By Published On: August 15, 2020

What happens when 12 marketing agencies get together during COVID-19? Well, obviously, we did a Zoom conference, so that’s a new thing, but we also talked about the state of business across the U.S. From our microcosm of the Agency Management Institute Synergy group, we found the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2020 all in one Zoom event.

The highlights from the event may not be terribly surprising, but there were a few of note. Obviously, the hospitality and travel industries are suffering the most. However, our colleagues in the auto marketing industry also took a hit because, well, people quit going out for three-months. Family driving holidays were put off, commuters hit the brakes, and car dealerships shut down. There’s also a premium on inventory now because the supply chain had shut down, and there isn’t enough supply for the pent-up demand (more delayed marketing).

Consumer-based marketing agencies got hurt by brands’ reluctance to market due to the difficulty of finding the right tone and approach. You can see in this video mashup highlighted in AdAge that many brands actually struck a similar tone, messaging and musical background, trying not to offend. Many companies pulled back and are still slow to do marketing – especially to prospects with whom they don’t already have a relationship. Some financial companies, particularly mortgage companies, found the lower rate environment was already driving enough business to keep their customer service lines busy. A good problem to have, perhaps? Research has proven that brands that market through a recession come out of it better off and prosper from the rebound.

So, what of B2B brands? These brands tended to push forward with marketing if they had (1) a product that was useful during the pandemic or (2) a replacement product that helped defer maintenance or breakdowns and (3) ecommerce.

For B2B marketing, what trends are we seeing?

  • There is a focus on refined brand messaging to communicate the brand value proposition to the brand’s prospect personas
  • B2B brands are implementing and driving traffic to ecommerce through digital tactics
  • A combination of digital marketing tactics are being employed:
    • Email with retargeting
    • Digital display ads (specialty and broader)
    • Google Ads/PPC
    • Thought leadership/educational digital content development (white papers, guides, etc.) on branded landing pages with empathetic messaging (as opposed to product sell copy)

Of course, budgets are tighter, so digital marketing is the focus, because brands can readily measure the ROI of deployed campaigns. According to eMarketer, B2B digital ad spend is up 22.6% from 2019. This is causing a rise in the cost of competitive keywords. In consumer channels, traditional direct marketing is still working because people are spending more time at home and paying attention to what comes in the mailbox – away from digital clutter.

That’s the high-level view. With two content-packed days behind me, I’m excited to get back to work.

About the Author: Megan Devine

Megan Devine
Megan taps into her left-brain logic and right brain creativity—steering the business, bantering with her team, and strategizing on client work. She says it’s her dream job and we believe her. Using her passion and knack for understanding complex connections in business and marketing, she collaborates to create love between brands and customers. She possesses expertise and experience that only comes from persevering in the ever-changing marketing agency world. Megan co-founded d.trio marketing group, now cat&tonic, in January of 2000 and took sole ownership in 2019. Her vision, support, and sheer stubbornness got us through 9/11, the great recession, and a pandemic. She has judged the International ECHO Awards since 2005, has consulted for several organizations, and serves on several boards. Educated at Carleton College, she learned the importance of critical thinking for success. At home she learned the value of a good story.
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