B2B marketers: forget "downtime", it's marketing "uptime"

In this time of uncertainty and disruption, many marketers might take the opportunity to have some 'downtime'. However, as Richard Hadler outlines, this is the time when marketers need to be proactive

Normally, I’m a great sleeper. Nothing stops me from getting a solid 10 hours of sleep. Tonight, however, it’s a different story.

It’s 4:48am.

I’m sitting here unable to do anything other than think. The immense anxiety over what today (and tomorrow) holds is hampering my ability to go about my normal routine — just like many others, I’m sure. The relentless media scaremongering around COVID‐19 in the last few months hasn’t helped. Presumably, the harsh reality is your situation as a business has changed dramatically and what’s more the situation of your clients has changed dramatically. Trust me when I say, you aren’t alone. We are facing the same kind of challenges in our business and having to think well outside the box for our clients.

We’ve all seen those comments in our LinkedIn feed claiming we can all go back to ‘business as usual’ and that ‘the situation isn’t as bad as most businesses are making out’. In my opinion this is total bulls**t.

In the business community, the current social and economic environment poses questions that haven’t been asked in generations. It will require a complete shift in how we deal with the workplace and approach our day‐to‐day lives.

As marketers, I can imagine this has been a pretty tough time for you too. Not only have you had to deal with the leadership in the business panicking about the situation, you’ve probably seen your marketing metrics crumble and your budgets slashed overnight. That sucks.

This isn’t me wanting to scare you, it’s just a fact. 

This fact, however, doesn’t mean it’s an unsalvageable situation. It just means, as marketers, we have to think positively and creatively to manage through these unpredictable times.

So what should you do when your short term marketing tactics won’t deliver the results they once did?

The next steps

As a marketer, you need to take control of the situation and the onus is on you to seize the opportunities that the situation presents. But don’t dwell on the short‐term threats. You probably can’t make much of a difference anyhow.

I’ve heard a few of my marketing contacts suggest that they have never experienced ‘downtime’ quite like this. When they say ‘downtime’ they aren’t saying they’ve downed tools, but they are talking about their working environment changing so much so they now have time to reflect. This kind of reflection time can usually be ill‐afforded in our usually fast‐paced workplaces.

I would like to encourage marketers to re‐evaluate how they think about this ‘downtime’… Yes it’s important to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in the past few months/years but back to that harsh reality… Things have changed in the last few weeks. They’re going to change more. So it’s time to think about the fundamentals.

Take this opportunity with both hands. Use this time to get away from the minutia of your day‐to‐day marketing metrics or even campaign plans (which are probably irrelevant in the short term anyway) and speak to as many of your stakeholders as possible.

In this time of crisis there are two groups of stakeholders that are more important than any other (hint: it’s not the board!).

You’re already aware it’s A) your clients and B) your sales team.

But knowing it and acting on it are two different things. Be honest. Do you believe you have actually spent enough time with either your customers or your sales teams in the last 12‐months?

If your answer to that question is yes then you’re either the perfect marketer or you’re just lying to yourself!

So, what is the conclusion?

Use this downtime to involve yourself more with your customers and sales teams. Understand what they actually need from your business and more importantly from you. Let them know you are there for them and you’ll do everything you can to help them through this difficult period.

Forget ‘downtime’. Let’s call this marketing ‘uptime’.

Uptime with sales

Your sales team will be feeling just as anxious as you are. There is no doubt that they will have deals that are on the verge of collapse, clients that are too inward‐focused to speak with them and immense pressure from their leadership.

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a blog series on bridging the gap between marketing and sales. This has been an issue that has long been a thorn in marketers’ sides. This global economic situation could be your chance to help patch up these relationships and grind out results… together.

Listen to the sales teams. Not only will they be more willing than ever to tell you what they need to help them get through this difficult time, but they will also give you golden nuggets of information and client feedback at this time which should act as the foundation to your pivoted marketing strategy.

Uptime with clients

It’s easy to forget your clients are going through the same difficulties as you. They’ll have the same uncertainty, budget cuts and inefficiencies from switching on the working‐from‐home button too quickly. You need to be there for them, not just on a business level but on a human level too. Mark Ritson wrote a piece talking about the importance of humanity through marketing in these testing times and I couldn’t agree more.

Form is temporary. Class is permanent. People who know me will attest that I say that a lot! But in this instance, it’s so true.

It’s an unprecedented time for everyone but we can’t just stop. If I leave you with just one thought today then it’ll be this quote widely attributed to Walt Disney: 

All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you

There is solace in knowing that you aren’t being kicked alone. We’re all going through this together. Stay strong and stay safe.

Ready to provoke the truth?

Get in touch.
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