We held our annual B2B marketing event, Bigbeat LIVE, from August 3rd to the 7th.
This year we held the event online over five days with six different themes over the course of the week. The overarching theme of this year’s event was ‘What future will you paint?’ and focused on the struggles of marketers in the age of COVID-19. Nobody is sure on what the right thing to do is in this current pandemic and there are no best practices to follow, so many companies are going through trial and error and trying to figure out what to do.
Be sure to check out the interview at the end of this article!
One of the themes of August 6th was ‘Global’ where we focused on the challenges of companies and marketers outside of Japan, as well as what they were doing to drive business and get through this pandemic. This blog will recap our America session titled ‘Understanding the Marketing of Today: The Situation in America.’
This session was divided into two parts.
In the first part we heard from Neal Schaffer, CEO of PDCA Social, who discussed the need for companies to play a positive role in their communities because people need to help each other in order to get through this pandemic.
During the second part, Bigbeat’s own Joseph Slucher interviewed Neal on the state of America and its digital and B2B marketing.
The founder and representative of PDCA Social, which helps large and small businesses with their sales and marketing digital transformation (DX) through consulting, training, strategy creation and implementation. He is also a professor at RUTGERS BUSINESS SCHOOL in the United States and the IRISH MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE in Ireland. He has given lectures in more than ten countries on four different continents. His 4th book, "THE AGE OF INFLUENCE," was published in March 2020, and has been well received by the marketing industry for redefining digital influencer marketing. He was also a featured guest speaker at the first Bigbeat LIVE in 2017.
During the first half of the session, Neal gave a presentation on corporate messaging during the age of the Coronavirus.
When the pandemic originally hit the US, many companies froze, unsure of what to do. But Neal focused on one quote from an executive VP of the retail company Walmart:
“Business exists to serve society.”
Neal claimed “the most fundamentally important thing right now is to find a way to serve society. If you are not serving society when they need you most, which is now, you will become irrelevant both during the pandemic and especially after the pandemic.” He focused on the fact that if your company stays silent in a time when your customers need you most, you will not only lose business during the pandemic, but that business will not return to you after.
But how can companies help and serve their communities?
As Neal discussed in his presentation, they must first focus on their messaging and making sure that it is “relevant with the day that we live in today.” Does your social media content make sense? Is your website up to date with your latest business hours and policies regarding the current crises?
The next question you should ask is “what is your company doing to help in this situation?”
Especially if you are a B2B SaaS company, there are many things you can do to serve your customers and help them overcome this pandemic. Companies who have been successful at this have given out several months of free subscriptions to support business and society move forward. They are giving free consulting and trying to support society in a meaningful way.
Not only does this help your customers, but it increases your engagement and touch with the customer. And those customers you help get through the pandemic will remember your support. So once the pandemic is over and the economy recovers, they may become paying customers and fans.
During his presentation, Neal stressed the need to meet your customers where they are. And that is in the digital space.
If your company has been putting improvements to your back end off because you were busy with other things, now is the time to focus on those improvements. People cannot meet face-to-face right now so companies need to make the effort and reach out to their customers digitally. But when we say digitally, what do we mean?
“This is just traditional digital marketing. They are searching on the Internet for information, and, believe it or not, still reading emails which is not as popular in Japan, but in America email marketing is still very popular. And they are on social media. So, if you want to meet your customer digitally, you must do so through email, search, and/or social. These are the three areas where you need to show up and engage with your customers and prospects.”
He advised companies that are late to the game to focus on becoming more digital and building up their digital infrastructure, because companies need to have a “digital first mindset” during this pandemic.
At the end of his session he summarized his advice for companies into 3 points:
1) Serve your community
2) Improve your back end
3) Accelerate you digital
If companies cannot follow these three pieces of advice, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant during and after the pandemic.
After Neal’s presentation, Bigbeat’s Joseph Slucher got the chance to interview Neal and dig more into the current state of America and what kind of actions companies can take to improve their business.
During their conversion Joseph asked Neal about American B2B companies and their digital marketing. In Japan, American is seen as a digital marketing powerhouse, but what is it really like?
As Neal explained “B2B digital is behind in Japan, and I think we could say the same as well in the United States. It is not as advanced as you might think. There is still a lot of room for companies to grow into. They are trying to accelerate that as we speak. But the technologies are there and there are companies that are doing extremely forward-facing things but not enough of them.”
He said that although the technology savvy industries have a lot of examples of B2B companies successfully using digital strategies, but more traditional B2B industries are still behind. But this pandemic has caused even those industries to accelerate their digital and push forward, because the only way to engage with your customer right now is in the digital space.
Joseph also had the opportunity to ask Neal about how companies can engage with their current customers and build fans. Social media is great tool for this because it is “not just a place for marketing but it’s a way to collaborate.”
While much of social media becomes a pay-to-play situation where the more money you pay the more effective your marketing becomes, there are real chances to collaborate with the influencers in your industry and incite word of mouth in organic social media. Smart companies are using influencers to build a community of fans and engage with their customers.
And influencers do not only mean those with millions of fans. The use of nano-influencers is also effective at doing this.
As Neal described “even someone that has a genuine community of a thousand followers, people following them for a reason, and hopefully that reason is related to our business. Just by tapping into one or two nano-influencers, who already know, like and trust us, we can begin to make that same impact as if we were doing it organically ourselves. But the key thing is that they are talking about us and we are not doing the talking. And that is critical because people trust people more than they trust content and what companies say about themselves.”
And you should look to your employees first to find those nano-influencers. Who has a genuine community that they can spread your company’s message? How can you collaborate with them to build their community and train them to become better influencers? By focusing on this your company can build better engagers with you customers.
At the end of his session Neal gave the following message to our audience:
“I know that you are all thinking digital. Really think about how you can have impact with digital media. I think that you really want to have impact, so find ways to really have impact in everything you do digitally and I think that you will find new customers and you will survive the pandemic and come out a lot stronger post corona virus.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the digitalization of the world and even when it ends, the world will not return to pre-pandemic life.
People will still be working from home, webinars will still be a good tool to reach your customers, and social media will still play a big role in marketing.
The companies who are able to adjust now will be able to survive the pandemic and come out stronger for it.