprecedented with their brands. It may be a mixed message to say, ‘shift priorities but stay the course’, until you look at history and see that companies that maintain or increase marketing presence during a crisis often come out well on the other side. 

As B2B marketers, we should be shifting our strategy to one of authenticity, optimism and genuine support. COVID-19 and social distancing have changed the way that many businesses operate.   

Messaging in the B2B space should be delivered with compassion, intersecting organizations’ strengths and capabilities with the numerous challenges that businesses are facing at this time. 

Crisis management environments are fluid and marketers need to be in tune with the dynamic nature of the situation and how customers are responding and reacting in real-time. This is where customer engagement, a key component of any marketing relationship, is most critical.  So, this is not ‘business as usual’. Marketing campaigns and programs will continue, but they will take a completely different form and tone. The message of ‘buy’ will need to be turned on its head. The focus should be on support and instilling confidence in your clients that you are there to help them navigate through these difficult times, both internally and with their customers. And remember, it is in difficult times where your corporate culture and beliefs will be branded by your customers.

Some of the best messaging I have seen has put corporate goals to the side and delivered truly compelling content about how businesses are changing with our temporary new reality. For example, Galen Weston has been on point with tone and content in his email messages to Loblaws customers and partners. No, this is not business as usual. Yes, there will be some pain points. We are all in this together. 

If your business has been deemed an essential service, it is also a good time to highlight how we can all help each other. Tailored communication to your customer base is of the utmost importance. Dig deep to find the pain points they are experiencing right now and communicate solutions to help them through this critical time. Helping each other now strengthens the relationship for the future.  

[1] Marketing Week/Econsultancy, 2020   



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