How B2B Marketers Should Operate in Today’s New Reality: Do More with Less

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This week’s Demand Generation Community Meeting, was a fireside chat led by expert Brian Finnerty, VP of Growth Marketing at Demandbase and moderator Kate Levine, Associate Director Program Strategies and Program Management at KPMG. The discussion offered several new strategies for surviving today’s challenging environment.

So, how should B2B marketers operate in today’s new reality? As the Coronavirus continues to have a big impact across our society and economy, companies are forced to adjust their strategies to meet their customers’ needs and try to assess its impact. Follow along below to gain some relevant insights from Brian Finnerty, growth marketing expert and moderator Kate Levine from KPMG:

  • Levine: What was the state of B2B Marketing leading up to COVID-19? How do you think it will be after the pandemic ends?

Finnerty: Before COVID-19, we felt prepared. After the start of this pandemic, we faced a brand new reality. The economy was already declining before COVID-19, and no one was expecting a pandemic to disrupt the world and accelerate this decline. Before COVID-19, Demandbase was already noticing a lot of key economic indicators falling, which meant they were already planning for this drop in the economy. But no one can completely prepare for something like this. The result: Marketing budgets have been cut tremendously, and have already been dropping since 2016. This has been creating many efficiency gaps.

So what do we do with smaller budgets during this pandemic? There is now a huge pressure on businesses to do more with less

  • Levine: How do we do more with less? How can people increase campaign efficiency given that they have to use completely different tactics in today’s environment?

Finnerty: Most of us lost two or three of our best channels for connecting with existing members, in-person meetings being the most impactful. Even direct mail is being affected by COVID-19 because teams aren’t in their offices to receive anything. In reaction, Demandbase has moved away from traditional field marketing and is focusing their attention on digital marketing tactics instead. This includes webinars, E-Certificates, UberEats gift cards and more.

  • Levine: What can the sales and marketing teams do to create more efficiency?

Finnerty: Sales and marketing alignment is where the magic happens. There has to be agreement on the targeted/primary account lists between both teams. Alignment in campaign ideation, metrics, and messaging result in integrated and multifaceted campaigns.

Demandbase has three practices for keeping sales and marketing teams aligned:

  1. Create a funnel working group – Meet once a week with sales and marketing to force alignment.
  2. Customer working group – Meet with existing customers once a week to discuss their needs and keep them happy.
  3. Sales and Marketing Exchange – a 30 minute virtual meeting discussing what’s happening in the market, how it’s evolving and why it’s important to our business.
  • Levine: How has the focus on top funnel activities been affected?

Finnerty: The traditional waterfall model of demand generation is not as useful in this environment, especially with tight budgets. Sirius Decisions data says that top of the funnel conversion is just 4.4% or 4-5 out of 100 and only results in 0.3% wins. We can’t afford any waste in time or money. In a tighter budget environment, the Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach will produce higher quality leads and it’s a great way to improve sales efficiency. It offers a lower cost for opportunity, which is a goal we should all be chasing.

  • Levine: Without the use of technology, how do we achieve these marketing and sales alignment goals during COVID-19? What role should technology play now?

Finnerty: Even with budgets under pressure, I believe companies should still be investing in technology. We certainly need that efficiency now, and we know we’ll need it in the future. Many of us lost engagement when we lost our face-to-face channels. Technology saves us from losing all of that engagement.

Technology is also a good investment. Your technology stack is an asset to your company. Evaluating your tech stack will locate gaps in your stack and give you technology suggestions to fill these gaps.

  • Does innovation still play a meaningful role?

Finnerty: There’s pressure on B2B marketers to keep innovating and keep expanding technology. The pivot from in person meetings to digital is innovation for companies practicing remote work for the first time. We are innovating new campaigns and events that are continuing our success. Electronic mail transition, E-Gifting and technology investments are all forms of innovation, giving it an extremely important role.

Questions from our Q&A:

  • John Neeson, (former founder of SiriusDecisions): We are in unprecedented times, where we are losing channels altogether (we have not seen that before) causing newer marketing tactics like virtual lunches and other creative approaches. How are folks defending their marketing spend as companies look to decrease/eliminate it?

Finnerty: Optimize your budget around the accounts that really matter. Be strategic. Digital channels for marketing have been increasing in engagement and participation. Those are the best ways to continue marketing efficiency with a smaller budget.

  • Bob Meindl, Head of Americas Field Marketing at MathWorks, and Rachel Weeks, Head of Growth Marketing at RewardGateway: Now that events are moving virtually, should we keep geo-targeting events or open them all since they can be attended by anyone anywhere?

Levine: We are geo-targeting to keep our customers, programs and account teams close together by region. We want to be developing those relationships for when this over and to help move business forward.


Listen to the Full Recording of the Meeting Here.

See Brian Finnerty’s presentation on how ABM can help B2B marketers cope with the current reality.